Garbage and Flowers

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May 13, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

May 13, 2018
Acts 1:1-11; Mark 16:15-20
Fr. George Smiga

A wealthy widow who lived in Washington, D.C., died. She left her entire estate to God. Now, this rather strange bequest gave rise to many legal ramifications, because if the will was to be processed, it had to follow legal form. So lawyers drew up a lawsuit in which God was mentioned as one of the parties. There was a summons issued for God to appear in court. The summons was delivered to the sheriff whose job it was to serve such documents. After some time, the sheriff sent this message to the court: “After a due and diligent search, it has been determined that God cannot be found in Washington, D.C.”

Now, political considerations aside, this conclusion is obviously false. God can be found in Washington, D.C. God can be found in any place, if we know where to look. Looking is an important part of today’s first reading from the book of Acts. Jesus ascends into heaven, and the disciples stand looking intently up into the sky. Then two men appear and ask them, “Why are you looking up into the sky.” These men want the disciples to know that if they are looking for Jesus, they will not find him by staring up into the clouds.

So where should we look for God? Should we look in religious places like churches and pilgrimage sites? Yes, God can be found there.  Should we look in the beauty of nature? Of course. Which one of us has not been enthralled by a divine sunset? Should we look in the happiest points of our life: when we fall in love, when a new child is born, when we celebrate a friendship that has lasted over decades? For sure. God is visible in all these events. And even if we group all of these events together, we have not yet exhausted the range of God’s presence. God can be found in any place if we have the right focus.

There’s an old song by Leonard Cohen called “Suzanne.” In this song Suzanne serves as a kind of mystical guide who shows us where to look and how to see. Here is the last stanza of the song:

“So Suzanne takes your hand and she leads you to the river,

and she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers.

There are heroes in the seaweed; there are children in the morning.

They are leaning out for love, and they will lean that way forever

as Suzanne holds her mirror.”

God is not only found in the religious and perfect places of our lives. God is also found in the mixed and compromised nature of human living. God is found among the garbage and the flowers.

This weekend, we celebrate Mother’s Day. And it’s right to honor mothers for they are a blessing in our lives But mothers are not perfect. Like all of us, they can at times be demanding, stubborn, frustrating. But what a mistake it would be to conclude that God cannot be found in those challenging aspects of our relationship. If we know where to look, can we not see a faithfulness, a desire to bless, a leaning out for love that will lean that way forever. God is there, however perfect or compromised our relationship to our mother may be.

It is easy to believe in God’s presence when we are young and healthy. But as we age, as our faculties lessen, as our health fails, we can conclude that God has left us. Look again. Can you not see God’s presence in the people who love you, in those who drive you to your doctor appointments, in those who call you just to check in? Is there not a holiness on those days without any special reason that we find the strength to continue on? These are the heroes in the seaweed. God is there.

God can be found in any place, if we know where to look. So for sure, we should look in those perfect and ecstatic places where all is right with the world. But we should not stop there. We should also look in the mixed nature of everyday living, in the relationships that are both genuine and compromised, in the situations that are both painful and holy. God can be found among the garbage and the flowers.

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