Greetings in Christ, St. Mary’s Family!
Today, and every day, let’s take advantage of this disruption of our daily lives due to the pandemic. One way to do this is to pray in part or in whole today’s Compline service.
In honor and memory of our beloved Fr. Anthony Coniaris, let’s read his reflection on “Presiding over Life’s Interruptions,” found in The Message of the Sunday Gospel Readings Volume I (51-55). Used with permission by Light and Life Publishing.
PRESIDING OVER LIFE’S INTERRUPTIONS
(Seventh Sunday of St. Luke. St. Luke 8:41-56)
A teacher, testing whether his physics students had studied their lesson on specific gravity, asked, “What happens when a body is immersed in water?” One student replied, “The telephone rings!” The response is true to life. Start to take a bath and the telephone rings. Plan a quiet weekend of rest at home, and a houseful of company arrives unannounced. Plan anything and watch the interruptions come.
William Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” was never finished. The poet himself could not say how it could have ended because of an interruption that occurred. Someone knocked on Coleridge’s door. When the poet opened the door to let his visitor the idea of the poem fled and never returned. When asked what he does as college president, one person replied, “I preside over interruptions!” What do we do with the interruptions of life? Resent them? Become bitter about them? Or preside over them and try to use them creatively?
JESUS FACED INTERRUPTIONS
Let us look for a moment at what Jesus did with the Interruptions of life. One day He was making a beeline through a crowd to help the critically ill, only daughter of the President of the Synagogue. It was a crisis moment, and just at that point a sick woman touched the hem of His garment. How did Jesus respond to that interruption? He stopped. He searched the crowd until He found the woman who had touched Him. He took time to show His concern for her, to speak to her, and to assure her that it was great faith that had healed her. At another time Jesus was making His final entrance into Jerusalem. He knew what was ahead: the most important hour in history was approaching. It was at this tense moment that a blind beggar called out to Him for help. People tried to silence the beggar, but Jesus heard him: He stopped, talked to the man about his need, and healed him. When mothers brought their babies to Jesus one day for His attention and blessing, the disciples resented the interruption. After all, Jesus had a lot of work to do, a great mission to accomplish. He had no time for little children; only grown-ups deserved His time and concern. So the disciples thought. But not Jesus! He turned to the disciples and chided them: “Let the little children come to Me. Do not hinder them, for to them belongs the Kingdom of God.”
At another time Jesus was preaching a sermon to a houseful of people when suddenly He was interrupted by a thud of falling mud which dropped to the floor in front of Him. Everyone’s eyes went to the ceiling. They saw a hole, and some men were making the hole bigger. When it was large enough, they carefully lowered a sick man on a litter and dropped him at the feet of Jesus. Far from resenting this interruption of His sermon, Jesus expressed admiration for the great faith of these people and He healed the sick man.
OUR COMING TO JESUS IS NOT AN INTERRUPTION
We see in these instances that Jesus was willing to be interrupted. In fact, He respected interruptions. He gave them his full attention. Because Jesus is God, this shows that God is always willing to be interrupted by us in prayer at any time, any place, anywhere. Because He loves each of us as if there were only one of us to love, He does not ever consider our calling upon Him, or our coming to Him, as an interruption. It is only those who do not know Jesus who say, “I hate to bother God with my problem. He is so great, and has so many billions of people to look after, why should He be concerned about me?” But God is concerned. He was concerned about Jarius’ sick daughter. He was concerned about the sick woman who reached out to touch Him in the crowd. He was concerned about the blind beggar who called out to Him from the gutter of a street. He was concerned about mothers bringing their little babies to Him to be blessed. Even though He was busy at each moment, Jesus did not consider even one of these encounters interruption as but as an opportunity to show His concern and love.
BE WILLING TO BE INTERRUPTED
A retired professor said once, “you know . . . my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were were my work.”
Jesus never promised that our lives would not be interrupted by people with real reeds. In fact, He told a parable once about some religious people -a priest and a levite – on their way to worship, who were not willing to let their lives be interrupted by a wounded man lying by the side of the road. The parable is called The Good Samaritan because the hated Samaritan was the only one who was willing to interrupt his busy schedule to help the wounded man. The truth is that if we pray daily for guidance, there will be no so-called “interruptions,” only God-given opportunities for us to be ministers and servants of Christ wherever there is need. Need does not keep a schedule. Telling a hurting human being to come back when you have time, is to insure that you will never see him again.
How any miracles of Jesus were scheduled in prime time? I can’t think of one that wasn’t the result of an interruption. It turned out to be a miracle because Jesus stopped, turned aside, listened, paused, felt, wept, cared, loved. How many miracles have not happened because you and I were too rigidly self-centered to allow ourselves to be interrupted?
We have so many different ways of saying to people, “Don’t interrupt me.” And they won’t- ever!
One pastor said once, “If I had my ministry to live over, I would work very hard on my disposition and attitude concerning interruptions. I would learn to see and accept the ministry of interruptions. The normal response is fretfulness, irritation, or frustration. In one business establishment, it is said that there was a slogan that said, ‘A customer is not an interruption of our work, but is the reason for it’. A member of our flock with problems is not an interruption of the pastor’s work, but is the reason for it. I would try to let it be known that I am accessible and available any time to anybody under any circumstances to help them with any matter. This, no doubt, would sometimes prove to be a hardship, but the rewards of ministry would more than compensate for any sacrifice or hardship.”
THE INTERRUPTION OF SICKNESS
Next, there is that forceful interruption that comes to us so often – the interruption called sickness’
Henri Nouwen says, “I would like to tell you the story of a middle-aged man whose career was suddenly interrupted by the discovery of leukemia, a fatal blood cancer. All his life plans crumbled and all his ways had to change. But slowly he was able to ask himself no longer: ‘Why did this happen to me? What did I do wrong to deserve this fate?’ but instead, ‘What is the promise hidden in this event?, when his rebellion became a new quest, he felt that he could give strength and hope to other cancer patients and, that by facing his condition directly, he could make his pain into a source of healing for others. To this day, this man not only does more for patients than many ministers are able to do, but he also re-found his life on a level that he had never known before'” By God’s grace he was able to preside over the interruption of leukemia.
THE CONDEMNATION OF NON-INTERRUPTION
Let me share with you the following short article that appeared in a magazine some time ago: When you are exasperated by interruptions try to remember that their very frequency may indicate the value of your life. Only the people who are full of help and strength are burdened by other people’s needs. The interruptions which we chafe at are the credentials of our indispensability. The greatest condemnation that anybody could incur- and it is a danger guard against it – is to be SO independent, so unhelpful, nobody ever interrupts us and we are left utterly alone.”
Someone once said, “Interruptions are the spice of life.”
They can give life a beautiful flavor. They can be converted from vexations into opportunities of love and service for God’s glory as Jesus did in His ministry.
“You know . . . my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.”
One of these days each one of us will face the last and final interruption: the interruption of death. God will call us home. If we have responded lovingly to those other interruptions of life, the last interruption will be God’s call to glory
Dear Lord, give us your love that will help us preside over interruptions, as You did, and look upon them as opportunities to show people your love. Amen.
Used with permission by Light and Life Publishing.