We stuff up our lives…because we’re afraid to lose control (& let God)
John the Baptist is in prison. He’s given his life preparing for the Messiah but now, perhaps, he’s worried the Messiah may not appear? Or, perhaps John sends his disciples to find Jesus so they’ll know who to follow now that John is finished?
Our challenge and invitation this week is: “Who do we follow?” And why do we follow them? I suggest that John’s time in prison is a great opportunity for him to sit and reflect. In order to work out a way forward for ourselves, we also need to take time out and reflect.
Second Q: “How do we know we are really following the person we think we are following?” After following someone for a while, it’s good to check if anyone is following us, and why?
The First Reading reminds us of the longing of the people of Israel for the Messiah to come. It’s a reflection of our own desire – or is it?
“Are we comfortable, thank you very much: so get lost and let me enjoy my comfort?” This was the attitude and response of the Pharisees.
The first reading is a good summary of our lives and a moment to acknowledge our struggles:
Wilderness = the parts of our lives where we know we behave badly: bad habits, anger, etc.
Wastelands = the times in our lives when we feel empty, unimportant and lost.
Weary Hands = the times/places in our lives when we are exhausted from our work.
Trembling Knees = the times/places where we live in fear: abuse, loss of status, loss of money.
These are EXTERNAL realities of our lives: if not every day, then at different stages in our lives.
As Christians we believe the Messiah has come. Jesus promised to return: people waited in vain! The problem, I believe, was the form that people expected Jesus to return under:
Just as most people 2000 years ago expected the Messiah to be a mighty warrior and give the Romans a beating; so, later, people expected Jesus to return as a conquering hero. But, God always works in unexpected ways. So the 1st reading also challenges our INTERNALS:
Blind eyes = do we see the good in others? (St James said: “don’t judge others”)
Lame legs = do we have energy to walk over and help people?
Dumb Tongue = can we speak words of encouragement to others? Even Liverpool supporters?
Remember how Jesus came as a little baby? He needed all sorts of care and encouragement? Why do we expect Christmas to be easy for us today? It was tough for Mary and Joseph:
“Hey, love, Uber is on strike, wanna take a donkey ride to Bethlehem?
And after arriving: “Hey, sweetheart, the hotel is overbooked, wanna crash in the barn?
After the birth: “sorry Mary, the washer is broken, have to wash the nappies by hand.”
Fr Rolheiser shared this story about one of our Oblate missionaries in Northern Canada (a tough, cold place): He was sent to minister to a cluster of small Indigenous communities in Northern Canada. The people were very nice to him but it didn’t take him long to notice that every time he scheduled an appointment, the person wouldn’t show up. At first, he excused this as miscommunication, but eventually he realized the pattern was too consistent for this to be an accident. So he asked a Community Elder for some advice: “Every time I make an appointment with someone,” he told the Elder, “they don’t show up.” The Elder smiled, knowingly, and replied: “Of course, they won’t show up, the last thing they need is to have an outsider like you organizing their lives for them!” So the missionary asked: “What do I do?” The Elder replied: “Well, don’t make an appointment, just show up and talk to them! They’ll be nice to you. More importantly, you need to: stay here for a long time: then they’ll trust you. They want to see whether you’re a missionary or a tourist”
Thomas Halik once commented that an atheist is simply another term for someone who doesn’t have enough patience with God: Messiahs can only be born inside a womb in which there’s enough patience and willingness to wait, so as to let things happen on God’s terms, not ours.
The modern world is challenge because it’s fast, it’s mobile and we have too much knowledge. Can we sit still long enough for God to catch us (without Liverpool & Man United!)? To catch God – to find Emmanuel – we need to work hard.
*Are you (me) controlling God, or letting God control you (me)?*
Like the boy in the picture, do we think we know enough to be the boss?
Have a great week ahead! May we all be “strong” enough to let God take control.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI