Lost my way this week – struck down with some kind of virus – symptoms are miserableness rather than being very sick but sure didn’t feel like any exercise. You know those days when your body aches and you can’t even blame the gym – that was my week. So no parkrun this morning either.
My miserableness floweth over and affected my whole life. But like an Irish summer there was occasional light between the dark clouds and i focused on those glimpses – grasped the light moments and used them to warm the kernel of my being. And the days passed and the end of the week beckoned like a Finish sign at the end of a grueling race. And so i kept going. That’s the Way – we keep going – most of us – most of the time. Those that don’t, those that opt out, they feel that they are making the right decision, not just for themselves but for everyone – the darkness, the miserableness has become unbearable. There appears to be no choice, no alternatives or options. There is only one way forward and that is, for them, their Way.
I’m always relieved, in a strange sort of way, when other family members also feel the malaise i’m suffering from – i know then that i’m not imagining it, not occupying that grey world of the mind which can make all seem miserable. And yes, we were all under the weather, great expression, this week, almost all, it made for a miserable household but we seem to be getting better at acceptance and compassion. A question i’ve always wondered about – do we need to suffer to learn compassion and, actually, i think i know the answer. It depends, some pretty wonderful people know compassion from the moment they are born, others, like me learn it as we go along. My compassion is like a pond and suffering is the excavator. The more i suffer, the deeper my compassion becomes, – but i’m a slow learner and that only increases my suffering and my pond regularly silts up again.
I attended a meeting this week, a fairly wonderful meeting with a few awesome people, discussing parish renewal. I am fascinated by this question of whether my church, and indeed most churches, have lost their way. So first i reckoned, you need to figure out what is their Way – what is the true purpose of a church. I thought it was relatively easy for the Catholic Church – it was set up by Jesus when he told Peter, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” Matthew 16:18. So his church was to continue to carry out his mission and his mission was to show people God, to introduce them to the divine. And that is what i said when asked – that the church was those people who tried to fulfill that mission, not all people, not all members of the church. i said it knowing that it excluded me.
I often speak before i think – that kind of meeting is based on such behaviour to a certain extent – we open our mouths and say what we don’t even know we think and believe. So we get to know each other and ourselves a little bit more and, perhaps, some of what we say is inspired.
Afterwards, thinking about the life of Jesus, the obvious struck me – a couple of days too late. Jesus ministered, all the time, to the sick, the old, the suffering and the miserable. That was what he did – delivered love to improve people’s lives. That was his Way. If we accept and believe that he was showing people God’s Way, the Way of the Divine, then ministering must be God’s Way too. Now, Jesus told stories and gave advice and much of his ministering was to awaken love in the people he touched so that they would know God – but he didn’t demand this, didn’t even seem to expect it usually. Ministering seemed to be almost an end in itself – ministering with love.
And of course, there were times when Jesus was suffering himself, and not just at the end of his life, but he still found time to minister to others. Even at the end, when his suffering was greatest and he was crucified on the cross, he found the compassion and strength to minister to others and consoled the good thief and his own watching family and friends.
Now ministering is not a strong point of mine – i’ve had my moments but my work often involves a degree of confrontation or, at least, persuasion, and not too much of ministering. Throw in, or perhaps drop in, my laziness and you won’t be surprised to hear my ministering leaves considerable scope for improvement. I’ve also suffered from my fair share of poor health for much of my life – if any share of poor health can be considered fair – and put most of my ministering efforts into keeping myself going but that, as i now recognize, rather misses the point. It is an explanation rather than an excuse. It is always possible to minister to others and a failure to do so is, probably, a very clear indication that you have wandered off the Way, that you have lost your Way.
So, seek a quiet moment, assess your life, check out your way and throw a rough count on your ministering activities. Check, correct as necessary and proceed.
Don’t forget the quiet moments – they are the soul’s equivalent of google maps
Minister with love my friend