“ARE YOU EMO?” (Mt 17:9a, 10-13): 15 December 2007 (Saturday)

“ARE YOU EMO?” (Mt 17:9a, 10-13): 15 December 2007 (Saturday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/121507.shtml

“Emo” (short for “emotional” or “emotive” and pronounced /ˈi-moʊ/) refers to a style of rock/punk music and fashion, as well as a personality stereotype characterized by being emotional, introverted, and angsty.  I recently saw this tongue-in-cheek YouTube video called “What is emo?”  The interviewer asks young people on the streets of London to define the term.  The first response he gets?  “People who slit their wrists!”  Not surprising since self-injury is supposed to characterize someone who’s emo.

In today’s reading, the Lord compares John the Baptist to the prophet Elijah, who is known for his dramatic encounter with what I think are true blue Old Testament emo’s.  Elijah the prophet condemns the Israelites’ worship of Baal and challenges the pagan priests to a test of powers.  He summons all the prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel, where two altars are built, one for Baal and the other one for Yahweh.   The sacrifice of oxen and fire wood are laid on each of the altars.  Elijah then announces the rules of the contest:  Without physically making fire, both camps are supposed to pray for fire to light the sacrifice.  The priests of Baal pray all day–to no avail.  Then the priests begin to act emo:  They slash their wrists and mix their blood with the sacrifice, hoping that their prayers would be answered.  Again, no success.

To make a long story short, before taking his turn, Elijah orders that his altar be drenched with twelve barrels of water for effect.  When he utters his prayer, fire falls from the sky and, to the dismay of his opponents, Elijah’s altar ignites in a magnificent display of Yahweh’s power, proving once and for all that Yahweh is the One True God and that no amount of wrist-slashing will start any fire.  Obviously, in this case, emotional blackmail didn’t work.

As I think about the behavior of Baal’s priests, the question that comes to mind is:  “What about us?  When it comes to dealing with God, are we closet emo’s?”

I don’t know about you, but think I’m guilty. When I was a kid, when I wanted something, I would make all sorts of promises to God.  The more badly I wanted something, the bigger–and less realistic–my promises became.  Even today, I’m still quite capable of the same tactics.  I still catch myself resorting to emotional blackmail when I want something from God although I now try to be less blatant about it.  In other words, short of cutting my wrists, I still find myself trying to manipulate God, albeit in more subtle ways.

Today the Lord reminds us that it just doesn’t work that way. No matter how grandiose the promises we make, no matter how grave the injury we inflict on ourselves, He remains truly God, transcendent, incapable of being manipulated to do as we wish.  So if we know what’s best for us, we should forget the tactics of Baal’s priests, those Old Testament emo’s, and learn from the faith of Elijah–the prophet who staunchly believed that as long as what he did was right, God would not fail him.

The Lord actually mentioned Elijah in the context of the murder of John the Baptist and his own impending suffering.  As we know, both he and the baptist didn’t hesitate to embrace pain and even death when the situation called for it.   So now I can’t help but wonder and ask him: “What about you, Lord?  Are you emo, too?”  I’m tempted to think that God and his saints have a streak of emo in them too.

When you consider the way they accept suffering, it certainly looks that way–but there is one important difference:  While true blue emo’s hurt themselves in order to get something for themselves, God and his saints allow themselves to be hurt–and even killed–in order to give to others.  That’s a whole world of difference.

(image: forums.ijji.com)

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“WHY ARE WE GRIEVING?” (Mt 11:16-19): 14 December 2007 (St. John of the Cross)

“WHY ARE WE GRIEVING?”  (Mt 11:16-19):  14 December 2007 (St. John of the Cross)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/121407.shtml

For some reason, the gospel today reminds me of a poem I first read when I was in high school.  The poem is “Spring and Fall” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 19th-century Jesuit who’s considered one of the most difficult English poets.  The poem is deceptively short and simple, and Hopkins typically coins startlingly original words like “unleaving” and “leafmeal” to suggest–quite effectively–the piecemeal shedding of leaves in autumn.  But even if I could hardly understand the poem then, I immediately liked it if only for its tone and mood.

