THE FRESHENING OF HEARTS
READ: Acts 14:19-23
“Having preached the Good News in the town of Derbe, there making a considerable number of new disciples, Paul and Barnabas retraced their steps, returning through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. They put fresh hearts into the disciples in those villages, encouraging them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘We must ALL experience many hardships before we enter the Kingdom of God.'” – Acts 14:21-22
I love how the New Jerusalem Bible translates that phrase …“They put fresh hearts into the disciples…”
The young server in the diner interrupted my thoughts with the words, “Sir, may I freshen your coffee?” I looked up to see the smile that came with cheerful voice. “Sure ...(I searched for her name tag.) Betty.” With that most brief encounter, a conversation was born. I learned of her background from Iowa and how she was working her way through college to one day become a school teacher. She, in turn,learned of my late in life study in the monastic life … her delicate crucifix about her neck providing me license to share this part of myself more freely. She shared of how she missed the small town life, her father and mother, the proprietors of the small, rural town’s feed and seed store. I shared of my boyhood in Canada and my lifelong loves of nighttime trains, well-seasoned barns, and dusty, old books. She shared of her love of children, though she thought she ought best find a husband and a job before striking out in creating her own brood. I shared photos of my wife and my two sons and how they were the far better part of me. We had a most delightful time, this old man and monk and that young woman and waitress. It all started with the words, “May I freshen your coffee?” But in the end as I left that diner, I gave thanks to God for how this sunny and smiling soul had so freshened my worn and weary heart.
‘Tis a most gracious gift … this gift of putting fresh hearts into others.
I have known a number of Christian souls who are especially apt at this ministry of freshening hearts. One of them is Sister Beatrice. I met Sister Beatrice on the coldest day of this past winter. My Spiritual Director for my graduate studies had arranged for me to go visiting with Sister Beatrice, a nun at the nearby convent who also serves as a professor of pastoral care at the local Catholic seminary. In my own seminary days, I pursued an emphasis in Pastoral Counseling. My undergraduate degree was in Psychology. Throughout my forty years of being a Pastor, I always though myself better equipped for pastoral care than for preaching and church administration. But then … I spent a day with Sister Beatrice. And in that day … I learned firsthand from a master in the wonderful ministry of the “freshening of hearts”.
This joyful nun, reared in an orphanage, educated in a Haitian mission school, later an honors graduate of Notre Dame, worked quiet miracles all through our day together. As we visited various low income nursing homes, by means of her smile, her touch, her laughter, her listening, her way of being completely focused on the soul before her, her intimate prayers, even her mere presence so graced with the Presence of Christ, Sister Beatrice kept putting fresh hearts into these old and aching, often lonely, sometimes despondent souls. I merely watched with wonder at Sister Beatrice going about her loving work .. at how she could pour so much of her Christ-like, Spirit-endowed self into each and every person she met. And I ended that day praying quite earnestly … “Lord, might I have just a small share of her gift?”
My Loved Ones, do NOT underestimate the significance of freshening the hearts of those who come your way. As your daily quiet time of prayer can allow the Lord to place a fresh heart into your life, so your sharing God’s love through your own love can place a fresh heart into the lives about you. No. Never underestimate the life-transforming power of divine love shared through a human life.
Brother Anthony of the Cross