Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Everyday Love

Readings for Wednesday, February 23/ St. Polycarp:
Sirach 4:11-19
Psalm 119:165,168,171-2,174-5
Mark 9:38-40

When I was a teenager and early in my time at seminary, I used to burn with this great love for God and great zeal that would come out in very interesting ways. I would pray that God would allow me to suffer the pains of having the stigmata for Him. I would pray to be martyred or suffer some great painful trial for love of Him. I would always suggest to the Lord these great ways in which I could show Him how much I loved Him. And then one day when I was praying I heard Him ask me, 'Can you love me in the everyday?' Sure I can speak these great pious phrases about showing my love, but when it came down to it, could I show God that I love Him when I'm on the interstate and traffic isn't moving? Can I show God that I love Him when I am hungry and the people preparing the food just aren't quick enough? Can I show God that I love Him when I get that extra class assignment to do when I already have plans to enjoy a nice weekend off? Can I love Him in those times? 

Today Mother Church celebrates the feast of St. Polycarp, a bishop in the 2nd Century. He was a man who battled against heretics, was consulted by Pope Anacetus on the placement of the date of Easter, and has at least one letter extant which we can read today. The most notable thing, however, is the marytrdom that he suffered at age 86, being burned alive on a pyre. For us today, it is important to understand that all of those great things were only possible because St. Polycarp loved God in the everyday. In a life of 86 years, these few small facts about his life illustrate only a small piece of his work for the Lord. None of us can know the countless small acts of love that he made to God that gave him the grace to say yes in those times of great trial. Each small 'yes' was one more step in being able to make that final 'yes' in martyrdom. 

For us today, we have the gift of remembering once again St. Polycarp and the example of his life lived in humble service and love of God. And modeling ourselves on his life, we are called to see those ways in which God is inviting us to love Him in the everyday, leading us closer to those greater acts of love to come along out journey. God grant that we might be able to choose the way of love.