This has been a busy spring and early summer with lots of projects and some health issues to keep us challenged. Growing old is certainly not for sissies, but offers many opportunities to grow in humility, patience, and perseverance. It’s also a time of fewer demands, with leisure to read or pursue hobbies. One of my favorite things about this time of year is being outside: gardening, bee-keeping, and enjoying all the birds and four-footed beasts visiting our yard. This year I feel like I’m on Mount Ararat with the animals coming off the ark with their expanding families. We’ve had many more critter sightings than normal.
Two mother turkeys wandered in from the woods one morning with ten babies in tow. A doe with her spotted fawn came for weeks almost every day. What a sight to see the little one running and jumping sometimes ahead of mom and sometimes in her footsteps. Then there are the bunnies. Maybe in lockdown they had nothing to do but what bunnies do, because we definitely have a bumper crop this year. What a source of entertainment to see them chasing each other. Often two will be cavorting. If one stops the other teases until the chase is on again.
While we haven’t seen a bear yet, we have seen several piles of scat. Last summer a juvenile visited our little apple orchard at dusk calmly eating in one of the trees while we observed him from the front porch. I went over to get a closer look and he growled ominously so I backed off.
A bluebird couple took up residence in the birdhouse our son-in-law made for me. It’s right outside my office window so I see mom and dad flying back and forth all day. They obviously have a houseful of hungry hatchlings. I hope I get to see them fledge. Babies of any species are a singular delight!
And the flowers! I’ve been moving my lilies into the fenced pool area around Mary’s garden to save them from the deer who think they’re salad. I’m enjoying them in glorious profusion for a change. I love to go out in the morning and cut a few to adorn Mary’s niche in the kitchen. They only last a day, but what a glorious daylong display! They remind me how good God is who dressed them in finery to rival Solomon and watches over all His creation so lovingly.If you want to see God’s fingerprints, just look around. Nature points directly to the heavens. And I always find my thoughts stirred toward spiritual matters when I contemplate God’s world. I echo the poet, William Wordsworth who wrote, My heart leaps up when I behold, A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; So be it when I shall grow old, Or let me die! The Child is father of the Man; And I could wish my days to be, Bound each to each by natural piety. Wordsorth’s poem reminds us that grace builds on nature. In fact, nature is perfected by grace. The Darwinist, who makes nature an end and denies God, will not lose his restlessness of heart of which St. Augustine speaks. Nature, wonderful as it is, isn’t big enough to fill us. We need God, and we will never be happy until we find Him or, rather, stop running and let Him find us. Only those completely clueless about true love can reject God. Any love we experience in this life is a pale imitation of the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who reaches out for us from the cross.
The 4th week of the Spiritual Exercises focuses on post resurrection events. They graphically show the love of Christ! Jesus sends a message with the women at the tomb that He’ll meet the apostles in Galilee. Do they go? NO! They are petrified and remain locked in the upper room. So what does Jesus do? He comes to them adding to their terror when he passes through the locked door. Is he a ghost? NO! And to calm their fears He asks for something to eat and consumes a bit of fish. He doesn’t need to eat, but He does it for the sake of His frightened beloved apostles – you know -- the same apostles who ran away in the garden, betrayed Him during His trial, abandoned Him at the cross, and failed to believe most of what He taught them. And what did He do earlier Easter day? He met two discouraged disciples on the road to Emmaus and explained again all the prophecies about the Messiah and how he had to suffer.
If the apostles had followed Him to Calvary, they would have heard Him confirm His messianic fulfillment by praying the beginning of Psalm 22 which describes what happened there even though it was written 1000 years earlier. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me....I am a worm, and no man: the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people. All they that saw me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head. ‘He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him’....”
If you read the gospel accounts of the passion you can hear the ridicule that took place during Christ’s trial before the Sanhedrin. David wrote about it for us.
And then we see the description of what happened at the crucifixion itself, a form of execution that was first used 500 years after the psalmist wrote. “My heart is become like wax melting in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue hath cleaved to my jaws... They have numbered all my bones. And they have looked and stared upon me. They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots.”
It’s unlikely that the pharisees missed Christ’s allusion to being the Messiah. Did anyone know the holy books better than the high priest and the elders? Christ preached His most powerful sermon from the Cross, a sermon that began by affirming God’s forgiveness for sinners and ended with the gates of the underworld bursting open to release Adam and Eve and all the prisoners of sin even as the veil of the temple was ripped apart announcing the end of the old covenant.
God shows us His love daily, in nature and in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass when we are transported in a heavenly time machine back to that grace-filled moment of our salvation. We can never thank God enough, but we can try by embracing every cross and singing hymns of gratitude. As St. Ignatius tells us, we were created for the praise, reverence, and service of God in order to save our souls. Is there any project more worthy of our heartfelt commitment? Let us ponder in our hearts like Mary and remember her advice to “Do whatever He tells you.”