LABORING IN THE VINEYARD

No Other But This

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Thus says the LORD:
On that day I will raise up
the fallen hut of David;
I will wall up its breaches,
raise up its ruins,
and rebuild it as in the days of old,
Yes, days are coming,
says the LORD,
When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
and the vintager, him who sows the seed;
The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains,
and all the hills shall run with it.
I will bring about the restoration of My people Israel;
they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities   ~  Amos 9: 11; 13 – 14

          For much of the past months, it has seemed as if every structure in my country is being torn down, every belief attacked and shattered. I returned to work some weeks ago and to my sadness, found that the weeks of stay-home had not made better persons out of all of us. Colleagues who had been bitter and who had chafed at the constraints of lockdown, now returned to raucous revelry, grimly intent on reclaiming lost time.

          Over the years, as more and more of my workmates became increasingly distracted from their core portfolios and responsibilities, the noise levels at work had been rising, fed by daily office potlucks, gossip cliques and online shopping addiction which steadily made inroads into formal work hours and beyond.

          But the post-Covid noise decibels in my work place now is beyond belief. Too many are high on something not good. Work is a farce. Silence has fled.

I brought upon you such upheaval
as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah:
you were like a brand plucked from the fire;
Yet you returned not to Me,
says the LORD.   ~  Amos 4: 11

          I am struggling and yet, paradoxically, I am working well too. Even as I fight to put out one fire after another within my heart, my work is not held back in the least.

          But there’s no escaping the deepening frustration and sadness at the scale of moral destruction before my eyes. In my work place. In my country. I can see where this is going. We are fast reaching a point of no return. Something in my heart tells me that once that invisible line is crossed, there will be no coming back. In each one of those rabble rousers at work and elsewhere, there are yet morsels of sweetness.

But if a major correction does not come soon enough, even that will be lost.

When the last light within them goes out, I fear that no other light will live in its place.

          When I took this to Jesus, His surprising answer to my distress was,

My Time has come. I am about to bring to fulfilment my plan for you and for those whom I have sent you. My Eucharistic Face will shine over this new hour of building…   ~  In Sinu Jesu

          He did not speak about the rising squalls. Yet, I know Jesus is not ignoring the ruin we are bringing ourselves to. Through the In Sinu Jesu words which lit hope in me, Jesus is clearly asking me to shift the gaze of my heart to what I am called to. He is not advocating the indifference of the deaf ear nor of the blind eye to the massive unravelling around me; instead, because of it, Jesus wants me to be in my place, doing what He has willed for me.

          This is not the first time I am hearing this. I have lost count of the number of occasions, when upset over developments in my part of the world, He has sent His Angel to remind me that my place is

Not in the violent winds

Not in the earthquakes

Not in the fire

but in the hiddenness of the presence of God. In the Eucharistic Adoration I am called to – even in the busyness of work.

          This is not due to anything of merit in me – but simply because Jesus knows well my weaknesses. I don’t handle confrontations well. I am easily intimidated. And it takes me longer than others to recover from battles. For other stronger souls, He might have earmarked the vineyards of greater work right in the midst of violent winds and earthquakes and raging fires.

          But not for me – because I’d drown.

          Or more likely, drown others.

          Often, I do feel hurt that God hasn’t marked out ‘greater work’ for me. Often, I tire of the hiddenness and obscurity of my own little vineyard. But many years ago, God made it clear,

If you cannot on the ocean
Sail among the swiftest fleet,
Rocking on the highest billows,
Laughing at the storms you meet;
You can stand among the sailors,
Anchored yet within the bay,
You can lend a hand to help them
As they launch their boats away.   ~  Your Mission, Ellen M. H Gates

 

My work is as ever, among the shadows of greater suns.

          Still, today, He lifts the veil a little.

My Time has come

…this new hour of building

          Something is ahead. Something different from the usual rebuilding of torn down structures. A newness to the coming hours. Slowly, it dawns on me that the recent weeks of being buffeted by lashing winds didn’t affect my quality of work – because God was trying to show me that was my place, to steadily build on but to build by the sidelines of life. Not in the centre of a field easily sighted; but in the purposeful hiddenness to be seen only by those who are seeking.

          In Jesus’ gentle way, He wants me to learn that I am not placed in the open fields to catch the eye of the multitudes because I am not meant to be there for everyone. My vineyard is only for the wounded, the trampled, the weak, the fearful.

          Those who are not looking up, searching for suns,  but whose gaze is cast down. Those are the ones God has given to me. The broken and the hurt. The humble and the hidden.

