Give Just One Tiny Thing: My Whole Life | 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cathedral of Saint Raymond Nonnatus

I scrapped my homily at the last minute. Father is stressed today and I thought I’d tell you about that instead.

Here’s my week in review:

Last Saturday and then again on Monday, I received phone calls from a former Catholic – a very angry former Catholic – whose argument consisted of letting me know all the ways that I am both a hypocrite and heretic. He just yelled and yelled, and the quizzed me on the bible, and then yelled some more. After he began cursing me out, I hung up on him.

Peace out, sweetheart. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I’ll admit that I’m not the best at the on-the-spot bible slinging game. But with this guy, I’ll make the argument from implication. Jesus said that we can know a thing by its fruit. And if that guy was right, if his “church” was Jesus’ church, and his view was authentic to the Gospel, where’s the peace, the joy, the freedom, the desire for unity that Jesus promised?

Then, on Monday night, I was at the seminary for the newly ordained Mass and reunion dinner. I feel the same way about class reunions as you all do; just because we’re all priests doesn’t change the inevitable “class reunion” dynamics.

Tuesday through Thursday I was in Hinsdale helping with a vocations conference for 3,000 middle schoolers and presented the same talk approximately 24 times.

Friday I was in the city and heard the CSO play Verdi’s Requiem, which was so good.

Then Saturday morning until about 20 minutes ago I was in Minnesota leading a retreat with St. Paul’s Outreach, a campus ministry apostolate for about 85 college kids. Here’s the story of how Fr. Burke was almost the celebrant of this Mass:

I was late to the airport. Thank you, Jesus, for TSA Precheck. At MSP, all the chicago flights I’ve ever been on leave from the C concourse in Terminal 1. So, when I checked the monitor I saw that my flight was leaving from gate C20, which at MSP in on the other side of the world. Off I went. I stopped at Starbucks for a FIJI water because I’m a #ThirstyBasic and ended up leaving my roller bag there. Had to run backwards on the moving walkway to get it.

After 12 minutes of listening to the Sons of Thunder podcast and walking through the airport, I arrived at C20 to discover that the Delta flight from C20 was going to Chicago Midway, not O’Hare, which produced great panic in me that I had foolishly purchased a return flight to Midway, which would have been the worst because my car was at O’Hare.

I checked my boarding pass and was delighted to find that I was, in fact, going to O’Hare. Confused, then, I checked the monitor again. “Ohhhh, okay,” my cocky self said. C20 and G20 look an awful lot alike at quick glance. It turns out that between C20 and G20 is the entire airport. I stand corrected on my earlier claim that C20 is on the other side of the world, because G20 is the literal other side of planet earth. It took me 16 minutes to power walk from C20 to G20. On the plus side, I closed all my move rings yesterday.

When I got to the gate, 2 minutes before boarding, there was no plane. Shortly, the big Delta monitor above the gate went from “happy green” to “you’re screwed yellow” indicating that the flight would be delayed. “Hopefully these people don’t really want 7pm Mass tonight,” I thought. Then the requisite “this is a full flight, and by full we mean like…really full, so if you would like to check the bag we said you could carry on with you, that’d be great.” Then the classic, “anyone who wants to check their carry on bag can board now ahead of everyone else.” 5 people. Then, finally, “yeah, y’all gon’ be checkin those bags whether you want to or not.”

My turn at the jetway door. My roller bag is small and can also be a duffel bag so the man said, “Do you think that bag and your backpack will fit under your seat?” I don’t know, let me go measure.

Instead of the usual check tag they put on at the gate, they print out the long white sticker that they use at the desk when you’re forreal checking a bag, so I asked, “Do I get this at the gate?” “LOL sir, thank you for being a hilarious Delta customer. I know you’re in a real hurry to provide the sacraments to God’s people and, so, in light of that, you’ll get this after a longer-than-normal wait at the baggage claim carousel in Chicago.” Or something like that. So I walk down the jetbridge, leave my bag for Esteban the bag man and get on the plane. At this point the collar has been popped out because nobody likes an angry priest on a plane.

