Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ordinary Time and a butterfly...

There are times when ordinary time can be extraordinary.  I had the opportunity to make an 8 day retreat at the Jesuit Spiritual Center in Wernersville, Pennsylvania.  For many years, I have brought my camera with me when I make a retreat because the photographs bring back memories of the time I have spent on "vacation" with my God.  I took this photograph one day when I was walking down a lovely path - and I noticed the thistle flower.  Thistles are not terribly appealing in and of themselves, but I find the flowers very beautiful.  There were several tiny butterflies (or maybe they are moths) quickly flitting from one flower to another of the many wildflowers that were in this particular area.  Then, all of a sudden, this creature gently perched on the lovely purple flower - in fact, it perched long enough for me to look at it with wonder, and focus on it with the long-distance close-up lens.  I had no idea how clear the picture was until I saw it on the computer!

Somehow, the thistle reminds me of myself, as does the butterfly.  I can give the appearance of being prickly, or thinking of myself as unable to be reached by God in my prayer, and yet, the thistle flower reminds me that God has created me in his own image.  Not only that, but God has created all of us in his image.  The thistle flower would not be showing its beauty if it was not attached to its roots and to the rest of the plant.  So, by its flowering, it leaves itself open to a 'visitation'.  I did note that the butterfly landed on the flower and not the catchy part.  The flower left itself open to the freedom of the visitor, not to act as a trap or a nuissance.

The butterfly reminded me of myself. During my retreat I flitted from plant to plant, to trees and tree roots, to wheat fields, to the swimming pool, to a rolling green lawn, to a chapel, to my room, having a grand time with my friend Jesus. But in between the many flittings, I also remained in gentle, quiet, contemplation of Jesus who looked at me as I am, seeing all the beauty and the prickles, challenging me to be open to see myself in His eyes as well as to see those with whom I live and minister with in his eyes as well.  This led me to a big surprise.  What I saw was predominantly beauty; I recognized more gifts than faults.  And when I saw prickles, I also saw Jesus saying "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."  And I was included in this!

I wandered with the resurrected Jesus in my prayer.  What a great friend!  But, as the apostles and Thomas, I saw his wounds from which he did not flinch.  And Jesus saw my woundedness and I felt ashamed.  But there was no shame in the eyes of Jesus.  I believe he was reminding me that His wounds are His, and my wounds are mine.  His whole being seemed to proclaim that He loves me with all of my woundedness just as I am - and He loves my trying to know and love him better, as well as to love and know others better just as He does.  The woundedness is not an issue upon which His eyes focus, but rather on my prayer, which stems from our RSHM constitutions and a George Harrison long-ago song..."My sweet Lord, I really want to know you...I really want to go with you" 

And I found Jesus to be a true and faithful friend as I wandered through the mystery of the road to Emmaus and found that I recognized Him in the beauty around me, and the entire spirit of the retreatants at Wernersville.  In fact, I found that rather than walking where I had planned, I got lost on the property and travelled to find more unexpected beauty - wildflowers which popped up around the base of a tree which had been chopped down. What could have appeared to be death or destruction was a promise of life to come!  And it came as I allowed myself to enjoy the loveliness of the road I had not planned to travel.

Somehow, as a result of this retreat, I am more aware of Jesus' friendship than ever before.   I also began to recognize the ways in which Jesus never barged in or intruded into my life, but, rather, He has always approached with freedom, inviting my freedom to welcome Him.  And His main expectations seem to be to call me His friend, to recognize my gifts, and to help me to see with His vision.  Sometimes it is to see the large picture of the beauty around me, and sometimes it is to use the closer lens of the eyes of my heart.  I pray that I may learn more and more to use Jesus' lens to view the world and all of creation.