Faith at Work LXXXVII

October 2011

Our last beatitude in this series reads: "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” [Matthew 5:11,12]. Commentators often join this to the previous beatitude, but Jesus has dramatically swapped from talking generalities about others to speaking directly to his hearers. And he refers specifically to what he has come to do. Follow me, and the truth that I speak. You will be blessed when you persevere even if your enemies keep pressing with their false, and opposing, lines. The secret is to remain focussed on the truth and the promise that Jesus offered to those Jews who believed in Him: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and developer of logo-therapy, had much time to contemplate this as he was held prisoner in concentration camps during the Second World War and, apart from his sister, losing all of his family at the same time. From these tragic experiences, his search for meaning in life went profoundly deep. That was partly how he came to survive: he managed to maintain a degree of vigour and ability, a side effect of which made him useful to those in control. Immediately after the war, in 1946, he wrote an introduction to his coaching techniques in “Man’s search for meaning”. Frankl often quotes Nietsche: “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” Jesus offers his disciples the why to live too. His way is to listen to the deep murmurings of the Holy Spirit, the comforter and guide to truth who dwells in the depths of our soul throughout all that life throws at us.

That is part of what I plan to do during my sabbatical, to become quiet and reflect on all that I receive from the God who created and sustains me; I also plan to catch up on my reading, especially by those who have explored life’s meaning. When I mentioned it at a recent BCUIM Board meeting, one of the trustees came up afterwards wondering whether I might be following something like “the Big Silence” that was screened on BBC2 in 2010. It followed the paths of five volunteers invited to Worth Abbey by Abbot Christopher Jamison to experience life in his monastery, to take part in a guided, silent retreat and to establish periods of silence in their busy lives; he is convinced that anyone would benefit from regular times of silence. Most of the five struggled initially, but all discovered life changing for the better as a result of their disciplines of silence; I hope mine will too. You may want to look out for opportunities to try it yourself; when you do, remember the psalmist [Ps.46:10] when he says:

be still and know
that I am God

This site was developed to contain work by Mike Fox relating to the WMMTC course
and subsequent experience during ministry in the parish of Codsall and the BCUIM.
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