The Parable of the Butterfly

We are caterpillars. We go through this earthly life wingless and immature. Some of us may think we are better or more beautiful than the others, but we are not. We hunger, but like Eric Carle’s Hungry Caterpillar we eat junk on the 6th day until it hurts, then figure out we are made for something more. On the seventh day we find that nice big green leaf and feel much better! A naive observer might see the cocoon and think it is the death of the caterpillar, and in some way it is, a death to the old self. However, it is not a tomb, but more like a womb. The chrysalis is not death, but maturation. An enthralling transformation to a new self. Not only are butterflies much more beautiful and graceful than caterpillars, but they can fly!

Death is not the end. (Do not be afraid of the cocoon!) We are made to soar in the heavens. The Catholic Church uses in its tradition the image or icon of a butterfly to symbolize eternal life. It is Christ’s love, a love that cannot be surpassed in its enormity, that transforms us. Christ is Love. Love transforms us.

Sunset Moth of Madagascar: The World’s Most Beautiful Insect. Ironic that it is Sunset?

All people have hope of heaven. If someone lived in a self-sacrificing way, they lived imitating Christ whether they called themselves Christian or not. When they loved generously they let God in, they let Good in. The opposite of love is selfishness. Sin is self-serving. I believe there are some people that are so “wrapped up in themselves” that when they die, they don’t desire to go beyond themselves with Christ. Could hell be a great loneliness? A door locked from the inside, as C.S. Lewis said?

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis, is the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia. There is a soldier in heaven that did not know Jesus. He didn’t know how he got to heaven never acknowledging Jesus. But the soldier is told in effect (by Jesus) that you sought and loved the truth, and I am the Truth. Therefore, when you championed Truth you championed Me. Edith Stein aka St. Teresa Benedicta also believed this as she’s quoted, “When you seek truth, you seek God whether you know it or not.” In John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” The same goes for Love, Beauty, and Goodness. God is Love, God is Goodness. God is Beauty.  All of them simultaneously. Therefore, if it isn’t true it can’t be beautiful, it can’t be love, and it can’t be good.

“Do not accept anything as love which lacks truth”

~ St. Teresa Benedicta

I often share the parable of the butterfly in sympathy cards. Well, a shortened version. I think it is comforting to those that have lost a loved one. Because they knew their love so intimately. It seems in 2020 there have been so many that have passed away. I don’t personally know anyone that has died from the coronavirus this year; but many other things: heart attacks, cancer, car accidents. One such was my friend Catherine. We were friends from my year in Houston at the Catholic Worker. In the live-streamed-eulogy her brother said (paraphrased) that in a world obsessed with consumption, Catherine was a sower, planting seeds, nourishing and helping others grow. Beautiful! Peter Maurin co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement said instead of being a go-getter, be a go-giver. I always loved that idea and let it propel me into my own volunteer work throughout the years. Catherine was generosity embodied; she was definitely not wrapped up in herself or overly concerned with earthly material goods. I have no doubt she “has her wings,” so to speak and is enjoying what we Catholics call the beatific vision.  

As we set goals for ourselves, let us try to be go-givers instead of go-getters. May our goals be focused on transforming our lives and others’ with Love.

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