Did you know geese only have one mate for their whole lives? And they will even go through a period of mourning if they lose their mate? Sometimes the widower will remain single the rest of his or her life. “Lengthy care of the young is one of the benefits of having parents that mate for life…” [pbs.org].
I am grateful you and mom were like geese. Sticking together and understanding your union of marriage as eternal. Because now, even though you are gone, Adam and I have the fruits of this sacred union. Your lengthy care of us from the foundation of your marriage has planted in us the seeds of true love. Lately, I have been hoping these seeds in me will grow and bloom sooner rather than later. I want to experience true love, which not only means receiving but giving. A mutual bond. But I also know these seeds need time and nurturing to grow. The last thing I want is to feel entitled to their fruits. Or entitled to fruits at all. Entitled to marriage and a family and kids of my own.
The Bible talks a lot about fruits and soil and seeds and harvesting. Obviously, the things of God cannot be totally known to us in this life but how cool is it that God wants us to understand Him as much as we can. He gives us real ways to understand Him, not just the abstract or spiritual. The visible tells us of the invisible. Sometimes with my faith I think it is just going on in my head. So how do I know it is real? Like really real? It reminds me of something Dumbledore tells Harry in the last movie when Harry presents himself to be killed by Voldemort and meets Dumbledore in the heavenly version of King’s Cross station. Dumbledore tells Harry a part of Voldemort lived inside of him and was just killed by none other than Voldemort himself. Harry seems to know he has to “go back,” that he isn’t really or fully dead. Dumbledore suggests he has a choice, he could board a train, and it would take him “on.”
At the end of the conversation, Harry asks, “Professor, is this all real or is it just happening inside my head?”
“Of course, it’s happening inside your head, Harry, why should that mean that it’s not real?”
I walked my normal route this morning. To Narnia. The forest by the old church. It sets me right in the morning. Reminds me who I am. What I am about and how I fail so often to be about it. It helps put my heart back into the proper posture. Realigning my desires and reordering my loves.
“The things that we love tell us what we are.”[St. Thomas Aquinas]
Today I asked God if He would again remind me His love is better than any other loves in my life. I get frustrated because my belief and faith in this truth is like a flickering light. Sometimes it will be on for a little while and then turn off and other times it will be unceasingly switching from on to off and on again. I am not sure why the Lord puts up with me. Why He even desires to reveal Himself to me when my faith is the size of a speck of dust, probably smaller still, and I forget His faithfulness so easily. My ask was genuine this morning, though. Not out of like a “prove Yourself to me God” but rather a pleading, a deep longing for the reality of this truth to take root in my heart and grow. A true desire to know and experience His love as better than anything I love in this world. Not to dismiss the goodness of the world and the gifts He has provided but to put them in their proper place. To acknowledge and love the Giver to properly love and be grateful for the gifts. He tells us to as ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete [John 16:24]. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened… [Matthew 7:7-8].
This, of course, seems like a slam dunk. Similar to something else Dumbledore tells Harry in the same scene.
“Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”
He says this to Harry because Harry questions him about how he should kill Voldemort when the odds definitely do not seem to be in his favor if he goes back. Dumbledore decides to “amend” this statement to this.
“Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who deserve it.”
The curious thing with these two statements is those who deserve help often don’t consider themselves deserving of help. They consider themselves in need of it but not deserving of it, so when they ask for help, it is from a place of humility, not pride or entitlement.
Bishop Barron explained the idea of asking and receiving in a different kind of light (I am pretty sure what I listened to from him pertained to the above verses from John and Matthew, but it has also been a little while and my memory is faulty). He told a story about being invited to stay at the home of one of his role models or someone he looked up to. Maybe a Cardinal or Bishop, at the time when he was a priest still. The young Bishop Barron readily accepted the offer as an amazing opportunity to get to know this mentor more intimately and learn from him. Bishop Barron didn’t ask for this opportunity nor probably believed himself deserving of such an experience. I would guess both he and this mentor realized meeting for coffee or dinner maybe on a regular basis could achieve a similar result of getting to know one another and learning. Similar, but most certainly not the same because there is so much more to be known in the intimacy of one’s home. Opening up one’s home to a friend means opening up almost every part of one’s life to a friend. All the parts behind the best pretend self we often put out for the world to see.
Receiving his invitation with gratitude. Bishop Barron stayed at the home of this mentor, and he explains how it shaped his behavior. Of course, the mentor wanted Bishop Barron to be himself and feel comfortable, but this didn’t mean to Bishop Barron he should ask his friend/mentor to throw a party one night if he was gone. Not only would it be inappropriate but more so undesirable. Everything in the house was his; all of his mentor and his mentor’s things were available to young Bishop Barron. Knowing this and accepting it with humility, why would he even consider asking to throw a party? Or think himself entitled to do whatever he wanted with his mentor’s house when his mentor was gone? He would have no want or desire for it.
