The deacon who preached the homily at Mass this weekend used a story told by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin to make his point. It was the story of a prophet who, of course, preached what people needed to hear but what they didn’t always like to hear — repentance and reformation and righteousness — and little by little his audience disappeared. Some even turned on him.
One day someone asked the prophet why he continued to preach when it was clear that no one was listening. He replied that although at first he preached in hopes that he would change others, now he preached in hopes that others would not change him.
Whammo! That got my attention. That’s exactly where I feel I am these days. Much of my “preaching” feels like nothing more than the conversations I have with myself in my own head or, on many occasions, in my own office or kitchen as I’m padding around checking emails or washing dishes.
I try to share my journey here whenever I can. Sometimes that means photos of kids doing silly things or close-ups of my latest cooking creations, but often it means divulging a little piece of my soul, which is never easy and always scary. I feel a bit like that fuzzy caterpillar in the photo at the top of this post, inching his way along the gravel road of a horse farm. Talk about putting yourself out there. But sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do.
Like over the past two weeks. Several times I inched my way out into a sometimes-hostile world to talk about my political position of “independent” and what it means to me, to discuss the obvious connection between vegetarianism and being pro-life, and to “let my pro-life freak flag fly,” the most scary of all my posts because I knew how much some would hate it. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Squish.
And I have to admit there was part of me that wondered why I would do that to myself. Why open myself up for the inevitable backlash — whether through nasty comments or the silent treatment? What’s the point?
When I heard our deacon tell the story about the the prophet (And, trust me, I know full well I’m not a prophet, so, please, no nasty comments about that!), it really hit me like a ton of bricks because I think that’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately. I’ve been preaching my message, letting my freak flag fly in order to keep myself from being changed by the world around me. Even if I am preaching for no one but myself, I guess that’s enough.
So I’m willing to take the occasional criticism, silence, or outright unfriending if that’s what it means to be true to myself and to remember what it is that guides my core and keeps me centered in a world increasingly off balance.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” — John 1:5