When we feel ourselves growing bitter and losing control … learn to be generous and accepting: God pays well!
Did you notice the common state of the main persons in each of the three readings? Perhaps I did because of listening to Fr Richard Rohr OFM (Adam’s Return), where he talks about the fear many of us have to let go of control.
Of course, we do need to control many things on a personal level, or there would be chaos. However, what about the “Global” Level of our lives? How much control is healthy?
In the 1st Reading, Jeremiah talks about accepting without resistance or violence what was happening to him: he was on a Mission for God, and it was not going so well (for him).
In the 2nd Reading, you and I are the main characters and St James is telling us bluntly that we must be active in helping, not just speaking nice words. That means, we can be called upon to help people at the most inconvenient times (we are not in control). What’s our response?
In the Gospel, Jesus reveals His upcoming passion and death: and He rebukes Peter for trying to prevent him from going through with it.
In married life, many things happen unexpectedly: that’s why they promise: “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health,” etc. Some couples suffer injury/ sickness and can no longer sleep together. Others experience great demands from children with a sickness/ disability.
Similarly, in Religious Life, we take the Vows of Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Perseverance. Subsequently, we are sent to places we don’t want to go, or live with Brothers/ Sisters who are very “difficult” people; or our living conditions are just too “poor”.
Single life can also prove to be a big challenge to our desire to be in control. One young person in their mid-20’s shared recently how he wants to return to College to improve himself, but his family need him to help pay off some debts. Technically, he’s “free” to do as he wants, but…
So, after all those “cheerful” reminders of real life, what should we do? Cry, scream? Say it’s not fair? And run off to try again somewhere, or with someone, different? Or could we take courage through the strength of God in our lives to accept, maybe not with enthusiasm at first, the twists and turns that life throws at us?
Many young people in Kenya suffer from having a drunken father who is absent, abusive and failing to help with school fees. What to do? I was inspired by one family who shared how their father returned with serious sickness after years of drunken absence which caused great hardship and emotional suffering. Should they send the father away or look after him?
This family took the father back and reconciled: even though he was a burden and unable to contribute anything, and died from his sickness after one year. What was the benefit? For one thing, there was peace in their hearts. Second, they felt proud of themselves. Thirdly, they felt close to God: meaning, they were happy and able to accept all difficulties in their lives.
This is a case of following God’s plan, rather than their own.
One man lost his business due to bankruptcy and could have become very bitter. However, he did his best, started again, was generous to others and is now happy with a beautiful family and good business. He was not in control, but did his part… God did the rest.
When we review Jeremiah and Jesus, we see how great glory came to them because they stayed faithful to their commitments. That’s the message for us, also: stay the course we have started.
Of course, we need to change, or seek protection, if violence is involved. However, more often than not, it’s our pride that needs to reduce and our humility to increase. When we do that, there’s a high probability our wife/husband, or Brother/Sister in religious life, will also change.
How can this happen? How do we become more humble and generous? First of all, by saying out loud gratitude for what have, and what we have had in the past. Secondly, by being proactive in doing nice things for the other person or persons.
When we are generous to others, we’ll be more richly rewarded, later, compared to we’ve shared with the person in need. If not by that person, then by others. Life is like that!
Finally, let’s reflect on our parents/grandparents when they grew older. Were they still fighting for control and making themselves unhappy (and those around them)? Or they allowed themselves to be swept along by the events of their children being, generally, happy/ fulfilled?
We can learn a lot form watching our parents grow old, learning how to trust and accept life through a generous response to the needs of others. Alternatively, we can learn a lot about what not to do: trying to control everything and everyone, and becoming an angry person.
It’s our choice: live with acceptance and generosity; or bitterness, trying to control everything.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI