22nd Wednesday of Ordinary Time
Col 1:1-4; Lk 4:38-44
The refrain for our Responsorial Psalm this morning was, “I trust in the mercy of God forever.” And the first stanza uses the image of an olive tree: “I, like a green olive tree in the house of God, trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.” I’ve always liked this image, and I think each one of us monks can see himself as a favorite tree of God planted in his house. You might imagine yourself in a big pot inside the house or planted in the ground in a courtyard. We can see how carefully Fr. John Vianney tends the trees and plants in our Zen garden. We can believe that God will have infinitely more care for us, his pet olive trees. He will make sure we have plenty of water and fertilizer. At the time of pruning it may be painful and we may not understand, but we just have to trust in his Divine Providence and thank him for whatever life brings.
A recent story can demonstrate the crazy twists and turns of Divine Providence and how God can look out for something as insignificant as a chicken. Two Mondays ago our retreat house manager, Mike Sauter, was out on the back steps of Bethlehem retreat house grilling chicken. A retreatant came up to him and pointed out, “There’s a chicken in the grill.” Mike scratched his head and replied, “Yes, I know there’s chicken on the grill. I always grill chicken on Mondays.” And the retreatant clarified, “No, no, you don’t understand. There’s a chicken in the grill.” And Mike, spatula in hand, looked even more confused than ever. “Come let me show you,” said the retreatant. And Mike followed the retreatant over to a car in the parking lot. Sure enough, in the grill of one of the cars a chicken was stuck. Mike just took for granted it was one of our own chickens that run around all over the place. He wondered to himself, though, how it had managed to get so lodged in this guy’s grille while the car was parked there. Mike pried and pushed and was finally able to get the bird unstuck. It ran off happily.
Come to find out, that red car belonged to a man named Rich Nicastle who does volunteer work for us and keeps the lawns mowed at the retreat houses. He lives in West Sparta and on his way to work that morning while driving down Kysorville-Byersville Road had hit a chicken. The people who live right there have chickens that run around and sometimes are near the road. I guess this chicken had gotten a little too far into the road. Rich had thought at the time, “Oh no, I think I hit it!” and had looked in the rearview mirror, but didn’t see anything. Lo and behold, it had gotten lodged in a little grille that’s part of his bumper. Not the larger grille a little higher up, but a smaller one below. It just so happened that Rich had hit something before and had the bumper replaced. That little grille had gotten cracked and broken a bit but you couldn’t see it unless you looked closely. So the little clips holding it weren’t in place and there was just enough give to it to catch that chicken. I tested the other side of that grille with my hand and there was no give. If that lucky chicken would have hit that side it would have been killed. And it’s just a very small target to hit. For that chicken to hit it so perfectly at that speed is quite amazing. Anywhere else on the front of that car and it would have been toast. Rich said he must have driven 17 miles with that white pullet stuck in the front of his car.
Now that crazy chicken is happily integrated with our other chickens and ready to live a long life laying eggs for us. When you wake up in the morning you just never know what that day will bring. You may just be plucked up by the hair like the prophet Habakkuk with your pot of soup and whisked away to a foreign place. Whatever happens, though, is only allowed by the hand of Divine Providence and ultimately for our best good.