6 Then since the gifts that we have differ according to the grace that was given to each of us: if it is a gift of prophecy, we should prophesy as much as our faith tells us;
7 if it is a gift of practical service, let us devote ourselves to serving; if it is teaching, to teaching;
8 if it is encouraging, to encouraging. When you give, you should give generously from the heart; if you are put in charge, you must be conscientious; if you do works of mercy, let it be because you enjoy doing them.
You are light for the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden.
15 No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house.
It started in July of 2013. My husband and I were on a trip to Santa Monica. We love visiting Catholic churches while on vacation. It is wonderful to see and experience what other churches have to offer. We picked St. Monica’s church, which is right in Santa Monica on California Avenue. We walked into the church, picked up the song sheets and then were approached by a sweet woman who asked if we would bring up the gifts. I remarked to my husband that it’s interesting to ask visitors to bring up the gifts. He thinks that many parishes do that.
The second time was in November of 2013 and I was on a lacrosse trip with my second son. We were in Baltimore and on Sunday evening attended Corpus Christi in the Bolton Hill historic district. It is a beautiful church and I was busy admiring the architecture as we walked in. As we entered the main part of the sanctuary a nice woman approached us and asked if we would like to bring up the gifts. I turned to my son and said “I wonder if God is sending me a sign, this is the second time recently that I have been on a trip and been asked to bring up the gifts.” He just looked at me and laughed, as teens do to their parents. But he still remembers this part of our trip and about the gifts.
The third time was in Key Largo in April of 2014. My family was on Spring Break enjoying the fabulous Florida Keys. We arrived Saturday afternoon and got up early Sunday to go to church at St Justin Martyr. There is a beautiful painting of the last supper behind the altar. As we were driving to mass that morning I said to my whole family, if we are asked to bring up the gifts today, I will know for sure that God is sending me a message loud and clear. They all chuckled but agreed that it would indeed be interesting if that happened on the third trip in a row. All five of us walked in together and picked a place to sit about half way back in the center. No one approached us to bring up the gifts on the way in to the sanctuary. I figured I must have been wrong. I thought the other two times were a coincidence. We had all prayed and were settling back in the pews when an older man approached us and asked if we would bring up the gifts. The kids and my husband all turned and looked at me at the same time and said : “You better figure out what God is telling you.”
And so began my 8 month process of drawing closer to God, listening to Him, asking Him in prayer to show me what He wanted of me. For awhile I thought it was that I was to be working with teens about alcoholism and addiction. I also thought maybe I was supposed to volunteer full time at Crossroads ministries. Then it seemed maybe I was supposed to be decorating again. But none of these felt exactly right. I was Goldilocks looking for the perfect fit. None of those brought all of my gifts to God.
And then in November the RCIA job at my parish appeared on the horizon. It looked like a great fit, and I prayed and discerned more than I ever have before in my life. So here I am 6 weeks into the job, and this appears to be what God has been calling me to do. Never before have I been in a job where all of my gifts are utilized. Never before have I felt the Holy Spirit’s guiding Presence so strong. Never before have I experienced so much joy in work. Even in the mundane part there is joy. I love what I am doing and I love that God has called me to serve in this particular way. Showing others the beauty of the Church and her teachings, helping them find their way on the path to God – this feels just right. God was asking me to bring Him all of my gifts.
Yesterday on Ash Wednesday we began our Lenten pilgrimage. Many of us gave up things, or began new prayer disciplines. We were marked with black ashes as a sign of repentance. “Repent and turn away from sin.” In turning away from sin, we turn towards God. Our journey during Lent is to go deeper into ourselves and find the things that keep us away from God and His light. We get rid of the things (sin) that block us from God and His love (food, tv, internet, and other distractions) and we take on things that pull us toward Him (prayer, fasting, alms giving, service work). I would also add that this Lenten journey/process is a great time to look at our God given talents and see where we are using them in our lives, if we are using them. Maybe we have been hiding our lights under a bushel. Are we using at least a few of them for His glory and for His people? Let’s dig deep this Lenten season and see the gifts we might be hiding and bring them into the light. I can tell you from personal experience, you will never be happier than when you are serving God by using the gifts He gave you, to do what He made you to do. It’s joyful, thankful service and we are all called to live it in different ways.
Thank you God for your love, for your persistence in reaching out to us, and for your patience. We can be a stubborn people and we are grateful that you are forgiving and merciful. Help us to love you more by doing your will in our lives and by serving others as Jesus did. Amen.