To whom do you belong, and where do you come from? (1 Samuel 30:13)
At times life places stringent demands upon us Christians. There are the daily crosses: bad weather, grouchy clerks, loss of a job, poor health, drug and/or alcohol abuse, war and natural disasters. Wouldn’t we prefer life to be easier? Strangely, however, these crosses can be paradoxical. Illnesses can warn us to make some changes in our lifestyle, and mistakes can lead to inventions. Think of Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Edison. A paradox closer to home for us is that of Christian community and a sense of belonging. We belong in this world, yet we are not of it. How do we come to terms with this paradox? Two stalwarts in the Old Testament who were commissioned to proclaim God’s Word might be able to help us out. Jeremiah’s life was full of disasters. When he told his people the Word of the Lord he, like Joseph of old, was thrown into a pit and left to die. Isaiah, too, suffered insults from the very people he was sent to help. Both of them prefigure Jesus in poignant passages, for example, such as being “led like a trustful lamb to the slaughter-house” (Jer. 11:19) and Isaiah, who said he offered “my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard: I did not cover my face against insult and spittle” (Is. 50:5-6). Their task of proclaiming God’s Word did not gain them popularity. But, as Isaiah said, “I set my face like flint” against their barbs, for he knew that those who trust in the Lord do not trust in vain. What about us? Are we prone to water down the Christian message? Do we speak the truth even under difficult circumstances despite the possibility of not pleasing others? Or do we say the acceptable, expected thing, thus compromising ourselves in order to belong and not seem an outsider? Jesus had to pay a great price to live up to his personal integrity when opposed—even in his own household. Unlike Jesus, for us things might be a little different. Jesus was comfortable with himself, whereas we first have to belong to ourselves in order to belong to others.
Jesus, give us the self-knowledge we need to live in this world the way you want us to!
—Sister Mary E. Penrose, OSB
|Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.|