March 09, 2018

A grace ovation

By Elizabeth Kelly *
Credit: Unsplash
Credit: Unsplash

As a gift to my brother on the occasion of his ordination years ago, I told him that I would offer up all of my speaking engagements in thanksgiving for his vocation to the priesthood. This seemed an especially fitting and easy gift because I love speaking for groups and talking about our faith always brings me great joy. 

At times, of course, my joy in this is strained. 

One evening stands out as an example. I was scheduled to speak for an evening event, and I did not go on until 8:15 pm. I was tired, it was winter, dark, cold, windy, and one of those dreadful mixes of snow and sleet. I sat at my desk grumbling that I should be so put out as I printed out the text of my speech – the topic was, no less, praying through suffering. So, after a full day’s work, I bundled my body and braced myself for winter’s assault on the way to my car grumbling all the way.

But as I was driving to the gig, clutching the steering wheel, slumped over with brow furrowed, the Lord reminded me very clearly of my promise – to offer up in thanksgiving my speaking engagements on behalf of my brother, for the protection and flourishing of his priesthood. I immediately saw him the day of his ordination: he glowed like a perfect, brilliant sunrise. Another image flashed in my mind: little children running up to him after Mass, their earnest little arms extended to him with complete trust and affection. I thought of so many people who have been blessed to call my brother, Father, including me. 

I immediately adjusted my attitude and went laughing into my talk, sensing God’s free rush of grace to give me stamina and sincere affection for the needs of my audience. The talk came off well and at the end, I was given a standing ovation. I wish I could claim that I am frequently the recipient of standing o’s, but I have to confess this was rather unusual. I laughed all the way home, even as I crept over the icy streets, making my way through the bitter winter’s darkness. 

I take two things from this little episode. 

One, the Heavenly Father must be so very pleased with my brother’s priesthood. (I realize that I am probably a smidge biased on this point, but I still think my assessment is judicious.) 

Two, and more importantly, I am reminded that God’s grace can never be exhausted. He never tires of extending himself to me. Never. He only asks the tiniest effort on my part, the slightest leaning in his direction, the most miniscule effort to resist evil. He will rush in and joyfully do the rest. He will take my measly offering and magnify it unto his glory. The generosity of this reality fills me with awe.

Your grumblings may be big or small, exaggerated or very real indeed. You may be in the throes of resisting great or petty evil, but the principle holds true: you need only offer what you can, Jesus will do the rest and the communion of angels and saints will offer a veiled but glorious ovation in thanksgiving and in joy.

Father, never let me forget that your inexhaustible grace sustains me in every moment and that it is your joy to ever offer it. Thank you for my brother and the gift of his priesthood. Bless you, my brother – and Father.

Elizabeth Kelly is an award-winning speaker and the author of six books, including including Jesus Approaches: What Contemporary Women Can Learn about Healing, Freedom and Joy from the Women of the New Testament. She is trained as a spiritual director in the Ignatian exercises and leads retreats with a particular focus on helping women to flourish in their faith. She teaches in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas (MN). Her website is: www.LizK.org.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.