Addressing God, the Pope said: “It is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.”
I found these words an invitation to practice discernment, i.e., to reflect on my life experiences and events and enter into conversation with God. This meant to discover the signs of God’s loving presence against all odds and amid all troubles, and to refocus my life on things that matter to God and people. I want to share with you two experiences, which led me to appreciate once again some forgotten values.
During the mass testing for COVID-19 in October 2020, our Mission House in Bratislava offered it’s compound a testing place. Five of our confreres also volunteered to be a part of a testing team. The other volunteers on the team included Daniel, a well-known Baptist pastor. He was assigned to sit at the registration desk together with our confrere Fr. Tomas. After the testing was over, he thanked me for being able to experience up close and personal how “other brothers in Christ” – we, the Divine Word Missionaries – live and work.
Pastor Daniel’s experience inspired him to write an article published in a popular newsletter. He shared how amazed he was, not only with the overall positive atmosphere in the team but also with Fr. Tomas’s warm and open personality. He met the people approaching the registration desks as they presented their IDs. Tomas smiled and greeted them by their names.
Many of these people coming for testing were annoyed and tired after standing in long queues for two-three hours. This friendly welcome from Tomas changed their attitude. Pastor Daniel was impressed by how acquainted we were with the people of the neighborhood. He sensed that Tomas and the rest of the community established a closed affinity with the people around us.
The article was laden with praises for the SVDs. This was very encouraging for me. Yet, all the more, I admired the pastor’s ability to express thanks and praise. How often do we experience something profoundly touching or encouraging, yet we neglect to thank the person or express our sincere honor. Would it not be a sign of our transformation when we would not let positive signs go unnoticed? Would it not be an expression of renewal when we willingly and without shame, express our sincere thanks and praise more often? Is there somebody that I owe my thanks and gratitude to?
Before Christmas I stood in a long queue in front of the post office teeming with people. I was there to mail my Christmas greeting cards to some older people. After waiting for some time, it was my turn to enter. At that moment, an older woman appeared. She did not take the last place in the queue, yet came right to where I was standing. She explained that she had something urgent, and she asked if she could go inside before me.
Since there were around six people in the queue behind me, I told the lady to ask the others. She did, but they did not accept their reason. Seeing that the others were unwilling to let her in, I offered the lady my place, and I took the last place in the queue. However, with this swift reaction of mine, a dramatic story was unfolding. After a while, one man behind the column turned to me and apologized for his hesitancy. He asked me to return to my original place. I was reluctant. But to my surprise, all the others joined him in asking me to reclaim my position. Thus I went and was extremely grateful to all of them. Everything happened in a short time. Two minutes ago, I would not have imagined that I was amidst such people of goodwill! What happened was a Christmas miracle for me.
We are used to thinking critically and not trusting people too much to avoid disappointments. Yet, what happened must be preceded by thinking well of people. This builds trust so much needed in this time. It also creates a positive context for our own life. People are better than we think. Would it not be the right time for us to review our prejudices against others?
Father Peter DUSICKA, born in Nitra, Slovakia, is a Missionary of the Divine Word. He took over the parish ministry from 1990 to 1994, worked in formation from 1994 to 1998, studied at the IRF (Institute of Religious Formation) in Chicago from 1998 to 2000. From 2000 to 2004 he was novice master at the SLO Province. He was provincial from 2004-2010 and collaborator of the Arnoldo Janssen Spirituality Center from 2010-2013. From 2013 to 2019 he became coordinator for the EUROPEAN zone. In 2019 he was appointed by the Generalate as coordinator of the area of spirituality.
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