by Father Mark Goldasich
Twice a month, on Thursday mornings, I have Mass for the Catholic residents at the nursing center in Tonganoxie. That means I have to bring along everything I need for Mass — from the water and wine, to my vestments, to the altar cloths.
One of my parishioners usually meets me at my car and helps me carry all the “Mass stuff” inside.
On the first Thursday of this month, as he retrieved the various containers from my car, I made a comment about what a nice day it was.
He responded by saying, “Yeah, and if there wasn’t so much wind, it would be perfect!”
At that point, he stopped himself, sheepishly looked at me and said, “Father, why is it that we can’t ever just be happy with the way things are? Why do we always have to look for what’s wrong? It is a beautiful day . . . even with all the wind.”
I understood very well what my parishioner was talking about because I catch myself doing the same thing all the time: If something isn’t perfect, then I’m going to be sure and point out what’s wrong, rather than focus on all that is right and good. In fact, I find myself almost expecting the worst, rather than the best. That blinds me from noticing goodness and blessings.
Because I don’t like being this way, I’ve been working on an attitude and perception adjustment during Lent. Let’s just say that I’m glad there’s plenty of this penitential season left because I have a long way to go.
I’m being inspired, though, by this marvelous story about a popular college student named Tom, who had a large red birthmark that ran from one eye, down his face, across his mouth, down to this neck, to his chest. One day a close friend asked him, “Tell me: How did you ever overcome the emotional pain of your birthmark?”
“Oh,” Tom answered quickly, “it’s because of my dad. You see, he always told me, ‘Son’ — and he pointed to my birthmark — ‘this is where an angel kissed you because he wanted to mark you out just for your dad. You’re very special to me, and whenever we’re in a group of people, I always know right away where you are, and that you’re mine.’”
“You know,” Tom concluded, “my dad told me that so many times that I even began to feel sorry for all my friends who didn’t have birthmarks!”
(Adapted from “A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers” by William J. Bausch.)
Wow, that’s an incredibly positive way to proceed through life. No wonder Tom was so popular. People like him seem to energize everyone around them and help open the eyes of others to look at their own lives differently, in a more positive and grateful light.
On a very mundane level, I’ve been striving to adopt Tom’s positive outlook on these meatless Fridays of Lent. Going out for lunch on these days, I’m amazed at how many entrees contain meat (particularly the dishes that I seem to be attracted to). Lent has been a good time for me to christen Fridays as “new taste” days. While it’s often a challenge to look for the meatless items, it’s also liberating to leave behind the “usual” and give my taste buds a new experience.
And, much to my amazement, I’m feeling a slight positive shift in my perception of life in general. Last Friday, as I bit with gusto into my mini veggie omelet (made with egg whites only), I found myself watching the other people in the restaurant ordering and eating their “same old, same old” without much awareness or enjoyment.
I had to stifle a laugh as I caught myself (much like Tom the college student) feeling sorry that those diners couldn’t all be Catholics on a Friday in Lent, eating something different and, in the process, awakening to the variety of blessings that God showers upon us in this imperfect world.