Monday, 15 February 2010


A badger is a beautiful animal, rather like a tiny black and white bear. It's very shy and spends most of the day underground in a set in which several families may live. But in the evening the badger comes above ground to eat.

A friend and I were very keen to see a badger, and fortunately we lived near some woodland in which there were several sets. So, we decided to go badger watching. And realizing how shy they were we were very careful. While the badger has very poor sight it has very sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell. So, in the evening we approached the set from down wind and moved very quietly. On arrival we sat opposite the set and sat very still, not making a sound. We watched. We waited; we became stiff and cold. And after spending several hours of keeping all the accepted rules for badger-watching, we didn't see a single one!

But on another occasion, when it was bright daylight, my friend and I were walking through the woods. We chatted noisily. Twigs snapped under our feet. We broke all the rules for sighting badgers. Wrong time of the day; wrong environment. And we were too noisy. But then, suddenly, a badger broke out from the undergrowth, right under our eyes. Clearly no one had told the badger the human rules about badger watching. It was under no constraint to follow them.

This got me thinking about what badger watching had to tell me about meeting God. Certainly there are useful guidelines, which dispose us to become more aware of His presence. It helps if we make time to be still and quiet. Remember how one of the psalms says, "Be still and know that I am God." Jesus encourages us to seek the solitude of our rooms when we pray. He himself chose to pray in the peace and quiet of the mountain top, of the wilderness, of Gethsemane. If Jesus and His disciples needed this time and space to relax, unwind and pray, so do we.

Although these guidelines are important in helping us to become sensitive to God's presence, He Himself is not bound to follow them. Like the badger, darting out of the undergrowth in broad daylight, God can and does reveal Himself in most unexpected ways -and at the most unexpected times. He frequently takes us by surprise.

Jesus tells us that we meet Him in the needy, who are appealing to us for help, as well as in the love and care that people show us. The risen Lord is with us as we journey through life. This was part of the message of His appearing to His disciples on the road to Emmaus. He speaks to us in the Scripture. We meet Him in each of the sacraments. He is with us in the market-place and in our homes: He is with us when we are at work and when we relax. If only we had the sensitivity to recognize and welcome Him!

Badger watching has taught me that while guidelines are useful, neither the badger nor God is confined to our rules. It's not for us to determine how they should reveal themselves to us. The Badger has taught me to be open to God's surprises...Surely a new approach to reaching badger watching

Isidore O.P.
Next week Fr. Peter will reflect on A Child's Bewilderment

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