Garden of Life

The ground was surprisingly unyielding. As we thrust our heavy shovels into the soil, it took many efforts to break through the layers of grass and dirt. Finally, after numerous attempts – success! We could see the brown earth which served as the planting ground for our first ever backyard garden. At this point, we thought all was well – but little did we realize that our unexpected garden journey had just begun.

The relentless sun of early June seemed to overwhelm our little crop of vegetables and herbs. The soil surrounding their tender roots dried quickly causing us to consider the merit of our botanical effort. We persevered, intent to overcome the persistent obstacles. I suppose that is what you do when you have a goal, a plan or a dream – you carry on with hope, particularly when the situation does not evolve as planned. 

For many people in 2020, living with hope has been a daily necessity. The COVID-19 pandemic negatively changed lives in ways that folks did not anticipate. Lost jobs, homes and dreams led to an overwhelming sense of hopelessness for many people across the globe. Then, when we thought it could not get any worse, the unthinkable happened. On the eve of American cities reopening from the COVID-19 shut down, an innocent African American man was senselessly murdered by people we thought were protectors of law and order. “How could this be possible?” we asked. Protests by thousands followed, as folks sang out the evils of this dastardly crime. The murder of George Floyd – a beloved child of God, adored for his personhood – reawakened us to the cancer of racism. The world now speaks out in hope for permanent and long overdue change.

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This latest journey in American history has been punishing and cruel. Despite the long endured suffering by too many innocent African Americans, I believe that this time, we won’t turn away in defeat. This time, we will persevere in hope. During troublesome moments in history, there have always been reminders that God is close to those who seek him. I believe that we can discover these glimmers of hope today in devoted doctors, nurses and health care professionals, in humane and loving first responders, in police and fire fighters who care for and protect every human person, in neighbors and friends who walk hand in hand with their hurting brothers and sisters, and in many other beautiful examples too numerous to list. We will find hope when we look for it with eyes of faith

A commitment to prayer and silence has been an essential practice in my life – now more than ever. During the pandemic, I began each day with quiet prayer (and coffee.) Some days I watched Mass from Bishop Barron’s chapel. Other days, I listened to an online rosary, used an app with daily scriptures and reflections, or just opened a spiritual book. Centering my heart on God’s goodness and love for each human person allowed me a better chance of walking the path of love throughout the day.  I received this gift from my beautiful mom who always found a way to discover hope amidst adversity. Mom was a huge fan of Saint Mother Teresa who said, “The trees, the flowers, the plants grow in silence. The stars, the sun, the moon move in silence. Silence gives us a new perspective.

The daily pandemic Masses were moments when I could literally hear the voice of God over the chaos in the world. I did a lot of reflecting during those days. My scribbled notes have become seeds of hope in my soul, reminding me that God can do anything like restore health to a broken world and justice to a wronged people.

For strength…

When you put on the Lord Jesus (daily prayer, Mass), you may look the same, but you are going to change. You are not going to be the same person.

“The world is frail and finite. We can’t find true perfection or peace. We can only find that in heaven. Our human condition is narrow. Our hope allows us to see the promise of God in Christ out of compassion for his people. God offers his people healing and hope in the gospels. He is not a distant God – he is truly God with us in all the circumstances of our life – joys and sufferings.

“but those who HOPE in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  – Isaiah 40:31

For healing…

“After an unexpected healing in the gospels, St. Paul says “It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.””

“Don’t replace the bread of life with worldly breads which will never satisfy us. Christ makes himself present to us in every act of love, in every act of service – no matter how small.” 

For freedom…

“The Spirit is the love that connects the Father and the Son. This Spirit is what animates each of us. The Holy Spirit is LOVE. Through the cross and resurrection, by the power of the divine forgiveness, the devil’s hold on this world has been broken.”

“Praying the rosary helps me to gain strength from our Blessed Mother who never ran away from pain and uncertainty. (Even when I don’t feel particularly attentive…) Her yes to God’s will brought her freedom to walk the path of compassionate love and trust every day.”

After a few weeks of caring for my garden, I realized that much time and effort will be required in order to witness a full flourishing of new life planted deep within the soil of my backyard. The evil weeds which have threatened the growth of my plants must be quickly removed or I’ll risk losing even one precious organism. As with human life, each person is a worthy soul whom God imagined from all eternity. Each person is loved unconditionally for who he/she is. Every person on earth is important to God. Our world is not truly complete without the contributions of her many diverse and unique citizens. Thus, each person lost to the COVID 19 virus or to the evils of racism is a tragic and devastating occurrence. Looking ahead, I believe that God invites us to community – to work together for the good of all humanity. Perhaps this time – we will respond with urgency and a total commitment to unconditional love. Future gardens of life are depending on us. 

If you are interested in reading more, I found the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ response to Floyd’s death timely and necessary.  I also appreciated Bishop Robert Barron’s recent article on Pentecost and the Fires in our Cities. Finally, I share Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s recent blog on racism – a beautiful reminder that all people are precious, made in the image and likeness of God.

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