Posted by: mmreflections | September 10, 2008

There Will Be Enough: September, 2008

In many of these reflections I have emphasized the importance of living in the present moment rather than in the past or the future.  Living in the past and learning from past experiences are quite different.  The past is valuable insofar as we learned significant lessons from our life’s journey.  In these reflections I am sharing what I have learned from my own past experiences without dwelling on the past.

 A life changing lesson from my first year of priestly life is a good example for this reflection.  The first joy of priestly life following ordination (often called the honeymoon) soon faded into the background, much like many married couples, monks, and nuns experienced in the early part of their marriages or religious lives.  The ordinariness of life set in and with it concerns of each day covered over the initial joy and euphoria.  Prominent for me were fears, anxieties, concerns and worries prompted by problems, responsibilities and demands of parish and priestly life.  With only a small priestly income, car payments, little time for recreation, concerns about pleasing the bishop, the pastor, and the people, I found myself worried, afraid, and in debt from having to borrow money from my family and others to make ends meet.  Just as soon as I paid back loans I found myself in deeper debt.  This was not what I expected of priestly life. 

One day, in the midst of all these concerns, I was invited to a gathering of brother priests and to my surprise the discussion turned to financial questions.  Some of the older priests suggested that if we expected the faithful to support the church appropriately, we as pastors, assistants and administrators must also support the churches we served in the same way.  In my dismay I spoke of my own dilemma and my constant anxiety about personal debts in spite of a frugal life style.  Instead of any sympathy I was encouraged to give a portion of what little I earned back to the parish and/or to the needy and poor.  We were reminded from the Old Testament that 10% of what we earned was not to be used for our own personal benefit but was to be shared with others.  This was a hard lesson to accept! 

That day I returned to the rectory troubled by the fact that I was not sharing anything with anyone.  At the end of that month when I received my salary I decided to put aside a tithe (10%) for the church, the poor and the needy.  I was filled with fear about not having enough to make ends meet but I did it anyway.  I felt convinced this was the way I was to go!  To my great surprise I found in a few months that I was free of debt with something to spare.  I was learning to share my abundance with others.  Whenever I began to renege on this decision, I found myself right back where I started.  Finally, I learned the lesson which was to remain with me. I recalled how when as a child my mom, in spite of having very little means to care for us, would always set aside something for the church and would never turn away a beggar or someone who was in need.  Still, there was always enough!

 In the marriage ceremony of our Church, one of the blessings we pray over the newly weds is that God would bless them with an abundance of good things so that they in turn would share their abundance with those in need.  In the years that followed when I prepared couples for marriage I emphasized this blessing and encouraged them to always share their abundance in whatever way seemed appropriate to them.  From my experience I noticed that the couples who took this lesson to heart always seemed to prosper and they always had enough even after sharing their abundance.  In addition to prosperity, they were always the happiest and most grateful couples I knew.  Over the years many of those couples came back to thank me and to tell me it was one of the more important lessons they learned in their married lives.

Many spiritual guides have described the spiritual journey as a ladder with each rung leading to a higher degree of union with God.  The lowest rung of the ladder is sometimes referred to as the security level.  On this level, when lived unconsciously, one’s life is filled with fear, anxiety, worry, guilt and shame brought on by concerns regarding money, material things and reputation or the opinions of other people.  There is little happiness or joy in living life on this level and yet the truth is that here is where the majority of people are living today.  We need but read the newspapers, or watch the news on TV, look at the ads or listen to what people are saying.  The news speaks of salaries in the millions, ads telling us we need all kinds of material things, people complaining of the need for more. We also hear of those who have unbelievable wealth and are still not happy.

In our last reflection I indicated we would consider ways by which we can more fruitfully seek and live in God’s kingdom here and now, in our daily ordinary lives.  We reflected on Jesus’ teaching about the futility of worrying.  One of the signs of our faith in God and our trust in the promise that our needs would be met if we would seek God’s kingdom and God’s reign over our lives is our willingness to share our abundance (great or small) with others.  Can we imagine what our world would be like if everyone shared their abundance with those in need?  No one would go to bed hungry again!  Everyone would share in the good things God intended for us!  This may not appear realistic in this moment of history, but each of us can take a small step in hastening the kingdom of God here and now in our own lives.  We can begin by trusting in God to provide for our needs and manifest that trust by sharing our abundance as it seems appropriate for us to do.

We do not have to feel guilty because we find ourselves feeling worried, anxious or afraid about what may be happening in the world or in our own lives at the moment.  It is sufficient to be aware of these feelings and not allowing them to control our actions and decisions but allowing them to remind us that we are lapsing once again into a state of distrust.  Prior to retiring from active parish life when I reached my 70th birthday, I was struggling with the decisions I would have to make along with the consequences of such a decision.  There were many worries and anxieties bombarding me about how I would manage on my own, how I would be able to support myself, what would my friends, family and parishioners say, what type of service can I render to others.  I was sharing this with my spiritual mentor when I realized I had been slowly slipping into a state of distrust.  I was forgetting how the Lord had provided for all my needs over the past 70 years, how the Lord had raised me up from the humble beginnings of the post depression years.  My dear friend and mentor gently said to me, “Michael, do not be afraid!  There will be enough!”  I suddenly woke up and realized how easily one could slip down to the lowest rung of the ladder if we are not paying attention.

Once we become consciously aware of the source of our fears and anxieties, we will begin to experience a higher degree of peace, happiness and joy. We will find ourselves remembering the promise, “There will be enough!”  In our next reflection we will consider the second rung of the ladder and how we can enter more deeply into the promised kingdom.   

When much has been given a man, much will be required of him.  More will be asked of a man to whom more has been entrusted.”   (Luke 12: 48)

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Responses

  1. This ‘reflection’ helped me. I found out that by sharing, helping others and not being too concerned about what I needed or wanted, God has always left enough for us to live on and be happy. I hope others find this kind of peace too.


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