          That is why no other vineyard will do but this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember

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Remember, Christian soul, that thou hast this day,
and every day of thy life:

God to glorify,
Jesus to imitate,
The Angels and Saints to invoke,
A soul to save,
A body to mortify,
Sins to expiate,
Virtues to acquire,
Hell to avoid,
Heaven to gain,
Eternity to prepare for,
Time to profit by,
Neighbors to edify,
The world to despise,
Devils to combat,
Passions to subdue,
Death perhaps to suffer,
And Judgment to undergo.         ~    St Augustine

 

 

 

 

 

Vigil of Broken Faith

          After doodling in the sand for a time, after the uncomfortable silence that I tried to ignore but couldn’t quite, heaven’s window opened a little, and I understood that I was to stay by the water’s edge.

          And quit chaffing at the bit.

          For even by the lake shores where weeds grow in wild abandon, there was work to be done and work being done. I had to learn patient submission – because to meddle, to saddle up and force a journey, was to interfere in the Spirit’s work.

          So, retreating to the sun~shadows among the water grasses where the wounded  gather, I tried to press Jesus into wounds through the Memorare novena; I was determined to not be caught in spiritual idleness – whatever else my failings.

          But whenever the rains fell and rippled diamonds on the lake waters, I’d look across the wide expanse with a wistfulness. For a while, I didn’t understand myself. Whenever the pace got wild and frenzied, I grumbled about how much was taken from me; yet, when the tempests stilled and I was left alone, untroubled, I longed for…action.

          I gave myself a shake. What did I want? Was it really eagerness to be about my Lord’s business – as I tried to convince myself? Or was this restlessness about something else?

          This morning, Someone sat by His door waiting for me. The minute I arrived, He opened the scrolls,

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, 
you endured a great contest of suffering.
 At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; 
at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison
and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.   ~  Hebrews 10:32 – 35

          Do not throw away your confidence. The words fell into my heart. And with it, crept in a soft, worn sadness. A lantern had been held up in the darkness of my yearning, and I saw the faltering faith I was trying to hide, and hide from. My impatience was not a saintly longing to toil in my Master’s vineyard. I was not being impatient to do my Lord’s will; I was impatient for a Sign that the end to suffering was close by. I wanted Jesus to come, and to come right now. I wanted Him to hurry up!

          And because my Lord didn’t seem to be in a hurry to do my bidding, I wanted to storm across and drag Him to my place of waiting!

          My chastened spirit fell before that enlightenment. How many more holes would I continue to worry into the fabric of my fragile faith? When would I ever learn humility and patience and spiritual perseverance?

          Making a tentative step towards contrition, this consolation quietly came:

You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what He has promised.
For, after just a brief moment,
He who is to come shall come;
He shall not delay.   ~ 
Hebrews 10: 36 – 37

Gales must blow wild and fires rage

Water must churn and swell,

earth in fury shake its molten fist.

And aridity and desolation root firm and unflinching,

before the winds dip

and the air still

in homage

to the King.

          For every summit reached, there might be a valley whose deeps await us in yet another testing. For all our sureness that we have read the signs right, we might reach one threshold after another in breathless anticipation of a King’s coming, only to cross into disappointment and dismay.

          Despite all that has been endured, much must still pass before He comes. Till the Time, we must endure and not throw away our confidence. Even when the beauty of life loses its allure for us, and light~dances dim in their glimmer, keep the vigil of faith we must.

          However broken and disfigured that faith becomes.

Mission

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          Among the many things I was raised to believe about myself was that I lacked an enduring love and loyalty. That I gave up on people too quickly, so I was not a person anyone should look to for a hand to hold in a crisis.

          I carried that belief within me into friendships, and later, into prayer life, all the time trying to right that wrong.

By forcing myself to remain in deadly relationships because I believed I was the sole author of all that was wrong about it.

And by continuing with prayers long after the call of need had passed and evolved.

          Not surprisingly, I careened from one wreck to another. As I endeavoured to smoothen the path for others, I wound myself into knots that grew tighter and tighter even when I saw I was going nowhere but south, into the pit of unnecessary pain. The window of rescue flung wide, I turned away from. The open door to freedom I ignored, simply because I believed that it was my personal flaws that made me want to take leave of a situation, not the situation itself.

          Over time, through a series of miracles, cords were severed and I was taken to a different school where I began to learn who I really was. That marked the beginning of the end of detrimental relationships, and I slowly learned to loosen and escape the black grip others had over me.

          But one cord from the past remained. That one made me a prisoner within my own prayers, to my own prayers.

