an indescribably delicious labor of love
*Sigh*... Thirty three. Jesus' life on earth ended when he was 33. That's what tradition tells us. 33 is also what St. Thomas Aquinas suggests that our age would be in heaven. But only God knows.
A few weeks before my birthday, I started to panic about turning 33 and thought, “Yikes! What if I'm going to die this year?”. I know. I'm weird. I've shared this with a few people and even though they really listened, I knew they thought I was being silly. I did too but I really did panic.
Life and death is a reality that we all face. It's something that I have thought about since I was 13 when a close friend of mine passed away. No one has all the answers to our questions about life and death. None but God. That's what I believed when I was 13. Twenty years later, I still believe that is true. There are more questions and there are more answers too but there are still more questions... and more answers to come... so I'll just keep asking and the Lord will keep answering. Who says the conversation has to end anyway?
Celebrating birthdays are so much fun... especially in our convent here in St. Louis. We enjoy preparing the food and decorating the dining room and planning surprises big and small. This year, I almost fainted and had a heart attack when two of my friends from the Benedictine community in Clyde, Missouri came to surprise me for my birthday. They got both communities on board to keep the surprise a secret for a whole month! I still can't believe I didn't catch on.
But back to the pizza, one of our teachers describes reading the Scriptures like taking a bite of a pizza. You can't enjoy it unless you are able to taste all the ingredients in one bite. Each book of the bible must be read in the light of the whole. Well, just one bite of that Birthday Supreme and I was in heaven. Chewing on the Word of God does that too in a deeper way.
I wish I could write in great detail how each of my co-postulants and sisters in community made my birthday such a momentous occasion. They sure know how to make me feel loved. As I reflect and thank God for my life, my family, friends and my community, I recall the time when my parents would do the same thing and go all out to celebrate my life, to celebrate me. It is very humbling.
Living with a community of all women striving to give of themselves in love for God and for others makes planning a birthday party so much fun. I guess it's part of our “feminine genius”, it is natural for us to want to celebrate life itself and the life of another. It is part of our vocation. We can be sisterly and motherly in many ways, yes, even in planning a birthday party.
Then I realized... God is also planning a party. Like the party of the prodigal son as his father celebrated his return. Ah, yes... a birthday AND a welcome home party in one. That's what God is planning for us. That is what our death is going to be from heaven's perspective. Can I look at death this way? Can you?
Whoa! I didn't even get to talk about the cake, the decorations, the card, the gifts! And sorry, you must be wondering what the pizza looked like. It was gone before anyone could take a picture of it. :-)
Dear Jesus, you came down from heaven so that we may have eternal life. Grant we pray that we may be willing to die to ourselves so that we may live in you here and now. And as your witnesses, may the joy that you bring into our hearts be our strength as we proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth and as we journey towards the heavenly banquet that awaits us.