Arriving home this weekend, I continued to dig into Ezekiel . There were many verses that caught my eye and could have served as food for thought (well, actually, they did). However, it was not until I reached chapter 34 that the words seized me, requiring that I share them with you. In chapter 34, God declares that He himself will become the shepherd for Israel, other shepherds having failed in the task.
Reading: Ezekiel 34.
Meditation: These words rang home sharply because yesterday I withdrew from the Secular Franciscan Order. It was not an easy decision and had a little to do with evil influences infiltrating our chapter and region, and I have blogged about this in detail before, perhaps ad nauseam as I was discerning whether to stay (see Goliath). After much prayer (probably better described as nagging God), I finally got an answer, but not the one I expected. The answer was that I was to leave -- immediately. It was a sudden change and took more than a few people, including me, by surprise. I cite below the contents of the letter I shared with the members of the SFO in my parting (note the quite coincidental use of the verb shepherding and the concept of God as shepherd, or primary teacher, validated only after the fact when I read Ezekiel 34 this morning. The letter is a bit long for a post, but, I believe, is self-explanatory, so I shall include the whole thing. (The purpose, or task, referred to is the one described in the posts on Goliath.
Dear SFO Members:Contemplation: That is far as I can go with you this Monday morning. I now retire to private prayer to thank God for bringing this particular period of discernment to a clear close. I will praise God for the variability He allows us in our worship. I will ask God for greater clarification of the next steps (if any) to be taken and will try to temper my impatience while waiting for that clarification, and I will repent any ways in which I failed God in the SFO-related tasking He gave me two years ago as well as any inadvertent hurt I inflicted on any individuals while carrying out that tasking. Then I will move on to contemplation, my favorite part of the day, letting God take over the direction in which my relationship with Him moves.
It is with mixed feelings that I bid you adieu for the decision has not been made by personal desire but through obedient volition. I am pleased that God has allowed me to be with you as you have journeyed into the Franciscan way of life although I personally have not been on a journey but rather have been developing intimacy with God in a dimension where I am learning that we travel farthest when we do not move at all. God had a purpose in directing that my life intersect yours, and I have been extraordinarily blessed to know that purpose and to know you. My being here was never about me nor was it about my becoming Franciscan for I do not relate to God nor God to me in the way the SFO formation program dictates. Nonetheless, I will continue to share devotion to poverty, charity, obedience, and joy, which took root in my soul long before I knew about a saint called Francis. I am now being shepherded into another realm of God’s kingdom, not unlike what happened with Habakkuk: Divinely picked up by the hair and set down someplace else.
I have chosen continued submission to the will of God, Who gives us times to pray in groups and times to pray alone, times to offer formulaic prayer and times to listen in silence, times to affiliate and times to question affiliations. God calls us to communion in ways beyond our understanding but not always beyond our knowing. “Be with Me” is the call I received. God did not say “study,” “formate,” “grow,” “journey,” or “join.” God said “be.” I don’t know what “being” entails; God will reveal what I need to know as I need to know it. I do know that this is a time for me to become uneducated, put aside the desire for human knowledge, and, abandoning myself to divine wisdom, let God be my teacher.
Among the many graces God has accorded this unworthy servant has been the opportunity to associate with the SFO for the past four years. I am grateful that many of you will remain in my life through other worship communities for I love all of you. Many of you have also loved me. Some of you have tolerated me. A few of you have shown me unusual mercy. I honor each of you as a tender part of God’s great creation. May God grant you the peace in your acceptance of the Franciscan Rule that I have felt in accepting God’s invitation to “be.”
Yours in prayer and peace,
I will leave you now to your prayer and contemplation. First, though, I would like to bring to your attention a Monday morning prayer post that you might enjoy:
Fr. Austin Fleming, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and pastor in Concord, Massachusetts, posts a prayer each Monday morning that he calls "Monday Morning Offering." I enjoy his prayers very much. I think you also will find them inspirational. He has graciously given me permission to include a link to his blog on my Monday Morning Meditation posts. (During the week, he also posts great homilies and other thoughtful discussions. I enjoy reading those, too, as do readers of this blog who have taken the stroll over to his blog.)
For additional inspiration throughout the week, I would point out two sets of blogs: (1) the list of devotional blogs on my sidebar and (2) my blogroll, where I am following a number of inspirational priests and writers about spiritual matters. I learn so very much from all these people. I highly recommend them to you.