Waiting For God

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The advent season has arrived this past Sunday with the liturgical readings themed around anticipation.  As I sat in Mass listening to our pastor preached on waiting with anticipation I thought of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

In Waiting for Godot, we have Vladimir and Estragon waiting with anticipation for someone by the name of Godot.  The two are somewhat absent-minded, and are even unsure if they are at the right place to meet Godot when he comes.  Vladimir and Estragon pass the time by doing the most mundane of things, like take off a shoe and then putting it back on again.  Waiting for Godot consists of two acts and in each act Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot.  At the end of each act a boy comes to them and tells them that Mr. Godot sends word that he is unable to make it today, but he will make it tomorrow.  One could reasonably assume that if there is a third act, that Vladimir and Estragon will still be passing time with mundane activities while waiting for Godot, who will send word that he will come tomorrow but doesn’t show up.

As we work through Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, we get a sense of longing, of deep desire, for Godot.  The longing is so deep that it feels natural to Vladimir and Estragon, so much so that they do not realize that they’re spending their entire days doing absolutely nothing but waiting for Godot, only to have to wait another day when the boy shows up late in the day to inform them that Godot can’t make it.  I suspect that this sense of profound longing is the very same kind that our hearts have for God.  The Psalmist expresses this longing with intensity: “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Ps 63:1) or “I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land.” (Ps 143:6)

And so like Vladimir and Estragon, we must wait.  We must be patient and recognize that God will come to us in His own time and not when we have decided for Him to come.

Happy Advent, my friends!

Love Longs But Doesn’t Possess

Ps 130:5-6 – I wait for the LORD, my soul waits and I hope for his word. My soul looks for the Lord more than sentinels for daybreak.

The Psalmist expresses so well our relationship to God: one of yearning and waiting.  Truly, the person who loves God is a person who longs for Him.  But this longing and yearning isn’t limited to our relationship with God; rather, it extends to our very own loving relationships as well with those whom we love: spouse, children, family, and friends.

The condition of the lover to the beloved is one of limited knowing.  In other words, because the beloved is a person with so much more than what is physically available to our senses that her being is communicated more than by our own empirical assessment of who she is.  The lover who mistakenly believes that he knows the entirety of his beloved’s being is one who seeks to possess rather than to love, for genuine love longs for instead of trying to possess the other.  This is the reason that Scriptures are filled with instances of people longing for God.  And once this longing is fulfilled, the peace is so overwhelming that death seems but a trivial occurrence – Lk 2:29-32

Likewise, when we, in our own human relationships, seek to genuinely love, we must therefore learn to long and yearn for those whom we love.  We yearn for them to reveal to us who they are, and we then embrace those revelations.  Without self-revelations we can never know anymore about our beloved than those things that are superficial and physical, marked by our own determinations of what they mean, and this is terribly dangerous because our determinations of others can be perilously biased.

Thus, whereas love that takes on the form of possession will take after the “you are mine” motto because it seeks to take control and take charge, love that takes on the form of longing and yearning will take after the “I’m yours” motto since it expresses that it is open to receiving what the beloved is willing to reveal to it, and it thirsts for those revelations.  Therefore, we wait and we long for our beloved’s revelations.  And when those revelations come and we can love deeply and peacefully, the bumps and obstacles within those loving relationships are but trivial occurrences of a fallen world.

Good Friday

Today is the day that the creatures hang the Creator upon the cross; the effect kills the Cause; the subjects slay the King.  Today is also the day that speech must turn to silence in order grasp the mystery of the death of God. Today is the day that sin takes its final strike at the heart of God in an attempt to usurp His throne completely.  Today can be summed up by these words of Patrick F. Kirby:

They drove the hammered nails into his hands,
His hands that shaped the hot sun overhead;
Then all prepared to return to their own lands,
Glad in the knowledge God at last was dead.

“Now Babel can be built, and none deny!
In its cool gardens shall we take our ease;
Nor need we fear the everseeing eye,–
Our gods shall be whatever gods we please.

“Ishtar shall guard us, mother of all men,
And Bel rejoice us when the winds blow spiced
From Indus.  Wine and song shall glad us then,–
We never loved this wistful, pallid Christ!”

Let Us Pray

God has provided us a way to ask of Him for whatever we need: prayer.  Just as one who is in need of money or goods must beg for a living if he is unable to work himself, so too must we approach the Lord in prayer to ask for those things that we need that we cannot provide for ourselves.  The fall of our first parents has shut us out from our Father’s home, and it is by prayer that we knock to gain entrance.  This entrance is promised to us by Jesus if we pray aright.  Just as a good parent would provide those things that she deems fit and good for her child, so too will God, our parent par excellence, grant to us all those things that are most beneficial to us if we only approached Him and ask.  Do not be fooled into thinking that God would ask us to pray and refuse to listen to our prayer, or to give us something harmful.  He gives us what we need and at the correct time when we need it – we may be rash in our timing, but God is kairosian in His.

