"There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of men, can often seem wearisome. But it is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy which longs to break into the world." - Benedict XVI - Homily at the Mass for the Inauguration of his Pontificate - 24 April 2005
A score of months ago, I drew a stone from the sea; a gesture that began with a simple meaning which evolved into a deeper one and finally an even more profound significance.
Attracted by the way it captured the light, by the dancing rosy and charcoal streaks that seemed to have wandered onto its surface from some other colored mass, I collected it. Wanting to remember the beauty of the moment – for it was not just any old day, but a time that has forever changed me – I gathered some others as well. Soon however, as the water dried from it, I was left with nothing more than a pinkish grey lump of rock. I thought to myself: “Is this not a better reminder than ever of what I wish to take away from this place? Indeed, the stones of the sea are not beautiful apart from him”. So I threw back most of my collection, but kept the rosy-grey to remind me of that very reality.
To me this was an analogy for Jn 5:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers...". I suppose the analogy still holds true, but with the passing of time, I discovered something else. I think many times - at least for me - it's easy to be attached to our own ideas, our own interpretations of what Our Lord tells us while leading ourselves to miss the real point. It's easy to take on a "do-this-or-else" interpretation, which may be one of the main reasons why young people are turned off by religion and therefore refuse the gift of faith. Whatever the case might be, I kept that rock in my pocket for quite a while. I held it often, trying to keep alive the rememberance of the grace I had recieved, reminding myself to remain in Him.
Then, something unexpected... with my constant handling of that pebble, the contact with the oil from my hands, it began to change. Its aspect began to liken it to the day when I reached into the salty water, picking up a brilliant and beautiful reminder of something dear to my heart. I was actually a bit disappointed for this, since it seemed that my metaphor had just been emptied, but later on I found a new meaning.
It's easy to think that "remain in me" is a mandate that depends on our will, on our efforts, on our docility. But what if my remaining depends very little on my actual efforts (not to say that these aren't important, but in themselves they cannot be efficacious)? What if the image of beauty in me doesn't depend so much on my throwing myself in the sea of prayers or works, or in the voluntaristic search for union with Christ, as if I could bring this about by my own desire or commitment?
That little pink pebble reminded me that the lustre of my life comes from His hands. It comes from my presenting myself to Him, from my allowing Him to work in me, to handle me if you would. So everything and anything that I should do to remain in Him is but a supplication the He should keep me in Himself. The branches need not fret over how to attach themselves to the vine, how to become what they are. The branches receive life from the vine, grow and bear fruit as ordained.
My stone, restored to beauty from the touch of my fingers, my soul restored to life from the touch of His hand.