April 8, 2009
Isaiah 50:4-9 (Third Song of the Servant revisited: "The Lord has given me a well-trained tongue")
Psalm 69:8-10, 21-22, 31-34 (I have become an outcast to my brothers...because zeal for your house consumes me)
Matthew 26:14-25 (Judas is paid thirty pieces of silver to lead the authorities to a place where Jesus can be arrested)
I'm posting a little ahead as I am taking the family this Wednesday morning to the Holy Hill shrine in Wisconsin.
The visit serves a multitude of purposes. As a purported place of miraculous healing, we are making an offering and prayer that the place will continue to offer hope to the many who visit, as did Brother Jesse, to whom I am indebted for introducing me to the place. For me, it is also a pilgrimage of prayer and meditation on the sacred events that will be celebrated by the Church over the next four days. It is also a chance to get away from home, something that's not easy to do for many reasons. We are being blessed with fair, seasonal weather for the day which will be welcome. The drive there would not be as pleasant under a fresh coating of ice or snow, both of which are all too possible for April. I hope to have something to share upon my return.
We are returned today to the third song of the Servant; it was also part of the Palm Sunday readings. The reading combined with the excerpts from Psalm 69 prompt me to think about the indelible character cast on the spirit of those receiving Holy Orders; and I will extend this to include the ministers of Christian churches beyond Catholicism.
After I was ordained, there was a marked change in the way people who knew me approached me. My colleagues in music ministry treated me differently than they had in the past. I didn't think I had changed - while music had been moved to the back seat, as it were, I hadn't stopped singing. Indeed, both priests under whom I served actively urged me to continue to do it as time permitted.
People have this preconceived notion of how they expect ministers to be. In some ways, you enter into ministry and you presumably fit a non-existent mold; or at least the uniform. But what happens when you don't fit? And how long does it take before you realize you don't, let alone convince others in a good way that you're not supposed to?
I'm sure there is many a frustrated priest or minister who had high hopes when they began, only to wonder if it's all worth the myriad of administrative tasking that can go with the job. It's stressful, and gets in the way of the very message that they believe God wanted them to deliver. Although I was not in an administrative role, I saw quite clearly what it can do to good people. And how it affects them as leaders ultimately affects the rest of us.
I mentioned in a recent post that I had somehow made a few enemies through little of my own doing. While I became conscious of it, and wondered who they were and why they felt that way (something over which I was mystified at the time), I also had several supporters. These came mainly from the more senior members of the parish; the ladies and men who would make it to daily Mass and volunteered in many background areas of service, like cleaning and decorating the church. A couple of them in particular I would always enjoy engaging in conversation. They were retired, and I saw them as modern day prayer warriors.
Now the term 'prayer warrior' is not something you hear in Catholic circles; this would seem to be more of a thing you'd hear in evangelical or pentecostal circles. But praying is what these people did. And they prayed ceaselessly - out of devotion, out of thanksgiving; for their families and loved ones in any and all walks of life; for anything and every good thing under the sun and the Son. They prayed in words, and they prayed through the work for which they volunteered.
I acknowledge that I recognized this - not due to the desire to 'answer the call' and undergo all the training that ultimately led me to ordination. I mean, as an ordained minister I recognized this almost immediately - but I would have likely realized it anyway; it would simply have taken a little longer. These few were 'wholly devoted" as Steven Curtis Chapman might write; they 'got it' as Pastor Paul might say. Even if they didn't fully 'get it', they were well on their way without any outside help.
They are one of the reasons I am drawn to make the pilgrimage to Holy Hill. It's something any of them might love to do, and for all I know, maybe they did; and maybe they didn't...and maybe they didn't have to.
I will thank God that he has given me a 'well-trained tongue' in the ability and desire to share my journey in faith, with the hope that it may encourage anyone who might happen by to read. I will commit myself once more to see the sacred in all things, thus tearing down personal walls of separation. I want to pick up where these wonderful people might have left off in life. I will pray for people I've never met whose needs may be unknown to anyone but God. And I hope that in doing so, that Divine Power will direct my steps ever more fully to being the best I can be in everything I do.