Friday, February 7, 2014

non-enthusiastic zeal

It is the shadow of the cross that makes all other shadows bearable.
--Thomas McNally, CSC

One day, I looked up at this one stained glass window that I had never seen before.
It was filled with bad-ass women who had proved to the world how good they were at loving other people.
To be a human being means to face the question: how and who will I love?
These women had bravely lived their way into the answer for that question:
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Helena, someone who I think was St. Barbara, and a mysterious woman I executively decided was St. Agatha.
Down at the bottom corner, there was an image of a stray male: St. Louis de Monfort, conversing with (who else?) his queen: Maryam, mother of God.
Wow. I thought, feeling very small, and kind of petty, and pretty grubby compared to these majestic queens.
The heroism they were capable of seemed to be so out of my reach, as I struggled to not get another crush on yet another set of pants.

But, tucked into the corner opposite Mary's and Louis' tête-à-tête was another image.
It was a shepherd, whose head was decked with a particularly awful-looking crown of thorns, reaching into this thicket where a lamb was caught.
His strong arms were reaching into this briar patch, to lift this young lamb out of his painful prison.
The lamb hadn't been able to find his way out of the thicket, he looked pretty trapped, utterly entangled in the thorny branches.
But the shepherd was still there.
He was not waiting for the lamb to leave the thicket, to finally escape from the prison of thorns, but he was right there, in the midst of the thorns, crowned with them, in fact.
And, while in the thorns, he reached down to break the vines that were winded around the lamb, and to lift him out of that prickly mire.

One of the more shocking realizations in life is when you manage to look up from the thicket that you're caught in, and you find that there is someone there with you.
The burden you felt you were carrying alone is actually a yoke that you are bearing with another who has crossed the border into your territory, into your life.
The shepherds of this life are nomads, always crossing boarders to pick up stray sheep;
always climbing into brambles to find the little lost and trembling fluff-balls caught in the thorns.
To look up and find that you are not alone is perhaps the sweetest of all human experiences.

Divine love is incessantly restless until it turns all woundedness into health, all deformity into beauty and all embarrassment into laughter. 
--Belden C. Lane

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