Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wednesday in the 6th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Waiting to See the Way of Christ

Readings: Genesis 8:6-13, 20-22; Psalm 116:12-13, 14-15, 18-19; Mark 8:22-26

It’s probably not difficult for us to imagine what it might have been like for Noah at the end of the forty days and nights of continuous rain. The downpour had finally ceased. The forty days were finally over – days of being cooped up in a confined space with tons of animals. One tries not to think of the smell… We might well imagine how anxious he was to have his feet firmly planted once again on solid ground. And yet, we witness his prudence and his patience. At the end of forty days, instead of charging headlong out of the ark and leading all his charges to certain death by drowning, Noah waits. He also watches attentively for a signal that the time is right. And when his patience – in watching and waiting – is finally rewarded, Noah is moved to offer a thanksgiving sacrifice to the Lord. Although he has been put through a great trial, Noah gives thanks because he appreciates God’s saving presence and activity through it all.

More likely than not, we too know what it’s like to wait. Grown-ups know what it’s like, for example, to wait for that promotion that is needed to help make ends meet, or for that partner that will cherish us for who we really are and not just how we look or what we can do. Adolescents know what it’s like to wait for exam results, or to grow up and to have people take us seriously and to be able freely to pursue our own dreams. Married couples know what it’s like to wait for that much longed-for child. The elderly know what it's like to wait for that final curtain that will bring our earthly existence to a close. We know what it’s like, especially when we’re going through a trial of some sort, to wish anxiously for it to end, to look forward eagerly for the light at the end of the tunnel. We all have experiences of waiting.

And we know how tempting it is to try to shortcut the waiting process in some way. Much like Noah must have been tempted to exit the ark when the raven failed to return. Still, the final fulfillment of God’s promises often take time. There is a process to be undergone, much like the gradual way in which the blind man is healed in today’s gospel. And the process cannot be rushed. It is for God’s initiative that we have to watch and to wait.

There is more. Today’s passage marks the beginning of the crucial and pivotal central portion of Mark’s gospel, which is sandwiched between two stories of blind men being healed. And scholars tell us that the healings are profoundly significant. They point to the way in which Jesus is trying, in this part of the gospel, to open the eyes of his disciples to appreciate the true identity of Christ and the need for Him to suffer and to die for the life of the world. In a sense, Jesus also watches and waits. He waits for his disciples finally to see, to appreciate, and wholeheartedly to embrace Him, the suffering Messiah.

And at root, isn’t this also the kind of thing for which we need continually to wait? We often need time to allow the Lord to open our eyes to see the significance of our daily struggles. We wait for the Lord to help us to see that our crosses are not meaningless when borne with love, that it is through Him, with Him and in Him that we endure. And it is only when, like the blind men, we patiently allow ourselves gradually to be brought through to the other end of the dark tunnel that, like Noah, we may eventually be moved to offer the Lord a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

How is the Lord gradually healing our blindness? How is He inviting us to watch and to wait today?

1 comment:

  1. Upon my return from sabbatical leave in early 2003, the first thing that struck me wasn't the humid weather. It was the breakneck speed at which people spoke. You'll know what I mean when you watch TV, go to the mall or, worse, interact with folks in the course of your work. Have you tried saying the Nicene Creed at Sunday Mass without losing your breath? It's as though their mouths are trying to catch up with their brains working at lightning speed. It unsettled me so much I had to consult a counsellor. I still haven't gotten over it but now I have in-built defences, much as one would cultivate defences in the face of some physical threat or other. One technique is to selectively listen and then apologetically ask the person to repeat certain parts of the conversation that you missed. This *really* riles them. The other equally important defence mechanism is not to be drawn into the break-neck speed but intentionally slow down the conversation.

    What's all this got to do with Fr Chris' reflection on the virtue of patience and of waiting? Plenty. If we are hyper-vocal / hyper-active, chances are we are short on patience. Speed is all that matters. When we are impatient, we miss out on a lot that the world and our friends are trying to tell or teach us. Above all, we miss out on the silent, gentle voice of God. When we rush, we are never satisfied with what we do or say.

    OK, so we have the patience. What are we waiting for? Fr Chris listed some very pertinent examples. I wait for the Easter triduum, the culmination of our Lenten observances and penance. It's relatively easy to wait because we know that Christ has risen. Blessed is he / she / they who wait for something that they are sure is the promise of God but has yet to come to fruition.

    May the risen Christ grant us that patience, fortitude and hope to wait for the promises made to each of us baptised Christians.