Bright Eyes

by Joseph Riordon

O God, I lately learned you loved me long
Poured out upon my life gratuity
In heartbeats, leaves and flowers, stars and song,
The world a sonnet that you wrote to me.

Its lines I saw in friendship’s shining eyes
And threads of lives that crossed beyond my sight.
I love with speech that all too quickly dies
My skill despairs of ever speaking right.

You love me day by day, my life a word,
A stone set in the palace of the king.
The plan unseen, the poem faintly heard
And humble days with angels’ music ring.

You weave the image where I rest my heart:
A thread within a greater master’s art.

The first quatrain of this Shakespearean sonnet describes my experience this year, my first year of seminary, of discovering God’s real, personal love for me. In my discernment last summer, I often wondered why God wouldn’t just tell me what he wanted me to do. If he loved me, why did it seem so hard to figure out what he wanted me to do? Through formation and spiritual direction, I learned that God loves me not through commands but by giving me the gift of life. He didn’t just create my soul, but he sustains every heartbeat in my own body and in the bodies of the people around me. Every tree that I walk past, every song that I sing, in some way reflects the mind of the creator; a mind that loves me completely. The world, in all its intricate and ordinary things, is God’s message of love to us.

The second quatrain describes my first glimpses of and response to God’s love. Close friends who showed me that they loved me regardless of my strengths or failures were a first sign, to me, of the love of the Father. A few times in past years, I have met people who have truly “shining eyes” – people who are noticeably happy. I could not always understand why they were so happy, or why the threads of our lives seemed to be woven together at that moment. After receiving this love, I wanted to respond. God’s love poem to me deserves a love poem in return. My words, however, fall far short of his. He speaks through people and lives and worlds. No skill of mine can make human words that live up to the majesty of God.

This seems to be a reason for despair. In the third quatrain, however, I reflect that if God loves me through the ordinary things of every day, perhaps that is how I can love him. The builder honors the stone that he places in the king’s palace, but he doesn’t need, or even want, the stone to compose a great poem in thanksgiving. The stone thanks the builder by simply being a stone. God uses my life like a stone in a palace or like a word in a poem; although I cannot yet see the blueprint or read the whole poem, he is at work to craft my life into something beautiful. And with this trust in his art, my ordinary life is infused with heavenly beauty, because every early morning, every lunch, every class and every holy hour is given eternal significance.

I do not need to be constantly chasing greater skill or a better song of praise. My song of praise is the song that God himself sings; my life is a thread that he weaves into a worthy tapestry. I have received a beautiful place in the image, and I can rest there.

Mr. Riordon is a College II seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington.


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