Sunday, February 12, 2017

Being chosen, belonging, being a deacon

The opposite of being chosen is being left out. Being left out means not belonging. I don't know about you, but I want to belong and so I fear being left out. I am disappointed when I am not chosen. Even now in my fifties I still wrestle with this. Sometimes I internally lambast myself for not being more self-actualized. What makes this phenomenon even stranger in my case is that I am without doubt an introvert, which might mean not being chosen is a relief. Frankly, I often experience a contradictory tension, but that is a different subject perhaps for another post (perhaps not).

In the introduction to his beautiful book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, the late John O'Donahue wrote:
While our culture is all gloss and pace on the outside, within it is too often haunted and lost. the commercial edge of so-called "progress" has cut away a huge region of human tissue and webbing that held us in communion with one another. We have fallen out of belonging
Two years ago last month I made the decision, prayerfully discerned with my wife from the previous Easter, to walk away from a position very much in the center of things, a place I felt chosen and where I felt belonged. My sense of being chosen and belonging, upon close examination, turned out to be, not exclusively, but in too great a proportion, a lot egotism. While I have not regretted my decision in the least and when I think about it would not want to return, there are times when I find myself, due to nothing external, feeling unchosen, like I don't belong. Based on a few events unfolding right now, which are actually somewhat remote from me and shouldn't affect me at all, I awoke this morning feeling down, feeling unchosen.

As I am wont to do in my healthier moments when I feel anxious, despairing, scared, or cast out, I offered this to the One to whom I belong (I won't go into how I react in my unhealthier moments, it's not good). Like most people of faith, I suppose, I pray better when I feel my need most acutely. This morning, I uttered, "Lord, I feel unchosen, like I don't belong." Without any delay, here's what flooded my soul: "Scott, I chose you by name in baptism. I chose you by name in confirmation. Holly chose you in marriage. I chose you in ordination for service to my people and the world."

If I refused to believe that Christ chose me, according to the mystery of His divine will and not for anything I am able to offer in return (St Paul's words to the Corinthians apply here: "God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong" 1 Cor 1:27 ), then I would have to resign myself to forever being the outsider, the one who doesn't belong, even if my life looked like one of belonging. Self-imposed exile is exile nonetheless.

All of this, oddly enough, confirms my diaconal vocation. In the third chapter of his book The Heart of the Diaconate: Communion with the Servant Mysteries of Christ, Deacon James Keating asserted that in ordination a deacon receives a brand, or a wound, indicating that he is no longer his own. It is through ordination that a deacon gives himself to Christ. In turn, Christ gives the deacon to the Church for service. Looking back over 13-plus years of being a deacon, I have often experienced my ordination as a wound. According to Keating, to be chosen in this way means to bear this wound "that renders [the deacon’s] very being vulnerable to share Christ’s own servant mysteries." Therefore, it makes sense that the essential "'work' of diaconal spiritual life is to keep this wound open" so that the deacon can "learn how to receive grace even while ministering."

Fundamental to being a deacon is seeing that nobody feels unchosen or left out, but to remind everyone, especially those on the fringes who are often truly left out, that they are chosen and belong.

1 comment:

  1. A lovely reflection, Deacon. Thank you for sharing.


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