Each day is a new frontier to traverse. Each morning presents a choice to become more fully Christ in our world. What the day holds for us we do not know. Feats of courage will require feet of courage. A humdrum day also demands the courage to slog through. Morning prayer and morning walks set the tone. Both afford glimpses of God. “Oh, it’s You, God!” Fortified by God-glimpses, we set out on our day. Stay alert to God-glimpses in lyrics, a text message, a chance encounter, a child’s question, another interruption, the next task. At night review the God-glimpses and praise and thank God.
When in eternity we may learn more details of the Scripture stories. Perhaps, we may even learn a few humorous anecdotes that didn’t make the final edition of the evangelist. Have you ever imagined what has been left unwritten about the miracles or Infancy Narrative or discourse? I am imagining a different version of Pentecost. It goes something like this:
Andrew: Do you hear that wind? We better take shelter.
James: Look over there. The neighbors’ trees aren’t swaying. The wind is right in here — with us!
Peter: John, your hair is on fire! Quick, Thomas, get some water. No, wait, yours is on fire, too!
Thomas: No, it can’t be. I don’t feel a thing—well, maybe something like fire in my heart.
Philip: Look! A crowd is gathering! What do you think this means?
Bartholomew: Well, they certainly don’t know what to make of this. See how confused they look.
Andrew: Has anyone seen Simon?
Bartholomew: He’s outside! He’s preaching! Even the Egyptians are listening to him.
Philip: I didn’t know he could speak Egyptian!
Peter: The crowd really listened to us. It’s a miracle that they believe in the resurrection. And so many were baptized!
Philip: We must praise God for today’s miracles. But I wished they didn’t think we were filled with new wine.
There is so much to contemplate in Jesus’ ascension into heaven that I am glad many dioceses have transferred this feast from Thursday to Sunday. For Teilhard de Chardin, the Ascension was the most beautiful feast of the year, because Christ’s Ascension predicted the universe returning to the Father. It anticipated the fulfillment of all who live in Christ. From the moment God became incarnate, there has been no dichotomy between matter and spirit. God’s plan to make matter divine was fully realized in Jesus Christ. The Ascension means that we, too, are divinized. Instead of going up and away, Christ is in the heart of all creation, in each creature, dwelling there in his glorified humanity. As Colossians states, “Christ is all and in all.” Galatians says it another way: “It is Christ who lives in me.” Whatever you and I do today—work, play, pray—it is Christ acting in us.
In Charlie Mackesy’s book the Mole asks, “What’s your best discovery?” The Boy answers, “That I’m enough as I am.” Quite a huge, wise discovery for a boy! It’s taken me decades to know that I’m enough as I am, and I’m sure I haven’t achieved such self-knowledge completely. Many of us probably think that we need to keep improving, achieving, acquiring. There may be some truth in that. But God, Who is Truth, created us perfectly. We are made in the image of God, our Perfect God. In the core of our being, we are God’s child, heir of all God’s gifts. Elsewhere in Mackesy’s book we read “Isn’t it odd? We can only see our outsides, but nearly everything happens on the inside.” Of course, that’s where God resides!
Continued thoughts from The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse . . .
“’Doing nothing with friends is never doing nothing, is it?’ asked the Boy” in The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. Jesus said, “I call you friends.” If we were servants, we would need to be attentive to the next command. But apparently Jesus our Friend wants us to relax in his presence. “Just be with me,” he says. We are free to do absolutely nothing with Jesus, but that’s never doing nothing. It’s imbibing living water and feeding on the Bread of Life and letting God live in us and knowing we’re safe within the sheepgate and becoming more like Jesus our Friend through spiritual osmosis.
