The Readings for Tuesday in the Week of Pentecost (B2)
Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God.
When James uses the word “adulterers” here, he means we are not being faithful to our relationship with God. We may think we’re being polyamorous but God wants us all to himself. We’re cheating on him.
I never know how to navigate this. Look sex I can handle. Racism, Ecology, Peace, Justice… this I can handle. But when someone asks me where I want to be in 5 years time, the answer has always been “closer to heaven”. In as much as I’ve always wanted to be a priest, I don’t have any map for success, or any idea of what it would look like. Increasingly, though, as that goal seems less and less likely, I’ve listened to my friend, Steve Robinson:
- I need to be an adult:
- pay my bills,
- say my prayers,
- support my parish,
- and love my parents.
God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission — I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his — if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.
- Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising;
- give your first thoughts to God;
- make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament;
- say the Angelus devoutly;
- eat and drink to God’s glory;
- say the Rosary well;
- be recollected; keep out bad thoughts;
- make your evening meditation well;
- examine yourself daily;
- go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.
To this I would add this simple rule, offered by Alexander Schmemann in his journals (Mindul that he was writing privately, yes, but to a hypothetical reader who – like me – was craving monastic obedience as the magic panacea for whatever it is that ails you):
- get a job, if possible the simplest one, without creativity (for example as a cashier in a bank);
- while working, pray and seek inner peace; do no get angry; do not think of yourself (rights, fairness, etc.). Accept everyone (coworkers, clients) as someone sent to you; pray for them;
- after paying for a modest apartment and groceries, give your money to the poor; to individuals rather than foundations;
- always go to the same church and there try to be a real helper, not by lecturing about spiritual life or icons, not by teaching but with a “dust rag” (cf. St Seraphim of Sarov). Keep at that kind of service and be–in church matters–totally obedient to the parish priest.
- do not thrust yourself and your service on anyone; do not be sad that your talents are not being used; be helpful; serve where needed and not where you think you are needed;
- read and learn as much as you can; do not read only monastic literature, but broadly (this point needs more precise definition);
- if friends and acquaintances invite you because they are close to you–go; but not too often, and within reason. Never stay more than one and a half or two hours. After that the friendliest atmosphere becomes harmful;
- dress like everybody else, but modestly, and without visible signs of a special spiritual life;
- be always simple, light, joyous. Do not teach. Avoid like the plague any “spiritual” conversations and any religious or churchly idle talk. If you act that way, everything will be to your benefit;
- do not seek a spiritual elder or guide. If he is needed, God will send him, and will send him when needed;
- having worked and served this way for ten years–no less–ask God whether you should continue to live this way, or whether change is needed. And wait for an answer: it will come; the signs will be “joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.”
And if you can’t then try again. Be faithful in piety and love, God will give you ways to use your gifts and you will always see them and fulfill them.