It is so very penetrating and momentous when God communicates with us through the scriptures. I mean not just the everyday tuning in, where any one of us might gather water to quench our thirst. But the days when He really reaches us with His lessons. (Even the ones we might rather not want to hear). The times when we are shocked into pristine focus and mysterious hair-raising clarity, so that our very core is broken open and penetrated with His words. Saturated with His Love. That happened to me this week. In fact it seems to be happening to me more and more. Co-incidences, too coincidental to be comfortable.
I am absolutely loving university, the community already feels like a family, so much Love, so much sharing and support and discovery. So diverse and yet so united, all beginning together, all on our journey, all in a sense equal. All one. And then we all go to Mass. And then we all reverently queue up to take the Eucharist, and then from amongst everyone I am singled out. I have a blessing.
On days this grace bestowed is such a special honour, a blessing, a personal call which I so treasure, and feel so very especially chosen to receive. But then there are certain times of the month when I hurt with such an intense aching, punishing pain, that the word longing does not do justice to my feelings of wanting, yearning, needing to be embraced, and held and accepted by receiving the Eucharist. And in my greatest need I am held other, I am denied. Having initially felt very special, the last few weeks I have felt raw. In a message to my parish priest this week I finished with the words, “The pain of being the only student receiving a blessing at uni Mass is annihilating me. I keep trying to look at it as a special privilege and Grace, but the wooden cross at times is sharper than a sword!”
Of course the bitter cross is mine alone to bear, and so silence met my message. The following day I went to my sister church in the next village. I was asked if I would do the reading by one of the parishioners, as the assigned reader was not present. I rarely get to read in church, and although my legs go wobbly and my hands go shaky, I Love to do it for God. So I got up to read and this is what I read.
Wisdom 2:23-3:9 God made man imperishable, he made him in the image of his own nature; it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world, as those who are his partners will discover. But the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God, no torment shall ever touch them. In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die, their going looked like a disaster, their leaving us, like annihilation; but they are in peace. If they experienced punishment as men see it, their hope was rich in immortality; slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be. God has put them to the test and proved them worthy to be with him; he has tested them like gold in a furnace, and accepted them as a holocaust. When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out; as sparks run through the stubble, so will they. They shall judge nations, rule over people’s, and the Lord will be their king for ever. They who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in Love; for grace and mercy await those he has chose.
Needless to say I didn’t quite make it to the end in one piece. How mortifying. I got to the word annihilation and the shock, and the clarity of the unfolding passage threw me completely, and made my throat wobble, and the more it wobbled the worse things got, and the worse things got the more tears came. It was mortifying, not knowing whether to carry on or to stop. If only to save the embarrassment of the parishioners. Thankfully there were only a handful of people at Mass. Thankfully they all perfectly sat there as if nothing out of the blue had happened. Silly me. To hide my distress I tried to read on, and failed badly ……
…… Psalm 33:2-3, 16-19 I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise always on my lips; in the lord my soul shall make it boast. The humble shall hear and be glad. The lord turns his face against the wicked to destroy their remembrance from the earth. The Lord turns his eyes to the just and his ears to their appeal. They call and the Lord hears and rescues them in all their distress. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save. * I will bless the Lord at all times.
I had spiritual direction the following morning, where my embarrassment, humiliation, and broken-hearted, shameful, hurting, anger, exposed and released itself. Unsure and exhausted I come away, hoping that I can accept the opportunities which God has provided me with today, with a little more grace.
Today I finally got round to reading Malcom Muggeridge Something Beautiful for God. Mother Teresa says that learning humility is learning to be humiliated with a smile on your face.
So often the words spoken and unspoken in life, from others and from myself, fall so very short. In poetry I can express the deepest hollows of my soul and somehow make them beautiful by allowing them to be filled with God. In life my own spoken words are no currency at all, short change. And then its others words that keep me. Sometimes I just don’t understand why I am doing this to myself. It’s now incomprehensible to me why I once dared to go in to my local Catholic Church, and ask, and allow God, to do with me what He will.
……… Malcom Muggeridge Something Beautiful for God 1971 Lion Hudson Plc …….. “The Christian religion finds expression thus, in the love of those who love Christ, more comprehensibly and accessibly than in metaphysical or ethical statements. It is an experience rather than a conclusion, a way of life rather than an ideology; grasped through the imagination rather than understood through the mind, belonging to the realm of spiritual rather than intellectual perception; reaching quite beyond the dimension of words and ideas. As St Augustine on that wonderful occasion at Ostia with his mother shortly before she died, when they were carried together to somewhere near the very presence of God, and then, returning, found words as clumsy instruments as a surgeon might find a hacksaw, or an artist a house-painter’s brush – ‘And while we spoke of the eternal Wisdom, longing for it and straining for it with all the strength of our hearts, for one fleeting instant we reached out and touched it. Then with a sigh, leaving our spiritual harvest bound to it we returned to the sound of our own speech, in which each word has a beginning and an ending – far far different from your word, our lord, who abides in himself for ever, yet never grows old and gives new life to all things.’
As it is so beautifully put in the opening chapter of the fourth Gospel: ‘And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth’.”