Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 23, 2017
Let’s test your memory this weekend. Just back three years ago…2014…who won the Nobel Peace Prize that year? Do you remember? Or the World Cup? Or the Super Bowl? Three years ago…what movie won the Best Picture? Who won the Tony for Best Actor that year? Who make the Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 2014?
These are big things. Headline-makers in the news. Everybody was talking about them at work. We watched and cheered and hosted gatherings around some of these events. Big things! Three years isn’t that long to remember such big things like those, is it?
How can we forget such newsworthy events and important people and winning teams but we can remember so many other things, things less newsworthy and far less important in notoriety. Like what it was like to have him hold your hand as they wheeled you into surgery that day or what it was like to see that baby for the first time, that newborn child. It didn’t make the news by we’ll never forget. We remember who it was that went out of their way to make us feel welcomed or sat with us at the cafeteria table when we started school that year. We remember well who it was that came by and said, “I know what you’re going through” and just let us cry for a while. We remember who stuck by us when no one else did; who forgave us when we didn’t deserve it. Three years ago or thirty years ago, we remember the friends who didn’t give up on us and the arm that wrapped around us when we most needed it and the compliment that was delivered with impeccable timeliness. Yes, we’ll remember those things!
But do you know what else we do remember? We remember vividly who forgot our birthday (again) or who hurt us with that comment. Small things, right? They don’t matter that much. We may not think that calling someone a fag or stupid or loser means all that much - until we find out it was the hurt that broke open the wound that wouldn’t stop bleeding. We may not think one snide comment or an indifferent shrug makes a difference, pushing someone away just a little more, but we have no idea how close to the cliff they were at that moment, do we? Three years ago or maybe even thirty years ago, we remember who made us feel ashamed, who made fun of us. Small things.
We can try to convince ourselves that little things don’t matter, that small things are insignificant, that seemingly inconsequential things are easily forgotten. I think God would argue that way of thought. I think, to God, those small things are what matter most. Because small things, good and bad, often grow into really big things.
The smallest bit of yeast in the bowl of dough, tiniest seed that is planted in the ground, that persistent weed In the midst of the field of wheat. Those things grow into things so much bigger things than how they began. Good and bad. Those are the things that stick with us. I think they stick with God, too.
We may not think that sitting down and writing that short note of encouragement or making that call or offering a word or forgiveness or a simple act of compassion make any difference, but the Book of Wisdom reminds us, justice and kindness gives hope where hope has been long lost. They give healing to wounds that have been long inflicted. A sincere prayer of blessing or healing or peace. We may not think it matters all that much until we remember that the Holy Spirit takes up what we plant in prayer and God answers in ways we can’t even imagine or dream.
So yes, small things do matter. A lot.
For you trivia buffs: The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize was shared, in two equal parts, between Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai, two young women from Afghanistan "for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education". Time Magazine’s Person of the Year: the Ebola Fighters, those men and women who risked their lives to head off an epidemic that rocked the world. Germany won the World Cup and the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl. Neil Patrick Harris won the Tony for his performance in Hedwig and the Angry Itch and Best Picture in 2014 was 12 Years a Slave.