By Derick Cranston
(Author’s note: the following reflection was made at an Ignatian retreat I attended in early June.)
All of creation wraps us in her loving arms, and God’s love draws us near to him. Creation truly is an outpouring of God’s gifts to us. Our human response is the link that allows God’s wonderful gift of creation to flow back to God. We must sanctify this gift so that it is worthy to be offered up as an oblation for God’s love. We do this by seeing God in “the moment.” The moment consists of the people, places and circumstances he sets before us each day.
What are the people, places and circumstances God sets before you in your daily life? Do you see the beauty all around you, or do you just perceive the ugliness that life can be? Are you in a dark period of your life? Is there despair all around you that prevents you from seeing the splendor of God’s love and creation?
Do not feel alone, for many saints, prophets and martyrs experienced this same kind of desolation. It is an arid wasteland that even Christ knew all too well when, after his baptism in the Jordan River, he was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. And that is the key. The Holy Spirit – the wonderful, life-giving Holy Spirit – will lead us into places of desolation and darkness.
Why? There is not a satisfying answer to this question, and we will probably never know the answer until we are united with God. We walk by faith, and not by sight and therefore must keep trudging onward. But God does not abandon us and suffers alongside us. He revealed himself to us through the incarnation, and showed us that the road to Calvary and the crucifixion also leads to the glory of the resurrection.
During my time in retreat at Lake Winnebago, I was awed by the beauty of nature that surrounded me. One night I stayed up late and looked at a thousand masterpieces of art in an art book – art created by the finest human artists this world has ever seen. I listened to CDs and heard the most beautiful music ever composed. But it was not until a healing service that my eyes were opened, and I was able to see for the first time what beauty truly is. It was revealed to me in the faces of the people around me. We are God’s work of art, his true masterpieces!
I saw that no matter how broken we are, how ugly life gets, or how bruised, battered and beaten down we become, the light of Christ still shines through all of us. We are all works of art. If a human artist can use paint, marble and music to convey beauty, how much more so can our Creator – the ultimate artist – take the raw material of his creation and bring forth the beautiful people we are? We must let the art that is our life be seen; let the music of our acts of compassion be heard, and let the brokenness of our lives be glorified!
(Derick Cranston is youth minister for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He is going through diaconate formation and can be reached at email@example.com.)