Advent: a time of joyful waiting and Holy longing.

A year on, but the truth remains…

Advent: a time of joyful waiting, of Holy longing.

So far, this season of Advent has brought into sharp focus those for whom the waiting is not joyful…

…for those waiting for the bombs to drop

…for those waiting to fly over combat zones

…for those waiting for asylum

…for those waiting for a border to open

…for those waiting for their next fix

…for those waiting for to be evicted

…for those waiting to be made redundant

…for those waiting to die

…for those waiting to hear from an estranged child

…for those waiting for a spouse to come home

…for those waiting, waiting.

Or for the longing that seems far from Holy…

…for those longing for someone to love

…for those longing to be loved

…for those longing for a lover’s touch

…for those longing to be a priority

…for those longing for the grief to pass

…for those longing with such longing.

Advent is full of waiting and longing. And it’s the longing that I find painful, I always find Hope such a cruel virtue.

Whatever we are waiting for (and it doesn’t matter if it is good or bad), hope leaves the door open ajar when sometimes it would be easier if it slammed shut. Never to be opened again.

But hope springs eternal, and particularly in Advent.

For in Advent we await the coming of the only One that can make sense of it all…

…The One who calls us to rest when the waiting wearies us

…The One who invites us to lean on when hope seems impossible

…The One who makes all longing Holy

…The One for whom we all long, all the days of our lives.

…The One who loves us.

But we’re not there yet. And I know there is always hope, it’s just sometimes hard to find it joyful. And as for the longing!

Even when we have seen the light, heard the ancient promise and claimed it as our own.

O God, come to our aid,

O Lord make haste to help us.

Your will…

And again this week the Lord asks us what we would like Him to do for us.

So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Bartimaeus

If we are in any doubt that the Lord our God has only our bests interests at heart this should quell them. God does not look down from on high, deciding for us what is best and intervening in our lives. Rather God waits until we come and articulate our needs.

God waits.

God the Awesome, God the Ineffable, God the Immanent, God Who is and was and is to come, God the Uncreated Creator waits for us, waits for our approach, waits for us to realise our dependence. This God we can be sure will listen to us while we pour out our hearts, stand in all vulnerability and call on the Lord to come to our aid. For as we are told in the response to this week’s psalm ‘The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.’

Some friends and I have been praying the Novena to St Jude

Many of us know St Jude as the patron Saint of Hopeless cases.

Yet this novena was called St Jude the Saint who does the impossible and indeed I was invited to pray it for someone whose prayers are for the seemingly impossible. But she is not without hope and neither are our prayers so I rejoiced in this seemingly insignificant change of name.

Today is day 3 (Yes I know today is day 4!) and part of the prayer says

Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is painful and difficult for me.Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is painful and difficult for me.

I was struck by the connection of God’s will and Jesus asking us for the last 2 weeks what we want from Him. Of course you and I know that we pray for God’s will not ours, but somehow there was a newness to this knowledge when I was at prayer this morning. There was a deeper awareness that the Lord really wants to grant our prayers for us.

Praying for God’s will, not mine, makes the praying easier. I do not need to feel unworthy if my prayer is answered in a way that I do not want (for all prayer is answered) but I can accept that the lord knows best and only works from love.

I do not believe in an interventionist God. I do believe in a God who only wants the very best for us, that we are called to be the best we can be, and that when we pray to align our will with that of the One who loves us our prayers will be answered. This of course requires us to understand, to see, that we need to trust the Lord our God in all things. To have faith that the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves.

Which is perhaps why Jesus answers Bartimaeus’ prayer but not that of James and John!

Living the Word
  • Where will you cry out to the Lord this week?
  • And again Jesus asks ‘What do you want me to do for you?’. How do you answer Him this week?
  • What is the blindness in you that needs the ‘Master’s’ healing touch this week?
Living the Word for Children
  • If Jesus asked you what you would like Him to do for you, what would you say?
  • How will you follow the Lord this week?
Living the Word for Families
  • ‘…your faith has saved you’, how does knowing you are saved change the way you live this week?
Prayer
Master,
Son of David, have pity on us.
Help us to see more clearly and follow you more nearly this week.
Amen

Living the Word
  • Where will you cry out to the Lord this week?
  • And again Jesus asks ‘What do you want me to do for you?’. How do you answer Him this week?
  • What is the blindness in you that needs the ‘Master’s’ healing touch this week?
Living the Word for Children
  • If Jesus asked you what you would like Him to do for you, what would you say?
  • How will you follow the Lord this week?
Living the Word for Families
  • ‘…your faith has saved you’, how does knowing you are saved change the way you live this week?
Prayer
Teacher,
Son of David,
have pity on us.
Help us to see more clearly and follow you more nearly this week.
Amen

The gift of abundant love

Last week the young people with whom I have been working in preparation for Confirmation participated in a Reconciliation Service.

