Patience! Even for Five Minutes!
Pascal, the famous 17th Century philosopher used to say that all our troubles came from not being able to sit quietly in a room on our own for five minutes! In other words, each of us needs silence and solitude in our lives…yet despite solitude being so enriching and necessary for us, its the very thing we spend all our time running away from and avoiding. Pascal made that remark nearly 400 years ago. Think of how far we’ve come since then. We have all the advantages of computers and technology today. We have all the benefits of modern medicine to keep us healthy and comfortable for longer. Technology is supposed to help save time for us. We have dishwashers and washing machines to wash up after us.we have computers to do most of our thinking for us. And yet we still find it hard to make time for solitude and for quiet.We’re still restlessness.We still find it hard to wait for things with patience…
Advent is a time of grace for us as Christians, when we’re challenged to leave aside the things that clutter our minds and cause us to live at such a rapid pace, and simply wait for God to come to us in his own time.That sounds very simple, but we make it very hard. Just think for a minute of the last time you sat down to pray. There are as many different ways to pray as there are people, but the one thing we all have in common is that when we pray, what we’re really trying to do is to get to know God more and to let God take centre stage in. So just think of the last time you spent 5 minutes in prayer. Was it God who you were really thinking about? Very often God is the last person on our minds when we pray! Its thoughts more like: “I wonder will the metro be packed in the morning…Would it be better to take the bus”? Or “Did David tell me he was bringing his bike to school, or have I to collect him later on…”Or “Aine won’t eat red meat so… I’d be better getting fish for the dinner…Or “God that fellow went on for ages this morning at Mass, and all I have to do today”! These are the kind of things that distract us when we’re praying. So St. James’ call for patient waiting in the First Reading poses a fair old challenge to each of us.Most of what comes between God and us really doesn’t need to be there at all.All the distractions, the worries and concerns,even our sins, God takes care of that when we hand it over to him in trust, when we turn to him in prayer…
We Irish are very close to the land. Even as townies, we’re never too far away from open fields and farms. So the image of the farmer going out to sow, and waiting patiently and expectantly for the fruit of his sowing, is not strange to us. In the Holy land, there was and still is a slightly more anxious waiting involved with the planting of seeds.The autumn rains can sometimes be late…or the rainfall so light that the water barely moistens the top soil. That’s why so many prayers during the main Jewish feasts are concerned with the rains and the harvest. Nothing is taken for granted. And certainly not the rains on which the very survival of the crops will rely.The rains are seen as a gift from God and a sign of God’s vital, life giving presence which teams new life back into the land. But like any gift, the spring and autumn rains depend on the generosity and graciousness of the giver. At no point are they presumed Israel’s right.
Prayer is a bit like like that. Prayer unsettles us in a way. Prayer shakes us out of our comfort-zone, and restores the right order of things,
Prayer helps us to put God at the centre of our lives. Prayer helps us to remember that God is the giver. But like all givers, the giving depends totally on God’s graciousness and generosity, and not on some God given right! So today, on Gaudate, or Rejoicing Sunday,as we catch a glimpse of God’s glory lighting up the horizon,we ask for the grace to be able to wait with patience for Christ who comes at Christmas,and never to be afraid of the “letting go” that happens as God draws ever more deeply into his loving friendship!