He is “the Way the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) and through Him and with Him and in Him all things can be done!
For many years during my husband’s childhood, he raised hens. This project kept him very busy during many of his formative years because he was responsible for building their coop, collecting their eggs, cleaning up after them and ensuring they were healthy. For a while when our children were younger, we also kept a few hens in a small coop in our backyard, but after a little while we stopped that.
Now, our children are older, and we have been thinking for some time about re-introducing hens into our lives… After all, our children are always asking us for a new pet – granted they had in mind a dog or a cat, but they seem equally enamoured of the idea of a few hens. And on top of this, the monotony of the longest lockdown ever endured by the residents of Sydney due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused my husband to start thinking about something to do to keep himself busy…
Well, the morning came – after we had made our final decision to go ahead with this project – where we decided to tell our children about our plans…
You might imagine their excitement. I mean this is a seriously exciting project for them – especially in a home where nobody is allowed to leave (and we are the lucky ones here in Sydney – because in Melbourne the lockdowns have been even more severe and protracted)!
One of the conditions of our children adopting these new pets is that they need to be responsible for them. Part of this responsibility includes preparing a place for those hens and building their coop and all of this work is required before they even arrive. Then – once they arrive – there is the feeding, egg collecting and caring for these animals. All in all, there is a lot to do!
One would think that the children would be extremely enthusiastic about having the pets, but a bit less excited about preparing a place for them prior to their arrival… But , in fact, they were terribly excited to start preparing a place for their new pets and began that very day... And the work involved was extensive. First, they had to dig up the section of the backyard where the hens would live, then they had to re-distribute the mulch and soil. Then they had to help their father to build the coop and a fence and some steps to lead up to the area where the hens were to live. It was hard work that they did on a hot day!
And as I watched their excitement in their work, I could see something much more profound than the simple preparation of some little children for an exciting event involving a few simple animals... I could see Heaven.
Obviously and at first glance, the hard work of preparing for a few hens is nothing at all like Heaven – but upon reflection, there is something common in my children’s preparation for those exciting new hens and our spiritual preparations for Heaven – if we do things correctly, that is!
The Saints spent their Earthly lives preparing for their eternal one. It is no coincidence of sanctity that the Saints were relatively unafraid of death. Saint Faustina wrote in her diary that during the times when she became mortally ill and believed she would soon die, that she became afraid, but with the Grace of God, she was able to endure those moments with faith.
In her Diary 324, Saint Faustina wrote the words that Christ spoke to her about her dying… “Pure love gives the soul strength in the moment of dying. When I Myself was dying on the Cross, I was not thinking of Myself but of poor sinners, and I prayed for them to My Father. I want your last moments to be completely similar to Mine on the cross. There is but one price at which souls are bought, and that is suffering united to My suffering on the cross. Pure love understands these words; carnal love will never understand them.”
And I have been reflecting on these words as I watch my family prepare for their hens. Because they are not thinking of the labour at hand, but of the hens for whom they labour. They are not begrudging the sweat of their brows, because they are making this sacrifice for love of those hens.
Now, obviously, as I speak of the hens and the children, I am not speaking of the same “pure love” of which Saint Faustina was told, but nevertheless, this reminds me of the purity of the love required for a peaceful death…
And now, as we continue to endure the previously unimaginable conditions of lockdown that have dominated our world over the last few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it occurs to me that there is an opportunity to practice for me death – whenever God sees fit to bring it about.
For there is pure love to be practised right NOW, during the moments when everything feels a little too overwhelming for me. For in those moments, if I can pray for others and think of their suffering and not just that of myself, perhaps I can grow in virtue – through Grace – to prepare for my Beloved in my final hours.
When I offer my complaints for the benefit of others to the Father, I am able to share – in some infinitely inferior way – in the actions of the Saints. And the Saints themselves shared – in some infinitely inferior way – in the action of Christ on the Cross.
And when I think of this action of mine – though it be so infinitely small – I fortify myself to endure. For my Beloved sees my weaknesses more clearly than I do myself, and He loves that I attempt to apply myself – in some infinitely inferior way – to ease the suffering of my Beloved Lord…
Because He is “the Way the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) and through Him and with Him and in Him all things can be done!
And I know this in the depths of my soul, because He showed me – using just a few little children and a small flock of hens…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.