Last week in one of the daily Mass Gospel readings, this nothing--this consecrated, Catholic hermit, reacted to the impact of what Jesus said about what happens to those who look to what is behind us. I revisit it today, considering the coming impact of a level 4 hurricane about to strike the southeast coast of this country...after having pummeled the already bereft island peoples of Haiti.
Yes, in all my years as a Christian, a Bible-reading and believing lover and follower of Jesus Christ, somehow I did not experience the impact of consequences of which Jesus Himself warns. To think we will not be fit for the Kingdom of God if we look back to what is left behind us--painful, blunt consequence!
I have been reflecting this past week on how much time, emotions, energy, and thought I've wasted over the years, looking to the past, regretting choices made, hesitating over taking new steps, or missing what I had in "easier" phases of life.
It is not always tangible things that we've left behind, but it is more the intangibles that can hinder us from following Christ into the unknown-to-us paths into what He wills for our future destinies. It is the great unknowns of what He has in store for us, for our purpose in His will and desires for us, that looking back will keep us from His Kingdom.
Well, I suppose I should not dwell much on looking back on how much I've looked back! But it is amazing to me that this simple admonition from Jesus, laying out the consequence for looking back when we've already agreed either consciously or subconsciously, to follow Him into whatever next step on whichever path He chooses--that it is so easy to not realize the grave impact of looking back.
I want to be fit for the Kingdom of God! Yet I admit I lack the discipline, it certainly seems, to keep my focus on what is next, what He chooses for me as purpose for His glory. I'm yet soul-searching for the determination to simply keep going, to keep my outer and inner vision upon the unknowns of what is next, in great faith that Christ will lead me into greater charity, for sure.
Well, here is the scripture of which I'm referring. Then I want to share something that has occurred, that I admit threw me off and had me looking back at my 21 years in Catholicism.
"Jesus answered him, 'No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.'"
Nearly two weeks ago, I was thrilled and gloating with joy that a man at the parish had actually offered to help me install the microwave above the stove. He drove here but realized it was not simply a matter of lifting the microwave onto a shelf. Yet, he talked a bit and offered any of his tools that I might need in the work efforts on the hermitage and also said he'd return once I got the mounting metal strip on the wall and a couple holes drilled in the cabinet above.
But by the next Saturday evening Mass, afterward, the man's demeanor had shifted. I sensed it but per usual, told myself that I should not trust what was probably just imagination. (I tend to do this a lot, as I hate to face negative realities and always try to give benefit of the doubt. I prefer to turn on myself and negate the inner sight rather than to trust it, time and again.)
So yesterday, with weather in the morning (and pain) keeping me from exterior caulking and ladder climbing, I decided to tackle the microwave mounting strip, hole-drilling, and figuring out how to change the fan motor for interior venting. It did not take long to learn how to do these little tasks, although I had a toggle bolt break so need to purchase another--stronger one with longer "wings" as the drywall holes are a bit compromised from removing the broken toggle.
Yet, I was so close to finishing the preparation and needing the man to come (as he had said he would) to just lift the microwave up to the mounting plate and holding it steady while I screwed in the bolts from the cabinet above, that I called the man. (He'd left his phone number for me when he was here, so encouraging and willing to help.)
Sure enough, though, my senses were correct from the past weekend Mass. The man said he was not available to lift the microwave. In fact, he said that this kind of thing is not "his thing", which seemed odd since he'd told me he owns several properties in the area, has a vast "shop" of tools, and manages his various properties.
Of course, I figure he wants nothing to do with me due to the mystical state that occurs during Mass. There is an additional chance that he also was overwhelmed with the amount of work yet to be done here, but I had assured him this is a vast improvement with over three years of efforts and progress behind me.
Regardless, the man is not going to help by taking fifteen minutes to come and lift the microwave; and I am certain the offer to borrow tools or to come to his home shop to see his tools as he'd offered, is an offer of the past, left behind, no longer on the"table." It is rather amazing that this occurred after last weekend's Mass Gospel of Lazarus needing help, a drop of water, a bit of food--and the rich man was unwilling and later sorely regretted his refusal to assist someone in need.
Well, I admit I've been struggling again about why the Lord called me into the Catholic Church because the "fruit" has not been all that "good" from my perspective. The other day I'd made a heart-felt plea to God to please bring back my son, to stop the one-sided estrangement, to heal his upset and anger over my becoming a Catholic and his following suit, as he was a young boy then and looked to me as a trusted guide in his life. He lost his Catholic faith at the Catholic university he attended, of which I sorely regret...looking back.
He has upset and anger over the various situations I've encountered with various priests and people who were into some serious wrong-doings that I tended to sense and be shown through inner sight. Yes, it was right for these wrongs to be exposed, and I was thanked by other priests and a bishop for doing so, and by people who were ill-effected; but others resented it and feared for their own skeletons, I suppose. And that is what others have surmised who have seen the resulting persecution.
Anyway, I got an email response from my son, and he is hopeful for a reconciliation. He mentioned his points of upset and the difficulty getting beyond them. I have no idea the timeline, but at least it is the most hopeful response I've had in several years of little to no contact. And then then right after that the pathetic and ridiculous response from the male parishioner with a complete change of heart and mind on the tiny act of kindness previously proffered.
Do we think the devil is involved? As some say, "D'ya think?"
I did call the parish administrator who by the literal grace of God trusts me and seems to have a sense that I am a genuine person, a mystic, yes, but otherwise a seeker of Christ, a sinner, yet a good person with a sense of humor but also a body-full of pain. Her husband and son will come this Sunday to lift the microwave while I bolt it into place....
I broached the looking back I've been doing, and of the years as a Protestant, and how the culture is different, somehow, between Catholic people and Protestant people. But, alas, we did agree that my situation at Mass causes people to judge and form opinions, for it is a rare mystical phenomenon, and my raggedly circumstances complete with an awful haircut, lend to a rather bizarre effect, no doubt!
I mentioned that sometimes I wonder if the Lord would as soon I just find an evangelical church where I could worship, as the ecstasies do not occur other than in a Catholic Mass. Thus, I could better live my double life outside the Catholic church, for there would be no ecstasy, and while still a mystic as that is a life-long effect that one is born with (or not)--I am fairly practiced all these years in being socialized as otherwise normal.
But the parish administrator thought better to just keep going to Mass, and perhaps over time the regularity of my presence would help others realize that I am genuine, intelligent, and even a fun person albeit with a different kind of spiritual construct.
We also discussed that I have increasingly noticed the kind and loving priest is extremely awkward with me, so I will let him know not to worry, I will not attempt to greet him nor shake his hand after Mass, as parishioners line up to do so. He is fine with the others and even has brief conversation, but when this nothing approaches, he quickly says my name and turns immediately to the person behind me in line. It has been awhile since I was even able to rush out a "The Mass was lovely!" comment.
I do understand how difficult it is for others when there is something different occurring. The priest has been most kindly compared to some who were threatened by what they feared I could see within them, or others simply not grasping the mystical, assuming otherwise, doubting, analyzing, and whatever else. Yes, this priest is doing better than most.
Ah, again, don't look back.... Today and tomorrow, amazing and surprising things can occur, will occur, when the hand is not only on the plow and eyes gazing forward, but when the hand is in His Hand, being led forth.
True, it's not good for the people to form opinions and react according to their own conclusions, but it is also not good for me, either. It causes me to look back, to be distracted from my hand on the plow and of following Christ today and tomorrow. It causes me to look back to my years as a Protestant and to feel the differences, although I suppose if something unusual happened in a Protestant service, maybe they'd be wary, also.
I only know personally that in one Protestant church I was in, the people learned to appreciate and utilize some of the spiritual gifts, such as when I'd be shown someone ill or in trouble, and could forewarn or help in various ways. They considered it "psychic" as "mystic" is not a familiar "type" in the Protestant realm. And I rather think that is a good thing, frankly. It seems to be a point of confusion and judgment for Catholics, and that is not so beneficial based upon "past" and what seems to be now current experience.
And all of this is a lot of looking back, even right now, and it is not gaining me the Kingdom of God, nor will looking back on anything left behind, help in achieving Heaven.
Today is the memorial of St. Bruno the Carthusian. He set his sights on following Christ, knowing at some point in future time when it seemed best, he and his handful of friends were going to leave Cologne, Germany and the mess being made in the secular church in that time period (circa 1084) with a bishop who was green with envy of Bruno's gifted teaching skills and popularity as a priest and professor.
Yes, Bruno and his friends one evening discussed their plights, confounded in the mess of the secular church at that time in their circumstances, and determined to leave when they could in order to seek solitude and freedom to follow Christ and find union with God by living the Gospels sans corruption.
The time came one day, and they left for the farthest reaches of the French Alps.
The first winter they were guests of a Benedictine monastery, but they determined this was not going to be the atmosphere and life they were seeking. Too many distractions there, not going to provide the stairway to heaven they were seeking. So onward they trekked, come spring; and they found a location in the Alps so difficult to reach but so close to heaven, that to this day, Carthusians are there praying in great silence and focus upon today and tomorrow.
Hands to the plow, not looking back, Bruno and this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit are pals now, and I'm going to head out to the ladders with caulk gun, paint roller, and brush. Not going to look back on what was, what might have been, what was left behind, for often enough my view in retrospect is blurred by thinking it was better and more promising that what it was...or what it would be now.
Besides, now is where Jesus has me, here, requiring steadiness of hand on the plow and eye upon Jesus with trusted anticipation of the unknowns to which He leads. Thusly He promises fitness into the Kingdom of God.
God knows I have not fit in much elsewhere! Dare I hope to be fit for the Kingdom of God?
I pray that part of His plan for me will be getting this work load accomplished, or else some means out of it, and to not be so financially strapped so that I can lead by example and help others lift microwaves, lend tools, teach them how to do maintenance tasks, take some meals to those tired or sick with pain. Who knows but Jesus where the yet-untilled row will lead, what purpose He has in store for us?