In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Lord likens the lilies to disciples. They are God’s true catechumens. He says, “Be fellow catechumens with the lilies,” but the ESV renders it simply, “consider” and the KJV had “take thought.” That simply isn’t strong enough, nor does it give the lilies their due.
Worry not that these lilies are not the same flower that we know by that name, they are simply wild flowers. They cover the fields in brief but glorious beauty. The lilies grow by God’s grace and favor. They do the will of the Lord in being what they are called to be. They do not strive to feed the poor or cure disease or be strong wood for houses and ships. They do not try to better themselves nor are they discontent with their lot. They are good for nothing, save this single thing: they are beautiful as they were meant to be. They grow and bloom and die and never complain or toil or spin. They never chafe at the lot they have been assigned.
God loves beauty. He delights in His creation and its goodness – even after that goodness has been tainted and corrupted by our sin.
The lilies are true disciples, true catechumens. Each day they learn anew day what the Lord would have of them, what the Lord would bestow, rain and nutrients and sun, that is to say, they learn each day what it is to be a lily, to live by grace.
And, significantly, they die. They live and bloom and then are tossed into the oven. But they are true catechumens. They follow in the way of the Cross. The Lamb went without complaint. So do they. Their God makes a promise. He mocks death with their blooms. For though they die, the seed falls to the earth and is re-born, rises again, and bears a crop a hundredfold, and no matter how Satan might rage, he cannot stop the beauty and the eternal optimism of the lily.
We might find ourselves more at peace in the warmer months if we learned to look upon dandelions this way. Look at how they bloom and spread and sing their Maker’s praise all over our fair city and state. Not only do they grow in our lawns and fields and ditches, but they cannot be stopped by pavement, rocks, or chemical concoctions of the most noxious sort. Be fellow catechumens with the dandelions, reaching to heaven, accepting what they are, blooming where they are planted, trusting in God to provide the sun and rain and nourishment, no matter what the devil or the groundskeeper says or does.
The lilies and dandelions fulfill the creator’s design even though they are thwarted by the curse we thrust upon them. They groan in eager expectation of the revelation of the sons of God, the end and culmination of the cross when the saints will no longer be hidden and the finishedness “it is finished” will be finished. They thrive at being lilies even while rebel men chafe against being men. Fallen men lust, in their satanic vanity, to be gods. What irony then, that that which we lusted for against our nature, should give that up and take on the very nature we so despise. Indeed, God has become a Man, and lived on this earth like a lily, quiet and hidden, fulfilling His Father’s purpose and intent, while men full of lust and hatred ignored Him. He too, lived, and bloomed, and died, cast into the fire of God’s wrath – more innocent even than a lily- sacrificed for sins He did not commit, suffering for rebel men who hated Him. But like the lilies, He was faithful. He knew His Master’s voice better than the ox who knew His. He was obedient unto death, confident of His Father’s promise, of life to come, and of the worthiness of the prize which He sought.
His Father’s Word is true. The Seed of Mary fell to the earth with bruised heel, but has sprung up again, like a lily, like a dandelion at an airport, fellow catechumens of the lily, are His fruit, His harvest, and His joy.
For if the Lord delights in the beauty of the lily that does what it is supposed to, live, bloom, and die, so much more does He delight in catechumens who repent, and die, and are reborn, who are baptized, absolved, and eat His Body and drink His Blood. He delights in those who receive what He has won, who become, by grace, what they were intended, all along, to be: His own dear children and bride, His friends and companions, His lover and His bounty.
The Lord did not become a lily or a sparrow, but a man, a catechumen also, who grew in the ways and knowledge of the Lord, who laid down His life to take it up again, who learned what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”
As we age, our bodies fail and grow sick, as our friends and loved ones depart or are taken from us, yes, as we die, let us die in faith, as the lily, without complaint, as the Lamb to the slaughter, knowing that Our Father is good and will bring us through death and into life. He who has given us His Son, how will He not give us all thing? Let us live this day in what God gives, receiving from Him not as our due, as prisoners receiving disgusting food by demand, but His grace, daily bread, sunshine and water, more than we need, better than we deserve: forgiveness, a community of fellow catechumens, human and otherwise, and His bodily, human presence taken into His Divinity as He deigns to come to us, for us, in His holy Body and Blood.
Here is food for catechumens, food that strengthens and preserves faith, that gives a bloom, for a moment, yes, but also that gives seed that will be known only in death. Today we are, tomorrow we are thrown into the oven, and on the day after tomorrow, sometimes called the third day, we will rise again to new life, to perfect union with the reborn lilies of heaven, the lions and lambs, sharks and kittens, and even, by grace, the saints of God of great renown and one another, but most profoundly, most central and necessary, perfect and holy union with God Himself, the Merciful Catechist, Our Lord the Christ. Till then, we have a foretaste, a meal to sustain and prepare, a joining of heaven and earth, and we boldly proclaim, “This is the day the Lord has made.”
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Cicero, in translation, writes: “all translators are traitors.”
We suffer under the curse of Babel. We are slaves to English and the work of our traitorous, translating fathers. They took the Greek Word μαθητai and rendered it according to the Latin as discipulus, from the Latin object of discere. A discipulus is a learner, as so also is a μαθητής. But disciple is the wrong wordin modern English wrong. It reeks of discipline.
The best word I can imagine is catechumen. The twelve were more than pupils. They were following in the way of the cross, learning the ways of God in His creation, intervening, and what He would have of them. A catechumen is more a child than a pupil, but also more of a soldier under orders than a child, and more of a friend than a soldier.