Rev. Thomas K. Zurcher, C.S.C., shares his reflection on offering up your "whole house" to the Lord.
Inspired Inspired by Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis wrote about offering our lives to God and others. The title of his letter, Fratelli Tutti, are words that Francis of Assisi used to address his community — Brothers All. Pope Francis brought his letter to Assisi, placed it on the saint’s tomb, signed it and sent it to us.
“Francis’ fidelity to his Lord was commensurate with his brothers and sisters,” wrote Pope Francis, adding later in his letter a quote from Gaudium et Spes, “Human beings are so made that they cannot live, develop, and find fulfillment except ‘in the sincere gift of self to others.’” (FT #3 & #87) With these sentences, the Pope prompts us to reflect on our mission to offer our lives to God and to others.
We’re called to be good and loving brothers and sisters to all people, each one of us in our own unique way. The context of each of our lives will influence the way in which we wrap up this gift of self. An accountant will do it his way. A teacher, her way. Teens and third agers, their way.
How I give my life will be different than your way of doing so. Look at the wide variety of saints. Therese of Lisieux was just 15 years old when she entered the Carmel, and she died at 24. She wrote, “Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be, and then becoming that person.” Brother André Bessette, the Miracle Man of Montreal, was a sickly older man of 91 years when he died. Having healed hundreds if not thousands of people during those years, he suffered painfully poor health. “Put yourself in God’s hands; he abandons no one.“ (Wisdom of the Saints, pp. 113 & 74)
Even though each of us offers our time, energy, and life to others uniquely, there is one thing saints hold in common. They embrace total commitment. We give ourselves completely to becoming our true selves in the Lord, empathically united in the joys and sufferings of our brothers and sisters.
Sr. Margaret Halaska, OFM, wrote a poem, “Covenant.” It’s about the Lord looking for 100%, not just a dabbling interest, in making him known, loved, and served.
knocks at my door
seeking a home for his son.
Rent is cheap, I say.
I don’t want to rent. I want to buy, says God.
I’m not sure I want to sell,
but you might come in and look around.
I think I will, says God.
I might let you have a room or two.
I like it, says God. I’ll take the two. You might decide to give me more some day.
I can wait, says God.
I’d like to give you more,
but it’s a bit difficult. I need some space for me.
I know, says God, but I’ll wait. I like what I see.
Hm, maybe I can let you have another room.
I really don’t need that much.
Thanks, says God, I’ll take it. I like what I see.
I’d like to give you the whole house
but I’m not sure …
Think on it, says God. I wouldn’t put you out.
Your house would be mine and my son would live in it.
You’d have more space than you’d ever had before.
I don’t understand at all.
I know, says God, but I can’t tell you about that.
You’ll have to discover it for yourself.
That can only happen if you let me have the whole house.
A bit risky, I say.
Yes, says God, but try me.
I’m not sure –
I’ll let you know.
I can wait, says God, I like what I see.
It’s obvious that God wants the whole house. The divine vision sees everything in a positive light. The divine patience takes time in order to “get it all.” Divine providence promises that all will be well.
It’s obvious that the one negotiating with God is anxious. The first impulse is a rental arrangement that will cost little. Then there’s the concern to care for one’s own needs. There’s that sense of timing that isn’t right. There’s the awareness of risks.
Total commitment is no small thing. It’s intimidating, especially in a culture that values as many options as possible. Couples preparing to pledge their lives to each other for as long as they shall live, will describe “nervous” for you.
You may be wondering what prompts these thoughts from an old priest about a total gift of self. Let me explain. Recently I needed to introduce myself to a group of people.
“First, I was an associate pastor at Holy Cross parish. Then I was the pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish and after that St. John Vianney Parish.
Then, I was the Superior of Moreau Seminary. Then, I was appointed the Vicar for Priests in the Diocese of Phoenix.
Then, until 2021, I served as the director of formation and director of Holy Cross in Mexico.”
That’s how I summed up the meager efforts to give my life and work to God and others. In each assignment, I hoped to be a servant priest. That image of Jesus who washed his disciples’ feet served as a model of how to touch the lives of others. In each, the gift I tried to give was always surpassed by the gifts received.
However, this introduction contains one troublesome word. WAS. What about now!? Now, my parts don’t work as well as they did. Now I’m part-time. Now the phone doesn’t ring (or maybe I don’t hear it.) How does one surrender the self to the Lord and others?
After thinking about the “was-i-ness” of life, I believe the sincere gift of self doesn’t depend on an assignment or a job. The sincere gift of self has little to do with these things. It concerns who we are and how we’re “wired” to care for one another as Jesus cares for us. This is ongoing.
Pope Francis wrote about the Good Samaritan as part of Fratelli Tutti. He asserts that the story is constantly repeated. “Sooner or later, we will all encounter the person who is suffering. Today there are more and more of them. Each day we must decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders. Will we bend down and help another to get up? This is today’s challenge, and we should not be afraid to face it.” (FR, #69 & 70)
It’s my hope that these thoughts support you in your life with Christ and your dedication to the well-being of the human family. May you find the courage to hand over “the whole house” in your unique way. Together we can do it.