Thursday, December 1, 2011

Beginnings and Endings

In the Church we celebrate beginnings of things, birthdays and anniversaries, but in our lives we often witness and bear (without much celebration) many endings. I sometimes think, in this matter, that Christ did not fully live a human life as we do today. He missed some of the futility we see, in constantly witnessing endings or downward slides in the whole world, and we even see evidences of our own end to come. It is so easy to see darkness in our days, and the celebrating beginnings from so long ago sometimes seems a forced thing, even a beginning as glorious and miraculous as the birth of our God.

I think our moroseness is magnified by our focus on only those two things, the good of so long ago and the bad we see to come. Endings, death hangs over us like a dark shadow, even when not yet here. Our mind slips so easily to focus on the darkness around us, and we see no way out. Our life seems only destined to endings: our lovely little children grow up and move away, our friends move on, our parents die, and so do our spouses, and dreadfully sometimes even our children. And so must we. It is so easy to be weighed down by the bad things which seem to be everywhere --- aren’t they the only things reported in the news?

What we do not so easily see is: today. Today, in all its glory and mystery, is a wonderful thing. Celebrations of the past and worries of the future absorb us, but today is amazing. Could you even imagine what someone from 10,000 years ago would think about things of today? “You mean you have permanent shelters from the weather --- and even avoid going out into any weather? Why? You mean food is brought to you, any kind of food? Why would you want more than one thing to eat? I own a weapon I made, but you own a WHAT?? Why would you want to own some huge machine, bigger than you are, to move around in? Did your feet stop working? I can’t imagine living in the world you describe, and I can’t imagine why you would want to either!” Today is indeed a day of glory and mystery, in this country in which no one starves, and the poor are those who have smaller televisions (I wouldn’t even begin to explain that to someone from long ago).

We don’t see today and ourselves as we really are. We are like stalks of wheat, in the rich, vast field of mankind. We’re just one of many. Thinking on today, it seems to us that we exist for only three things: 1) To have some part of us, like grains of wheat, used for nourishment of our community, although in truth they gain nourishment from us in ways we don’t fully understand. 2) We exist to have some grains spread on the soil, to create new life. Oh, this new life is not us, but in some strange way it is part of who we are. Who we are today will go on through new life. And we are aware of one other fact, 3) We will die, and fall to earth and again perhaps in some strange way fertilize the growth of others, although we can’t comprehend how this might happen, or even if it will, but it does somehow seem part of what happens in this grain field of mankind. It gives us a little hope that our lives might matter.

We are so foolish in thinking that we know and understand all the things of our lives. Like the wheat, we see only the obvious three outcomes for our lives, but so many things exist which remain unseen to us. Just because we can’t see them does not mean they are not real, but only that they are not seen as material things, and our reality extends beyond the seen --- we don’t fully understand the total reality of our being. The spiritual part of us is unseen.

There is the wind, which lazily brushes us each day, even as the Spirit of God does. Air so part of our surroundings we don’t think of it. Yet its very composition gives us nourishment when we breathe, an event we don’t even think about. And the breeze refreshes us and cools us in ways we don’t really understand. And strangely, even as the breeze moves us, our swaying creates a breeze which moves others. We don’t will it to happen, but our very existence, blocking one breeze creates another breeze. We influence this world by our very existence, in ways we will never understand. There may be some other stalks of grain which lived, only by the blessings of the breeze we created for them. And we’ll never even be aware of it.

Our death, like the breeze we create in living, causes a fertilized soil for others to grow in. Our death also matters and influences other lives in ways we’ll never understand. Both our living and our dying matters in this world, and despite all we think we know, we’ll never understand this spiritual dimension.

It does indeed matter that we lived, and our death is not some dark cloud hanging over our life, it is just part of our life, the fulfillment of this, our life that matters. I think that we are often confused on this subject because we don’t understand life itself. We start, we breathe, we grow, and in some strange way we’ll always continue. It is such a complex thing for a little stalk of wheat to understand.

Yes it is. And that’s where faith comes in, accepting that which we cannot understand, yet all the evidences around us give proofs of its existence. There is a God; there is a spiritual life, a spiritual part of our being.

Somehow we know there is a farmer, nourishing all this grain field, and putting it to best use. We know that weeds exist – the things we worry about, yet somehow they have always been overcome in the past. We look at what is going on in the Church today, in our country, and even in the world. Is the end coming, we wonder? How can these things be made healthy again? Will the weeds choke off all the plants of life, and overcome the beautiful fields of grain?

These things we will not know today. We cannot see the future. But man is blessed with being able to remember the past. The end seemed near many times there, also. But it did not happen. And the Farmer once did appear among us --- it is recorded in our history --- and He promised He would never leave us. He called it the new covenant. The field will always be watched over by Him. We need faith in that promise. If we do indeed see darkness, we need trust that the darkness will only bring rain, water that nourishes us and makes us grow even stronger. Although we cannot, today, imagine how.

Have faith. I have risen and am still with you. Do not lose heart.

There is much to celebrate this Christmas.


  1. Your writing is listening to a good friend on a long walk open up their soul. There are many good blogs out there that have a big following but I sometimes feel they are written with an audience in mind. Thank you and please continue to inspire your readers. Anne

  2. Yes, we do tend to pay too much attention to the things that oppress us. During my recovery this year, I learned to stay in the "Now". That means enjoy the moment. God is always doing something for which we can be grateful.

    We live in an amazing world whether we recognize it or not. As you have said, it's important to realize that our living affects others in ways we could never imagine. Our death will impact even more, because we are deeply connected.

    Somehow we know these things, and your post inspires me to be aware of the bonding that enriches our lives.

  3. Thanks for reminding me that few read my blog, Anne. I need reminders of humility --- I just read a great sermon on vanity by Newman (I think there will be a post on it soon). But you are right, I don't write with an audience in mind; I am not an "author" who plans what he will write. It just comes to me from my readings, background, and where I am --- usually in the chapel before Him. If anyone reads it, or benefits from it, well, that is His business not mine.

    And Maryellen, you perhaps more than most have demonstrated that you understand my thoughts --- that makes you a wise woman! I read some words of St. Ambrose this morning, on this his feast day, which describes why I write: "He who reads much and understands much, receives his fill. He who is full, refreshes others."

    So from one who reads much and is full of it, I offer you what I hope may sometimes be refreshing!

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