In the poem, the speaker, an adult, watches a young girl named Margaret weep over fallen leaves.  The poem begins:

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

His tone is tender and wistful; we can almost imagine him shaking his head, smiling sadly to himself as he watches Margaret.  He sees that the girl doesn’t understand enough, but he doesn’t rush in to give her a lecture.  He knows that in due time she will understand on her own.

I suspect the Lord might have felt something like this as he spoke to the fickle and confused crowd–perhaps not without exasperation, but certainly also not without sadness.  “We played a flute for you,” he complained, “but you did not dance.  We sang a dirge, but you did not mourn.”

This profound confusion that the Lord is talking about–I think I know what he means.  Have you ever had the feeling that you’re so confused that you’re not even sure if you want to dance or mourn?   Have you had moments when you can’t decide if you prefer to fast or feast, so you unwittingly end up rejecting both John the Baptist and the Lord?  It’s almost as if we sometimes refuse to be happy.  In other words, “Damn if you do, damn if you don’t.”  Or as a famous local actress-turned-governor allegedly quipped during an interview:  “Damaged if you do, damaged if you don’t!”

How right she is.  Damaged we all are.  We insist on grieving without really knowing what we grieve for.  We insist on our discontent, vaguely wishing for something more or even just something else without really knowing what it is we seek.

The speaker in the poem understands that although Margaret is mourning the falling leaves, though she doesn’t know it yet, she is actually also grieving over the human condition as well as herself.  As the last lines put it:  “It is the blight man was born for, it is Margaret (we) mourn for.”

Likewise, the Lord knows that it is ourselves we mourn for.  The truth is, the source of our grief is our estrangement from God, but we don’t know it.  All our greatest hungers and all our fiercest needs are but symptoms of our deepest desire–which is nothing but our desire for God.  Everything else is blind, frantic and desperate grasping to fill this hole inside us.

Today we ask ourselves, “Why are we grieving?”  It’s a crucial question because to know what we mourn for is to know what we’re born for.

(image:  www.victorianweb.org)

Note:  I have uploaded a reading of the poem by Richard Austin.  If you want to listen to it, download it from “The Soundtrack of Our Lives” (Music).  Here also is the complete text of the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

SPRING AND FALL
to a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By & by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep & know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

“MUST WE ALWAYS FINISH LAST?” (Mt 11:11-15): 13 December 2007 (St. Lucy, Thursday)

“MUST WE ALWAYS FINISH LAST?”  (Mt 11:11-15):  13 December 2007 (St. Lucy, Thursday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/121307.shtml

Woody Allen’s 1989 film “Crimes and Misdemeanors” is about  two men who can’t be more different from one another.  The first is an eye doctor named Judah (played by Martin Landau), whose mistress (Angelica Huston) is enraged when she realizes that contrary to promises made earlier, he will not leave his wife to live with her.  In retaliation, she resorts to blackmail and threatens to ruin his reputation.  Desperate, Judah decides to hire someone to kill her.  But instead of getting caught and punished, or even just losing sleep over his crime, Judah manages to move on.  The crisis lifts, and to his surprise, his life even prospers. Continue reading “MUST WE ALWAYS FINISH LAST?” (Mt 11:11-15): 13 December 2007 (St. Lucy, Thursday)

“WHAT WOULD YOU SEND ME?” (Lk 1:39-47): 12 December 2007 (The Virgin of Guadalupe, Wednesday)

“WHAT WOULD YOU SEND ME?”  (Lk 1:39-47):  12 December 2007 (The Virgin of Guadalupe, Wednesday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/121207.shtml

We don’t always notice it, but the gospels often depict Mary as being “on the move.”  Today’s reading tells us that immediately after the Annunciation, Mary “set out and traveled to the hill country of Judah” to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  As we know, for the birth of Christ, she traveled with her husband Joseph to Bethlehem.  Almost immediately after that, they escaped to Egypt before returning to Nazareth.  According to Luke’s gospel, when Jesus was twelve, the entire family went to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage to the temple.  Finally, the gospel according to John reports that she traveled down to Jerusalem to be with her son in his final moments.

