Summer presents opportunity for spiritual refreshment

Complete the Circle
By George Evans
Summer is an absolutely wonderful time for many things. God’s creation awakens fully from the darkness of winter and the frequent rains of spring. Birds chirp and tweet more loudly and constantly in the early morning, or at least so they seem to me, as I try to awaken with silent prayer and reflective readings and scripture on a screened porch not far from their tree perches. Longer days provide time to watch lingering sunsets and the soothing peace they bring as well as additional light for reading books and magazines put off for too long. God beckons us to join him outdoors in long walks or at the beach for some of us and takes the opportunity to whisper his will for us as our minds clear at least a little from the noise of cell phones, TV or other distractions of work and obligations.
A special treat summer provides is time for building relationships with those we love in a less hurried way, particularly with grandchildren free from the demands of school and activities which seem unending. We know from the Gospels how much Jesus loved children and enjoyed being around them. I think I have experienced that with my six-year-old grandson this summer in a special way while his two older sisters were away at camp. My time with him has been just with him and no other siblings. I could drink deeply of his spontaneity and energy and experience his constant talking about anything that came to his mind without any fear of depriving others trying to chime in or interrupt the line of conversation. I was struck by his sweetness and goodness and lack of pretension the lack of which so often burdens other one on one conversations. I felt God touching me through him and his honesty and openness as a reflection of the God who made him. Grace can come in many ways and sometimes in unexpected ways. The arms out embrace at the end of our time together sealed the deal. I am better for it.
I am not much of a flower person but this summer I have been touched by a blossoming agapanthus outside a window I face while using my desk top computer. Previously this flower was a nondescript and unattractive shoot which has grown since the spring. My wife told me she had planted it last year but it had done nothing until now. It has just become a beautiful blossom and more importantly a wonderful message to me from God of his perpetual gift to us of our surroundings and the concomitant burden he places on us to care for it. Pope Francis in his recent encyclical “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home” lays out carefully and beautifully what that burden entails. Summer helps us understand why.
Summer also provides a reading opportunity as things slow down somewhat. I can’t provide a list like Father Ron Rolhheiser does each year for summer reading. But I have recently read another best-seller by Pope Francis, his apostolic exhortation “Gaudete Et Exsultate: On the Call To Holiness in Today’s World.” It’s a wonderful read and short – 88 pages without notes. I urge anyone who wants to be holy to treat yourself to this summer read particularly if you think holiness is the call to every Christian not just to priests, religious and lay ministers.
I will not attempt to review the book here but rather will quote from the forward written by Pope Francis to whet your appetite.
“Rejoice and be glad”(Mt5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for his sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints, and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence … What follows is not meant to be a treatise on holiness, containing definitions and distinctions helpful for understanding this important subject, or a discussion of the various means of sanctification. My modest goal is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us “to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4)
I hope you have a wonderful summer with family, friends and perhaps some folks you may not care for so much and that Pope Francis’s book with help your growth in holiness with the Spirit.

(George Evans is a pastoral minister at Jackson St. Richard Parish.)