Cherry Blossoms: Ephemeral Signs of Spring

When the cherry blossoms bloom around these parts, we have to run out and enjoy them immediately. They just suddenly bloom, everything is pink and beautiful, and the winds of spring invariably blow and they’re gone. Like pink snow, the petals fall and swirl around before disappearing.

It’s an ephemeral burst of life that comes every year.

My mother often calls these windy days in spring los vientos de cuaresma, the winds of Lent. I never gave it much thought since Lent and spring are, while not the same thing, certainly occurring at the same time.

And then I gave some deeper thought to the meaning of the wind blowing so insistently during Lent. What a fantastic presence of the Holy Spirit stirring up every nook and cranny in anticipation of Holy Week.

4 down, 21 to go: a review of A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac

I just finished the fourth book in my ambitious plan to read 25 books this year (for pleasure — I have other reading to do, too). It gives me such joy to say I’ve read a book by a friend!

I first met Margaret Rose Realy through an email introduction from a mutual friend. We exchanged some conversations about writing, and a little bit about gardening, and here we are several years later, and I’m reviewing her latest book!

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 9.07.38 PM

I love this month by month guide that weaves scripture, church history and traditions, with gardening advice into an easy to read and easy to follow manual for growing a beautiful garden. And the garden isn’t the only thing growing, as I find myself reading closely so I can create a space in my yard that complements my faith!

I first read Margaret’s gardening advice in her first book, A Garden of Visible Prayer, and fell in love with the idea that working with my hands in a garden could bring me closer to Jesus and Mary by fostering the work of my hands into the work of my heart. The Almanac takes it to the next logical place for me — a yearlong companion on my faith journey.

One of the quotes in the book captures the unexpected result of my growing interest in gardening:

He who cultivates a garden and brings to perfection flowers and fruits, cultivates and advances at the same time his own nature. ~ Ezra Weston

This is a special work by a very special woman. You’ll want this book if you’re a master gardener, or just like to play in the dirt, like me.

Read more of Margaret’s insights at Morning Rose Prayer Gardens. You’ll be glad you did.

7 Last Words of Christ

 Last night at our parish I had the honor of giving one of the reflections for the 7 Last Words of Christ service. It’s usually my experience that when I do something like this, I benefit much more from it than what I think I can contribute. I mean, I certainly hope, trust actually, that the Holy Spirit used me as a vehicle to touch the hearts and minds of the persons in attendance. Nevertheless, my preparations, whether in prayer or reading scripture and some of Mother Teresa’s writings, impacted me in wondrous ways. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my gifts of teaching and communication with an audience. I’m more grateful that when I do, it brings me closer to Christ. Here’s some of what I said:

Jesus said, “I thirst.” (Jn 19:28)

“I thirst.”

Christ’s words from the cross fulfill the Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament, “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst” (Psalm 69:21).

Jesus Christ, both God and man, humiliated, beaten, dragged through the streets and nailed to a cross, now utters — not a plea for drink, but rather, a simple statement of fact.

It isn’t a command or an exclamation. It isn’t a request.

It’s a simple declarative sentence.

A sentence that states a fact and ends with a period. A full stop.

It is in that long pause that we can reflect and find deep meaning.

“I thirst.”

In these words, Christ reminds us of his shared humanity with us. He thirsts. His body, broken, needs water to quench his immense dehydration after sweating and bleeding through the horrifying experience of crucifixion.

It’s a basic physical need we have as human beings, to yearn for drink when we are thirsty, and here, in his final moments, we are reminded that our Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, is also Man, a man.

Surely, Jesus thirsted for water. But for what more?

In the Gospel of John we hear the story of the woman at the well, where Jesus asks her for a drink of water, and then reveals that he is the source of living water. She stands before him, as we do, sinful… yet worthy of his love. In that story, we see Jesus seek the woman, and we also see that she finds him, her Savior.

Where Christ may thirst for us to seek him, we, too thirst for him, for his Saving Grace — for the living water that only he can provide.

A few years ago I completed a consecration to Jesus through Mary. In this contemporary consecration, I read some of the writings of St. Louis de Montfort, St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. It was Mother Teresa’s writings, her reflection on what it means to thirst that drew me deeper into the consecration.

Mother Teresa stated that the purpose of the Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Christ. In a letter to all the sisters, Mother Teresa reminds them, exhorts them that Christ’s thirst “ was for our love, our affection, that intimate attachment to Him, and that sharing of His passion. He used, ‘I thirst,’ instead of ‘Give Me your love’… ‘I thirst.’ Let us hear Him saying it to me and saying it to you.

Mother Teresa explained to the sisters that this was not an open, general statement, but rather, an invitation to personal encounter with Christ. He speaks directly to us. He tells us that he thirsts for us.

How do we respond? Do we thirst for him? Do we live to satiate his thirst?

When I hear, “I thirst,” I want to come to Jesus’ side. I want to offer him, not vinegar, but fresh, cool water.

I want to give him my best.

I want to give Jesus what he desires — me. My unconditional love. My time…my presence. Jesus thirsts for my surrender to him, to his will. To his love.

My response is to go to him. To thirst, in turn, for him.

For, I, too, thirst.