Sunday, December 11, 2016

What did you go out to the desert to see?

See how crabby he looks?
That would be me if I had
to wear a hairshirt or
a tunic made of reeds.

In my short stay in the monastery, I often used to ponder this passage from Today's Gospel.  When things got hard, or just didn't go my way, I thought about it.  I still think about it frequently - because things rarely seem to go 'my way'.

As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. - Matthew 11:7-8

I think of Walter Ciszek many times, when things are difficult.  I copied the following from 'He Leadeth Me' by Fr. Ciszek, for an older post, and reprint it here.

It seems to me Fr. Ciszek is an excellent model and help for the Christian, on how to conduct himself in a hostile environment.

I was stunned at the depth of feeling and prejudice against the Church that came spilling out. The more so under the circumstances. [...] There was at least a minimal sense of camaraderie among the political prisoners in the cell, a certain companionship in misery. But not for me when it became known I was a priest. I was cursed at; I was shunned; I was looked down upon and despised. Against the background of my Polish Catholic upbringing, where a priest was always treated as something special... this reaction to a priest on the part of my fellow prisoners made me by turns angry and bewildered. I was at a loss to understand it and furious at the added injustice of this stupid, blind prejudice. 
In the words of Isaiah, I felt "despised and the most abject of men".
[Christ] too sought someone to comfort him and found none. 
As for the humiliation I felt because I did not get the proper respect as a priest of God, was "the servant greater than his master"? Our Lord said to his disciples, "If they despised me, they will despise you. 
In how many ways too, had I allowed this admixture of self, this luxury of feeling sorry for myself, to cloud my vision and prevent me from seeing the current situation with the eyes of God... Under the worst imaginable circumstances, a man remains a man with free will and God stands ready to assist him with his grace. Indeed, more than that, God expects him to act in these circumstances... For these situations too, these people and places and things, are God's will for him now. 
He may not be able to change the 'system'. any more than I could change conditions in that prison, but he is not for that reason excused from acting at all. Many men feel frustrated, or disappointed, or even defeated, when they find themselves face to face with a situation or an evil they cannot do much about. ... But God does not expect a man single-handedly to change the world or overthrow all evil or cure all ills. 
What each man can change, first of all is himself. And each will have - indeed, must have - some influence on the people God brings into his life each day. He is expected to be a Christian, to influence them for good. He will in some small way at least touch their lives too, and it is in that touching that God will hold him responsible for the good or ill he does. In that simple truth lies the key to any understanding of the mystery of divine providence and ultimately of each man's salvation. " - He Leadeth Me

 Another fine Jesuit witness is that of Alfred Delp.

"[T]he great question to us is whether we are still capable of being truly shocked or whether it is to remain so that we see thousands of things and know that they should not be and must not be, and that we get hardened to them. How many things have we become used to in the course of the years, of the weeks and months, so that we stand unshocked , unstirred, inwardly unmoved..
Advent is a time when we ought to be shaken and brought to a realization of ourselves. The necessary condition for the fulfillment of Advent is the renunciation of the presumptuous attitudes and alluring dreams in which and by means of which we always build ourselves imaginary worlds. In this way we force reality to take us to itself by force - by force, in much pain and suffering..
This shocked awakening is definitely part of experiencing Advent. But at the same time there is much more that belongs to it. Advent is blessed with God's promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time. These promises kindle the inner light in our hearts. Being shattered, being awakened - only with these is life made capable of Advent. In the bitterness of awakening, in the helplessness of "coming to," in the wretchedness of realizing our limitations, the golden threads that pass between heaven and earth in these times reach us." - Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J.

"Saint Ignatius in Glory and the Work of the Jesuits "  
- Battistello Caracciolo

1 comment:

  1. A very handsome and holy face with no trace of rigidity whatsoever ...

    "Scientists reconstructed the face of St. Nicholas – here’s what they found"

    Elijah is a favorite of mine and I see no grumpiness in him. <3


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