Today’s feast reminds us that to this day, Mary hasn’t really stopped traveling.  Her Visitation to Elizabeth has been but the first of many that she continues to make.  One internet source claims that the more famous Marian apparitions number all of 67 although not all of them are considered official by the Church.  These apparitions have occurred as early as the year 39 AD (before her Assumption) when she allegedly appeared to St. James in Caesaraugusta (present-day Zaragoza, Spain) up to the very present.  After her Assumption, our Lady has been claimed to travel to places like Banneaux (Belgium), Lourdes and La Salette (France), Fatima (Portugal), and Medjugorie (Bosnia & Herzegovina) , as well as Akita (Japan) and Garabandal (Spain).  Lesser known places she has supposedly visited include Bayside in New York, Zeitoun in Egypt, La Vang in Vietnam, and even our own Lipa City.  It’s almost as if Mary has simply refused to leave her children behind.

The Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe recalls a famous visitation  in Mexico.  In the year 1531, she appears to the peasant Juan Diego and requests him to relay her wish to the bishop that a temple be built on the site.  Naturally, the bishop refuses to believe such a tale and asks for a sign.  The sign is given:  With a piece of cloth called tilma, Juan Diego gathers roses in winter and when he unravels his tilma, the roses come pouring out, and the image of Mary appears imprinted on the cloth.

What I like best about Guadalupe is it doesn’t have the usual doomsday messages associated with many Marian apparitions.  The Blessed Mother requests for a church, and when the unbelieving bishop understandably asks for a sign, what does she send him?  A bouquet of roses and the portrait of his mother.  It was the loveliest of gifts that a mother knows will melt the hardest of hearts.

Today I ask the Blessed Mother:  “What would you send me?  When I’m not listening and my heart is hard, what gift would you send me?”

During a retreat immediately before my own ordination in 1998, I was plagued with self-doubts, and I felt unworthy of ordination.  A recurring image in my prayer was that of a beggar who held an old rusty can of coins.  I felt I had nothing to offer God but the “loose change” of my life.

My prayers were uniformly distracted and dry.  On the very last day, I sat in the small chapel resigned to the possibility of a failed retreat and perhaps a failed vocation. I entertained thoughts of leaving the seminary a few months before ordination.

And then it happened–a powerful religious experience when it was least expected:  Suddenly, the fragrant scent of roses.  My first thought was:  “Mary.”  But almost simultaneously I heard an inner voice that had to belong to her:  “No, not me, but you.  Your offering is not a can of loose change, but a bouquet of the most fragrant roses.”

It was Mary’s gift for me when I faced the darkest of nights with the weakest of faith.  Typical of her, isn’t it?  I didn’t recognize it then, but looking back now, I know:  It was the grace of Guadalupe. In the cold of winter, I had unravelled my heart to God, and roses came pouring out, revealing her face.

(image: en.wikipedia.org)

“WHAT WOULD YOU SEND ME?” (Lk 1:39-47): 12 December 2007 (The Virgin of Guadalupe, Wednesday)

“WHAT WOULD YOU SEND ME?”  (Lk 1:39-47):  12 December 2007 (The Virgin of Guadalupe, Wednesday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/121207.shtml

We don’t always notice it, but the gospels often depict Mary as being “on the move.”  Today’s reading tells us that immediately after the Annunciation, Mary “set out and traveled to the hill country of Judah” to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  As we know, for the birth of Christ, she traveled with her husband Joseph to Bethlehem.  Almost immediately after that, they escaped to Egypt before returning to Nazareth.  According to Luke’s gospel, when Jesus was twelve, the entire family went to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage to the temple.  Finally, the gospel according to John reports that she traveled down to Jerusalem to be with her son in his final moments. Continue reading “WHAT WOULD YOU SEND ME?” (Lk 1:39-47): 12 December 2007 (The Virgin of Guadalupe, Wednesday)

“WOULD YOU REALLY FOR ME?” (Mt 18:12-14): 11 December 2007 (Tuesday)

“WOULD YOU REALLY FOR ME?”  (Mt 18:12-14):  11 December 2007 (Tuesday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/121107.shtml

