The window of my office has a spectacular view. I overlook the parish garden, with St. John’s bell tower standing sentry on the garden’s far side. Half of the view is filled by a mature sugar maple, the largest I’ve ever encountered. This time of year the maple’s leaves are brilliant hues of red, orange, and gold. With each gust of wind leaves release their grip from the tree, giving themselves freely to the breeze and covering the garden in an autumn blanket. The wind gusts often, and each time I hear it rap at my window and cause the leaves to flurry, it strikes me as a visitor. Today it reminds me of Antonio Machado’s poem:
The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an aroma of jasmine.
“In return for the aroma of jasmine,
I’d like all the aroma of your roses.”
“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”
“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”
The wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”
During this season in the Sunday lectionary, our Gospel readings offer variations on Machado’s theme. God graces us with a brilliant and multi-hued world, full of blessing. And we are continually visited by the Ruach—Spirit, Wind—of God who brings with her gifts but also expectations. When God’s Spirit approaches and asks for the best of us, what will we give: the jewels that adorn the sugar maple, or petals withered?