God invites us to know Him. He invites us into His home. When we receive His invitation and believe Him when He says, all that is mine is yours [Luke 15:31], we begin to increasingly only ask for more of Himself. More of His love. Our other desires fade in comparison, yet He still gives us room to ask for the most seemingly trivial of things when we ask in the Spirit of His house, not my will but Thy will be done [Luke 22:42].
I realized this morning I am truly living in God’s house. Not just in the Narnia-forest by the church. But every moment. In the apartment. On the field. Denmark. Chicago. Wherever I am. All before me is given by Him. Why should I ask for anything else besides to be reminded of this truth and dive ever more deeply into His love? Only by His grace and goodness, I asked, and the time must have been alive because He answered quite promptly.
After my prayer, I continued walking along my normal path and decided I would venture over to some apple trees I saw for the first time when I entered the forest. I hadn’t noticed them before. It is about apple season, which does my heart so well because it reminds me of Chicago and going apple picking with our family every year growing up. But something inside of me was urging me a different way. A longer route, not in the direction of the apple trees. And this is what I mean when I feel like Harry. Like is this real or is it just happening inside my head? I got my answer.
I was honestly bummed about being pulled away from the apple trees. Not understanding why I was going the way I was. I had only walked this way one other time, and it was nice. A little secluded grassy path surrounded by trees separate from the main part of the forest. I started down the path, and it occurred to me to look at the trees. To look for apple trees. And what do you know, there was an apple tree with even better-looking apples than those I saw before. This secret apple tree could not be seen from the outside of the forest. You had to go in. Or should I say, get “on” the train.
“Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It’s there, even when he can’t see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide upon in college. Learn what you can but cultivate Christian skepticism. It will keep you free –not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your own intellect or the intellects of those around you.
I certainly don’t think the death required that “ye be born again” is the death of reason. If what the church teaches is not true, then the security and emotional release and sense of purpose it gives you are of no value and you are right to reject it. One of the effects of modern liberal Protestantism has been gradually to turn religion into poetry or therapy, to make truth vaguer and vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend on feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so, and that religion is our own sweet invention. This seems to be about where you find yourself now.
Of course, I am a Catholic and I believe the opposite of all this. I believe what the Church teaches –that God has given us reason to use and that it can lead us toward knowledge of him, through analogy; that he has revealed himself in history and continues to do so through the Church, and that he is present (not just symbolically) in the Eucharist on our altars. To believe all this I don’t take any leap into the absurd. I find it reasonable to believe, even though these beliefs are beyond reason.”[Flannery O’Connor, “Two Letters to Alfred Corn]
So I had in my very hand a literal fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of God’s Spirit. The fruit of His love. Real and tangible. What was going on in my head and heart was real. Not a coincidence. Not a whim. Not lucky. In addition to a dove, another symbol for the Holy Spirit is the Wild Goose, given by early Celtic Christians. “Sometimes God’s Spirit hovers comfortingly like a dove. But the Spirit also surprises us and disturbs our plans. Like a wild and unpredictable goose, the Holy Spirit sweeps in unexpected, astonishing directions.” [“The Wild Goose,” Robert Kruschwitz]
When I first considered the workings of the Holy Spirit as unpredictable as a wild goose, I wasn’t about it. A dove sounds nicer and more comfortable to someone not so fond of spontaneity. I like to be able to predict or know how things will go down. I often see things in my life as puzzle pieces to fit together. A wild goose definitely does not jive with perfectly carved edges. As I reflected on this feeling in my heart, I realized it was mostly fear and lack of trust. Lack of trust that Someone outside of myself could take care of me better than I could take care of myself. God ever so gently reminded me this wild goose was wildly in love with me. That this Wild Goose was none other than His Spirit. The Spirit of my loving Father Who promises to be with me always.
And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age. [Matthew 28:20]
In the same forest by the church, aka Narnia, there is a tree with the initials LAS carved in it. Twice. One is in regular type and the other is in cursive. I couldn’t help but notice your name, dad. Lyle Adam Sajewich. It is probably a coincidence, though, because things like that just don’t happen.
O Lord, we implore Your gracious help. Not to do whatever we want in Your house but to enjoy You and Your gifts rightly and abundantly. Why do we insist on rejecting and denying the immense meaning You give to our lives? There is so much more You have for us. Pour Your Spirit out. Thank You Wild Goose.
Mate for life. Amen. Amen.
I love you dad,
PS- The series called “The Wild Goose” by 4pm Media is AMAZING. I just started it, but Father Pivonka explains and shares all about the Holy Spirit. Available on YouTube and HIGHLY recommend!