A Sign of Contradiction - Every year since I’ve been ordained a priest I’ve tried to spend a week at a Trappist monastery. I love these monastic experiences because they offer time to retreat from the world and enter into a very different rhythm of life. The monks allow visitors to join them for prayer, and even encourage those on retreat with them to participate in their daily schedule. The day begins at 2:30 in the morning with an hour of prayer in the chapel. The monks sit in silence in a dark church, with the beam of light shining on the Bible from which the readings are proclaimed. There is time for silence, for stillness, for peace. The day follows this rhythm of stillness, as the monks return to the chapel five times throughout the day. The sound of a bell lets them know that whatever work they are involved in must give way to a time of prayer and meditation. I usually stayed for a week with the monks, and it was not uncommon at the end of these experiences for me to ponder if perhaps I should leave the world and continue my priestly life as one of them. This I certainly see as a temptation to flee the world, which at times can leave us battered by the harshness of its busy pace, by its aggressive attempt to make us less human. And then I remember the words of Jesus who called me to be a priest “in the world and not of the world”. I am called to be a sign of contradiction, by witnessing to our secular world the great mystery of God. I believe that we are all called to be a sign of contradiction in our world, in our families, in our communities. How do we do that? We do this not by leaving the world to live in the seclusion of our own private lives, but rather, by living the paradox of our Christian life in the world, by giving to those who have not deserved our gifts, by loving those who have not loved us in return. Lent is a time for us to be reminded of the great privilege that has been bestowed upon us who claim our allegiance to Jesus Christ, to be a sign of hope for the world by living in the world but not looking for true fulfilment in it.
Fr. Wojtek Kuzma