Hope for the Kingdom to Come

Dear Parishioners,

“On that day, a shoot shall sprout…” About seven or eight years ago, the very first envelope arrived. It was small, just the size of an index card, plain white, and a little mangled from what I can remember. On the outside, with all the care and formality a third-grader could muster, he wrote, “Money collected from return/deposit on bottles I collected. Please give to Merton House” and then he signed his name. I can’t recall how much cash was inside, only that it was some crumpled bills and loose coins that would have bought a lot of candy bars. I was touched by his gesture and immensely proud of him. He was turning discipleship into apostleship, in his own age, on his own terms, in his own words. I was proud of his parents. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Example must be given and imitation must be encouraged. How wonderful to have people like this in our parish, I thought.

A couple of envelopes have arrived every year since then, usually through the Sunday collection, pretty much for the same amount, and always for Merton House. In every instance, I’ve sent these straight on, “as is”, to the Director of Merton House, because I know he recognizes them for what they are: signs, “green shoots”, “sproutings”, of hope for the Kingdom to come in its fullness. He needs that encouragement as much as any of us, so I send him signs from a world outside of his own, that another generation of “Kingdom people” are indeed being formed.

Advent is great time for looking for signs of the Kingdom around us, signs of the presence of the Christ, and the readings today whisper a tip-off on where to look: to the little, inconspicuous things. Look for seeds and shoots, not for trees. Look in the quiet pause, not the gale. Look in the loose change you find in the couch….

……that is being collected by the kids in the Religious Ed classes. It is a brilliant idea! One of the first-grade catechists was inspired by the Heifer International catalogue. You’ve probably heard of it. (www.heifer.org) It’s an organization that helps people who live in impoverished countries help themselves by providing farm animals and education and marketing skills. Through them, you can buy and send a particular animal to a village. (goats, pigs, sheep, $120 each; camel $850; hive of bees $30; flock of ducks $20; etc.) Her idea was to collect the small stuff, the spare change, the coins you’re stuck with when you actually pay with cash, as an ongoing project for Religious Education families and add it up to buy some animals for those in need. (My idea is to celebrate every cow, sheep or llama that the kids send away by painting life-size renderings of them down the second floor corridor in the parish hall! Any artists out there willing to help with that??) It’s a great idea and another way the Kingdom can be seen and another way a new generation learns to see it….

Don’t ever underestimate the “small things” whether it is a sign of God at work or the value of your example. Another little white envelope came in the Sunday collection this week. Our third-grader is now in his second year of high-school. Consistency and persistence will always reveal the Kingdom!

Father John