Squirrel Sermon

The winds are blowing as I sit in the dining room of the rectory today; the few leaves that remain attached to the trees are being ripped away, the daylily beds are yellow and brown, and only one rose bush continues to defy winter’s approach by continuing to open it’s cherry red blooms in an elegant act of defiance and faith. And then there are the squirrels. I swear there are more squirrels running around the yard today than I’ve seen all spring and summer. And right now, as I look out, one of them is clutching a nut of some kind in his front paws, sitting on the privacy fence as he looks me right in the face. He can see me as clearly as I see him, and I realize that Brother Squirrel has a lesson for me today.
I’m not completely off my rocker, you know. Native Americans and many other cultures considered all living beings as brothers and sisters that not only shared this precious planet with us, but they had as much to teach us as we had to teach them. By observing and listening to these other family members, we could learn great lessons: how to work in harmony with all that is, how to enter into the flow of nature’s cycles, and in the case of Brother Squirrel, how to prepare and conserve during periods of plenty for the times when nourishment might become scarce. Today Brother Squirrel sits to remind me to set aside a portion of my most precious resources as an investment in the future. As a North American who lives in the wealthiest country on the planet, this surely includes my financial resources and perhaps my food and drink, but I suspect there is a deeper lesson.
We are all busy people, expending our energy on a variety of projects, ideas, people and things. Our energy is made manifest in a plethora of ways because we have so many of these things. Sometimes we run the risk of depleting ourselves, of becoming spread so thin that our energy is diffused to the point of our becoming exhausted. We can begin to feel like we are always focused outward with precious little energy expended on ourselves or on the things we most value. This is because it’s easy to allow ourselves to be distracted from the most important things. There is another way.
We can conserve the valuable asset of our creative energy by being aware of the choices we make and choosing only those that nurture and sustain us. This is not about being self-centered or selfish because even when it comes to engaging in ministry, we can easily get involved in hundreds of “good” things. When we take time to pause and consider, however, we occasionally realize that we are called to do the “best” things instead of a hundred “good” things. This same principle extends to the natural resources of our planet as well, using what we need wisely with the future in mind.

Saving and conservation might sound like they are a reaction based on fear of scarcity or not having enough of something—this is not the case. Saving is a clear affirmation of an abundance yet to be made manifest. Brother Squirrel is quite clear on this point: nuts are buried as part of the cycle of life, allowing one to face winters with enough faith that spring will surely and eternally come once more. Knowing that change is part of life’s grand cycle, we can choose to create a safe space, both spiritually and physically, that will support us in the present and sustain us in the future. This means not filling our space with things, or thoughts, that do not serve our highest interest. Without hoarding more than we need, we keep ourselves in the cyclical flow of life when we donate our unnecessary items to someone who can use them best. This allows for more even abundance to enter our lives, because even Brother Squirrel knows a life of abundance involves more than mere survival.

His lesson to the priest clearly presented, Brother Squirrel jumps nervously off the fence, quickly buries the nut, and chases around the yard with some of his kin. This conservation business takes some effort, but squirrels are never too busy to have a little fun. They see to be great communicators, and by helping each other watch for danger and nosy clergymen, they do not seem to allow worry to consume their energy. Instead, they allow their curious nature to lead the way, staying alert to opportunities and learning as they play. For you and me, it’s clear that we’re meant to enjoy the journey of life’s cycles even as we plan and prepare for an amazing future, taking time to pay attention to life’s lessons and to play along the way.
Wishing you a week of listening to the voices of wisdom without getting too nutty,
Fr. Michel

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About frmichelrcc

I have a degree in religious studies from the University of Wisconsin, did graduate work in theology at St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin, and also at St. Paul's University in Ottawa. I have been a Benedictine since I first professed as an oblate in 1982, making final profession in 2009. I have worked as vocations director in a large diocese in the mid-west and am a spiritual director in the Benedictine tradition. I have 3 sons, one of whom is now in God's loving embrace in eternity, and 2 grandsons, Bradley and Jacob.
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