And what I say to you, I say to all, “Watch.”
Early this past summer, my friend Kevin became fascinated with a plant he saw growing at a local nursery. It was called an “angel’s trumpet.” Kevin couldn’t say enough about the plant, so I asked him to buy one for me. This he did, and when it was planted in the garden outside the rectory, it was only about three feet high.
For a whole month, the new arrival seemed to be doing absolutely nothing. Kevin assured me that it was devoting its energy to putting down a good root system. I, however, had my doubts. Every day after Mass I would go out to the angel trumpet plant to talk to it and bless it. To further encourage growth, I even started calling it Audrey III after the killer plant in the musical Little Shop of Horrors.
Before long, little Audrey took off. She got so large that Msgr. Tom had to stake her up. By early September, she was about seven feet tall, and she produced a profusion of beautiful, white, trumpet-like hanging blossoms. Msgr. Tom was delighted and took pictures of the blooms and e-mailed the photos far and wide.
Ah! But, alas, Audrey’s days in the rectory garden were numbered. She is, you see, a tropical plant, and leaving her outside all winter long would most assuredly do her in. Thus eight days ago (it was a beautiful Saturday), I went out to the garden armed with a spade. To my great surprise, I discovered that pulling up Audrey was not difficult at all. It was, I thought to myself, almost as if she knew that, if she did not want to die, she could not remain in the ground.
Audrey now sleeps in a pot of earth in Kevin’s basement. Here she awaits another spring, a kind of resurrection.
During the season of Advent, the Church wants to remind us that we are not to become too comfortable, too attached, too complacent, too rooted in the world in which we now live. After all, the earth is not our native home. We are meant to be citizens of heaven, and we never know when Christ will come and pull us up by the roots.
The devil, on the other hand, wishes us to feel perfectly at home in this old world. Satan wants us, as C. S. Lewis says, to “find our place in the world,” when all the while the world is actually finding its place in us. Then Christ’s coming would catch us off guard like a killing frost that freezes us right down to the roots.
That, I believe, is one reason why Our Lord allows us to feel pain, suffering, and heartache. They remind us that earth is not our native climate, that, sooner or later, we need to be uprooted.
Let me end with the words from a song entitled Blessings, sung by Laura Story. You can get it on iTunes. The song is rather beautiful:
When friends betray us,
When darkness seems to win,
We know that pain reminds this heart,
That this is not, this is not, our home.
It’s not our home….
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life,
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights,
Are your mercies in disguise?
Lord, help us to take to heart the lesson of the angel’s trumpet, so that, when it is time for you to pull us up by the roots, your angel’s trumpet does not catch us off guard.