Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)

Pouring Out, and Veils

July 31, 2019

As the days of July pass into August, and I am reminded – again! – of how quickly time passes, I find myself also more mindful of change. I’ve written about change a lot in the past; it’s a topic that interests me greatly. Regular readers might recall that when I left the convent back in 1965, it was in large measure because I was not convinced that God wanted me to change myself in the ways that my superiors at the time wanted me to change.

Many years later, I understand that God indeed calls us to profound change – to change at the deepest levels and places in ourselves. We are, after all, born into sin, and while we are washed clean at baptism, we remain prone to sinfulness all our lives. It’s in our nature, and the only way we overcome it is to be open to the kind of change that God’s grace can bring about.

The imagery of change that I love best, I think, is that of the water at Cana. There it sits in the six tall jars – obtained by hard work, to be sure, and sufficient in itself to its purpose. In a way, it is everything it needs to be and nothing that it doesn’t need to be. No one looking at it would even think it had the potential to be anything other than it is. Six tall jars of water – not even intended for human consumption, it was instead reserved for ceremonial washings. And Jesus, in the simplest of steps, changes it in its very essence into the best wine any of them have tasted (John 2).

In my vow of celibacy, I expressed a desire to be changed in that same profound way. It seemed to me that as I had come full circle from leaving the convent and even the church, all the way back to fully dedicating my life to the Lord as one of his consecrated people, that I must embrace that kind of change in order to let God work fully in me.

 That willingness, that openness to the kind of change the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish in us, made today’s Old Testament reading come to life for me in a fascinating way. The story in Ex. 34: 29-35 tells of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of the commandments in his hands. The people were afraid of him because “the skin of his face had become radiant when he conversed with the Lord”; yet Moses was not even aware that it had occurred. He needed to share with the people what God had told him, so he took to wearing a veil over his face whenever he came back from conversing with God. When he went back into the Lord’s presence, he would remove the veil.

What a beautiful illustration of the way God changes us when we truly allow it – when we put ourselves in his presence and open ourselves to what he has to say. When we belong completely to him, we are indeed changed in profound ways, and those around us do not always find it comfortable. Is it our calling to forge ahead and run roughshod over their discomfort, or is it our calling to be more gentle, as Moses was with his veil? Do we really want to be so brilliant with what we have to offer than we blind our brothers and sisters? Or do we want to shine gently with the reflected light of the spirit, a light veiled, as it were, with kindness and gentleness?

Make no mistake: this kind of gentleness does not mean hiding our light under a bushel, as Jesus describes elsewhere in the gospels. This kind of gentleness means being so tuned into the changes that God is working in us that they become essential to what and who we are. It is perhaps better understood in the context of a homily I heard recently in which the priest told of Blessed Fr. Solanus Casey, who was considered not smart enough to preach; and yet Fr. Casey reached, and ministered to, and reflected God’s love into the hearts of countless numbers of God’s people. He did it by simply living the gospel. He lived out his faith among the people he served, lived humbly in the light of the Holy Spirit, and as God changed him, he wrought great change in the people he served.

The goal is not to have others see and understand how enormously I have been changed, but rather to live out the change in all of the small ways that life brings. The goal is not to conceal God’s workings, but to let them shine on their own merits rather than getting lost in my own identity.

Moses indeed brought back God’s teachings and shared them with the people of Israel, and in his own way he assured that it was all about God and not about him. Similarly, we are called to set aside the distractions of self as we share God’s word by, simply, living the way he taught us to do.

In my silent prayer, I thank God profoundly for the changes he has wrought in me and for his willingness to pour me out like the wine at Cana. In my daily life, as a consecrated person living in the everyday world, I seek to live according to Jesus’ teachings. His teachings, and his way, are my guide. It is the pouring out that serves him – not the vessel, not the change, but the willingness to be poured out in his service.

And I can live with that.

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