I doubt if my friend would use the word ‘beset’ to describe the way things have gone for him over the past few days. But it’d be an apt choice.
The dictionary definition of ‘beset’: It means to trouble…harass…or assail. And that would pretty much sum things up for Mike this week. He’s had nothing but bad news over the past few days about a great spiritual endeavor he has signed on to lead – some volunteers are deserting him; others, for various reasons, are being disqualified from service; and lately comes the word that the planned event itself may have to be postponed or canceled. This, after many months – and much prayer – have gone into the preparations for the four-day activity.
So I guess you could say Mike is going through something very much like the circumstances that inspired St. Teresa of Avila’s famous quote: ‘If this is how God treats his friends, no wonder he has so few of them.’
But when I noticed that word — beset — in the first reading at Mass this morning, it sparked some thoughts about a different way to reflect upon such circumstances in our lives.
‘The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Let us beset the Just One, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law, and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and styles himself a child of the Lord… Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the Just One be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.’
The echoes of Christ and his Way of the Cross are unmistakable, of course.
Indeed, we have a Lord who understands how it feels to have a broken heart.
We have a Lord who knows all about pain…rejection…frustration.
But notice how knowing Jesus doesn’t usually seem to make things easier for us, when we ourselves are beset.
His is a difficult wisdom to contemplate: to wrap our minds around the notion that these pains may in fact be graces.
That somehow, the hurts and difficulties we experience are working to shape our hearts…to be more like the heart of Christ.
Our challenges and frustrations rarely feel like gifts. And yet, they are.
So as I prayed for my friend today, I prayed also for myself:
Help me, Lord, to embrace the wisdom You send me in my present difficulties. Or if not to embrace it, then at least to accept it, and ponder it. Show me the truth in it, and through that truth, draw me ever closer to You. Amen.
Let us pause now…to remember that we are in the presence of the Holy One.