|Swirl How, Lake District (UK) near Coniston Water, photo take August 16th 2008|
My "Desktop" from this weekend's parish bulletin.
Do you ever experience discouragement? I do hope so!
Don't get me wrong. It's not that I want you all to be discouraged. It's just that I would feel a whole lot better knowing that I am not alone in these feelings. Sometimes things seem to be going really well, often for an extended period of time, but sooner or later one comes face to face with the fact that it is not by one's own efforts that the work gets done. It doesn't matter what the work is: priestly ministry, parenting, professional work of any other kind, particularly that kind of work (and I can't readily think of any work that does not fall into this category) that involves relating with others and achieving goals.
I think that when one experiences discouragement, one is brought face to face with one's true self: with one's limitations, one's weakness, one's pride... It must be awful to face this alone. Thankfully, none of us need be truly alone with these thoughts. There are times when we might feel alone, unable to share our feelings with others, perhaps out of embarrassment, but often out of pride and a sense of shame. It can take time for these feelings of inability to communicate to pass. But we do have Someone Else we can and must communicate with: and that is our loving and merciful Father who looks upon us his children with kindness and understanding. He dwells in the depths of our heart, and we need to seek alone-ness with Him in prayer, perhaps just saying nothing, just being in His presence, whether it's in our private room at home, or going out for a drive, a ride on the bike, sitting by the side of a lake, a walk with the dog…
Or being before His Son in the Blessed Sacrament who knows what it is like to be, humanly speaking, forsaken. "My God, my God, have you forsaken me" He exclaimed from the Cross. These are the first words of Psalm 21. The psalm certainly expresses that experience of alone-ness, but it quickly goes on to sentiments of trust: "Yet you are holy... In you our fathers trusted; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not disappointed."
There is also the beautiful sacrament of Confession. I thank God so much that I have the opportunity of certainty of God’s forgiveness. In Confession one opens one’s heart out to Christ in the person of His minister, the priest. For me, it is also to a brother priest. And as we are absolved from our sins, we are reminded that “God, the Father of mercies … has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.”
We all know enough about the limitations of St Peter and yet Our Lord entrusted him with the keys to the kingdom of heaven and the ministry of loosing us from our sins. We know that if our sins are “loosed” by the power of the keys on earth, so they shall be loosed in heaven.
Each of us, too, has been entrusted with great treasures - above all our faith. At our baptism, along with faith we received the theological virtues of hope and charity, by which we place all our hope in God - hope in His mercy, His forgiveness, His strength, His promises of eternal life - knowing that His love (charity) dwells within us.
Now, I feel very encouraged! I hope you do too!
I shall be going away for a time of vacation on Tuesday, staying with a priest friend of mine (also an Englishman but now permanently resident in the US) in Vermont. Rest assured of my prayers for you in my daily Mass and times of prayer. Wishing you the peace that comes only from Our Lord Jesus Christ. Fr John.