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After I got accepted into a doctorate program, I met with my director and he asked me if I could read German. I told him I could not. So he said, “You need to learn.” So here was my strategy. I made hundreds of German flashcards, and made stacks of fifty and put rubber bands around them. Whenever I went out I always grabbed a bundle and put it in my pocket. So this is what happened to me. I went to get food at the grocery store and naturally at the checkout I go to the shortest line. There was a lady in front of me who just finished bagging her groceries and began handing in her coupons. One of them didn’t register. So she insisted on seeing the manager. When he finally came over he told her that the coupon was expired. Then she went to pay with a credit card and it didn’t work. So she tried a debit card, then a gift card. Neither worked. She finally decided to pay in cash. “I may as well use up my change,” she said. So she took everything in of her pocketbook on the counter and started to dig into the bottom of her pocketbook for the loose change. Meanwhile, I am standing behind her in the line. Was I upset that I got into the wrong checkout line—again? Nope. Did I gather all my belongings in frustration and go to another line like everyone else behind me? No again. I was standing there quite content. How was that possible? Because every thirty seconds I had to wait, I learned a new German word. That is what I call opportunity. I believe that every moment in life, even the most disappointing ones, presents opportunity, and fulfillment. We just have to see it.
I am not the fastest person when it comes to making decisions. The reason why I am slow at making decisions is because I have to weigh all the options. What am I going to put on my pizza? Yet, there are times when I make instant decisions. That is when I see opportunity. For example, if you are holding the winning Megabucks ticket in your hand, do you throw it away or cash it in? You do not have to weigh out the options for that decision. That is because you see opportunity.
Take for example Matthew the tax collector. He has the best job in the ancient world and Jesus asks Matthew to follow him. Immediately, the tax collector leaves the money table to follow Jesus. Imagine you are sitting at a table and people are lined up in front of you to give you large sums of money. That is like standing in line and the Registry of Motor Vehicles waiting to give the government large sums of money so you can walk out with a plastic card. So there you are with all of these people bringing you money and all you have to do is pick up a pen and check off the box that the guy paid. Jesus walks by and says, “Follow me.” You now have a decision to make. Do I keep the best paying job I could ever wish for or do I follow this guy I just met? Matthew immediately follows Jesus. Why? Because he saw opportunity. Soon Matthew will be at present at the greatest moments in history. He is there when Jesus fed the five thousand with a few loaves of bread. He is there when Lazarus walked out of the tomb. He is there at the Last Supper and had his feet were washed by the Son of God, he is there at the Resurrection. Today, churches are named after Matthew, all because he saw an opportunity.
The Bible always reminds us that no matter how difficult or awkward the situation, there is always opportunity. We can make a friend or win back a friend, we may learn or we may find a teaching moment. Every day we are presented with opportunities, we just have to have the eyes to see them.Back to All Homilies