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The joy of the unexpected discovery

By Greg Schmidt, Newton Presbyterian ManorHeart & Soul Hospice chaplain

Do you love the spring as much as I do? I hope so! The thing I enjoy most about spring is discovery. I love watching plants begin to poke their little “heads” up through the soil. I love watching little buds as they emerge from barren branches. And I can’t wait to buy the first of many flats of annuals and perennials and begin planting in the 25 or more pots I have around my house.

In the same vein, I love discovering “new” things about “old” stories. For instance, all I’d ever enjoyed about St. Patrick’s Day was searching for three- and four-leaf clovers. As a child my friends and I would walk and crawl over tufts of grass in search of a three-leaf clover … always secretly hoping to find a four-leaf one. Why? Just to be that lucky one who finds something few others can discover.

A few years ago I began to search for the meaning behind the day and the person so many celebrated. What I discovered was a beautiful, faith-building story of a Scottish-born boy named Maewyn Succat … turned captive of Irish raiders at the age of 16 … turned slave shepherd … turned Christian convert on the run from the law … turned Catholic Priest who was known as Patrick … turned sometimes imprisoned Catholic bishop … turned missionary to Ireland who used the three-leaf shamrock to teach about the Holy Trinity … who ministered for 30+ years … who one day died on March 17 in 461 A.D. Whew!

While I don’t know for sure, I choose to believe St. Patrick was spiritually driven by Matthew 28:19-20 where Jesus is recorded as having said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Did you know 2,000+ years ago, the later an idea came in the structure of a sentence, the more important the thought or teaching? That would mean “… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you …” was the most important teaching Jesus offered in this set of commands. I believe St. Patrick knew that. Teaching Irish converts became his greatest passion. It drove his life with little or no thought given to his personal comfort. Spending time in prison, for St. Patrick and someone long before him, namely, the Apostle Paul, was understood to be a part of the process, not the problem.

God used that life, that priest-bishop, that testimony, to transform the Irish people who had once enslaved him. What an unexpected and mercy-driven “pay back!”

We should all long to pay back our enemies with love, kindness and compassion. Sounds like something Jesus would do, doesn’t it? Perhaps forgetting self in order to serve others is exactly what becoming the lucky-one-who-finds-something-few-others-can-discover is what our faith is all about. Humble yourself before the Lord … and crawl … or walk bowed … into the presence of the Almighty. And discover God discovering those at your doorstep who need to obediently follow His commands.

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