“Peace is about receiving the Holy Spirit. The peace bestowed on the apostles, the peace that does not bring freedom from problems but in problems, is offered to each of us.”
A few years ago, we were hired to provide support to a few pastors who needed help. After leaving three messages for one priest, I finally got him on the phone. Clearly, I had caught him off guard and I couldn’t tell if he was more frustrated he had to talk to me or that I broke his perfect streak of screening my calls. Without even waiting for me to finish my introduction, he said, “We don’t have any money.” I assured him that the services I was offering was made possible through a gift from the diocese. He cut me off again, “I don’t mean to be a jerk.” This is usually code for “I’m about to be a jerk.” He continued, “I really don’t need your help and frankly, it’s not a gift if I have to work for it.”
Fast forward to this spring and a somewhat similar situation, another financial gift was made to CLI to provide services in a different diocese. However, this time, the priest I was assigned returned my call instantly. Toward the end of the conversation, I suggested that perhaps the pastor didn’t need CLI’s help and I might even get in his way. From my perspective, he was already a pretty effective pastor. I got cut off again, “If I’m at all effective,” he said, “it’s because I learned when you’re offered a gift, the most important thing you can do is to figure out how best to use it.”
The tale of the two fathers’ responses made me reflect on how I have welcomed, or not welcomed, gifts that have been offered to me. Beyond the courtesy of gratitude, do I have the humility to accept that someone else can improve my life or my leadership? Do I need to design or control the gift to trust that it’s worthwhile? Particularly with gifts from THE Father, if it’s not exactly what I asked for, how likely am I to embrace it? As we celebrate the birthday of our Church in Pentecost, let’s remember that in our Catholic tradition, it’s not just how we give the gifts we have, it’s also how we steward the gift we have been given.