Sunday Refections

Living in the time of waiting

29 November 2020 - 1st Sunday Advent Year B​

When COVID-19 began to impact negatively on all aspects of our lives, we questioned when the situation would turn around for the better. We heard a lot of predictions but, in reality, no one knew when the pandemic would end. And we still don’t.

Today, we begin the Advent journey of waiting for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ. In today’s gospel Jesus speaks of a man who travels abroad, leaving his servants in charge, warning them to stay awake, always prepared and ready for his return. Jesus reminds us that we should stay awake, ready for his return: “Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come.”

So, we await the coming of the Lord. But no one knows when it is going to happen. This should not frighten or confuse us. Our faith tells us that the Lord will come and he will come unexpectedly. During his earthly life, Jesus showed us that God is all loving and merciful, faithful to His people and to His promises. So, we wait in readiness and with a sure hope and joyful expectation for the Lord’s coming.

The pandemic and other struggles we encounter day-to-day might lead us sometimes to doubt and question the presence of God in our lives and our world. It is sometimes especially hard to wait for the Lord’s coming while we are facing the fear and the difficulties life brings. But the first coming of the Saviour – as a babe, born like us and sharing in our human experience, its joys and its sorrows – assures us that our faith and our hope for his return is well-founded.

Jesus left us with a simple commandment, yet a challenging one. “Love God and love your neighbour.” It really is as simple – and as difficult – as that. The length of the period of waiting for his coming does not matter, but the quality of our discipleship does matter. We are called to live “the time of waiting” by loving and placing our trust in God, and by caring for one another – especially the poor, needy and vulnerable in our world – and for the whole of God’s creation.

But we must stay awake! We do not know the time, but we must prepare and be ready for his coming! This is vital. We can be sure, through it all, that God cares for us and continues to love us. The Holy Spirit, our advocate, guides and teaches us to live the life of discipleship to which we are called as followers of Jesus, our Saviour.

Let us be joyful and join with Saint Paul by saying, “I never stop thanking God for all the graces we have received through Jesus Christ.”

Redempt Jawa CSsR
© Majellan Media 2020

Committing to a higher power

Committing to a higher power
I was recently re-watching the American political drama series, The West Wing. In one episode the White House chief of staff, Leo McGarry (played by John Spenser) who is a recovering alcoholic offers comfort to the deputy chief of staff, Josh Lyman (played by Bradley Whitford) during a period when Josh is suffering with PTSD.

McGarry tells Lyman this story: There was a guy who one day when walking along a footpath fell down an open manhole and was trapped in a deep trench. Several people walked by and, despite his calls for help, none paid him any attention.

Eventually a friend of his came along and, recognising his pal he called, “Hey Harry! Can you give me a hand? I am stuck in this trench and can’t get out!”
Harry immediately leaps down into the trench. His friend looks at him incredulously and sputters, “Harry, what are you doing? Now we are both trapped!”

Harry turns to his friend and says, “Hey! It’s ok! I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out!”

The point of the story was that McGarry, as a recovering alcoholic, knew exactly what it was like to suffer mental anguish and hopelessness. As someone who had found a ‘way out’, he could offer Lyman empathy, support, and direction as Lyman tried to navigate his depression.

The potency of the Easter story is that Jesus has been there before us. He has suffered the worst that life can dish up; and has, not only found a way out, but has become our ‘way out’. His death and resurrection are the guarantor that, as the Psalmist proclaimed, “The Lord hears when I call out” (Ps 4:4).
The Easter story is neither a simple sop for broken hearts, nor an empty reassurance that God will rescue us from our troubles. As today’s gospel demonstrates, Jesus was raised still bearing the wounds of his suffering.

God did not spare Jesus the cross despite his “agony in the garden.”
Similarly, the character of Leo McGarry in The West Wing was a “recovering alcoholic.” He was not cured of his alcoholism. Through his participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, McGarry had committed his alcoholism to a “higher Power” and, thereby, found the strength to “not take the next drink”. But he also found the wisdom and charity to offer Josh Lyman the support he needed to begin the process of recovery from depression and hopelessness.

For us too, the story of the resurrection is one that can bring hope and encouragement; but by committing ourselves to the “higher power” of the actual person of the resurrected Jesus, we can find the strength to begin a new journey of recovery – to find a way out.

And more! In bringing our sufferings to Jesus, we also find the wisdom and the charity to empathise, support and lead others who need a “way out” of the darkest trenches of the human condition.

Ian J Elmer
© Majellan Media 2021

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