There is a small statue of St Francis of Assisi in a quiet spot in our garden. It reminds me of the life and spirituality of this saint who found the presence of God in all creation and even preached the gospel to animals.
I can see this statue as I sit on a cushion torn by squirrels and look at the bird feeder that the squirrels particularly enjoy. They have even figured out how to use the squirrel guard to launch themselves onto the feeder. I want to preach at these squirrels. I want to bring hellfire and damnation. I want to see repentance from their thieving and destructive ways. I want them to change!
But, I can see St Francis standing there in the garden with stone birds perched on his stone hands. I recognize the lack of peace and absence of love in my attitude toward the squirrels. I recognize my own selfishness. I recognize my own need for repentance, change, and healing. I recognize how hard it is to love my enemies whether they have bushy tails or walk upright.
I even start to imagine a conversation with St Francis. He thanks me on behalf of the squirrels for providing bedding for their nest from the cushions of our patio furniture and food for their young from the bird seed. Once again, the hardness of my own heart is revealed.
As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis on Friday, I pray that the love of God will so soften my heart that I may preach the Gospel, the Good News of God's Love, even to Brother Squirrel.