Recently our community marked a significant anniversary: twelve years since our setting out to live monastic life in a new and different situation from the one with which we were familiar. It was very much a case of putting our hand into the hand of God and trusting he wouldn’t let go. We had very little in material terms, but we had very good friends who were generous with help and encouragement, and a firm determination to do our best to live as Benedictines should. Like Naaman in today’s first reading at Mass (2 Kings 5. 1–15), or many a novice since time immemorial, we found it was often the little things that proved difficult. The big things — the insecurity, living in an unsuitable and rather uncomfortable building, having to work long and hard to keep everything going — were not a problem. But having to adjust to a lack of private space and parish, as distinct from monastic, liturgy cost us dear. Even now, when we live in a truly beautiful monastery on the edge of the Golden Valley, we sometimes catch ourselves stumbling over something small and not seeing the vista ahead. Why is that?
I think part of the answer is that we human beings are not very good at letting God deal with things his way, rather than ours. We expect God to behave as we think he should, and when he doesn’t, we are put out. That is why we have such difficulty with his servants, the prophets. Unless they speak the words we think a prophet should speak, we reject them. We see something of this in the Catholic Church today, with the squabbles over the ‘correct’ interpretation of Pope Francis’s words and actions. Like all family squabbles they tend to generate more heat than light, but one could be forgiven for thinking that infallibility is claimed by all and sundry, just not the pope!
Lent is a good time for marvelling at the way in which God uses the circumstances of our ordinary life to heal us of sin and make us whole. We may find ourselves tripping up over something small, something that doesn’t fit our plan. That’s when we have to learn to let go and simply trust God. The ordinary is for us where we learn to become holy. Jesus’ words in the synagogue at Nazara nearly cost him his life then and there because he challenged his audience to lay aside their prejudices and preconceptions and think in God’s way (Luke 4.24–30). It is a challenge we too must take up, and not just in Lent.