The entered the church anxious and unsure of what to do and what to expect. For those of us who work with young people this comes as no surprise; the sacrament of Reconciliation is not high on their priorities. Many, unless they attend Catholic Schools, might have only vague memories of their first reconciliation just before making their first Holy Communion.

‘Do I go into the box?’ – if you want to.

‘What do I say? I haven’t learnt that prayer.’ – it’s ok it’s on your sheet.

‘What if I forget what to say?’ – ask the priest to help you.

‘I can’t tell him, it’s too awful’ – Oh my dear child, and I gave her a hug.

And so after the Gospel and a guided examination of conscience based upon it* all the Candidates accepted the invitation for personal confession. Sitting in such a prayerful silence, they thought about their life with the Lord, entered into His love and sought His forgiveness.

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It was a graced moment.

Now I have to come clean. I like the Sacrament of Reconciliation: I like the promise, I like the theology, I like the symbol, I like imagery, I like the Rite and the Ritual. However that is not to say I find it easy. ‘Fessing up to stuff is never easy, but I do believe that it is easier to confess, to seek forgiveness than not. Of course a good Confessor is important and I have chosen mine carefully. I have been with my Spiritual Director and Confessor for almost 10 years – there is not much he doesn’t know.  He sees the patterns I miss, he holds the bigger picture when I become mired down, he reminds me of the hope when I despair.

It is through prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation that I have come to know the God of second chances. No matter what we have done, or failed to do, the Lord calls, invites, nudges us time and time again to repent, to turn back to the Him. As in the story of the Prodigal Son He waits for us, even humiliating Himself by hitching up his robes and running to meet us, clasping us in His unconditional forgiving embrace.

prodigal_father_christian_sculpture_lg.jpg by Tom White

prodigal father christian sculpture by Tom White

We are all as Ignatius calls us ‘loved sinners’ and therefore it is possible to approach the sacrament as one that is of help to our faith journey rather than something that shames and humiliates.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the many signs of God’s love for us, and God loves us with such an abundant love that we need not fear when we feel the Lord gently drawing us back to be the person we are called to be.

*Here is the examination of conscience based on Matthew 5:13-16.

If you use it and find it helpful please drop me a message.

 

YOU ARE the salt of the earth.

Salt seasons:

When have you failed to make a positive contribution to your

worshipping community?

To your family?  To your school?

To your relationships?

Salt preserves:

When have you failed to keep something fresh?

When have you allowed a relationship to go stale through inattention?

How do you keep your relationship with the Lord from going stale?

Salt cleanses/ purifies:

When is it difficult to speak out in moral situations?

When have you talked about someone? Spreading gossip, dirtying someone’s

character?

When have you spread untruths about someone to feel better about yourself?

Salt adds buoyancy:

How often do you allow yourself to come before the Lord and just be?

How does your behaviour keep others afloat?

Salt increases thirst:

Does your behaviour invite others to ask about Jesus?

Salt is valuable:

Do you believe you are made in the image and likeness of God?

How does this affect your actions?

Where do you not value in yourself?

Or others?

What do you really value? When has your focus been on things of little value?

When have you allowed an invitation to make a difference slip through your hands?

Salt spoils: 

When have you not been gentle with yourself or others?

When have you been too loud? Too self righteous? Unwilling to listen to others?

When have you behaved in a way that is unhealthy for you? Your relationship with others? With the Lord?

YOU ARE the Light of the World

Light illuminates: Where do you take the Light of Christ for granted?

When are you aware of needing Light to help you?

It cannot be hidden:

What actions would you like to hide from the light?

Light reveals:

How often do you ignore what Christ reveals to you?

Light comforts: 

Where have you not comforted those in need?

Light radiates: 

Where do you not allow the truth to shine through?

What stops you from being truly beautiful?

Light guides:                                          

When do you cause others to stumble?

What stops you from being a guide?

Light creates shadow:                           

Which actions work out of your shadow side?

Feel free to use this examination of conscience with groups but please remember to reference me, thanks.