“We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing power may be of God, and not from us.” 2 Cor 4:7-8.
Many of us reading this from today’s First Reading will be reminded of the hymn “Earthen Vessels,” by John Foley, S.J.:
This reading, coming as it does fairly close to the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, urges the readers to recognize that Jesus, while no longer with them in an identifiable human form, remains--thanks to the workings of the Spirit--within them.
Oh, but here’s the rub.
God does not give us a choice of vessel in which to hold that Spirit. We are given one at birth. We might prefer it to be a gold vessel, one we’d easily deem worthy to hold the Spirit of Jesus; 14 Carats--lots of precious inlaid jewels of magnificent color. But, our vessel is of clay, and depending on its age and experience, weathered, chipped, with maybe even a crack or two.
I recall a delightful story that re-cycles into my e-mails once in a while. I do not recall its author if even one’s been noted.
There was a poor woman who traveled a long way in the morning to a well where she filled two pots for the fresh water needs of her family each day.
One pot was sturdy never having been damaged. The other, while the same size, had a crack that had been repaired carefully more than once.
Each day when the woman arrived home the younger pot was still just as full as when she had left the well. The second pot in contrast, despite its best efforts, leaked water so that when they reached her home, it was barely half full.
After some time, the damaged pot lamented, “I’m so sorry that I can’t help you any more than I do. I only have half the amount of water that we start with and yet you never seem to be upset with me. I don’t understand.”
“My goodness,” she replied, “I’ve known and loved you for many years. I’m well aware that you’ve been harmed and repaired the best that we could and that you try as hard as you can to hold in as many drops of water as possible.”
“What you’ve not seen is that I planted seeds along our route and as we have walked the drops that fell have nourished the seeds each and every day. Now, there is a beautiful flower garden all along our path, full of many kinds of flowers and wonderful colors.”
“The best part is that everyone who travels the path gets to enjoy the fruits of your work. How can I thank you?”
The pot smiled and after a moment or two replied, “I’m ready. When do we leave for the well?”
Our unique life is THE most precious gift we’ve been given. It makes all other gifts possible. It makes us a Child of God, able to live our lives, love as the Spirit urges, and be the active force of Jesus in and to the world.
What needs to happen so that we embrace this thought completely and with conviction? Maybe we have chips that can be polished? Or cracks to which we can apply a more effective glue? Or maybe we can just relax and enjoy ourselves as we are?
I suggest some time be spent in prayer about this, prayers of gratitude, discovery, and celebration.
While we’re at it, let’s not forget to notice the flowerbeds we have nurtured along the path of our lives.
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