Colossians 3:2-3 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
This familiar passage is a beautiful description of what we as penitents are called to do. However, I have found that “setting my mind on things that are above” is easier said than done! There is so much to draw me towards the things of this world. We tend to think of the things of the world as being bad things, but I have found that the things that draw me away from a life of complete surrender to God are most often good and worthy things.
I live in a very small town, about 1000 people. In most communities, I am sure you have noticed, it is the same few people that contribute to the life of the community and this can be the same in a parish community as well. So it is tempting for people of conscience to want to help wherever we can. In a small town, where everyone knows who you are there is even more pressure to contribute to the worthy life of the community. In the past I have had trouble saying no.
But what the Lord has shown me in recent years is that when I am feeling pressured to say yes, it is that much more important to spend time in prayer, to discern if what I am being asked to do is in step with God’s call in my life. What I have discovered through this practice, is that even worthy activities can be a distraction from the life and mission I am called to.
Often our “hidden lives” are hidden, not just from those around us, but from ourselves as well. All the more reason, then, to spend time discerning and discovering what is the will of God for us. I have had to come to grips with the fact that I do not need to “do it all”. God has called many people to fill the all the roles in any given community. If others choose not to answer that call, that should not be my main concern. My only concern should be to fully cooperate with God’s plan for me.
Those of us who have been called to the BSP have been called to a life of prayer and penance. This can be time-consuming, leaving little time for outside activities. Some commitments, such as family and work of course do take priority, as the rule states. But, if we are certain that God has called us to this lifestyle, then no matter how much we feel called to other things, we must ensure that they interfere as little as possible with the life that is “hidden with Christ in God”, the penitential lifestyle.
It is not easy. I know that for me, if I did not belong to a community of penitents, I would fail more often. If it were not for the prayer and fasting of the rule, I would be less able to tell the distractions from what I believe God is asking of me. The really wonderful thing about this is that as I surrender more to the “hidden life”, I feel more confident that God is working through me for the greater benefit of my community. When I do less, I allow him to do more. There is beauty and serenity in that.
May we continue to set our minds on things that are above, that our hidden life may be fulfilled as perfectly as God has desired.