Monday 23 June 2014

To Bee or Not to Bee

By Artur Suski, S.J.


His labour is a chant, 
His idleness a tune; 
Oh, for a bee's experience 
Of clovers and of noon! 
(From The Bee, by Emily Dickinson)

There has been a lot written in the bee world during these last couple of years regarding what researchers call “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). Bee colonies throughout the world have been dying off at a dangerous rate. It was only after I had watched the documentary Vanishing of the Bees that I fully grasped the serious problem at hand.

I’ve always been a fan of bees; not only because of the honey, mind you, but also because of their loyal dedication to the good of the hive. I must admit that these little buggers are an inspiration to me. After all, while writing about God, matter, form, and creation, St. Thomas Aquinas writes that “it was impossible that one thing perfectly represent the divine goodness because of the remoteness of each creature from God. It was therefore necessary that many things represent Him, so that one thing supplied what another thing lacks” (Compendium Theologiae, no. 102). The little worker bee speaks to us something of the nature of God. All we need is to pause a moment, observe and reflect upon what we see.

To build on St. Thomas’ observation, and going from one great theologian to another, St. John Chrysostom writes: “The bee is more honoured than other animals, not because she labours, but because she labours for others”. Little bees tirelessly fly back and forth from flowers to their hives, labouring for the good of their queen and colony (I know that the same can be said about ants, but man hasn’t yet developed a taste for ant honey!). If the bees tell us something about God, it is that God tirelessly and lovingly labours for us. As bees give their own lives to save their colony in dire situations, so God offers himself completely for our sake.

Surely, more can be said about bees and their goodness. My point, however, is that God tries to touch our lives in whatever way he can. It may be through the inspiring activity of bees, or through the beauty of the “lilies of the field” (Lk 12:27). St. Peter Claver, SJ, coined the famous quote that we should “seek God in all things”. All too often we have preconceived notions of where we can find God. It is as if we try to put God in a box. We tell ourselves that God can only be here, or God can only be there. We need to develop an openness in allowing God to touch our lives on God’s terms, not on our own terms. True, we try to help God by disposing ourselves to an encounter with Him, but God’s ways are not our ways (cf. Is 55:8-9); the possibilities are endless how God can reach us. Let us not limit His work by being close-minded and stubborn. If we allow them, even the bees will speak to us of God.

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