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In the early days of the COVID pandemic, I watched a newscast in which an emergency-room nurse who was on a brief break burst into singing the familiar hymn, “Amazing Grace.” It struck me that, in the midst of the flurry and fluster, this nurse found her voice in a song that gives hope and respite to all of us. That particular hymn seems to be a universal favorite; it is sung at public funerals and on many religious occasions. It seems to be such a comfort to so many.
I got thinking about what makes something amazing. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines amazing as “causing astonishment, great wonder or surprise.” To me, in most cases, amazement requires time on our part to realize what really has happened. If we are too much in a rush, we miss that fullness of amazement; we miss the surprise, the depth, the scope of what has occurred. I like to think that amazement usually has a good connotation, and sometimes even a spiritual dimension.
For example, it is amazing that Jesus came to earth to live as a human being and to suffer and die for our salvation. If we meditate on that fact, if we take the time to explore all the implications, if we slow down enough to take in the magnitude of that sacrifice, we can be amazed every single day.
I count fourteen passages in Mark’s Gospel that report that people were astonished, astounded, awestruck, or amazed at something Jesus did. I will point out two.
There was a man in the synagogue with an unclean spirit that Jesus rebuked:

And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—-with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (5:26-27).

Some Pharisees and some Herodians were trying to trap Jesus and get him to oppose paying taxes to the emperor. After getting them to look at a coin,

Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and
To God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him. (12:17).

Whether Jesus is expelling demons, curing the sick, rebuking the wind, teaching in the synagogue, being questioned before Pilate, or leaving his tomb empty, he is truly amazing.
Experiencing amazement is like doing a double or even triple take. In the spiritual realm, we can be amazed at the little actual graces that are also amazing graces. Did you ever get the urge, out of the blue, to pray for someone you know and have not seen in a while? Did you ever offer your Mass intention for a person you don’t even know? Did anyone ever tell you that they had been praying for you even though you had not asked them to pray? Amazing! The Holy Spirit puts into hearts and minds the unifying motivation to love others. We just have to be on the lookout. Let’s be ever ready to be awestruck! We might even surprise ourselves at how loving we can be!
Photo credit: Nicola Abrescia
Scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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