Some people are keeping track of the number of days they’ve been in lockdown, or quarantine, or whatever you want to call it. I haven’t kept track because it really doesn’t matter. Today is today and it’s here that the Lord meets us. Not in our memories of yesterday or our worries about tomorrow. Today.
That’s easy to say, but lately it hasn’t been easy for me to feel the Lord’s presence. I’ve been faithful to my daily prayer and meditation, yet I miss receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and I feel my spiritual life has grown a little stale.
Yesterday morning as I was eating breakfast and trying to figure out what I would do during the day, I heard a tapping at my living room window. I curiously checked it out and found a bright red male cardinal fluttering his wings and striking the glass with his beak. He would tap for a few seconds and then fly to a nearby branch of a pink dogwood tree. Shortly, he would come back and repeat the performance.
That beautiful and persistent little guy kept up his routine throughout the day until nightfall and then came back this morning with renewed vigor. And, he’s been at it all day today! Tap, tap, tap on the window. It’s like there’s something in here that he wants.
Maybe he wants my attention.
I recalled reading somewhere that a cardinal sighting represents an angel or the spirit of a loved one who has returned to let one know they are with you and watching over you. Interested, I did an on-line search along those lines and I came up with a few hits from New-Age or psychic resources that point to this being a Christian belief. But, I know that superstition and Christianity don’t mix. I know that a black cat crossing one’s path isn’t an assurance of bad luck. And, I’m pretty sure there’s no reference in Scripture tying cardinals to the spirits of those who have passed.
Yet, while I don’t believe in superstition, I do believe that God sends us signs. Is a cardinal the definitive sign God has chosen to tell us that a loving spirit is watching over us? I don’t think so. But, can God send us a loving spirit as a sign through a cardinal? Certainly He can! God created it. He can do what He wants.
Needing to spend some time reading and meditating on the Scripture de jour, I set all those thoughts about cardinals aside and found my place of silence and solitude. I read in today’s first reading: “Jesus was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him… “(Acts 2:22); “I saw the Lord ever before me…” (v. 25); “my heart has been glad and my tongue exulted…” (v. 26); and “…You will fill me with joy in Your presence.” (v. 28).
In the Psalm (Ps 16), I read, “I keep the Lord always before me;…therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices.” (v. 8-9).
And, the Gospel, Lk 24:13-35, recounted the appearance of Jesus to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; how at first they didn’t recognize Him, but, once they did in the breaking of the bread, their hearts were filled with joy and they hurried to tell the Eleven of their encounter with Him.
Collectively, these passages reminded me that Jesus is always with me even though I may not always recognize Him or feel His presence. He is with me in the people He has placed in my life and in my life’s circumstances. They reminded me of the joy I feel when I do feel Him near me. They reminded me that even in difficult times when the world pulls my attention away from Him, He is still there going before me. And, they reminded me that I ought not to keep quiet but to hurry and tell others about Him.
And, then, I thought about the bird again. Was God wanting to catch my attention with one of His truly beautiful creations as a sign to let me know of His presence? Whether it was His intention or not, it certainly worked.
Could that crazy cardinal have actually been a messenger sent to draw me away from the hum-drum of isolation so that I could refocus on His love for me? Possibly. If so, He succeeded by reminding me of the grace that He gives me each and every day. That His grace is here with me in the love I share with my wife and our support for each other during these unusual times. It was there in the video calls with all four daughters and grandchildren today. It was there last night in the good food, friendship and conversation we shared among a few friends as we “risked” getting together for the first time in over a month.
But, mostly, that silly, persistent, cardinal, who wouldn’t give up pecking at my window, reminded me to never give up on God’s love for me, and never give up loving Him in return.
“Good and gracious God, thank you for sending your fine feathered creation to draw my attention back to You. Even though I may lose sight of You from time to time, thank You for never leaving my side. Lord, thank You for Your angels who watch over me. And, I pray that the souls of all the faithful departed, through Your mercy, rest in peace. Amen.”
(The Cardinal at My Window was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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