I am changing rooms. I am moving from my ground floor room to the room above, because the College Rector says he would like to have my ground floor room for “old priests”, who happen to visit! However, the move is taking longer than I thought, firstly, because I asked to have the wooden floor varnished as it needs it – something I would probably not have noticed had I already been in residence. So, the change is making me see things, which otherwise I might not notice. This is also true of my books; I take an armful of books and carry them upstairs to my new room and as I place them on the shelves I discover books I had forgotten I had and notice other books that I had promised myself to read and never got round to it. So, my changing rooms is becoming a programme for future reading! Then, there are my pictures and keepsakes, such as a small brass crucifix I bought when I first entered seminary, all of these have a special meaning for me, but I often overlook them once they are arranged on my walls and shelves. Now, however, as I think where to put them in my new room, I pause and think about the old friends and departed loved ones they remind me of, some of the many friendships, which have enriched my life – and I thank my Lord for his blessings. So, my move to a new room is becoming rather like a retreat, a new beginning, a rethinking of who I am, where I have come from, and where, under the grace of God, I wish to go.
New beginnings should be very much a part of our Christian lives and this is seen in a particularly striking way in the connection between Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday. The ashes we receive, at the beginning of Lent, are made from the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year; palms with which we welcomed Jesus into his Holy City and hailed him as our Lord. However, as the year goes by and we slip and fall in our weakness, we realise that our Palm Sunday promises to walk with the Lord are no longer as bright as they were when we received those palms, so we burn them and put the ashes on our head. Then, through prayer and works of penance, we try to open ourselves more fully to the Lord, and when Palm Sunday comes again, we bless a new bunch of palms – and begin again!
At first sight this may seem to be hypocrisy, but it is not. When we pledge to follow the Lord, we do so with as much zeal and love as is at our disposal – but there are still parts of us in the process of being redeemed, those parts which are not yet fully his and some of these we discover as the weeks and months of trying to serve him pass by. Thus, when Lent begins again we are ready, in a deeper way, to offer ourselves as his companions. The Christian life has to be like this, because we are not following a moral code, but are in a real relationship with our God and, like all friendships, it has to deepen and grow and this happens when, through our failures, we discover things about ourselves and in so doing are able to rededicate ourselves to the Lord, but this time at a deeper level. Any friendship, be that marriage or otherwise, if it is to survive and grow, has to be based on recognising our faults and weaknesses, saying sorry, and beginning again, for without this constant rediscovery and rededication a friendship will eventually crumble.
Nor should these “new beginnings” be confined to once a year reflections. We can make each day such a new beginning – and just a short prayer, as the day begins, can be the doorway to that. As we start each new day, our minds are often so filled with what we need to do next: get up, have breakfast, get to work – or for me, ‘say Mass’ – that we can easily forget why we are doing all these things. A short prayer of dedication can help us take a step back and look at who we are and the direction we want our life to have – and this puts the day before us into context. The morning offering can, thus, give us a ‘new beginning’ each day and, by God’s grace, enable us to live that day more fully, more deeply, more lovingly with the Lord.
So, this afternoon, I polished up the small brass crucifix, I bought nearly fifty years ago, so that it is ready for my new room and as I do so I remember the path that I chose all those years ago, and I renew that choice. I know the small crucifix will tarnish again, but in the bright gleam of its newly polished brass I say to the Lord, “I love you” and thus I take another step nearer to the friend with whom I have chosen to spend my life and who I know will never fail me!
This is the first time, for some weeks, that I have found the energy to write a blog, ever since I first heard the sad news that my brother was coming to the end of his life. This lassitude, I know, is part of the grieving process, so I am not worried about it, for to grieve for a loved one is a very human thing to do. A few weeks ago, I did start to write a blog called “The pain of loving”, but I found I am not yet ready to try to put that down on paper, so I have put it to one side to be continued at some later date. I do miss my brother very much, but I thank God that I have had such a brother both to love and to grieve for.
Two days ago, I noticed that the cistern of my toilet seemed to be sloping, so thinking that the lid had been put on wrongly, I checked and saw that one of the screws holding it on to the wall was bent and that was why the cistern was lop-sided. However, it seemed to be firm enough, so I thought it could wait until Saturday, when I would ask one of the seminarians to fix it. However, yesterday afternoon there was a tremendous crash and I discovered that the cistern had come off the wall and cracked. Isn’t there a proverb somewhere that says, “A stitch in time saves nine!”
I am going to Lundu for the Easter Triduum – a small town about an hour and a half drive from here – that will enable the Parish priest there to go to one of his kampongs (villages) for the Easter services. A difficulty is that the services will be in Malay – a language I am not very good at – so I shall be relying on the Holy Spirit – and your prayers!!!
In the Cathedral here in Kuching, I believe they are baptising 300 people on Easter night!
So a very Happy Easter to you all and many blessings!