Friday, June 3, 2011

A beached jellyfish teaches a spiritual lesson...

On my recent vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina,
a few Cannonball Jellyfish washed up overnight, like this one which I photographed.

You can enter deep spiritual meditation on most anything you come across, even a beached jellyfish.

I do not make it a habit of making known on social media when I leave town. This is for a number of reasons, chief among them is not advertising my absence to thieves.  I often blog and use my Twitter and Facebook accounts in a normal way while traveling and save my posting about a trip when I get home.  This time, I decided to let much of it go except for a few tweets.  I have several posts forthcoming, but wanted to get this initial reflection out to get back into the swing of blogging.

I have been on retreats, but haven't been on a vacation in a long time.   I went alone, to Myrtle Beach, where I not only rested, but took time for reflection as the opportunities arose.

Lessons of a Beached Jellyfish

Above is a picture of a jellyfish which had the misfortune of being beached overnight.  There is a decent, continuous surf and as the water recedes with the tide. Often left behind are interesting things along the beach.  Flashlights can be seen waving back and forth late at night or very early in the morning as people explore. 

I began to ponder the fate of this jellyfish, one of about four in a stretch that spanned perhaps a half mile.   One minute the cannonball jelly was going about life, floating along and hoping for something to fall into its path for a meal and the next moment it was eating sand, awaiting death.   

It's a lesson about life and death.  Reflecting on recent natural disasters from Japan to Joplin, people from all walks of life, and states of grace, died unexpectedly.  Many did not die immediately, but suffered for seconds, minutes, hours, and days with full knowledge the end was likely near. This may seem all the more horrific, but we must trust God who loves all of his children more than we ever could. 

Unlike the dying jellyfish which has no free will to make God-displeasing choices in the course of it's life, a person awaiting certain death can make a deliberate movement of the heart to repentance during the dying process whether it is slow or quick.  This does not mean we should just live as we please with intent to apologize to God as we die; such presumption may leave us outside (Matthew 25:1-13).

We are often concerned for our loved ones and friends who have fallen into utter disbelief in God, or who have left the faith, or are lukewarm in their practice of it.  Our Lord, as he carried his cross told the women to weep not for him, but for their children (Luke 23:28).  St. Monica shed many tears for her wandering son, praying for decades for the man who would later become St. Augustine - a bishop, and Church father and doctor.  Her actions, and Augustine's response to grace, are proof that such tears and prayers are heard.  St. Monica was fortunate enough to live to witness his conversion.  For many of us, we can only hope that our tears and prayers work, even in those final moments and without our knowledge.

Disasters, natural and man-made, happen.  They are small scale and large.  We might ponder why that one jellyfish ended it's life on the beach while hundreds or thousands of others nearby in those same waters continued to live.  Sometimes the fate of others, in life or in death, is used by God to teach others. Perhaps God permitted this one jellyfish to die in order to teach me a deeper lesson - one which I could share with you. 

Just as the jellyfish is at the mercy of that great ocean, we are at God's mercy for every breath we take.   A jellyfish gives glory to God by just going about life as he was intended by his Creator.  We, on the other hand, must give glory to God by a proper use of our free will with God-pleasing choices.  Jesus did not say that the road would be wide and comfortable.  He said it would be narrow and difficult, then he showed us that the road must be paved with much sacrifice (Col 1:24).  More often than not, those sacrifices are a simple matter of giving up our will, for God's will.  It starts with not only living the Beatitudes, but by knowing and living the Ten Commandments which Jesus affirmed in Sacred Scripture (John 15: 9-12, Mark 10:18, Matthew 5:17-20)

Ponder, without delay, your life's choices as if you were a beached jellyfish, waiting for the Just Judge.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!
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