NGUYEN: Rediscover the Love that never ends

April 10, 2018

Photo by Sister Maria Goretti Thuy Nguyen, OP.

Have you seen or heard of the significance of the dogwood flower? It came to me as an inspiration. I was thrilled when I first heard of it.

Since then, the dogwood flower has become part of my daily meditation and contemplation. I recall when I was visiting the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, in Nashville, Tenn., along with my classmate sisters from Houston.

It was about fifteen years ago, during a community recreation time, I encountered an elderly Dominican sister. She was patiently cutting out each flower outlined on white paper. So, I was curious and inquired what kind they were and what they are for. With delight she said, “These are dogwood flowers.”

I was amazed by the fact that even nature can sympathize with Jesus’ pain.

Then, she continued explaining to me that the four petals of the flower form the shape of the cross. On the center of the outer edge of each petal there are small holes which remind us of nail prints, and the tips of the petals are rusty on one side and brown-red on the other which represent the spikes that pierced the hands and feet of our Lord on the cross. And in the center of the flower there is a green cluster which recalls the crown of thorns.

I was amazed by the fact that even nature can sympathize with Jesus’ pain.

It sounds like a legend, doesn’t it? While there is no evidence that the tale is true, the legend persists. It not only attempts to explain why the dogwood flower has its unique characteristics, but also helps in elevating the mind and heart to God through nature. The effect of this story remains invaluable to me. Just as St. Francis of Assisi was always finding and loving God through nature, dogwood flowers have become a perpetual reminder of God’s unending love for me.

Living in this exuberant Easter season, we are overwhelmed with a joyous celebration and tend to forget what had preceded Easter. As I meditate on the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection, I cannot dismiss from my mind the gruesome and shameful death which Christ had undertaken for the sin of the whole world, including mine.

Indeed, now is a perfect time to meditate on God’s saving love, since we were just intensely gazing at the cross of Christ a few weeks ago. On that Good Friday, the amazing and unconditional love of God was stretched out on the cross for you and I. Jesus was physically injured by the buffets and blows of those who rejected him. Today, he is still saddened by the weight of the sins of the whole world.

The spring blooming is not complete if dogwood flowers are not in the picture. They actually bloom in the Northeast regions of the U.S. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be in Steubenville, Ohio, during this time of the year to witness with my own eyes the exquisite flowering dogwood blooms. They are gorgeous!

Since we are in springtime, it is a perfect time to meditate on the significance of the dogwood flower: it is a great means to fathom God’s suffering and unconditional love for humankind. The purpose of contemplating the dogwood flower is not to be in despair or hopelessness but to appreciate and rejoice, for the Lord has truly risen! Alleluia!

Truly, contemplating on the cross of Jesus Christ is rediscovering “the love that never ends” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 25).

The “love that never ends” is the Kerygma, the First Proclamation, which Pope Francis exhorts: “On the lips of the catechist must ring out over and over: ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you’” (The Joy of the Gospel, 164).

By the nature of our Baptism, no Christian is exempt from this great and noble task, ringing out of the message of God’s unending love to others.

Surely, there is no Easter Sunday, if there was first not a Good Friday. The agonizing Jesus on the cross is God’s benevolent love for us. This should be the core reason for our Easter celebration. Easter is not about the nice decorations with pastel colors, sweet candies or cute bunnies, but it is a true joy springing from the heart because there was someone who died for love and now lives for love, Jesus Christ.

Let us embrace the richness and beauty of nature, for it speaks of God’s unconditional love. May we always seek the deeper significance of all things in creation, so to rediscover “the love that never ends” (CCC, 25).

Sister Maria Goretti Thuy Nguyen, OP, is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.