The most striking image I had during my eight-day retreat came when I prayed with the Nativity. After the Holy Child was born, Joseph delivered the placenta. He held this once vital organ in his hands and didn’t know what to do with it. What did people do with placentas in the first century?
Never mind that; why was the placenta in the scene at all? I’ve imagined this story hundreds of times but never thought about the placenta–even after watching six seasons of Call the Midwife. That made me pay attention to this detail. Perhaps something once life-giving is no longer needed.
The same message was repeated two more times. In a homily at Queen of Peace, our Director, Father John O’Brien, pointed out that manna came to the Israelites only when they ran out of the bread they’d brought from Egypt. When I prayed with the Wedding at Cana, I noticed that Jesus turned water into wine only when the host ran out of his supply.
I had more curious encounters in my prayers and wondered how they all fit together.
At Jesus’ presentation at the temple, Anna turned to me said, “You too are a woman called to prayer.”
As I sat by the Jordan deliberating whether I should heed John’s call and be baptized, Jesus grabbed me by the wrist and echoed the words I just prayed. “You say you want to see me clearly, love me dearly and follow me nearly. Well, you do. So, come on. Let’s do it.”
We both went under the water, and I wondered, What am I dying to? What am I rising to?
I keep thinking about the placenta. What is unnecessary in my life? Is it control? Anxiety? Half-heartedness? Is it something I own or do? Nothing touches a big Yes in my soul.
I have to leave you hanging. I really don’t know. And it’s pointless to try to figure out what God hasn’t revealed. As Rilke says, “Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. . . Live the questions now.”
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.― Rainer Maria Rilke
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This week I’d like to honour the love mischief of questions. We ask: Why isn’t God healing me? How come I didn’t see this before? Should I leave my job? An answer doesn’t come readily, yet as we live that question, like water in a river, it widens our banks and opens us to new possibilities. Sometimes there is a question under the question. Someone may ask, “How can I deal with my anger?” And God asks, “What are you angry about?” Another may ask, “I used to love going to church, but now it does nothing for me. What’s wrong with me?” And God may say nothing until you ask a different question.