When the Boy in The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse written by Charlie Mackesy is asked what he wants to be when he grows up, his answer is “Kind.” Later in the book Horse states, “Nothing beats kindness. It sits quietly beyond all things.” I thought for a while about kindness sitting quietly beyond all things. Why does kindness choose to be unobtrusive? Why does kindness sit quietly? In what ways is kindness beyond all things? When I reflect on the kind deeds done to me, they really do seem to have one thing in common—a quiet, hidden, almost shy approach. Some virtues are measurable; for example, patience might endure hours, days, weeks, years. Other virtues are obvious. Courage is seen in remarkable deeds of heroism. Mildness surrounds a person with an aura. Wisdom and counsel are heard through words. Reverence is witnessed in its hushed tones, its folded hands and bowed head. But, according to Horse, nothing beats kindness. It just sits quietly beyond all things—beyond all virtues like an almost imperceptible fragrance, like a faint melody of chimes carried in the wind, like an invisible guardian angel. Kindness is the faint echo trailing every good deed and compassionate word. Nothing beats kindness.
Our religious Congregation, the Sisters of Notre Dame, was founded by Hilligonde Wolbring and Elisabeth Kühling. These two teachers needed to be formed in the vows and lifestyle of religious sisters before they could begin their own community. Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the order founded by Saint Julie Billiart, came from Amersfoort to instruct the two teachers in the way of religious life. Five years later the foundation in Coesfeld, Germany became an independent congregation. But the ties to the Sisters from Amersfoort remain strong. We call Saint Julie our “spiritual mother.” Her most famous quotation is often on our own lips: “How good God is!” And we continue to practice Julie’s admonition: “Let us do all we can to make the good God known and loved by all who surround us.”
“This week we will muse on some sayings in Charlie Mackesy’s book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse.”
Recently I was introduced to the book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. It took me ten minutes to read it from cover to cover, but I could have sat with it for its hours of wisdom. Early in the book the horse says, “The truth is everyone is winging it.” Really? Don’t we plan every day, almost every hour of the day? Aren’t our calendars full? Don’t we have everything at least under a modicum of control? Who would dare to wing it? What could the horse mean?
Looking deeper at my calendar and schedules, I understand that there are many places to wing it. Every hour has its choices. Do I work with full intent and purpose? Do I pray wholeheartedly? Do I converse with my best communication skills? Do I play with abandon? At the end of the day, did the minutes and hours let God live in me? Did I let God’s grace influence me? Did I make the best decisions? Or did I cut corners, let opportunities for good pass by, and just mindlessly follow a routine? If so, I was just winging it.
On the other hand, knowing that nothing is in our control, that schedules easily become useless, that the best laid plans… well, that’s winging it. Once again, it all boils down to letting God live in me and trusting that God’s life will show through. Maybe that’s what Horse meant.
On Thursday evenings I meet with a few adults who have lost spouses in the past months. We set aside nine consecutive weeks to come together, weeks corresponding to the nine lessons in our book The New Day Journal. Each week brings the group a bit closer together through sharing stories of loved ones, their feelings, and the ways they survive and try to thrive. Tonight will be our eighth gathering, and I will feel something like the meal when Jesus knew it would be his last one with his disciples. Although we’ll share emails and phone numbers, we know it will be different. We know that next week will be the last time all of us are in the same room. We’re friends now and confidants, no longer shy strangers. While tonight may be like the Last Supper (although we don’t share food), next week I hope will be like the times the Risen Lord had something to eat with his apostles. No food, but the nourishment that comes from a group of friends who understand, free to be themselves, and sharing a peace like the apostles hearing the Lord’s arrival with “Shalom.”
If you’re looking for a parable, don’t turn to the Gospel of John. You won’t find anything about seeds and weeds, prodigal sons and pearls, yeast and nets. You won’t read that the Kingdom of God is like a vineyard. No, you will have the Vine Himself. Jesus is the vine. His Father is the vine grower. We are the branches. Attached to Jesus Christ, we produce fruit. Of course, we must follow Jesus’ invitation: “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” Doing so, we give glory to the Father.
We have been basking in the glow of the Risen Lord, but the Scriptures are pushing us on. We may need to be pruned, die to ourselves and grow into the People we are to become, if there is to be fruit.