On the first of December, in lieu of our regularly scheduled Ultreya, St. Paul’s Cursillo had an Advent Reflection. In such a unique and creative way, Debbie Iomo-Whiffen, Darlene McGovern and Ann Marie Dodd used snippets from the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” to guide us through our evening of reflection. While “It’s a Wonderful Life” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think that everyone can agree when I say, “Poor George! Is he ever going to catch a break?”
George Bailey was a man with a plan. You know what they say though, ‘When you make plans, God laughs’ and God must have really been yucking it up with poor George. Every time George set about taking a step toward his life’s plan, he was interrupted by something or someone. George’s life was, and still is, a perfect example of what living life interrupted looks like. As I sat and reflected on the evening of reflection, I began to realize that I know how George felt because I too am living life interrupted because of the pandemic. Yet, as I sat in contemplation over this realization, I began to ask, “Are the interruptions really interruptions, or are they opportunities for God’s graces to live anew in me?”
George had every intention of leaving Bedford Falls, but when his father died, he remained in order to keep the family business from falling into the hands of the vile Mr. Potter. Still in Bedford Falls, he finds his plan once again changes as he falls in love with Mary and marries her even though he struggles with being tied to the town more. Yet again, when about to leave for their honeymoon, there is a bank run and the same business that stopped him from fulfilling his dreams is once again interrupting George’s plans. In order to save his business and keep it afloat, he has to use the money for his honeymoon. In each of these scenes, George has to decide whether to follow his dreams or stay and deal with each interruption. From what we see, George deals with every interruption, albeit reluctantly at times. Can we blame him? Let’s be honest here. George sacrificed a lot in his life. So much so, you can’t help but want him to throw his hands up at some point and say to everyone, “You figure it out, I’m out of here!” Good old George instead gives of himself and, in doing so, often shows compassion and God’s grace at work in him.
It’s pretty easy to relate to George right now. This pandemic has interrupted so many aspects of my life. I have dealt with friends and family being sick with COVID-19 and have even lost some to it. I have felt frustration at the limitations of being stuck indoors or in virtual isolation from others. My plans for vacations, gatherings, work, events…they’ve all been laid to the wayside. The very life I have built and grown to love is gone to some extent and I am forced to embrace something different. But I am not alone. Many of you have suffered physically with illness, you have had to make choices you did not want to, you had to forgo what was planned to embrace what is, you have lost loved ones, suffered economic loss or uncertainty. You, too, have lost the ability to follow through on plans made. In fact, you have even lost the ability to plan at all at times! You have seen others suffer greatly and we ourselves are still suffering. We are certainly in the thick of it, like George often found himself. But like George, are we responding to our living life interrupted with compassion and God’s grace?
It is often difficult to see the blessing in the interruption, especially when they seem to just keep coming. But if we are lucky, like George, we can take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Once George steps back, he sees what all the interruptions gave him: a disguised blessing. For you see, George was not alone. He had friends, friends who showed him such great love, compassion, and grace in return. God did not ignore George’s interrupted life nor did God let George’s sacrifices go in vain. No, our God is an awesome God!
So maybe George’s interruptions weren’t interruptions at all. Maybe they were God’s redirections or invitations to go down a path that will lead us somewhere not yet seen or understood. Perhaps living life interrupted has nothing at all to do with the interruptions themselves but the opportunities to open ourselves to God’s grace at work in our lives. And so, this Advent Season, I pray to see the interruptions as opportunities to show compassion, acceptance and grace so, like George, I, too, can grow to be the richest person in town! In fact, may we all welcome Jesus again in our hearts this Advent Season as we stretch ourselves to live life interrupted as compassionately and gracefully as George.