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The Catholic Moment: Opportunities lost and more opportunities given

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Friday, November 6, 2009

By Scott Mussari

“Those who do not take the opportunity to read who can, are no more advantaged than those who cannot” (Anonymous). It was family reading time, which meant everyone gathered collectively while reading individually. Our 5-year-old, Michael, decided that on this day book-thickness trumped picture-brightness and passed over his Biscuit books to pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As his tiny fingers flipped the pages scanning for his handful of sight words, he suddenly exclaimed with great enthusiasm, “Go! Go! I see go.”

Michael easily could have been daunted and discouraged at the complexity of his task. This child was reading a text many adults struggle with, and yet he embraced his situation and stuck with it. He allowed his eyes to look over the vast majority of words he did not know, until he found one he did recognize. He seized his opportunity to the fullest.

It is an effortless and frequent habit to point out when someone else wastes their opportunity. We quickly critique and criticize the political leader whose speech is so concerned with avoiding controversy it neglects to inspire, or the sports team so centered on preventing turnovers it is unable to score points. We realize that in their apathy to fully succeed, they literally have failed. Ironically, as clearly as we see this in others, we are often too blinded to the abundance of opportunities presented to us.

Some opportunities we squander are a result of the actions we choose. Do we decide to fill our thoughts with news from a gossip magazine, or with the good news from the Bible? Do we opt to pass the time playing on the computer by ourselves, or by playing out back with our children? Do we elect to use our treasure to shop for luxuries for us, or to provide necessities for the poor?

Other opportunities we throw away come down to the actions we never do, particularly with regards to those closest to us. Have we committed enough to ask coworkers poignant questions that solicit further reflection and introspection from them or has the attention revolved solely around ourselves? Have we been fully present with friends to engage in deep dialogue or have our conversations remained at a shallow and trivial level? Have we risked revealing our feelings to those we care about or have we cautiously guarded our emotions hoping they somehow knew how we felt?

Beyond the relationship we have with our family and friends, we must consider the connection we have with our God. Each week we have an opportunity to practice our faith at Mass, but instead we do not attend, or else we are present physically yet are absent mentally and spiritually from being engaged with the liturgy. Each day we have an opportunity to share our religious beliefs by preaching it through our words and actions, but rather we allow what we say and do to push people further away from the faith. Each moment we have an opportunity to pray to our Creator in thanksgiving or in need, but instead we create reasons why prayer is unimportant and unnecessary.

When Michael identified the word “go,” he found it inside the name God. Even though he does not entirely understand the definition of the word or the divinity of God, he still could completely grasp the opportunity. He literally found God within the confusion of his language world. Fortunately, all of us are continually given countless opportunities to find God in our midst too.

Scott Mussari is the director of faith formation at St. Columban Church in Loveland and can be reached at smussari@stcolumban.org.

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