If you pass by the gate at the entrance to the Holy Apostles courtyard on 9th Avenue on any given day around the beginning of May, you will encounter a large lilac bush. There are many beautiful plants in our garden and on our grounds, and this flowering tree is truly a jewel in that crown. When in bloom it is startlingly beautiful—healthy, gorgeous purple flowers—and the scent is incredible. You can smell the lilacs from more than six feet away.
Every once in a while, I see someone cutting a few of the blooms to take away with them. I understand the impulse. The flowers are so cheerful, and they smell so good and wouldn’t it be great to own some of that loveliness; to possess it in some way? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to bring those lilacs close? To preserve them, so that they can be enjoyed at will?
Of course, this impulse doesn’t square with the reality of lilac blossoms severed from their source. Any short-term gain from a vase of any flowers is mediated by the reality that cut flowers don’t live forever. No flowers in any form do, and there is a lesson imbedded in all floral beauty: it is meant to be enjoyed in real time, for a limited time.
As tempting as it is to grasp what we love and hold tight, God has other plans. From the instructions that the Hebrews gather only enough manna in the wilderness for their daily needs to Jesus telling Mary Magdalene not to cling to His post-resurrection form, Scripture reminds us to be present in the now and to trust that sustenance will flow to us from the God who provides all things.
Change is embedded in the gift of life God bestows upon us. Our spiritual challenge is to inhabit the moments we are given (whatever they bring), while trusting that God will offer more as a new reality evolves. What joy it is to relish the lilacs while they are in bloom! And how reassuring is the faith that, as the lilacs fade, God provides roses.