September 29, 2023
by Eileen Wirth
Creighton University - retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels
Lectionary: 647

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 OR Revelation 12:7-12ab
Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 4-5
John 1:47-51

Praying Ordinary Time


How the Ordinary Time Readings Are Organized and Can Help our Prayer

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

It must be weird for an ordinary person to be suddenly greeted by an important stranger who describes you in flattering terms as Jesus did when he met Nathanael and hailed him as “a true child of Israel,” free of duplicity.

I can almost feel Nathanael thinking “who is this guy and what gives?” as he asked Jesus how he knew him. Then in short order, he surrendered to Jesus and became a disciple. 
This small encounter also suggests that we can imitate Jesus by reaching out to tell both strangers and those we know well about the good things we have noticed them doing or applauding strengths they didn’t know they had.

It may feel odd saying something positive to a complete stranger but you will make that person’s day and your own. Instead of fretting in a grocery line, try to spot a parent skillfully handling a toddler begging for a treat or a clerk patiently guiding digital dinosaurs through the latest technology.  Praise them. You’ll both be happy.

It’s even more important to tell family members, friends, and colleagues that you appreciate their strengths and good qualities. If the recipient of your remarks is a young person, you might change their lives as my retired former colleague Fr. Tom Schloemer S.J. demonstrated daily at the Creighton Career Center.

In just minutes, Fr. Schloemer could meet  with discouraged students when  they realized they would never become doctors and help them envision of new possibilities. Then he would pick up the phone and describe them to a faculty member as the student listened.

I’d hear a gravelly voice saying “Eileen, I’ve got a good one for you. You’re going to love her.  She’s smart and talented and she’d be great in your department.” He’d hand the phone to the now-happy student and soon I’d be meeting with the next member of the “Tom Schloemer pipeline” – a marvelous group of people!

Fr. Schloemer not only saw something in each student that they hadn’t seen in themselves, he told them about it, just as Jesus told Nathanael about his virtues. It was a powerful outreach of kindness when Jesus did it as it is when we follow his example.

You’ll also benefit from this focus, especially on those days when you shift from grumbling about your teens or students or siblings to recalling on the qualities that make you love them.

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