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Say goodbye, little silkworm

Thursday, January 5, 2012

John 1:49-51
Nathanael was amazed at Jesus and said to him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” But Jesus said, “You believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this. I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

1 John 3:14-18
We know we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters … The way we came to know love was that Jesus laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

If you have enough money to live well, and you see a brother or sister in need but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

Dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice it.

From the beginning Jesus used apocalyptic language to describe his time on earth. That was exciting for the disciples. What they didn’t comprehend except through their own eventual experience was that the presence of heaven on earth required a great deal of death.

John says in order to get to life, we pass through death. The approach to God requires it. Purification, holiness, glory, joy, eternal peace, and especially love … all are preceded by death. Although not necessarily the physical death at the end of physical life, this “road less traveled” is marked with mourners, wailing, and grief. It is hard to let go.

Say goodbye, little silkworm (to use Teresa of Avila’s 400-year-old metaphor).

A bright white butterfly comes straight from the silkworm’s cocoon. The only one who doesn’t know that in advance is the little silkworm.

Not every caterpillar will construct her cocoon. Some of them just won’t do it. We’re no different, of course, too often perfectly willing to settle for a kind-of-comfortable patchwork quilt wrapped around us from birth to death, within which we grow very little. Do what? Ignore everything except a deep primal instinct to turn toward something I can’t see? Sew myself up inside a virtual spiritual casket?

Forget it.

But here are some of St. Teresa’s words (from Interior Castle) about the butterfly released on just the right day from that woven silky casket: “It is never still, always doing good both for itself and others … Past trials cause her to take a far higher flight … so tender is her love that at the slightest provocation it flames forth and the soul takes flight.”

Teresa remembers Paul’s words to the Philippians, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” and writes, “This I think, might here be uttered by the soul, for now the little butterfly dies with supreme joy, for Christ is her life.”

For us to know this joy, Lord Jesus, is why you were born.

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