Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Little things

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published February 5, 2015

There is the Gospel story about the King who entrusts three servants with sums of money, hoping that on his return from a trip they will have invested them. The first and second servants do well. The third does not.

The King commends the enterprising servants for handling their small amounts very well. The story, as told by Jesus, brings to mind the many other examples of how he valued the importance of the small and the seemingly insignificant. Out of what is of little size, stature or significance, wondrous things can happen. This process is a reversal of the way we normally size things up. In order to master any task, we avail ourselves of the best and biggest means at hand.

Within the Christian way of life there is an inward drive toward simplicity. We are asked not to hope for the accomplishments that largesse can bring. And this is not because little ways are better or more productive. It is not because these small things have some kind of a power to “do” more. It is more because we are called to trust in the words and ways of Jesus, a man who holds before us a kind of life that has nothing to do with the allures of power and affluence and what these can bring—the big golden rings that spell success.

It is not hard to find small matters that contain within themselves the kind of bountiful return of which Jesus speaks. Our lives are made up of them. The daily routine here at the monastery is made up of many events that are repetitious, ordinary and tedious. Being patient with each other, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, going to meetings, church offices, doctor visits, lectio, mowing the grass, tending the garden, maintaining these aging buildings, caring for the aging monks who live within its walls. And with a few variations, the life has many similarities to our guests and retreatants.

All of us are tethered in one way or another to little and daily things that may not seem on any given day to add up to much. But they have a good and cumulative effect.

Grace, the life of God within us and among us, is rooted in nature. And human nature is gritty, troublesome, tiresome. All around us are invitations to flee it, promising that there is a better and easier way, if we hit some kind of a grand jackpot that will land us at the end of the rainbow with a big pot of gold. But life’s vexing nature will be there as well, all those small and irritating things that tug at us until we tend to them, embrace them, and take care of those small things that have within themselves the power to open the heart to God and to each other.



Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at