Thursday, July 3, 2014

Scripture Has Deep Effect

Always, Scripture has deep effect.  The Lord speaks and explains all to us through and in Scripture.  He speaks to us through and in suffering, as well, for He Is Love, and His Love suffers much, and that is not bad but good.

From the Book of Amos in today's first reading at Holy Mass, or for anyone reading Scriptures, any day, and reads Amos chapter 7:

"Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'” 

How vivid is the Lord's action in Amos' life.  He "took" him from his work following the flock and essentially had Amos follow His will for Amos' life and the Lord's needs and purposes.  In Amos' case, it was to prophesy to the Israelites.
Is this not marvelous and good?  Amos yet could not see himself in the role in which the Lord "took" him and "said" for him to do and say.  Amos thought of himself yet as a herdsman and one who harvested the bark from sycamore trees (commercially and practical, useful bark in that time period). 

But prophet he was made, and prophesying he did do, according to God's taking and saying for Amos to be and do.  Amos had not asked for this task nor job description and label.  

One time in this past year, my spiritual father, on the phone, reacted yet again to the rugged living conditions and how I was taken advantage of by people in the world.  But he pointed out that it was certainly more austere in the hermit life and added, "After all, you asked for this!"

No, not in so many words, and I pointed out that I had never asked to be a hermit nor particularly wanted to be a hermit.  At first I sensed I was being taken into the hermit life due to repeated situations that defied other possibilities, and there would then be odd instances of hermit life presented either within or in the temporal daily events.  

However, I never wanted to use the term "hermit", for it was frightening to me and also very misunderstood by my Protestant family and friends as well as many Catholics who wondered at the defining shift in my life.  It was only when my angel appeared in a dream the week after I moved into a lovely, small home that I thought was to be where I could remain for whatever years God would give me.

My angel chastised me in tone and message.   
"You have not been living nor honoring the hermit life that God chose for you and values very much."
I have pondered this and written it before, and I still feel the cringe when my angel uttered with emphasis:  hermit.

So no, I did not choose it. God chose it for me.  I accepted it, though, even before my angel chastised me with a direct, mystical, wake-up call.  And it was true that I was not living it nor honoring it, for despite my profession of vows which were blessed and accepted privately by a venerable priest of many years, I had gotten off track and had been pulled out a bit more into the world in little ways--not bad things--but I had slacked in that intimate responsibility of living and honoring what God had chosen for me.

When I read about dioceses and their interactions with the hermit vocation, and then I place that along with all the various hermits' lives I have read in the years since I was chastised for my avoidance, in some ways, of embracing even the earthly label for such a vocation, I sense two variations or tributaries of the stream.

It has taken some time to process and to appreciate the label for this vocation.  Labels are helpful even if not the point of a vocation in the spiritual aspects.  Labels define and frame; they lend support and also confront us.

What seems key to me, though, is to keep asking the Lord to define what He means by this vocation, and what He desires of me within this label.  Obviously my spiritual father was right in the aspect that the Lord has given me far more arduous circumstances and placed me in far more silence and solitude and all other aspects eremitic.  But I did not choose it any more than Amos chose to be a prophet.

Is this not what God takes of us and asks of us, no matter if we consciously label a vocation or role: to be and do as He wills in whatever vocation, even if our lives are altered in not hugely dramatic ways but in hints and subtleties?  

Think how Amos' life was turned up-side-down when he was plucked from being a shepherd and tree bark harvester. But Amos had become a prophet, for God told him to do what a prophet does.  Perhaps at some point in Amos' life, he came to grips with the label and was able to accept it and lend himself all the more to prophesying.  He certainly took the flack that prophets tend to receive by those who do not like the message.  

And the reason they don't like the message is because they don't see that they are doing as they are doing which is displeasing to God.  And they don't feel they have to believe it because who is this man or woman, prophet or prophetess, to be telling them what God says, when these prophets are just people like they are, and often times deemed of lesser account by others.

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