I am reminded of a Christmas card we received one year. It depicted several white lambs which were in sharp contrast to the deep dark bluish green background. They were following, one by one, a path leading to the traditional crib scene far away at the top of the picture. Closer to view was a little black lamb smiling and sniffing a single flower along the way. Reactions to the card varied. Most often the traditional interpretation was voiced: the black lamb would never arrive to see the Christ Child; he was ensnared by the allurements of the world. However, the often quoted words, “Don’t forget to smell the flowers along the way” came to mind also. That thought led to other reflections and interpretations.
The flower was not so realistic that it could be identified as to kind; rather, it resembled a star. Maybe the lamb did not have to go any farther; he had already found Jesus along the way. Or did he pluck the flower and bring it to the crib? Perhaps his greater awareness, making him more perceptive to the beauty coming within the context of his journey, provided him with a gift for the Child. Might we, too, see Jesus in the least expected places of our lives or even discover unique and beautiful gifts to offer Him if we were less intent on thinking and doing things according to familiar patterns?
Even if the “flowers” of our lives do happen to be allurements, can they also be signs, in reverse, of what God has done for us? As the liturgy reminds us annually when referring to Adam’s sin, “Oh happy fault which merited for us such a Redeemer!” Dark times in life can make us more humble, more appreciative of the moments of sunshine and brightness. Mistakes and failings can even be occasions of giving thanks; they can be just what we need to give us the impetus to leaving our lives of mediocrity.
—Mary E. Penrose, OSB
Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.
Read all Sister Mary E.’s reflections.