Tuesday, 26 July 2011


It's only a bee; it won't hurt you! With those reassuring words my delightful young niece invited me to stroke a bumble bee. Little did she realize that the furry, friendly-looking creature had a sting in its tail -at least some of them do. I still don't know how to distinguish them from the harmless ones. So I hastily declined her friendly invitation and persuaded her that it was not such a good idea to stroke bees, however harmless and cuddly they may seem to be.
Much later I learnt a similar lesson the painful way. That was when I was picking Victoria plums -which I knew would be delicious. Unfortunately I wasn't the only one to fancy them. Eagerly I picked a ripe, succulent plum. Unfortunately a wasp had got there before me and was tucking into 'my' plum. As I grasped the plum and the wasp I felt a sharp, burning pain. I'd been stung! Not surprisingly, I let out a loud scream.
After making a hasty, undignified retreat I dressed my wound. Then, undaunted, I returned to picking plums for my community. I wasn't going to be intimidated by a wasp, which was much smaller than me. But now I was much more cautious and wore a pair of protective rubber gloves. Before grasping each plum I inspected it carefully to ensure that a wasp had not got there before me. If I saw one I heeded the defensive warning of its black and yellow stripes: "If you touch me I will sting you! Keep your distance." That I certainly did.
As a result I was able to harvest the ripe plums the wasps didn't want, without my being stung -even though they buzzed round my head and occasionally walked over my face. Yes, there were many more than one of them. But by keeping a respectful distance, and allowing each other to enjoy the plums, both the wasps and I were satisfied, without our needing to harm each other.
This led me to reflect on the wonder of God's creation. Each creature has its own beauty. My little niece was so right to delight in the beauty of the furry bumble bee -but so wrong in thinking it would welcome being stroked. And the wasp also has its own special beauty. Like the bee, it has been endowed with a powerful sting with which to defend itself. I can't blame the wasp for protecting itself by stinging me.
I think it's safe to say most beasts don't waste their energy or expend their weaponry unnecessarily. If they're aggressive it's either to feed or protect themselves and their young. Usually they give a warning hiss, growl or rattle. Some are more fascinating. They may posture and bang their chests, display bright colours or puff themselves up to increase their size. They all expect us to get the message and back off!
I marvel at the way each beast has a special role and place in the balance of nature. As one kind preys on another that prevents one species becoming too dominant. Only man seems to disregard this delicate balance of nature. We over-fish the seas. We destroy the habitat of the insects we need to pollinate the plants that feed us. We are so short sighted!
But at last we are beginning to wake up! We are learning to respect our environment. Certainly that starts with self-interest. But then, hopefully we move beyond thinking only of preserving what is useful to us. We expand our horizons to marvel at the wonderful world which we inhabit with so many other creatures. And that word, "creature" reminds me that this is not only our world, but God's. He has given us the privilege and responsibility of caring for it and developing it.
As I wonder at the world in which I live I realize that each creature gives glory to God, simply by being its magnificent self. That goes for the smallest as much as the largest. And that includes the wasp that stung me! But we people are special in being the only ones on earth able to appreciate the wonder of God's creation. We can put into words and sing the praise which each creature gives to its maker.
So I meet God by marvelling at the whole of creation and at each creature. I meet Him by respecting the environment in which He has placed me and them. This should enable all of us, His creatures, to flourish. Out of respect we give each other the space each of us need. That, among other things, means I don't stroke bees or grasp wasps!
Isidore O.P.
In a fortnight Fr. Peter will reflect on Meeting God 'By Having the Will But Not The Way.'

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


I'd purchased a pillow at a bargain price. Not that I needed one, but I wanted to support some church fund-raiser. In the interests of charity I will not name the 'Cause' I was assisting. Blessed are they who know when to keep their mouths shut! Concerning this pillow I have much to say.
Never, in my many years, have I ever placed my weary head on a harder pillow. Never has my neck been stiffer than after my giving my bargain pillow a one-night's-try. Perhaps it was designed to be a 'penitential pillow' for sinners who deserved to wait many tortured hours for the day to break and for the sun to rise. Isn't heaven reputed to be a place for eternal rest? I would strongly recommend the management there to trade with a firm that offers a 'soft option' in head rests.
Taking all this into account what am I to think about a fellow who chose a stone for a pillow? This must have been the hardest pillow on earth. Either he must have been in sore straits in this god-forsaken place or, perhaps, he was a person of little imagination. Even I could have taught him a thing or two about improvisation. In my camping days I've used tufts of grass, towels and rolled up clothes as stand-ins for pillows. Come to think of it, I've even aspired to the greater sophistication of creating a support for my neck by placing my shoes toe to toe and then covering the ensemble with a towel. Recipe for a good night's sleep!
Anyway, this hard pillow did not prevent our friend from having a dream that many of us dreamers would envy. Read all about him in Genesis 28. He, Jacob by name, dreamed of a ladder, 'planted on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and God's angels were going up and down on it.'
Surely a most pleasing dream when we think of the nightmares that haunt some of us from time to time. And what about this?
'And there was Yahweh, standing beside him and saying, 'I, Yahweh, am the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The ground on which you are lying I shall give to you and your descendants.'
No wonder Jacob on awakening exclaimed,
'Truly, Yahweh is in this place and I did not know!' He was afraid and said, "How awe-inspiring this place is! This is nothing less than the abode of God, and this is the gate of heaven.'
And I had described this as a god-forsaken place, barren and unfriendly. Never again will I be so rash, so dismissive of any corner of this, my world. No! It's God's creation; His world . He is everywhere. There's no such place where God is not. This awareness must be the foundational truth of my spirituality. I means that wherever I am, there is God...no matter how dire may be the place in which I find myself; no matter how sinful may be the situation in which I have chosen to put myself. God is there, loving me, even if I have stopped loving Him- which God forbid!
He is there, accessible to me, whenever I want to get in touch with Him. He is there inspiring me, guiding me, shielding me, rescuing me - whether I am aware of this or not. God is to be found even, perhaps especially, in and through a hard rock.
I, personally, am delighted that with my name being Peter, which means 'rock,' I am to think of myself supporting others with the comfort I myself have received from the Lord who 'is my rock,my fortress, and deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,' (Ps.18.2)