What More Can I Do?

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

The sunlight was new and all the greens were soft when I woke up this morning. This day was a gift. It needed appreciation, before all the harshness of the world came weaseling in, before I started feeling lost in the “cloud of non-doing.” I wanted Mary Oliver to be my prayer partner in noticing, she who has such fine craft in words about seeing, about receiving the natural beauties and the surprises and delights of creation. We prayed together, I using her words to fill myself again with praise and tender gaze toward the simplicity of the days spent by trees and flowers, as they enter this next phase of nature’s turning, leaves wilting, flowers parching and going to seed.

I know my being in this world cannot be reduced to appreciation of the beauties of nature, but a morning of contemplating the lilies of the field “heals the sin-sick soul.”

And, oh, I am sick of sin. And fires and floods and droughts. And rage. So much rage, so much despair. And the most outrageous lies drifting in on polluted air. And I am oftentimes wrought with my own guilt over the very small efforts I make, being more, doing more, wanting some concrete and easily applied answer to the question “What can I do?”

Jesus is the answer. (I know: Oh Really?)  But I have been watching him in the daily readings from Luke, this poor traveler from Galilee, this young man wandering his small world and growing aware of his difference, perhaps even surprised by the healings he does, the words he offers. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me….” I have been watching him live a step at a time. Step by step, moment by moment, meeting by meeting, he is overturning the meaning the world gives to “Glory.”  We Christians of these latter days have some sense of that subversion, which we translate into “Paschal Mystery,” that impossible coalescence of life, death and resurrection, of service and suffering and salvation.

Right now, Jesus is walking, meeting, conversing, healing, responding to whoever, whatever is in front of him at the moment—lilies or lepers– sharing what he knows of the loving mercy of God, both giving and receiving a deep awareness of that Presence, and his purpose.

This is what God is doing in and through him.  Taking each moment, each exchange as a fresh burst of Creation, with fullness and openness of mind and heart.

Can we do more? Rabbi Abraham Heschel says, “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” And that defines what a creature of God does: receives the gift of the holy moment, gives the gift of the holy moment.  Mary Oliver asked me this morning, at the end of one of her poems, “Tell me, what is it that you plan to do /with your one wild and precious life?” (The Summer Day)


Posted in Weekly Word

9 responses to “What More Can I Do?

  1. As usual, Jan, prose that reads like poetry! You have such a gift with words. And that gift is a blessing to me.

  2. This reflection truly resonated.
    Thank you for reminding us of Mary Oliver’s wonderful insights and connection to the natural world.

  3. Thank you, Janet for reminding us to receive each moment in our daily lives and see God’s Glory. Today at our Eucharist, I found myself gazing out at our chapel windows. The wind was blowing gently through the trees causing them to dance and the flowers on the ground were swaying as well. The sun shone brightly through all of creation as Fr. Michael raised the Host and said “This is my Body.” All of creation and all God’s People were blessed by our loving God and the Blessed Mother.

  4. Janet, you and Mary Oliver both share the gift of finely-crafted words. Thanks for helping me name my post-Ida-evacuation malaise and God’s call to rise again.

  5. Janet, I made a copy of your message and sent it to my sister-in-law who is a care-giver for my brother. I will ask her to share it with him. They are both having a hard time and I feel your words can be comforting.

  6. Jan
    Elegant articulation of my own thoughts and perception. You are not only a visual artist but work magic with words and images. Thank you for this grace today!

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