Such Abundance

When our eyes are enlightened by the Spirit, they open to the contemplation of God in the beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos, and lead us to discover how everything speaks to us of Him and everything speaks to us of His love. All this arouses astonishment and a deep sense of gratitude in us! It is the feeling we experience when we admire a work of art or any marvel that is the result of the genius and creativity of man: before all of this, the Spirit leads us to praise the Lord from the depths of our hearts and recognize, in all that we have and are, a priceless gift from God and a sign of His infinite love for us. — Pope Francis

Yes, today I will subject you to yet another reflection on the beauties of the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

The other evening I went for my daily walk on the levee. When I’m able to do it, it’s one of my favorite things to do at the end of a long work day. After a day largely spent staring at a computer screen or digging out of paperwork, it’s especially refreshing to open out into the cathedral of the skies! Sometimes I go with my wife, sometimes with my oldest son. Sometimes alone. This evening I was alone, and the weather was exquisite. There was a warm breeze from the northeast strong enough to keep the gnats at bay, people were out enjoying a walk, bike riding or fishing and, as I walked toward the sun slowly sinking into the western horizon, the deep blue lake water scattered the light in every direction making it nearly impossible for me to see anything other than the ground at my feet.

I happened on two fishermen who had just caught two small bass and had hung them up on a sign that said, “No fishing…” I went up to them to ask what lure they’d used, and, after one of them showed me his lure and explained his jigging technique, he said, “We haven’t been so lucky lately, but you know how it is with fishing. If you’ve got some beer and a friend, it don’t matter. It’s all sweet.”

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As I walked further down, I caught sight of a father and his daughter throwing a casting net together. She seemed to be around 11 or 12 years old. They were talking and laughing, and he was helping her set the net for the throw and cheering her on as she dragged it back in.

I noticed the purple martins, as I did back in March, were ably darting about the levee for their food along with the barn swallows. The terns were diving into the water by the pump station searching for small fish, and the grackles were screeching out their cacophonous and guttural readle-eak amid the budding cattails that line the edge of a tiny inland pond.

I got a text from a friend with a photo of the late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger. I had just seen the movie about his life, The Jewish Cardinal, with my wife and had told this friend about it. The movie was very powerful, a remarkable witness of a priest’s willingness to remain faithful to his divine vocation in spite of the terrible crosses of isolation he suffered. I looked at his face in this texted photo and felt a surge of gratitude for his white martyrdom. It stirred my resolve to keep walking in faith.

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Then I snapped a shot of the sunset and texted it back to my friend, with the words,

Taking my eve walk. I can’t imagine more beauty in life…

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They wrote back,

It is truly beautiful! God is so amazing to gift us with such abundance. It is overwhelming to think He loved us so much that He even gave us His own Son. It blows my mind.

That set my mind to thinking about a comment a priest once made to my father when I was a small child (maybe 7). We were out in a boat in Narragansett Bay, RI, and he said something like this (meaning this is my adult version of the deep impression it left in my memory),

Imagine what it was like for Jesus to look out through human eyes over the creation he himself once called into existence. Imagine the joy of tasting the very delight of man for whom he created all things. Imagine him thinking back to the dawn of creation, remembering in his divine-human mind why he and his Father chose to call all things into existence in the beginning. It’s what must have made him weep over Jerusalem [Luke 19:41-44] as he recalled his ancient laboring over humanity to rescue and call us to himself. I think that’s what faith is, allowing us to see the world through his eyes. It’s more than we can conceive.

Such abundance.

The second to fourth stanzas in the Breastplate of St. Patrick sprang to mind,

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

The sun set and it was time to turn back home.

More abundance.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God,
and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands.
Day unto day takes up the story
and night unto night makes known the message.

No speech, no word, no voice is heard
yet their span extends through all the earth,
their words to the utmost bounds of the world.

There he has placed a tent for the sun;
it comes forth like a bridegroom coming from his tent,
rejoices like a champion to run its course.

At the end of the sky is the rising of the sun;
to the furthest end of the sky is its course.
There is nothing concealed from its burning heat. — Psalm 19:1-7

 

9 comments on “Such Abundance

  1. WoopieCushion says:

    So good. So needed. Thank you.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Dear Dr. Neal,

    I would just like to express my gratitude for the effort you put into maintaining this blog. Your reflections have blessed me greatly as their richness in both knowledge and insight have deepened my understanding of God and how to live out the Catholic life. As a poorly catechized cradle Catholic who longed to know God i converted (?)to non-catholic evangelical christianity (for lack of a better term) but after a number of years it was the problematic theology of Sola Scriptura adherents and certainly the leading of the Holy Spirit that led me to seek out Catholic theologians who resoundingly pointed me to the truth. Specifically it was reading the book on Holy Week from Pope Benedict’s trilogy on Jesus’ life that taught me the truth of the transubstantiation coupled with a random visit to Mass on what turned out to be Corpus Christi Sunday that I was completely convinced of the truth of Catholicism. Thanks to that decision my four children now have the amazing gift of life in the Catholic church. So that is all to say, please realize that the work that you and other theologians do in making theology accessible is so very important both for leading people to faith and leading them along their journey. To paraphrase your recent compliment of another theologian, you are the theologian whose writing every day without tiring. Thank you.

  3. Judy Svendsen says:

    I love reading your posts! Many of the places you talk about I have been too. The bay, the lake, etc. When you talk about those places I find myself back there. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

  4. Victorious Love says:

    I needed the following before my morning run on the beach.
    “When our eyes are enlightened by the Spirit, they open to the contemplation of God in the beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos, and lead us to discover how everything speaks to us of Him and everything speaks to us of His love. All this arouses astonishment and a deep sense of gratitude in us!”
    I ran with deep gratitude. Thank you. 🙂

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