More importantly, God has made it so that prayer is available to all.  Prayer is for the Christian and the non-Christian, for the poor and the rich, for the adult and the child, for the priest and they lay person, for the general and the cadet, for the courageous and the cowardly, for the wise and for the foolish.  Prayer is for all, and all are welcomed to God’s throne filled with grace ready to be dispense to each according to his or her need.  Let us pray! Mt 7:7-12

A Prayer – Digby Mackworth Dolben

From falsehood and error,
From darkness and terror,
From all that is evil,
From the power of the devil,
From the fire and the doom,
From the judgment to come,
Sweet Jesus, deliver
Thy servants forever.

The Wisdom of Humble Faith

Jesus’ condemnation of the self-righteousness of the people of his time in today’s Gospel reminds us of the wisdom of faith content by whatever provisions the Lord has chosen to give.  Unlike the Ninevites, who repented from their sins simply by the words of Jonah without witnessing any miracles, the contemporaries of Jesus refused to repent even though he was among them working miracles day in and day out.  While one group profited from the words of God delivered through a prophet, the other group turned from the Word of God and rejected his grace that would humble their hearts.  The faith of Nineveh accepted whatever little revelation God was willing present to it and received such revelation with great humility.  The faith of Jerusalem doubted all the revelation that God was granting them and rejected Jesus’ revelation with its pride.  Allow Alexander Pope’s Universal Prayer to guide our own faith life today so that, with the humility the Ninevites, we may receive whatever little the Lord chooses to reveal to us with humility in faith.

Father of all! in every age,
    In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
    Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Thou Great First Cause, least understood:
    Who all my sense confined
To know but this—that thou art good,
    And that myself am blind:
Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
    To see the good from ill;
And binding Nature fast in fate,
    Left free the human will.
What conscience dictates to be done,
    Or warns me not to do,
This, teach me more than Hell to shun,
    That, more than Heaven pursue.
What blessings thy free bounty gives,
    Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives,
    To enjoy is to obey.
Yet not to earth’s contracted span,
    Thy goodness let me bound,
Or think thee Lord alone of man,
    When thousand worlds are round:
Let not this weak, unknowing hand
    Presume thy bolts to throw,
And deal damnation round the land,
    On each I judge thy foe.
If I am right, thy grace impart,
    Still in the right to stay;
If I am wrong, oh teach my heart
    To find a better way.
Save me alike from foolish pride,
    Or impious discontent,
At aught thy wisdom has denied,
    Or aught thy goodness lent.
Teach me to feel another’s woe,
    To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show,
    That mercy show to me.
Mean though I am, not wholly so
    Since quickened by thy breath;
Oh lead me wheresoe’er I go,
    Through this day’s life or death.
This day, be bread and peace my lot:
    All else beneath the sun,
Thou know’st if best bestowed or not,
    And let thy will be done.
To thee, whose temple is all space,
    Whose altar, earth, sea, skies!
One chorus let all being raise!
    All Nature’s incense rise!

Repent and Return

We are reminded in today’s Gospel reading that the path towards God is often one that requires the carrying of crosses.  The world offers convenience and ease as temporary fulfillment for our permanent thirst.  These drinks require our returning to them over and over again because they do not fully satiate our thirst.  None of us are strangers to these drinks.  However, Christ’s words are clear: the way of the Lord is difficult and tough, but while the body aches the soul rejoices.  And just as St. Monica prayed and waited patiently for the young Augustine to turn from his wayward ways, God, our parent par excellence, remains in waiting for our return to Him.  Allow Ellen Gilbert’s words from Prodigal to be our own words to God and guide us back to Him this Lent:

Like a bird that trails a broken wing,
I have come home to Thee;
Home from a flight and freedom
That was never meant for me.

And I, who have known far spaces,
And the fierce heat of the sun,
Ask only the shelter of Thy wings,
Now that the day is done.

Like a bird that trails a broken wing,
I have come home, at last…
O hold me to Thy Heart once more,
And hide me from the past.

The Christian’s Hopeful Melancholy

Indeed, the wisdom of Augustine’s felix culpa allows us to understand that there is hope in a fallen world that seems hopeless.  And at no other time during the liturgical year are we reminded this more than on Ash Wednesday: remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.  In the these very words uttered is an unmistakable hope that every Christian clings on to: this returning to dust does not mark the end, but rather the very beginning of an eternal reality that has been awaiting him since he was first formed in his mother’s womb.  Praying, Repenting, and Fasting are ways that the Christian is called to prepare himself for this eternal reality.

Richard Crashaw’s A Song of Divine Love reflects so beautifully the hope of the Christian as he faces his return to dust.  On this Ash Wednesday, let us reflect upon Crashaw’s words along with this question: how am I preparing myself to meet my God when the day comes?

Lord, when the sense of thy sweet grace
Sends up my soul to seek thy face,
Thy blessed eyes breed such desire
I die in love’s delicious fire.
O Love, I am thy sacrifice.
Be still triumphant, blessed eyes.
Still shine on me, fair suns, that I
Still may behold though still I die.

Though still I die, I live again,
Still longing so to be still slain;
So gainful is such loss of breath,
I die even in desire of death.
Still live in me this loving strife
Of living death and dying life:
For while thou sweetly slayest me,
Dead to myself, I live in Thee.