Friday, September 08, 2006

Learning to Embrace the Difficult and the Mysterious

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Cloud and I joined the students at the School of Theology for midday prayer in the Emmaus Chapel. The reading was from Luke 5:1-11, which features Peter in one of his more aggresive moods (isn't he always somewhat forward? He strikes me as a kind of Yankee tourist whom Europeans tend to abhor).

During the rather brief homily (entitled in the bulletin as simply "Reflection"), Christine Warloski simply said: "Being a disciple is hard, and it doesn't always make sense." What a refreshing statement, particularly in light of all of the spiritual pablum being peddled from the pulpits of numerous mega-churches these days. We Americans want it simple, direct, clear, and easy. But, instead, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer was always quick to point out, following our Lord and Savior means learning to die to self.

A wonderful example of this can be seen in the Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Lord, whose birthday we celebrate today. Her positive response to the angel, despite the absolute preposterousness of his announcement, suggests a way of embracing a life filled with both difficulty and mystery. Christine reminded us that at the end of yesterday's gospel lesson, Jesus clearly says: "Do not be afraid." As I begin this sabbatical, I pray for the wisdom and grace to embrace the unknown and the difficult. I trust that the lessons learned here will sustain me in the years to come.