Whatever you do, don’t fall for this trick.  In today’s gospel, the Lord pulls a fast one on his disciples. He asks them:  “What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?”   Continue reading “WOULD YOU REALLY FOR ME?” (Mt 18:12-14): 11 December 2007 (Tuesday)

“CAN YOU TAKE YOUR EYES OFF US?” (Lk 5:17-26): 10 December 2007 (Monday)

“CAN YOU TAKE YOUR EYES OFF US?” (Lk 5:17-26):  10 December 2007 (Monday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/121007.shtml

One interesting film I saw months ago is “Closer,” a realistic and sometimes painful portrayal of what happens in people’s relationships.  But what has lingered long after the credits all these months is not so much the story or the characters, but this unfamiliar but hauntingly beautiful song called “The Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice (shown in photo).  The refrain is just really simple; it goes, “I can’t take my eyes off you,” but the line is repeated over and over and over again. Hearing it, one can’t help but be moved by the singer’s  obsessive, desperate need.

For some reason, I thought of this song when I read the gospel story today:  Jesus is busy teaching in someone’s house, and a slight commotion distracts him.  Before he knows it, a paralytic is lowered from the roof for him to heal.  The crippled man’s face catches his eye, and he can’t take his eyes off him.  If I were making a film, here is where the song begins to play.

Of course songwriter Damien Rice didn’t have this in mind  at all when he wrote the song.  There’s been a lot of interest in the meaning of this song in the internet because after all, who can guess what the ‘blower’s daughter’ means?  So far I’ve found the best answer in a blog that says it refers to the daughter of Damien’s clarinet teacher (Ah!).

But for our purposes, I think we can depart from the author’s intention.  There’s a principle in literary interpretation that says that after the text is written, “the poet is dead”–i.e., aside from the author’s intended meaning, there is also “text meaning,” which is an equally legitimate interpretation as long as it can be justified by the text.

Here’s my take on the song:  For me, the song may well apply to the Lord since it expresses how he feels about the world and about us.  Think about it:  He becomes human and as the first lines of the song, he tells his Father, “And so it is / just like you said it would be. / Life goes easy on me / most of the time.”

It’s an almost ordinary life he leads, but when he gazes upon his Father’s world–the sky, the oceans, the universe–and especially when he sees us, his Father’s sons and daughters, with all our hopes and dreams mixed with all our fears and pains, he is smitten.  He is helpless. He gets weak in the knees and can’t take his eyes off us.  He pretends to look away, and the song has a great phrase for it:  “The pupil in denial.”  He wants nothing more than to gather us in his arms and take away all our fears and pains and turn them into joy.

So today we ask him, “Can you take your eyes off us?”  And we know the question is rhetorical because the answer is obvious:  He can’t.  His love won’t permit him to.  Even as he hung on the cross, his eyes remained fixed on us.  But then, we have to do our part to let him love us.   Like the paralytic whose friends had to climb a roof just to bring him to the Lord, we too have to find ways of getting to the Lord.  If we do, we can be sure that he will not turn away from us.  He can’t.  His love won’t let him.

Note:  I’ve uploaded the song.  If you’re up to it, take a listen and imagine the Lord singing it–first to God, then to you.  The “blower’s daughter” can refer to God’s creation, most especially ourselves, whom the Lord has been calling on to turn around and return to the Father.  Some people don’t like the way the song ends because it says, “I can’t take my mind off you…`till I find somebody new.”  But it applies to the Lord when you think about it since he has to keep his eye on so many of us.

I’m also posting the lyrics below for your reference.  If you wish, you can watch the music video, too.  It doesn’t hurt too that I think Damien resembles our usual images of Christ.

“The Blowers Daughter”
(from azlyrics.com)

And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her sky

I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes…

And so it is
Just like you said it should be
We’ll both forget the breeze
Most of the time
And so it is
The colder water
The blower’s daughter
The pupil in denial

I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes…

Did I say that I loathe you?
Did I say that I want to
Leave it all behind?

