I often think that I have the best job in the world, not a job really but a life. As a priest I am very fortunate. I have to add that I love my work because I am someone who has always embraced and enjoyed adventure and challenge and the daily life of a priest has more than enough of both.
A priest who seeks to live fully finds themselves fully immersed in the lives of people. For me the past 24 hours has included delighting with the couple rejoicing at the arrival of their new baby after a stillbirth two years ago, sitting with the family of the dying parishioner, chatting with a young person who is struggling with uncertain health and minutes later meeting with a couple excited about their immanent wedding, listening to a family who are struggling with a relationship crisis, overseeing details of the Amberley church restoration which begins tomorrow, trying to complete a writing assignment which is well overdue, a friendly conversation in the supermarket with a parishioner who has kept a distance from the parish for some time, having dinner with priest friends and taking part in the Month’s Mind Mass for Fr. Graeme Blackburn (picture above) who died tragically one month ago today just six months after his ordination to the priesthood.
There are a few other moments in the day that are easily overlooked including starting to mow the lawns (and not making too much progress), trying to rescue a couple of sick trees that I have neglected for too long, and visiting my new home in Christchurch to begin planning for my move later this month.
Fr. Graeme Blackburn’s death has been a great suffering for us here in the Christchurch diocese and for his family and friends around the world. Chatting with some of Graeme’s friends tonight before the Mass they asked: “how can we make sense of this?” Two other people have asked the same question of me in similar words in different situations during the day.
People expect a priest to have the answer to these big important questions, but I don’t.
Sometimes I feel as though my silence is a disappointment to them. If a priest cannot make sense of life’s suffering what hope is there?
I thought about this as I was driving back to Amberley at the end of the day and realised that I would much rather spend time with people who live with questions than with people who think that they have all the answers.
There is a humility and real intimacy in being with people who have big unanswered questions. There’s often a lot of humour too as we laugh at our attempts to ignore our human limitations pretending we are God. There’s also real friendship in sharing the questions and living with the uncertainty.
The unanswered questions keep us awake to the reality that the answer to life’s big and burdensome questions is not a theory or a programme but a relationship with Jesus who is God with us.
This is good news because healthy humans seek relationship.
As you are reading this reflection your own uncertainties and struggles will come to mind. You might like to take the last verse of today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah as an encouraging mantra for the day:
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!