“If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint.” (Saint Ignatius of Loyola).
Many years ago – when I was in my early twenties – I had a very careful think about how I really felt about my birthday. Although it seems ridiculous now, I remember having a moment where I wondered how I really felt about having a birthday and growing older...
After all, some people are very sensitive about their age, and they get quite upset on their birthdays because they feel that their birthday is a reminder of their age and they do not wish to be reminded that they are growing older.
And to this day I am always very happy and grateful for my birthday. After all, I consider birthdays a reminder that we are alive and not dead – and there is much joy to be had in that realisation!
Birthdays are a marvellous celebration in our house. There are not really any big parties, and the gifts are usually quite moderate, and often – due to work commitments – the day of celebration is shifted to the nearest weekend instead of the birthday itself, but there is still great joy on a birthday in our family.
In our house a birthday is an excuse to celebrate with cake and a meal, some candles and some singing, a gift and just an excuse for some specialness…
The last birthday for the year in our family occurred earlier this month. And that meant that for most of August (and even a little bit of July) I was able to enjoy watching my son prepare for his special day!
Watching my children prepare for their birthday is a very exciting thing.
Firstly, they start counting down the days on the calendar that we keep in our kitchen, crossing off the days every morning – one after the other – until they reach the big day.
Then, they start to talk about their birthday. At first it starts off as a little mention dropped casually into the conversations during those early weeks – “What day of the week will it be on my birthday this year, Mum?” But then it progresses, and in the days leading up to the birthday itself, I start to hear more pointed comments, made excitedly – “I can’t wait for my birthday, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight, that’s how excited I am…”
I have been reflecting on this anticipation over the last few weeks.
You see, I live my life growing older and begrudge every reminder that God sends that He is preparing a place for me in His Heavenly Kingdom. Instead of waking up each morning and happily crossing off another day on the calendar – secure in the knowledge that I am one day closer to my eternal reward – I notice the grey hairs and the wrinkles and the aches and the pains and I turn away from these things, begrudging this opportunity for sacrifice! How short-sighted I am, to fail to see what this really is.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola understood how we should anticipate such opportunity to suffer, when he said, “If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.”
I compare my sluggishness in growing older with my children’s excitement at the prospect of their birthday…
For my true “birthday” will be on that day when I am born into eternal life – for I (like you) was born to die to be born again.
And maybe – just maybe – if I can receive the gift of faith, I can trust that every bit of discomfort – every sign of ageing – is evidence that I have ascended another rung in the ladder that we all must climb, to reach the Holy Throne of God…
Maybe I can do that… If only I receive the gift of Faith…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.