I have often preached on how difficult the disciples found it to have patience and wait for the Lord to act, such as in the period between the Crucifixion and Pentecost. I can imagine the impetuous Peter exclaiming: “Well, he promised us the gift of the Holy Spirit of God, but when is it going to happen?’ And then one of the quieter apostles calming him down, perhaps reminding him that Jesus took about thirty years before he began his active preaching and teaching.
Now I find myself in such a period of waiting, and I find I am more like Peter than my calm sermons may have indicated!
I have been retired from St Clement’s less than two months, and I am already tired of waiting for the Lord to show me how to exercise my priesthood next. For of one thing I am sure, and that is that priests seldom retire in the secular sense of just walking away from all they used to do and abandoning all priestly ministry. Of course illness and failing powers may make anything but passive contemplative prayer or even active intercessory prayer the only thing left that the priest can do, and that is true also of lay people in similar circumstances. But I am reasonably fit (though I get much sympathy for my limp) and my mental powers are not totally faded away (though don’t expect brilliant repartee at 6 in the morning, nor even that I’ll remember your name!); so I am eagerly waiting on the Lord and not making a very good job of being patient. Mine is the prayer of one of the saints who prayed “Lord, give me patience, and get on with it now.” I am eagerly waiting for the Lord to indicate what he would like me to do next..
However, as with everything else, the Lord acts through other people. I have been enjoying the hospitality of friends in Scotland, London, New Jersey, and here in Philadelphia, and this week am going to stay with my oldest American friend for a week or two in Washington, D.C. And all these friends have sensed my impatience and been a great help in exploring possibilities. One of these is to fill my diary with the invitations that have been coming in to preach and speak in friends’ churches all over the States and in the UK. I would love to do all these, but for that I will need a settled home from which to travel to these occasions. But what is stopping me from leasing an apartment immediately is that there are other suggestions, to take on longer interim jobs – three months or six months or even a year. Then it would be foolish to pay a rent on an empty apartment. And then there are even other suggestions that I take on what in England is called a “House for duty” position which usually means that one takes the Sunday services and the equivalent of one or two days a week “duty” (marriages, baptisms, sick Communions etc) in return for which one is given the Rectory, which may be a vast old house or – more likely these days – a more manageable (but still four bedroom) modern house.
So back to the beginning I am waiting – and it is a novel experience. On the one hand, I have plenty time to say the Divine Office in its entirety and pray through the Rosary slowly, rather than the dizzy rush round which used to happen. On the other hand, my day has no fixed structure and, although I have all the time in the world, I find I am not very good at getting on with the tasks that I used to have to fit into spare minutes between Masses or interviews or visits. So I will be glad of the prayers of my friends. My favourite at the moment is from the Psalms: “Up, Lord, why sleepest thou. Awake”! But maybe it is I who am sleeping; I have made a resolution to move my ass, as Balaam might have put it (but didn’t!)