August 27 – Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

One of my favorite memories from my childhood was Saturday afternoons. After a busy morning of chores, we would spend the afternoon watching cooking shows. One of my favorites was Julia Child, and one of the episodes can teach us a spiritual lesson.  In the episode, while she was flipping a potato pancake, she flipped it a little too enthusiastically, so that it fell off the pan onto the stove. She then picked up the pancake, put it back in the pan, and looking directly at the camera, said, “Well, if you’re all alone in the kitchen, nobody will know.”

As we come to the end of August, many parents have already taken their kids to college, school is starting up, and a new year of ministry is beginning here at Our Lady of Mercy. As we do this, there is often a drive for perfection. Maybe we have high expectations for the year, or we have goals to make it even better than last year. But all too often, the year doesn’t turn out how we planned. And because of this, it can be tempting to give up.

The same can be true of our spiritual lives. Maybe we plan to pray every day, but get to the end of a busy day realizing that we forgot to do it. Or maybe we feel that every time we go to Confession, we confess the same sins. So what are we supposed to do? St. Benedict has a short but profound phrase that can serve as our motto: “Always we begin again.”

Sometimes we become so discouraged by the fact that we have messed up that we don’t want to try again. But the Bible tells us: “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again” (Proverbs 24:16). We can’t just let the potato pancake sit on the stove, but we need to pick it up again.

The ability to get up again does not come from a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of attitude, but rather an attitude of humility. Our desire to wallow in our mistake comes from a pride that says, “How could I have done this?” But in humility, we are called to come to Jesus—not just when we feel good about ourselves—but when we are at our lowest, we need to admit our mistake and allow Him to lift us up once again.

It is precisely in that moment of allowing Jesus to lift us up again that we begin to grow in holiness. It is then that we realize how much we need Jesus and learn to rely on Him. We need to remember St. Benedict’s phrase, “Always we begin again,” so that we don’t remain in our mistake, but, with Jesus’ help, start fresh, whether that means returning to the Sacrament of Confession, or picking a potato pancake up off the stove and putting it back in the pan.

Father Frank