Saturday, August 17, 2013

Life Can be a Maze

A pheasant hen came out of her dark abode and went over to  the edge of a lake. She looked into the water and saw her image, which surprised her: eyes sunken, body thin, feathers dull--she looked ugly. She had been hurt by the abusive behavior of the male pheasant, who left her. She couldn't eat or sleep, and began reflecting on her sorry condition and realized that it was not the male who had brought about her condition. She alone was responsible by the way she had responded to his abusive behavior. Putting her thinking in order and seeing clearly the foolishness of her ways, she aimed for the blue heavens, flying up into the sky, a new being. This story by a Korean fairytale writer, whose stories often serve as a source for reflection by a priest who writes in a bulletin for priests, was used to illustrate what can happen when we don't take responsibility for our emotional responses to difficult situations.  

Fr. K, in his late 30s, severely reprimanded by his bishop, was assigned to a small parish in the outskirts of the diocese, quite a distance from the bishop and the activities of the diocese. He was not very zealous in his work and did not relate well with his fellow priests.

He nurtured his disappointments and failures, which was making the last part of his life bitter and and lonely. His feelings of inferiority and the disappointments made his life with others difficult. That the words of a superior, said in a brief moment, could make life lose its meaning for him, said the priest-writer, is heartbreaking. To ask for forgiveness with an act of great love, or like the hen to fly high into the heavens is extremely difficult.

The bishop was the occasion for this situation but Fr. K  himself, says the priest, is more responsible for the outcome and allowing what occurred in the past to destroy his life is a great fault. Moreover, though the bishop had ostracized him, there was no reason for him to ostracize himself. There never is a good reason, the priest says, when others have put us down to put ourselves down. Though admitting we have many faults, he says there is plenty we can do to correct our defects, which are not part of who we truly are. We are precious beings, unique with great value, who have much to give to others.

It is necessary for us to see ourselves positively, and to love ourselves, he says. When we see ourselves negatively we lose our will, fail to love ourselves, and live without goals. This tends to breed a feeling of inferiority, as we lose hope and fall into despair.

Jesus made it a habit to be with despairing people and gave them hope, which led to the realization that they were loveable, which led to their living in a loving way. We are told that in the middle ages, and even before, a maze was marked out in some manner on many of the church floors. Christians would kneel  at the entrance to the maze and begin crawling along the maze seeking to find the exit. When they came to a dead end, they would retrace their steps and look for another way that would allow them to continue their journey. It was a good lesson in patience and motivation.  Life, at times, can be maze-like, but once we face the difficulties of life and keep in mind that there is a way out of any difficulty, we can, like the pheasant hen, soar toward the heavens and become the being we were meant to be.  

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