I can’t take my mind off of you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind off of you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind…
My mind…my mind…
‘Til I find somebody new

(image:  weblogs.newsday.com)

“MUST YOU SPOIL THE PARTY?” (Mt 3:1-12): 09 December 2007 (Second Sunday of Advent)

“MUST YOU SPOIL THE PARTY?” (Mt 3:1-12):  09 December 2007 (Second Sunday of Advent)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120907.shtml

If  a poll were conducted today about saints and biblical characters, my guess is that John the Baptist would get one of the lowest approval ratings.

Let’s face it:  Whenever he shows up in the gospel, as he does today, he’s usually bad news, reminding us of sins that we have committed but would rather forget.  That camel-hair ensemble won’t exactly land him on a “Best Dressed” list either, not to mention his strange eating habits.  In other words, the Baptist just isn’t the kind of person you’d invite to your party because he’s bound to be a party pooper.

So this Second Sunday of Advent, I’d like to turn to him and ask him a couple of questions:  “Must you spoil the party?  Must you talk about fire and brimstone instead of heaven and angels?  Why not be charming instead of resorting to all those scare tactics?”

Actually, he hasn’t always been like this.  The first time we meet him, he’s–of all things!–dancing!  Hearing the sound of Mary’s voice and recognizing the presence of the One, he leaps in his mother’s womb and for all we know, does a mean boogie as the Mother of the Lord sings her Magnificat.   When he is born, his name is all his father Zechariah needs to speak and sing again.  So what happened?  When did he turn into such a party pooper?

Maybe it happened in the desert, that lonely, scary place where God sometimes chooses to meet us–a place as much out there as in ourselves.  There, deep in his own desert, John the Baptist must have once again heard the music that once made him dance, a music so enchanting that he longed so much to share it with the rest of the world.  But soon he must have realized, much to his dismay, that the world couldn’t hear the music because its sins have rendered it–all of us–deaf.  Instead of dancing to God’s song, we’ve ended up listening to noise that we’ve been mistaking for music.  We think we’re having a ball, but we’re only limping to noise.

So you see, if John the Baptist is such a party pooper, I think it’s only because he knows we’re missing out on the real party.  After all, his job is to “prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths.”  He took his job so seriously, in fact, that he ended up having his head served on a plate at a dance that he till the end refused to join.

So if we want to be ready for the Lord, we’d better check if we’ve been attending the right party or dancing to the wrong music.  Otherwise, why not invite John the Baptist into our life this Advent to listen to what he has to say?  Maybe we will hear a little of the music he heard and–who knows?–one day dance and party with the Baptist.

(image:  details from Caravaggio’s “St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness”)

“ARE YOU NEARER GOD THAN WE?” (Lk 1:26-38): 08 December 2007 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Saturday)

“ARE YOU NEARER GOD THAN WE?” (Lk 1:26-38):  08 December 2007 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Saturday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120807.shtml

“You are not nearer God than we,” the angel declares almost resentfully to Mary in Rilke’s poem “Annunciation: Words of the Angel.”  But no sooner has the angel said these words when he gazes into Mary’s eyes and is stunned by God’s shimmering presence in her.  In fact, so surprised is the angel, according to Rilke, that he nearly forgets the message he has been sent to announce in the first place.

Of course Rilke’s angel has been mistaken:  Mary is nearer God than even the angels.  And that’s what this feast of the Immaculate Conception is all about:  God has willed that Mary receive this unique grace of an immaculate conception–to be, unlike the rest of humanity, conceived without sin–an honor God has reserved only for her. In another poem on the Annunciation, Rilke narrates how a doe chances upon Mary in the forest and beholding her purity, conceives–of all the loveliest things–a unicorn!

And so today we turn to her and ask, “Are you nearer God than we?”

Last April 2006, I took a train from San Sebastian to Lourdes to visit Mary’s famous shrine.  I only had a day, so that meant missing out on the bath and the evening procession, two significant features of a Lourdes pilgrimage.  I prayed in the church and walked over to the grotto, where there was a crowd, from the very young to the very old, many of them on their knees, their fingers racing through the beads of their rosaries.  I saw a queue and instinctively fell in line, and before I knew it, I was led to the grotto.

