Wednesday, 4 February 2009

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Shaftesbury

1 Cor 7:32-35
As you can see, my wrist is in a caste, and will be until the end of February. I did it hiking, going down a steep muddy hill in the Donheads, slipped & fell onto my hand, and here I am!
It’s not a total disaster, my other arm can still reach for a beer bottle, however, it does stop me doing all sorts of things.

Now, certain people have suggested to me that this is a great opportunity to “suffer for Jesus”. And indeed it is.
It is always good to be reminded of how many other people suffer, to be reminded of what it is like to be limited and in pain.
It is also good to have a chance to offer a sacrifice of prayer, to take my pain and unite it to that of Jesus on the Cross. As St Paul says, to make up in my own body for what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings for the sake of the Church (Col 1:24). To make my pain, physical and the emotional discomfort, into a prayer for others –as a priest, to pray for those entrusted to my care.
And it is good to do this passively, to have it thrust upon me, not just to voluntarily offer fasting sacrifices on Fridays etc. –it is very humbly to accept such things passively.

But one thing I have realised, in a new way, is that the suffering itself can be a distraction from remembering to offer it up.
I am right handed and it is my right hand that is gone. Until Friday I was not allowed to drive. I still cannot write properly or type –no emails please.
All this means that my life is a mess –disorganised, chaos, my mind is confused.
So, at the very time I could be taking this opportunity to mentally offer it all up, I am too confused to do so –which is why the habit of voluntary sacrifices the rest of the time is so important.
At present I feel I am in a missed opportunity!

Our second reading had St Paul refer to a very special opportunity: being single for the Lord, able to be about the Lord’s affairs continually. To be mentally free to think of the Lord continually, and to think of the things of the Lord, to pray for the needs of the world continually to the Lord, and to be busy DIRECTLY with the things of the Lord.
The greatness of this vocation has been extolled by the Lord Jesus, by St Paul, and by the Church in every age –it is rightly called the “higher” vocation that directly unites someone’s heart and life to the Beloved, Christ.
The “consecrated life” as it is called is a sign to all of us of a life lived for God and with God and fulfilled in God.
If a husband, to be a husband for the Lord, to love wife as means of loving God.
If a mother, to be a mother for the Lord, to love children as a means of loving God.
It’s a vocation we need to encourage –used to be many nuns, now, not fashionable, not glamorous, not “successful” enough –because God himself is lower on the priority list.
It is a life full of opportunity and a sign to us of our need to use our opportunities.

We might look at this vocation with a bit of jealous –“easy for them” etc. “I’d be saint if I had an opportunity as easy as that”.
But, how do we use the opportunities God has given US?
Like my broken hand! A perfect opportunity to life with Christ on the Cross, to pray and suffer for others. And yet, an opportunity so easily wasted!

St Paul refers to giving “your undivided attention to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:35).
Whether we are single, or married, Whether our wrist is broken, or not,
We need to offer God what we have with the opportunities that we have –because if we don’t use what he has given us we can hardly expect to be given more.

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