          When we’ve seen the inside of any prison far too much, there will be birthed within us a strong desire to free other imprisoned souls in various other prisons. And I found the recitation of various novenas very efficacious towards that intention. So, every time a pain reached me and couldn’t be dislodged after some prayers, I sought the power of novenas.

          While most were said for the required 9 days, there were others that I prayed – for difficult people, for children other parents struggled over, – which stretched on for months on end. I went to them, day after day, month after month, tugged on not only by the determination to spill light and love into wounds, but also by covert hope that I will be rewarded with the knowledge that my prayers had been answered.

          It is this erring pursuit of subliminal self-seeking which took me into landscapes so arid they ultimately dried up every rivulet of love and mercy within me. After much time had passed and seeing no discernible change in the person or situation I was praying about, I had to drag myself to the novena, just to be faithful to it.

          To not be who I was told I was- fickle, disloyal, lacking in compassion.

          It made me dread prayer time.

          I wanted so much to be over and done with some of those novena prayers because I could sense new needs coming up which I had to somehow either squeeze into my prayer schedule or keep waiting.

          Or totally ignore, hoping someone else would take it up.

          Yet, ending the novena was not an option, simply because I didn’t believe I had discerned it right; I thought it was my fickleness, my lack of loyalty and compassion for suffering souls that made me want to leave a prayer need and move on to another call. I saw the call to prayer as a duty I had to lash myself to.

          I failed to realize that praying for my fellow sheep was a mission to shine light, GIVEN me by my Shepherd. And that after a time in a certain part of a pasture, He would call me to another area of need which would require a move to a new meadow.

          I failed to see that to move, I first needed to leave.

         Soon, however, it came to a point where I had to admit to myself that something was very, very wrong if prayer was tearing me to bits. There was also much guilt over the bitter way I was praying for others. I saw it sully and stain my prayers. It wasn’t right.

          Somehow, my bitterness of spirit as I walked in the fields of pain and need constituted a far worse disloyalty towards others. I needed to discern what had gone wrong with me.

          So, back to heaven’s door I went, a changed person. Broken,  bewildered, penitent. No longer powered by my own desires. 

          Slowly, ever so slowly, I began to learn the lesson others guided by wisdom have long understood and obeyed: that when I answer the call to love others, I am shining the Light God Himself has asked me to.

          It is not my light. It is not the light I think I should shine.

          It is the Light received from the Almighty.

          It is the Light of Mission Willed for me.

          And this flame of mission can burn strong and steadily. Or it can change from time to time. Lights are given to be shone for the sake of Love, as Susan Skinner reminded me.

          I cannot, must never, choose which light to shine when or for how long, because I am the hands and feet of Jesus. To lose myself in the Divine Will is to go where He wills me to go, and to stay in one pasture of pain only for as long as He wills.

          And when He sends the angels to lead me elsewhere, I must learn to trust that the Light I held and shone for a time will now be passed into other faithful hands. In the shift of sands, I might be given this same light to shine out once more, or I might never see it again. As I learn to discern my mission at any given time, so must I learn to leave it when called.

          After all, what is faith but to know that I am one of many in the vineyard, there to shine the Light of Mission pressed into my spirit by One whose wisdom I will never surpass.

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SEEKING SILENCE

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          In the noise and distractions of the past weeks, someone has slipped in quietly. He has found his nook, made his home in the silence he calls a friend. Called to a duty he knows well. Watching. Praying. Waiting for me to turn my back resolutely on the chatter that disturbs.

          Waiting to take my hand to navigate the coming twists of path the lie ahead.

          I think about him, and the little I know. My memory traces the stories of old. His immense love for those placed in his heart. His determined protection of the vulnerable. He was a man blessed with an unexpected and special fatherhood. Tenderly guided by the voice of an angel, he immediately embraced the sacredness of the calling. I never knew a father like that, but thankfully, my children have such a daddy – one who has cradled and loved and nurtured them, just like the father of his Lord did before him. Having seen my husband give his heart and soul to our children, loving them even in his pain, I know that the biblical narratives about the silent and resolute heroism of the Holy Spouse of Mary are goldpearls of truth; such a father did, and does exist.

