“The Sunrise and Sunset Shout For Joy” : Summer Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
It is summer here in Florida and the deep, almost parching, dryness of an otherwise beautifully mild and benign winter has finally yielded to God’s watering of the earth. Lakes that had become sandy and rocky beaches with dry sand multiplying while water gets lower and lower, are finally full to brimming over with life again. The days are hot and one is thankful for the regular rain that breaks the heat just when it seems one can stand it no more. Only the thunder and dangerous lightening warn us that rain is not all gentle, there is also power in this rain. And there is sadness in witnessing even the idyllic natural environment, for small things die unexpectedly and people and other beasts and illness are sometimes predators.
The small lake behind my house is my salvation where I can truly utter a heartfelt THANKYOU to God from my soul every day. When a new and proud Mama duck was suddenly killed and her ducklings struggled to live alone, I was devastated for a while. Once again I was having to learn to accept the pain in God’s beautiful world as also natural-to accept dying as part of living. The sudden losses of two very dear friends this year, Jean Tracey Foreman of my childhood to drowning, and my best friend since early adulthood, Jean Cornella Bauer to Covid 19 and other complications of an infection. The loss of our church member dear Joe Baker to Parkinson’s disease. And even more recently the unexpected death to cancer of a special neighbor and friend, Greg Pearl who also helped with our ministry shook me even as I looked to eternal life and rising again, which softens, but can not take away the loss. Just a few weeks before his death Greg helped me to deliver a bicycle to one of our homeless women, so she could get to work. Still it is God’s special creation, including the memories and lives of such beloved friends, that grounds me in faith and love and hope.
Wherever you live you experience our loving God through everything around you, especially the very ground you walk upon and the very air you breathe. Finally it is summer and, in many places, you can run and jump into the welcoming water of the sea or a river or pond and swim and play to your heart’s content. You can lie on soft green grass and eat summer fruits like watermelon and berries and welcome God’s special summer bounty. And when you are in the midst of winter you can stay warm and look forward to these special times. For those of us who have been going through “dry times” and difficult times, experiencing the God of all Creation and the beautiful world around us can lift us higher once again. We have hope in the renewal of every day, and the life that God promises us in Christ. We have faith that the sunset is every bit as beautiful as the sunrise.
We can realize that both the sunrise and the sunset shout to God for joy as Psalm 65: 8 say: “And those who dwell at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your marvels; you make the sunrise and sunset shout for joy”.
“Praise is due to you,
O God in Zion.
You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water.
You provide the grain for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty.
The hills gird themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.” Psalm 65:1a,9-11a,12b-13
And the rich environment is full of creatures that show forth God’s infinite glory, from the smallest to the largest. Jesus assures us that God cares for all God has created: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. ” Luke 12: 6. And, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them”. (Luke 12:22) “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field …how much more will God clothe you….”
If only we could really see the beauty all around us. I am reminded of an early church hymn I loved: “All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all. Each little flower that opens, Each little bird that sings, God made their glowing colors, God made their tiny wings….(GOD) gave us eyes to see them ,and lips that we might tell How great is God Almighty, Who has made all things well” ((From Genesis 1:31- Cecil Frances Alexander, 1818-1895). At the end of the first Chapter of Genesis we read that God pronounced God’s creation as “very good” and gave us “every green plant for food.” It is not until a later Chapter when we choose to go against God’s will for all to live that we read of living things eating other living things. I think our original paradise was without death for other living creatures. I think it is what heaven will be: “No more dying there, No more crying there…” And I am in awe of vegans who can do this faithfully today. The point however is not so much what we eat, but what we DO to promote God’s peaceable kingdom for all beings on this troubled earth. Until paradise comes for us again as we meet our loving God face to face, how do we bring life to all that lives?
In Luke 12: 22-34, Jesus teaches us so beautifully that worry is useless. In these verses Jesus asks us not to worry, but to trust in God’s loving care, for all of creation and especially for us. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” “Do not be afraid little flock, for your Abba God has been pleased to give you the kingdom”. (Luke 12:22). Jesus then asks us to look for treasures that can’t fail us, to build God’s kingdom by sharing all we have with those poorer than we are: to love God’s people and creation and to build our treasures where our hearts are: in loving all of God’s creation.
As I look around me and see the beauty of Creation and of all creatures, including often struggling people, I am moved to be so thank full to God. I am moved to pray for and with Creation and to do my best to love. I am so thankful for love, yet it is only with God’s grace and help that this can be achieved. But we can pray for that grace.
I am reminded of words from another favorite old hymn: “This is My Father’s World” (Maltbie D. Babcock). the words sing of God shining in “all that’s fair” “In the rustling grass, I hear God pass, God speaks to me everywhere.” “O, let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet”. Yes, I believe that, and yes, I remember. Look around, my friends and remember the beauty that is surrounding you- the beauty of creation and the beauty of the people who surround you. The unequaled joy of those who love you and those whom you love, and have loved that are now with our loving God.
In the picture below a special part of my family is sharing love and joy.
I will end this reflection with a poem from -Prayer of the Season- by Gabe Huck (2002)
” God who called each day’s creation good,
all we have for our food
and shelter and clothing
are the crust and air, the light and water
of this planet.
Give us care like yours for this earth:
to share its bounty
with generations to come
and with all alike in this generation,
to savor its beauty and respect its power,
to heal what greed and war and foolishness
have done to your earth and to us.
Bring us finally to give thanks, always and everywhere. ”
Blessings to all,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and Ministries, Fort Myers, Florida