Monday, May 1, 2017

Eastertide aka Paschal Time: The Mystery of Desire

A Sparrow in the Garden of Grace
Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world — the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches — comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live for ever. I John 2: 15-17
This was one of my lectionary readings last week, and it is a provocative one. If we can't desire (and enjoy) even the good things of this world, why the heck are we here?


You see, my garden is stirring with new life, good and bad. It is also bringing desires to life! I brought in my first artichoke and put it in a tall beehive glass filled with water, to keep until I was ready to prepare it. Well, a day later, I found one of those destructive brown gray cutworms, dead by drowning, at the bottom of the glass. Similarly, the red hibiscus put out its first brilliant bloom of the season. Then, I noticed that the poor little patio tree itself is full of white flies and I had to spray it with a natural pesticide! The birds and I are in a competition for the blueberries. It is only a matter of time before the squirrels and the racoons join in for the apples, and the pomegranates soon to come. I've put a lot of time and energy into my garden, weeding, pruning, fertilizing, replanting, amending the soil, mulching, watering and more. I want to enjoy the fruit of my labors. Plus, I have an unbearable desire to get a few more fruit trees. What's holding me back is that there simply isn't any more space in my backyard and I need the HOA approval before I can plant a fruit tree in the front. Will I ever be satisfied with what I already have? Why can't I just enjoy the little birds eating my blueberries and not want to chase them away from it? Why is my progress through daily life inevitably linked with wanting more? Like the proverbial serpent in the garden of Eden, desire corrupts enjoyment of the moment.  Desire robs me of the mystery of an immanent God and most of all, desire while it instills hope (I may have it one day and perhaps that's something to work for) it distracts me from my true purpose. To paraphrase A.J. Cronin, one of my favorite writers: Life on this earth is but a fragment of eternity. The little bird self-grooming in my garden brings back the great mystery of Jesus suffering, dying and then walking the earth after his Resurrection and before Ascension. I recall what he said to his friends, the disciples: "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer."  Now all that was behind Jesus and he'd have been looking forward to being with God again. For what do you eagerly desire today? May God bless your desires.
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4
The Merton Prayer

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 
Source: from Seize the Day: Vocation, Calling, Work. 2012. Reflections: A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry from Yale Divinity School. URL: http://reflections.yale.edu/article/seize-day-vocation-calling-work/merton-prayer

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