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          They call him the Silent Saint. Often, his is a ministry of love beribboned in quietness. Whether it is to build a staircase for nuns, or to help the desperate find employment or shelter, he finds little need of words, but in love, sets to work on the task to ease the ache of need. I think of the noise that surrounds me, and which makes itself king over my waking hours. I think of my own contribution to the babel, every frivolous word uttered, every shuddering hyena-cackle, and I wonder if those minutes could not have been put to better use, for every second of every minute, someone is in a pain we can help to alleviate. I know I am not called to perpetual solemnness or sepulchral tones. But, what if, just a couple of times, I could have retreated from empty mirth, and gone instead to a place of need, and prayed for a soul not known to me? How hard could that have been? St Faustina once prayed for the grace of interior and exterior silence, so Jesus may have a place to rest His head. My prayer these days is that I too know the grace of interior and exterior silence so I remember to press aching souls into St Joseph’s heart. I will need the gift of silence to discern silent pain and need, and he knows how necessary that is because he truly lived that call on earth. In a world where the currency of empty speech is gaining value and respect, he has led the way first to show us the power and value of silence, and that it has its place of worth in every pilgrim soul.

          I believe it was in the carefully cultivated silence of this saint’s soul, that the angel made his visitations. And it was in this blessed and holy quiet that this gentle man pondered the message of the dreams, and discerned his Master’s voice. As the world’s vain braying reaches a crescendo, and the clamour competes for my attention, I fear that I would no longer be able to hear the Shepherd’s gentle call. To tell it apart from other spikes of cacophony. To understand what He says, what I am called to do. 

          I sense an urgency to seek silence till it embraces me. I need silence to love, and to persevere to love  – whether through prayer or deed. I cannot care as much as I am called to if I am pulled in a hundred directions, lulled to the dangers of noise in my spirit, for this noise is the brittle grit that clogs up charity.

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          Now, more than ever, in the racket of worldly preoccupations and empty pursuits, I need the silence of St Joseph’s soul to know where the abyss of indifference lies, because I sometimes sense its open mouth lies much closer than I think.

 

 

Kumbaya

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          It’s been a few days of mildly unsettling dreams, devoid of a clear message. Confusion, mistakes, irrationality. I seem to be making a mess of things. But something’s missing. It doesn’t seem to herald caution. I don’t get a sense of a warning. The dreams continue. Day after day, yet, strangely, emptied of meaning. I finally turn to St Joseph. What do they mean?

          Immediately, I hear the strains of this old hymn ~

Kumbaya   ~   Come By Here

Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya

Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya

Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya

Oh, Lord, Kumbaya.

 

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Someone’s cryin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Someone’s cryin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Someone’s cryin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Oh, Lord, Kumbaya.

 

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Someone’s prayin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Someone’s prayin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Someone’s prayin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Oh, Lord, Kumbaya.

 

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Someone’s singin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Someone’s singin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Someone’s singin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Oh, Lord, Kumbaya.

 

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Someone’s sleepin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Someone’s sleepin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Someone’s sleepin’ my Lord, Kumbaya

Oh, Lord, Kumbaya.

 

Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya

Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya

Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya

Oh, Lord, Kumbaya.

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          The dreams. Kumbaya ~ Come By Here, Lord. Gently, St Joseph lifts the veil. The attacks have begun. Do not fear. Tend to the wounded.

MESSENGERS

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There is a Call going out, far and wide, streaming over hills, echoing through valleys. The One seeks messengers for His vineyard of daily toil, to trumpet His call through prayer, word and deed.

I, the Lord of sea and sky,

I have heard My people cry;

All who dwell in dark and sin,

My hand will save;

I who made the stars of night,

I will make their darkness bright;

Who will bear My light to them?

Whom shall I send?

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Do you hear the Call? Do you sense it deep within? Do you feel it written on your heart?

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What answer will you give? Will you turn away? Will you ponder? Will you shrink back in fear and doubt?

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Or will you inch open the door, your heart you give?

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Here I am Lord,

Is it I, Lord?

I have heard You calling in the night;

I will go Lord,

If You lead me,

I will hold Your people in my heart.

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Oh, messenger, with courage, joy and faith you step out, searching for this vineyard of His choosing, love for the suffering human race burning deep within. You make your way through doubt and darkness, your light – His Love and Truth. Nothing else matters.

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Striving to attain the heights,

Turning in a new direction,

Entering a lonely place,

Welcoming a friend or stranger.

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The sun dims, and the moon a fading somber glow. Soon, weariness weaves into the fabric of each day of service, a tiredness prayer cannot seem to dissipate.  Rejection, mocking, derision… your constant companions. Slowly, you look back on the life that was before, and the comfort of old life familiarity beckons.

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Silver is of passing worth,

Gold is not of constant value,

Jewels sparkle for a while,

What you long for is not lasting.

 And when the turmoil peaks and tempests wild, when your step falters and it’s too dark to see….you feel a Voice.

I am here, I am with you,

I have called, do you hear Me?

I am here, I am here,

I am with you.

The Holy Spirit Comforts and Guides.