In our Second reading St. Paul tells us, “Seek what is above and not what is on earth.”
Very soon after I was ordained, thirteen years ago, I met a young couple. They had a daughter who was around 2 or 3 years of age. They were also expecting a baby. I’ve lost contact with them; I think they moved back to Boston. But over the years, I’ve thought of them often. I’ve thought of them because I was very impressed by their deep faith. They looked to God for their security rather than looking to their own wealth or to their own ability, or to the ways of the world. They looked to God for their security.
When I met them they had just received some shocking news. Their little baby, whom the wife was carrying, after an ultra sound exam, was found to have some severe developmental problems. The doctors predicted with almost 100% certainty that their little baby would not live very long after being born. As you can imagine they were strongly urged to terminate, there were just too many problems they were told. So they changed doctors and found one who would support them and help them carry the baby to term.
They dearly loved their little unborn baby. They found out that she was girl so they named her Zoe Elizabeth. They talked to her, they played music for her, and they talked about her to all their friends and relatives. And they made plans for her baptism the moment she was born. That’s where I came in. One day very early in the morning I got an emergency call. The mom had gone into early labor and they were going to do a caesarean. They were waiting for me in the hospital. I was taken into a surgical suite, I was given scrubs and a cap and a mask to put on. I was right there in the operating room when Zoe Elizabeth was born. They wrapped her up and brought her over to me. I’ll never forget her vivid blue eyes and a shocking amount of red hair for such a little baby. The most perfect little face I’ve ever seen. As I prayed and poured water over her to baptize her, she gave me the nicest smile.
After her baptism Zoe was placed in the arms of her mom, with her dad holding them both. Little Zoe died approximately 20 minutes later. They continued to hold her for most of the day. That little girl only knew and experienced love. She was the recipient of so much love. In her short life that little girl fulfilled the unique plan that God had had for her from since before time began. I always wonder what seeds of grace were planted by Zoe’s very short life and that young couple’s very strong pro-life witness. What did the surgeon think? What was going through the minds of the nurses who assisted with the delivery and helped with the baptism? And even though the parents didn’t understand why this was happening to them and they were filled with such sorrow, by looking to God for their security and seeking what is above this little girl’s parents were strengthened by His grace and they are at peace. They have borne a child for the Kingdom of God, whose soul, and one day glorified body, will exist for eternity. They have borne a little girl who will praise God for all eternity.
In our Second reading St. Paul tells us, “Seek what is above and not what is on earth.” What if this couple hadn’t relied on God for their security but instead sought what is on earth, seeking an earthly solution. Many doctors strongly recommended termination as soon as possible. If they had gone that route, there would still be death, that little girl would still have died, and at their hands. And I know for sure that in seeking only an earthly solution without God, there wouldn’t have been any grace or peace. There would have only been sadness and a sense of futility.
There is this great paradox, those most focused on Heaven and the ways of Heaven do the most good on Earth. Vatican II documents put it this way, “Seeking what is above means living more intensely below.” And when we look at every single saint in our 2000 years of history we see that this is true. Those most focused on the ways of Heaven do the most good on Earth.
In one of Matthew Kelly’s books he asks two questions: Are you satisfied with the direction the world is moving in? And are you satisfied with your life? These questions are always before us. If you answered “No” then what is needed are “Holy Moments.” A holy moment is a moment when you make yourself completely available to God. You set your self-interests aside, you set aside what you want to do or feel like doing, and for that moment you do exactly what you sense God is calling you to do. The Saints were masterful at taking the ordinary, everyday events of life and turning them into holy moments. Maybe it’s as simple as saying a prayer before you begin some routine ordinary task, offering it up for the greater glory of God.
You were made for great holiness. You were made to sanctify your little corner of the world. Some suggestions (not an exhaustive list): Pray a holy hour every day, we can give up an hour of TV or computer time. Pray the rosary every day. Perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Take part in the Sacrifice of the Mass more than once a week. And evangelize; tell others why you love and our Lord and His Church. If you become who God meant you to be, you will set the world on fire.
Peace and all good,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley