Saturday last brought yet another trip to civilization to a walk-in clinic since I'd not had success getting an appointment during the week. The large medical conglomerates leave much to be desired in efficiency and just pricing. However, at least this time I was put on steroids to try to get the sinus and lung crud cleared more, and a lung x-ray showed no pneumonia.
Into week six of nearly the bulk of Lent this year, and still not well physically. However, the Lord has allowed enough improvement after two antibiotics and the steroids so that I get a bit of manual labor accomplished each day--mostly drywall mudding and a bit of painting. Even the wet drywall mud seems to aggravate the sinuses and lungs, so this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit wears a protective mask more often than not when working. And, I should probably try wearing a mask in the hermitage as someone suggested the situation may have become a chronic reaction to environment.
Regardless, I remind myself it is yet LENT! Holy Week increases in intensity toward Good Friday's crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Then there is darkness and waiting for the Easter morning Resurrection surprise! I confide that this week, reading the Gospels of daily Mass have been most difficult to endure. I've never had this problem in years prior or during other liturgical seasons in which these readings present themselves.
But this year, this Lent, somehow I cannot bear reading through word-for-word, slowly, and cannot seem to take them all in. The reality of what Jesus endured, this year, hits me in ways I cannot describe other than, perhaps, grievously. Yes, I think of the promise of Christ and His sacrifice that secures our salvation. I consider St. Augustine's apt appraisal: "O, happy fault"--the Crucifixion and the resurrection, from bitter to sweet, from our sins to His glory and our salvation as a result.
I skim and scan the Gospels this week. I return to them off and on in the day, or I think of them in generalized cognition. By later in life, if we've lived and learned through years of Lents and otherwise read Scriptures throughout the years, these Gospels begin to live within us in familiarity. Yet they do not become comfortable; they are not meant to be like cozy slippers or a soft comforter.
We continue to learn, react, and grow in faith, hope and love, in following Jesus all the more and increasingly so the more painful to ponder His journey in life and through His death. Then on Easter begins the transformational fathoming of His Resurrection and all that follows--our Christian beings delving deeper and following the more dearly, over time that God creates for us.
Well, I've been trying to continue with the manual labor. Most of the time I can distract myself and be in meditative mode with dry-wall mudding or wall painting, and the mind and heart and even bodily pain can float far away from the temporal while working.
When in increased physical pain, such as this morning, I face the temptation to be a bit discouraged as one could easily open the eyes to temporal reality and see all that remains to be accomplished. The sinus and lung crud make the efforts loom the larger and more difficult. Yet, the grace to not lean into discouragement flows immediately, and the mind is told to focus on a tray of drywall mud and let the rest unfold from there.
Various thoughts come when one engages in manual labor, or I suppose any type of labor or activity which we are in various ways required to attempt. It could be due to a job responsibility in order to provide for one's family, or such as with a hermit, to balance the daily life with productive physical work for a bit of income or upkeep of the hermitage, or in working while praying as yet another modality of living and communing with God in the silence of solitude and in praise of His Real Presence.
The following excerpt from Isaiah--I believe was yesterday's first reading of Mass--hit home my heart. How many times have I thought the very thought, that I had toiled in vain or am doing so with this hermitage effort, tangible, and for what good or gain of my soul or the souls of others? Have I spent my health and strength uselessly, perhaps ruining my health, hastening death (which can be a benefit, to be sure, for life can become long and hard; and heaven is a promised joy)?
But the Lord told Isaiah how it is, and that we toil not in vain when all is for God. All is with God. He is our All, our Love, our Alpha and Omega.
"Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
Yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God."
I finally did hear back regarding my phone call and request with the parish priest for an appointment for confession. I also have entertained the thought of attempting to return to Mass--now when my sinus and lung ailment is more improved, of course. Yet I will have my soul "shriven" in the sacrament of reconciliation on Holy Thursday morning.
Somehow, in the past couple of weeks, my vocation of suffering has been brought once again to the fore in reminders. A letter from my spiritual father spelled out the reminder in his no-nonsense manner. A dream also reminded me that my work in and for the Lord in regards to suffering is in reparation for and with Holy Mother Church.
Then, too, I have been reminded in mind and heart and from the soul, of the mystical marriage five years ago and that Jesus showed me parishioners and priests. He clearly stated that they would criticize and judge me, but I was to pay no attention to them!
Yet, I had. I had paid attention and let the negativity and persecution, the shunning and gossip, get to me. Truly, if I am to put faith into the Lord and to what is shown me in inner sight, spoken to me, as well, then I must try to do as He said. It is all a process, of course--our learning to trust and to discern, and to put ourselves to the test of courage and faith, to trust the unseen and intangible.
So I will take the next step and try. The worst that can happen is that I lack the stamina yet, or the selflessness, or the ability to pay no attention. Then, of course, there will be another time to try again, either in this world or the next. It is all progression--life, death, resurrection--a metamorphosis in winging our way with Christ to union with Him for all eternity.