Backstory: I changed my seat 3 times for this flight. At first I was assigned to seat 37B, which was a definite no. All the Comfort+ seats were taken, so I opted instead for 27D, an exit row. Then it occurred to me that you can’t put bags under the seat in front of you in the exit row, and even if you could you’d have to literally get out of your seat to get stuff. So then I changed to 16E, a decently front seat, as far as plebian seating in the Main Cabin on Delta goes, but of course it’s a window seat.

I’m walking down the aisle of the plane, being stopped and blockaded by the 1st class flight attendant getting caviar, everclear and methamphetamine for her passengers, and I get to row 16 and see that someone is already occupying seat 16E. “WT$”, I think. “Hi there, nice lady, I think you’re in my seat.” There’s an exchange with the lady in the window and the lady in the middle seat, and together they decide that I can have the open aisle seat if I want. Which, I want.

Finally, a glimmer of joy and hope.

I sit down, and the lady next to me says, “Are you a seminarian or a priest?”

“Oh crap”, I think, “this lady knows the lingo. She’s gonna wanna talk the whole time.”

So I do the polite half-turn and smile, “hey.”

Turns out her name is Chris and she’s delightful. I mean, really really delightful. From the UP in Michigan, going to Chicago for training to be a UPS seasonal truck driver. Very neat to hear about.

Then, we’re in the air, and all I want is some Coke and about 100 packs of those Delta cookies.

“chh, this is Denny the plane man, and this is a short flight so we’ll only be serving coffee and water, and your choice of cookies or snack mix.” This was disappointing news.

The flight attendant gets to our happy little row 16 family and asks me, “Are you a seminarian or a priest?”

Is this the Vatican plane or something?

“I’m a priest.” (Golly, that feels good to say, btw) “I’ll take a water and um um um um (can’t decide)” So the lady says, “you can have both cookies and snack mix if you want. Anything for a fellow Catholic.”

Who says that?! Another little glimmer of joy.

So I’m there with my friend Chris, and my little Dasani, and my delicious Delta cookies and cheesy, off brand snack mix, having a delightful time.

Then we land. Somehow, despite being delayed, we arrived 20 minutes ahead of the pre-delay arrival time. I made it off the plane, to the Hudson News place for a Smart Water because, despite it all, I’m still a #ThirstyBasic, and to the bag claim and to the PreFlight Parking bus, which obviously took forever, and back to my car and got back to the rectory with plenty of time. So, I’m exhausted and a little crabby and very hungry, but I’m here.

I told you all of that to tell you this: the poor woman in the Gospel today gave out of her poverty; she had nothing to give, and that’s what she gave. Running across the airport, standing in line, handing over my bag, waiting on the bus, all of that – I could do nothing to control it, and no amount of prayer was going to change the circumstances. But remember that we don’t pray to change the world around us to make it more convenient for us; we pray so that we change and become more like Jesus.

Walking down the jetway, I prayed, “God, you do this. You do this for me. I’m sorry for my impatience. Make me patient. I give you this moment.”

And, it all turned out fine. It probably would have turned out fine anyway, but I also probably would have had a panic attack in the process.

There was not one of those things I could have changed, except for maybe the gate thing, and I could not do anything other than endure it. The little poor widow gave God everything she had, she gave him the tiniest thing she had to give away: her whole livelihood, her whole life. It’s the only thing I can give. I do not have anything that I did not receive, and there isn’t one thing can’t be taken away.

The man who called to yell at me? Not my problem. Of course I pray for that guy; I offered Mass for him the other day, and I try to pray for him everyday. But his behavior isn’t my problem. God, I give him to you.

My classmates, the reunion? Here, God, take my two cents.

3,000 middle school students? God, you want them here, and you want me here. Help me to do what you desire. Less of me, more of you.

The retreat? Jesus, I want to be present here. Help me to be present here and let me little, let me be your vessel.

The whole travel thing? God, this is in your hands. I give to you the notion that I have anything to do with how this turns out.

Jesus gave us the example: all he had to give us was his whole life. He asks us to imitate him, to be like him, to become like him. Jesus, help me to see how little and yet how valuable my life and will are to you. Help me to give them away to you.

Father, you are the sovereign Lord over all the earth, and I am not.

I give you everything, Father, out of my poverty. It is the only place I can give from. Take the little that I have.

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