REFLECTION | by Cathy Reynolds
And when he is thus humble, and needy, and knows his own need; he lays his distress, and complains of it, before the bounty and the mercy of God. And so he marks the sublimity of God and his own lowliness; and thus he becomes a deep valley.
John Ruusbroec (1293 – 1381): The Spiritual Espousals, Book 1,6
I once heard that in order to understand what it means to be at the top of a mountain, one needs to spend time in the valley. I guess I never really understood that until I had to walk the journey with someone about to die. Yes, I’ve had people in my life who were very important to me die … my father, a priest friend, young people who I ministered to, members of my parish family. But I didn’t have to be at their side as they walked through their own valley; until this past year when my mother was placed in hospice care. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer about two years prior and did as much as she could to overcome this horrible disease. There finally came a time when there was nothing left to do and she made the choice to free herself from the chemo to live her final days on her terms.
The mountain came when we were able to share a family wedding with her. She looked beautiful and had so much energy. Her smiles and bright face lit up the room and all of our family was so happy to share in the joy of the wedding. Only three short months later did her time on the “mountain” become the dark depth of the valley. This is when I, too, understood how the bounty and mercy of God takes hold of us. I travelled to the hospital and spend many days by her side as she slept, laughed, joked, moaned, cried, and prayed to God and to my father who was deceased to “take her home”. I will treasure the gift of presence to her as she slept while I crocheted and rubbed her head and prayed for her and sang to her. The valley I experienced was a humility I will never forget – the love of mother to daughter, daughter to mother, and the expression of God’s mercy within each moment. The mountain I experienced was the peace that finally entered her body and soul upon death.
There is truth that our treasures are not the materials that we acquire while on earth, but that our treasures are the ways we live our lives and share who we are to make the world a better place. It is truly a humble place to live in the valley so that one can work to reach the mountain. I have learned to appreciate my family more – to love more – to reach out to others more – to see God’s face in those in need more – to let go of those things that get in the way of love. The beauty of the mountain is within our grasp, only if we are willing to go deep into the valley first. We can do that by understanding our own lowliness and willingness to open our heart to God’s love and mercy.
~ Catherine Reynolds, Saint Xavier High School, Louisville, KY
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