There was nothing much to see there, but there was so much to touch:  the rocks, its waters, its coolness…  Like the other pilgrims, I let my left hand caress the walls of the grotto as I walked by it.  By the time I reached its end, I was inexplicably and immeasurably reduced to tears.  I could only join the crowd in prayer, on my knees, bewildered by–but also grateful for–the experience.

For me, that brief but unforgettable experience in Lourdes was nothing but a sharing in Mary’s nearness to God, a gift received from her.  Her presence at the grotto was palpable, and even without speaking, the pilgrims recognized in one another’s eyes that we all felt it.

And so today we honor her for being “nearer God than we,” but we also thank her for sharing this nearness with us.  That has been her role, whatever title we use for her:  Intercessor, Mediatrix, Mother.  As the angel in the poem repeatedly says, she is the Tree.

(image: detail from Henry Ottawa Tanner’s Annunciation)

The complete text of Rilke’s poem:

Annunciation:
The Words of the Angel

You are not nearer God than we;
from him we are all distant.
But wonderfully have
your hands been blessed.
They mature so by no other woman,
gleaming from the hem:
I am the day, I am the dew,
but you are the tree…

You are a great, high gate,
and soon you shall open.
You, dearest ear of my song,
I feel now: my word got lost
in you as in the forest.

So I came and fulfilled what to you,
are a thousand and one dreams.
God looked at me; he dazzled …

But you are the tree.

Rainer Maria Rilke

“HOW LONG DO WE WAIT?” (Mt 9:27-37): 07 December 2007 (Memorial of St. Ambrose, Friday)

“HOW LONG DO WE WAIT?” (Mt 9:27-37):  07 December 2007 (Memorial of St. Ambrose, Friday)

Reading: www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120707.shtml

In the gospel story today, Jesus heals two blind men and they happily recover their sight.  But what strikes me most about the reading is that the healing doesn’t happen immediately; it is performed only after Jesus enters a house and the two blind men finally catch up with him.  Before that, we’re told that they follow him around for God knows how long, crying out to him, “Have pity on us!”

How long did they have to do that? I wonder.  How long did they have to wait?

All I can say is:  Been there, done that–haven’t we?  There have been times in our lives when we needed God’s help, and we prayed and begged, hounding him all day and all night with our pleas.  We had to wait.

Recently, I watched a film I didn’t want to watch. It’s called “A Mighty Heart” featuring Angelina Jolie.  I was reluctant to watch it because I knew watching the film would break my heart.  It’s the story of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, and eventually beheaded on video in 2002.  It’s a movie about waiting.  The film focuses on his pregnant wife, Mariane, as she waited and hoped against hope while the authorities tried to track the kidnapers and rescue Daniel.  But one who knows the story watches the film like a Greek tragedy, his heart just waiting to sink because of the inevitable end hanging over his head.

The strange thing about watching the film is that I found myself waiting and hoping with Mariane Pearl even if I already knew even before watching the movie that she–and I–would merely wait and hope in vain.  Daniel would never be found.  He would eventually end up dead and beheaded anyway.  But I waited and hoped still, like some desperate person who had no choice but to wait and hope.  Like Mariane Pearl.

Yes, been there, done that.  How many times have I felt similarly hopeless and desperate?  All those times I have felt that I had no choice but to wait and hope.

And so today I ask the Lord:  “How long do we wait and hope, Lord?”  Given the law of entropy, the world seems headed for inevitable ruin. Yet we wait and hope and pray because we must.  Perhaps one day you will turn around after we follow you crying for your pity. Perhaps one day you will heal our wound and ease our pain for good–and bring all our waiting to an end.

Or will we, like Mariane, simply end up waiting in vain?  But we never really just wait in vain, do we?  Doesn’t the waiting–even if in vain–bring some hidden grace?  Mariane’s waiting must have somehow gathered for her the strength she needed to face Daniel’s death, as well as the courage to raise their child alone after his death.  This Advent, let us pray that we learn to wait and hope, even if our pleas and prayers will not be answered in the exact way we expect or desire.  Sometimes the answer to the prayer is given in our very waiting.

(image:  http://media.canada.com)