Saturday, October 19, 2013

When God Says "No," God Means "No"

I once wrote a rather nasty note to a priest. (It was to none of the priests I have mentioned in this blog from time to time, but to a longer-term visiting priest, holding an interim assignment to our parish). He did something that I, in good judgmental fashion, thought was quite wrong. Actually, what he had done was to say something negative about a priest I love during mass, something that was not true and clearly hurt the feelings of that priest. It was an attempt by the visiting priest to make a joke, but it fell flat. I was indignant by the inappropriateness of it. (There we go again with judgment! Who am I to judge? Yet I did!)

I carefully thought through all aspects of what the priest had said and what the consequences seemed to be and decided to write an irate letter to him, something that is generally out of character for me. (I highly value all the priests in my life and am grateful for them and to them, and I certainly do not expect them to be all-the-time perfect.) In this case, though, I was certain that I had the high road, and I explained all my concerns to the interim priest in FOUR written pages! As I folded the letter to mail it, I felt a twinge out of nowhere, a strong feeling that what I was doing was wrong. However, being in a happily judgmental mood, I started to seal the envelope. The twinge came again. Okay, I considered, so maybe this twinge means that God does not want me to send this letter. I thought it over, figured I knew better than God, and, still in my great judgmental mode, rewrote the letter, removing all the vitriol and about half the contents. I then sealed the envelope and busied myself with something else.

As I busied myself, that twinge came yet again. Stronger this time. Oh, for heaven's sake, I thought, I better rewrite the thing. So, I threw away the envelope with the original letter and revised what I had written. When I was done, the letter was only one page and, I thought, pretty kindly and succinctly worded. The revised note went into an envelope, which I sealed, stamped, and put into my purse for mailing during my lunch hour the next day.

When I reached my office the next morning, I was surprised to find a colleague who was supposed to be at a conference. "I am leaving right now," he said, "but I am supposed to tell you something. I have no idea what I am talking about, but I am just going to say it straight out, and perhaps you can figure out what is meant. 'You should not mail the letter you have written because the person to whom you have written it is too weak.'"

I questioned my colleague, who is a highly spiritual person and has had this sort of thing happen to him more than once, but he had no more insight than he had already given me. When I told him that the only letter I had written was to our interim priest, he was surprised but nonetheless certain that I was not supposed to mail it. I told my colleague I would consider his words, and he left.

I took out the letter, read it again, and decided that, just in case, I should rewrite it one more time. I cut it down to one very gentle paragraph. (I am an obstinate one; no wonder God had to conk me on the head to get me to convert and even now occasionally has to get a little rough with me.)

At that moment, the phone rang. It was the visiting priest who asked me to go to the Chrism mass and pick up the oils for our parish. He said he would not be there. Being a pushy type, I asked him why. He was evasive, but eventually I got the information out of him that he was being evaluated for cancer surgery that day in a city quite some distance away. I tore up the letter as we spoke, and I begged him to share the information with the parish, which he did, after some more prompting, at the next mass that he celebrated.

I also led a prayer vigil for him. Then, on the day after his successful surgery, I drove to the distant city and took him flowers from the parish and the candle we had used for the vigil, which I had placed during our prayers in a candle holder that I had brought to the USA from my days of living in the Holy Land.

So, God got my attention, and I finally listened (as I usually do or at least try to). The bottom line, though, beyond the lesson to "judge not," is that when God says "no," He is going to get His way, and that is good! It is as it should be.

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