The woman walked into the sign shop. She needed to order a banner for her daughter’s swim team and knew the owners of this shop well.
No one was at the counter when she arrived. It was common for them to be in the back, working. She went to ring the bell and saw a simple white envelope on the otherwise empty counter. There was handwriting on it — two words, one on top of the other, handwritten in block print — MATT AGAPE. Perhaps someone was trying to space out the letters for a proposed sign. Perhaps someone had just written a shorthand note to himself and didn’t need it anymore. Perhaps it was an old envelope that someone had taken out of her purse and left it for trash.
For this woman, however, it was a sign from God. The hair stood up on the back of her neck. Just as she moved more closely toward the envelope, the sign maker came out from the back room.
“Hello,” the woman said. “Do you know where this envelope came from?”
The sign maker picked up the envelope. “Huh,” she remarked. “I’ve never seen this before. Someone must have left it there.” With that, she crumpled up the envelope and threw it away.
The woman quickly placed her order and left the store. She then sat in her car, hair still on end and shaken to the core, for 30 minutes.
She recalled her conversation with Fr. Marty only one week before. She was sure that Catholicism was no longer for her. She had become friends with Evangelical Christians whose faith seemed so much deeper than she had ever had as a lifelong Catholic. They knew Bible verses by heart. They seemed to live their faith every day. They talked about their faith in every situation. They listened to Christian music. They seemed to have the personal relationship with Jesus that she could never have as a Catholic.
Fr. Marty smiled and told her that Jesus is there waiting for her in the Eucharist and in His Church. He told her that the love of Jesus is agape, an eternal and limitless love that she can receive from Him and share with others if she is open to it. He told her that, in addition to receiving the Eucharist, a good place to begin to know Jesus better is to start with the book of Matthew. He said to use a Catholic Bible that she could mark up and underline. She thanked him and told herself that she would give Catholicism one more shot. She went home, remembering what Fr. Marty had said: Matthew and agape. She started that night, said a prayer, and began reading Matthew. She underlined certain verses and made notes in the margin. She went to Mass the following Sunday, and Fr. Marty seemed to be talking directly to her. She continued to read each night in Matthew and was amazed to see things that she had never seen before.
Then she went to the sign shop.
Thus began the beginning of a journey for this woman to know Jesus better, and to experience His amazing love … as a Catholic. The book of Matthew led to more reading, Bible study, daily Mass, teaching Religion in a Catholic school, helping with retreats, and a deeply personal relationship with Jesus.
She came to realize that the signs were always there, but she had been so blind to them for so many years. Each day, things became so much clearer, as if a veil had been lifted from her eyes. God’s signs of His love were all around. As she writes this today, she knows she always wants to cling to His side and by His light, so that she can never be blind again.
Thank you, Jesus.
And thank you, Fr. Marty, for leading me back home so many years ago. Everything you said is true.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)