I remember as a young priest I was visiting an older woman we’ll call Veronica whose life was in chaos. She was grieving over a broken marriage. Her children were a disappointment. She had health problems and money worries. She had emotional and relational difficulties. In addition to this she talked too much. The poor soul went on and on and on.

I spent a long time listening to her. Then I spotted a jigsaw puzzle in a box on her desk and I had a brain wave. As she was talking I leaned over and took the puzzle, opened the box and dumped all 1500 pieces of the jigsaw puzzle on the floor.

She was shocked and stopped talking.

It was my chance.

I said, “Veronica, I’ve been thinking. Your life is like that jigsaw puzzle. It’s all broken down into tiny little pieces and scattered everywhere.”

She cried out, “Yes! Yes! You’re right! My life is like that jigsaw puzzle! That’s exactly what it’s like!”

“But I can tell you this: God is in the business of putting that jigsaw puzzle back together again. He wants to take each piece one by one and carefully, painstakingly put it all back together and he knows exactly what you will look like when you are put back together. He knows that you’re beautiful and good and that you can be healed.”

So it still seems to me.

When we’re broken and shattered by life, that’s when God steps in. When we’ve run out of resources that’s when God takes charge. He works carefully and delicately to fix things. He works behind the scenes–most often doing his best work when we are unaware. All he demands of us is that we sit down at the table and try to do that work of putting it all together with him.

This is what it means to co-operate with God–to align our wills to his will to get on with the work of being made whole–the work of becoming a saint. In this tacky world of instant gratification we want to be saints immediately. We want to be made whole with a quick fix. If it were possible we’d have a spiritual face lift or spiritual botox.

We forget that sanctity is the work of a lifetime. Sanctity means doing all the little things well. Piece by piece like the jigsaw puzzle–it means dealing with our problems in a mature and faith filled way. It means praying our way through the difficulties, seeking reconciliation, learning more, giving more and loving more so that gradually we are restored and made whole.

Why not take this as an Advent message? Make a Catholic new years’ resolution now at the beginning of Advent to see yourself once more as that scattered jigsaw or that jigsaw puzzle that is still incomplete, then get busy with the Master Builder and finish the job.

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