Posted August 10, 2011 in Word Made Flesh:
Heaven is Very Near

by Fr. Pat McNulty.

Since the Incarnation, since God became man, all of creation was mysteriously changed. Since then, everything is more than it seems.

I love it! Listen to this greeting card: "Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow’."

Sounds New Age-y to me!

Hardly! It happens to be from the famous Talmud, which is almost a thousand years old.

I’ve heard of it, but I’m not sure what it is.

It’s an authoritative body of Jewish law and lore which was accumulated over a period of about seven centuries. Among other things, it’s filled with profound rabbinic teaching and holy imagery.

The saying about angels and the grass (a saying which had been somewhat popularized from the original) comes out of a deep sense of a heavenly sway upon life on earth, here and now, all the way down to simple grass in the field.

It points to what we might see happening in the simplest things of God’s creation if we were really attuned to them.

I’ve often thought how blessed we would be if we had more of that awareness when we look at the images Christ uses in Scripture to open up the mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of the impenetration of the divine into all of creation, things as little and simple as the grass.

What? You think that because God became Man, it is now theologically sound to imagine angels sent by God to help grass grow?

Well, if we want to develop this awareness, we shouldn’t start there. If we do, the mystery will be too much for us. We’d have to start with something very simple.

After all, Jesus uses the simplest things to unveil the most profound mysteries—like the things of the parables—seeds and soil, rocks and thorns, mustard seeds and trees.

And once Jesus uses these everyday images to reveal to us the mysteries of the Incarnation, they are no longer just images. They become something very special.

Well, what are they then?

To answer that I think we would have to spend a lot more time looking at them with new eyes.

Our Christian Tradition tells us that when God became man and came to earth, something very profound happened to all of creation and that heaven and earth are meant to come together for us in a new way, and I would say, in a way similar to that of the people of the Talmud.

St. Paul even uses the powerful image of "groaning" when he speaks of what is going on behind the scenes in all of creation now. (Rm.8:22.) Maybe we poor mortals should start "groaning" a little bit, too, try harder to connect with those everyday images found in the Gospels and see where they take us.

Like, give me an example!

Right there, that lady walking down the street with her dog.

I beg your pardon!

That magnificent story in Matthew’s Gospel—it’s the Sunday Gospel for August 14 this year—about the Canaanite woman, the foreigner, who asks Jesus to heal her daughter of an evil spirit and he tells her no, because he had not come for foreigners yet (Mt 15:21-28).

Then she makes that magnanimous proclamation of humility and faith when she boldly says that even the dogs eat the scraps from the master’s dinner table. (The daughter was healed!)

So now, what if every time we saw a lady and her dog we thought of that Gospel? Together they could serve as a connection—an everyday image to get our attention and take us to the Gospel.

Not as profound as angels bending over grass whispering, but perhaps if we bring these images together in our everyday life…. O o-o o-o-h, I just thought of another one!

Another what?

Another image and it just came out of the blue: I suddenly remembered I need a hair cut—too much "grow, grow" up top—and it brought to mind that gospel story of the woman who wept over Jesus’ feet and then dried them with her hair.

Your hair’s not long enough for that!

It’s not about how long my hair is. It’s about a simple everyday situation in my life that brought that particular woman to my mind, a situation which can then take me into the Gospel.

That’s nice, but given the feeble theological base many people stand on today, I don’t think it would be long before this would all turn into yet another contemporary childish bible "tool"—The Gospel For Meaningful Camp Fires—and once again the Gospels would lose all sense of The Holy, of The Word of God.

Strange you would mention it, but we just had a Sunday Gospel where Jesus tells us that the things of the Kingdom have been reserved by the Father for "little children."

Yes, we do have to be very careful that we do not get childish with the holy Gospels, but to remain ever childlike in a way similar to that found in the Talmud.

And with childlike hearts, perhaps we would begin to see things in the Gospels which, because we’ve grown so accustomed to them, we miss—things as astounding as angels whispering to the grass.


Well, how about an angel bending over a young maiden whispering, "Hail, full of Grace"? Or how about a couple of angels standing at the entrance of a tomb saying, "He is risen, He is not here!"

We already know that.

Really? Then why, when we talk about angels today, do we so seldom talk about the real angels in the Gospels—or in the rest of the Scripture for that matter? Why are we not as excited and enthralled about the stories of angels in Scripture as we are about other images and stories about them?

And perhaps because we don’t pay enough attention to those everyday images by which we could daily re-connect to the Gospels, we also miss those angels sent by God, angels who are bending over us trying to whisper precious things to us.

Like what? "Grow, grow"?

Well, that wouldn’t be a bad place for the angels to start.

I guess so. It does kinda make me think of that parable Jesus told about why all them seeds didn’t grow because…. Aarghhhhhh, now you got me doin’ it!

Don’t blame me. Talk to the angels. That’s their job. I just water the grass.


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