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Reflection on the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted on February 27, 2022, by Eileen Custy SL

Have you ever wondered what purpose a giraffe serves in this life? Do they enhance nature? Can they be domesticated? They can’t carry a burden; It would slide right off of their slanted backs. They can’t pull a wagon walking on those stilted legs. Or a hippopotamus: What can a hippopotamus do? They might serve as a pet when they are little and cute, but who wants a full-grown hippopotamus splashing around in their backyard swimming pool? It seems that these creatures and many others have no purpose. Could it be that they exist only to praise God just by being a giraffe or a hippopotamus? Or perhaps only to give God and us a good chuckle as we watch them. 

What about human beings? Don’t we also praise God by being who and what we are? There are things about us, physically and mentally, that we cannot Change. If I am short, I will always be short. If I have a large bone structure, I can’t switch to a smaller one. If I have long skinny legs like a giraffe, I will always have long skinny legs. I may be smart or not so smart. I may be an introvert or an extrovert. We praise God first of all just by being the unique individual that we are with all our good qualities or our peculiar quirks. We are who we are, and we praise God by being just who we are. 

God’s love is in each of us. It is the very source of our lives. We don’t have to pretend to be someone else before our God. God knows us from our mother’s womb. Teilhard de Chardin says that we are “held in being” by the embrace of God’s love. Pelagius, drawing on the wisdom literature in the Hebrew scriptures, spoke of wisdom being fashioned within us even in our mother’s womb. There is in each of us a seeking, a yearning for truth, which, I think, draws us to God. That yearning and seeking is at the heart of our being from birth and throughout our life. But, unlike vegetation and the animal world, we are free and capable of misusing our freedom so that our seeking can turn to following the false gods of power, money or evil. Fortunately, none of that can turn God away from us. God’s love is still there. 

Today’s Gospel advises us to remove the plank from our own eye before trying to
remove the splinter from another person’s eye. I pondered what that means, and the answer for me was a quote from Pope Francis: “Who am I to judge?” I don’t know what has shaped that person. There is so much more information in today’ s world about the effect of hormones, neurotransmitters, emotional and physical abuse, sexual orientation, and myriad other conditions that affect behavior. I don’t even know all the things that have shaped me so how can I judge another. But beneath even the worst of conditions there is that yearning, that seeking for love, the love that is God. 

All of this is but one part of a much larger picture. All of creation is the product of God’s love. God’s love is in every living thing. Indigenous people understood this. They may have used different terminology, but they understood the importance of all of creation and that it is not there to be exploited and destroyed but to live in harmony with us and we with it. We may be more intelligent than animals and plant life, but for that reason we are not more or less valuable than all the rest of God’s creatures. We all exist to praise God by who and what we are. Human beings may be much more complex but that does not make them more pleasing to God than a hummingbird or a daisy. It is hard for us to wrap our heads around that idea because we have lost touch with mother earth and as a result are destroying it. 

So, when we remove that plank from our eye, perhaps we can see our fellow human beings as God sees them. Maybe we can see ourselves as God sees us, the unique individuals that we are, and can praise God just by being who we are and doing the best we can. We may even look farther and see cock roaches, alligators, snakes or even stink bugs as giving praise to God by being just what they are. Thank you, God, for all of creation which praises you simply by being what it is.

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Eileen Custy SL

Eileen Custy was born and raised on a dairy outside of Denver and attended a one-room schoolhouse for her first eight years. After a year of college at Loretto Heights, she joined the Sisters of Loretto. In spite of the fact that she thought at that time she never wanted to be a teacher, she loved the work and taught for 46 years. Most of those years were spent in El Paso, Texas. Eileen “retired” in 2004 and moved to Kentucky, where she served as an administrative assistant to the Motherhouse Coordinator for nearly 20 years before retiring in November 2023. Eileen continues to serve the Motherhouse Community, particularly pastorally.