The Gospel on August 11 seems cruel, harsh and demanding. We are to be servants waiting the return of our Master. Until his arrival at the end of time, Jesus expects us to be active and busy. Jesus expects us to build the Kingdom of God. This is hard work, and we can find many reasons to excuse ourselves: “I’m short on energy, pressed for time. I have other things to do first.”
How can we turn this around? How do we motivate ourselves to work as Christ asks us to do?
What might be required is an appreciation of beauty. Auguste Renoir was one of the greatest painters of all time. Yet, for the last twenty years of his life Renoir dealt with crippling arthritis. His hands were so twisted and gnarled that he had to have his paint brushes tied onto his hand in order to use it. Every brush stroke was agony.
On one occasion his friend, Henri Matisse asked him, “Auguste, why do you keep torturing yourself this way? You don’t need the money. Why do you keep painting?” Renoir answered. “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”
Renoir was able to push through the pain of his arthritis because he saw the beauty in what he was painting. He knew that what he was creating was valuable. We can apply this same attitude to the work of the gospel, because the work of Christ is both beautiful and important.
Mary vocalizes this beauty in her Magnificat on August 15. She is able to accept her role in God’s plan of salvation because she rejoices in God, her Savior. The favor God has shown to Mary lifts her up and energizes her for God’s work.
It is difficult at times to be patient and understanding with our children, our parents, or our spouse. But, if we could see the beautiful parts of the people in our families, if we could remember their sincerity, innocence, honesty, and energy, we would push through all their frustrating peculiarities and love them.
It is a challenge to find the time and strength to help others: to visit the elderly neighbor who lives on our street, to work in a soup kitchen, or to teach a small child to read. But if we could remember how important it is for others to be accompanied, fed, and literate, we could bypass all the complications of our schedules and serve them.
Jesus calls us to build God’s kingdom, and that is hard work. But if we see the beauty of the people around us, we can find the energy to become Christ’s faithful servants. What is important is not the difficulty of our service, but the good that is attained. The pain passes, but the beauty remains.
Fr. Andrew, T.O.R.