I don’t know what heaven will smell like, but I’ve imagined it scented like the crabapple blossoms and white lilacs that filled our neighborhoods with aroma this spring.
In refreshing walks with family, after being holed up too long, those springtime scents seemed especially pungent. “The fragrance of eternity?” I wondered.
Just before the blossoms burst, our churches reopened, heightening my awareness of the divine. At a daily Mass, our priest noted the freshly popped florals, anointing the grounds with new life.
We’d just listened to John 16:16-20, where Jesus overhears his disciples’ confusion over his earlier pronouncement that in “a little while, you will no longer see me.” They don’t have the hindsight understanding of his death and resurrection. Jesus assured his friends, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”
Fr. Paul offered us assurance, too, noting that though the world rejoices now even as those with eyes of faith weep, just as the blossoms on the trees returned, God’s goodness will prevail in the end.
“Everything comes back around,” he said, adding that, though it would have seemed impossible only months earlier, spring did return, and the spring of Jesus’ promises is coming, too. “Just wait. It’s going to be worth it.”
The world lavishes in pleasures of this world, while those with faith know our time of dancing has not yet come, but it will come.
Jesus emphasized this before his death, and in John 16:22, repeats his message: “You also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”
What greater news could there be?
What is your anguish? What plagues your heart? What troubles your soul? Jesus reminds us it’s temporary. Not that we shouldn’t feel it, nor try to relieve or eliminate suffering when possible. But if we are in a time of grief, emptiness, depression, confusion or loneliness, we have our Lord’s promise that springtime, with a full flowering of eternal love and peace, awaits.
Fr. Paul advised us to “Just hang on,” and I would add: Yes, and with an expectant heart, knowing you are loved and thought of by the Father from the beginning of time.
As Elizabeth Kelly reminds in her study of women in the New Testament, “Jesus Approaches,” “(God) is always in pursuit of you. You’re always on his mind. And he says, ‘I love you, beyond all limits…I have called you by name.’ Let us trust him and give him our hand.”
May we recognize and inhale the fragrance of faith that wafts daily into our paths, leading us to the eternal flowering, where the scents of spring will not fade after a few days or weeks, but be an infinite permeation of our eternal reward – with all the smells – prepared for those who wait with patience and trust.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on June 29, 2020.]