This summer, I’ve been watching the hummingbirds whirring up to our feeder and resting on the convenient little perches while they drink. I can almost feel their hunger and need for copious amounts of sugar water to fuel their darting flights through the air.
But what struck me most the other day was the ants. The red sugar water had sunk to unnoticeable levels, so I unhooked the feeder and took it inside to wash in the kitchen sink. As I unscrewed the bottom and blasted it with water, a cluster of small black corpses floated into the sink trap: Ants, maybe 20 or 30 of them, hard to count as they were such infinitesimal slivers of DNA.
To clarify their journey, envisage our house on a hill. Our deck rises a good 15 feet above ground level, and the feeder is hung from the second-story deck, another 10 feet up. Those little slivers of DNA make their way from the ground (assuming they come from a nest in the ground), up the cement foundation, then along the rough clapboards to the source of sugar water. What infinite hunger drives them?
It reminded me of our hunger for God. In St. Augustine’s words, “…our heart is restless until it rests in you.” What won’t we do to put ourselves in the presence of our creator? What obstacles won’t we climb, what walls won’t we haul ourselves up in order to sip from God’s nectar?
When I wake in the morning and sleepily fumble for my rosary (recently bought at the Musei del Vaticani) beneath the pillow to say a few rounds before beginning my day, I feel that emptiness before prayer like an echoing chamber. Then my fingers touch the beads, and my mind repeats the endless, comforting prayer, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” As my fingers travel along the beads, my hunger is appeased, my being filled with a sense of God’s presence, with his warmth and unlimited love. I have not climbed any tall walls, but I have taken the time to put myself in God’s presence so I can be fed, so I can give back the love that overflows from him to me.
Like all writers, I am reluctant to let go of a lovely metaphor — the ants’ hunger and what they are willing to do to appease it. I have recently been trying once more to practice Ignatius’ Examen and am reading various books on it — one in particular: Sacred Story, by William M. Watson, S.J.
I feel heartened when I read his words about Ignatius and about that saint’s efforts to put himself in God’s presence; I sense ground being put beneath me, something sturdy going up inside. If I can simply get myself to do the Examen daily, then I will have a sense of climbing a wall with it, of making an effort to be where God is.
So, this summer and beyond, I am going to be like the ants and let my hunger for God drive me to his presence and to the wonder of being fed over and over, again and again, by God’s succulent love.