the Load We Carry Is Very Great
In a season dedicated to hope and expectant longing, it is good
to name the fact that for some of us, life is very difficult. For
some, there are extraordinarily painful realities before us. More
and more, financial dilemmas are tearing us apart. If we have
lost a loved one, if we are in the middle of a deteriorating or abusive
relationship or trying to cope with a broken one, grief can cloud
our hope. If we are facing a life-threatening health crisis
or if we struggle to endure a chronic condition, we can find ourselves
nearly paralyzed emotionally and spiritually.
The word "perseverance" can put us off, especially
if it comes from someone who doesn't seem to understand what we are
suffering. We can think it just means, "you just have to endure
this without feeling sorry for yourself."
The actual Latin root
of the word "persevere" can help us. There are three parts of
the word: per - se - vere. Loosely translated it
says: "by means of the truth." We persevere by recalling
and staying close to the truth. What truth? The truth
of who we are and what our life is about. That's why Advent
can be a season of perseverance, as well as a season of hopeful
longing. When we let the truth of God's love for us touch our wounds,
we begin to taste our salvation.
do I persevere, if the pain doesn't go away?
When we find ourselves
stuck in a painful situation, we can be tempted to think that we can't
experience "relief." Sometimes tears just overwhelm us and we
are reminded how close the pain is and how vulnerable we really are.
Major stress or financial pressure magnifies any difficulties we have
in communicating. Deep losses or profound ruptures in relationship
pre-occupy everything else. When we are experiencing such grief or
anger, it touches any grief or anger. So, small losses
or disappointments become very big. Small things people do that
might disappoint us, seem to fuel an outburst of rage. And the
approach of Christmas can intensify every emotion and leave us feeling
helpless and hopeless.
This is the time to remember who we are.
There is "relief" in recalling that we are baptized into the death
and resurrection of Jesus. The Incarnation - the In-fleshment
- of our God is a most profound reality when we are suffering.
Our God came to be Immanuel - "with us" in the midst of the greatest
effects of sin and death. The One who was born in poverty was
baptized into our entire poverty, and suffered all that death means,
that we might have the promise of complete joy. Can we really
have joy in the midst of sorrow? We can, if we recognize the
gifts that have been given us. It is a tremendous gift to be
known and understood. Jesus entered into our world and has walked
our path. He is full of compassion, born of experience with
rejection, grief, and a very bad death.
Advent is the Prayer of Perseverance
It takes some focus.
Into hearts that are preoccupied with our pain, we have to make some
room for some new experience. And, a faith community is very
important. It is very difficult to be a believer alone.
We need the support of others who can trust in God. We need
the support of a faith tradition that has a season like Advent.
Our focus has
to be more and more on the promises of our God. The daily readings
from the prophets these days, as well as the psalms and intercessions,
are powerful ways to let the faith of those who have gone before us
into our hearts. We need to hear the prophets say that "A time
will come for singing" before we can ever sing. We need to dialogue
with God, through the emotional cries for help and the moving professions
of faith in the psalms. It helps to say the simple prayers of
Intercession, to begin to open a space for comfort and joy.
In the end, "by means of the truth," we can
raise our hearts and minds to pray, "Come, Lord Jesus!". When,
even through our tears, we can say, "Lord, open my lips, and my mouth
shall declare your praise," then God's grace is with us. Surrendering
to the Truth which is Good News for our suffering, truly "refreshes
our souls." Through perseverance we shall be saved.
And Mary said:
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my
For he has looked upon his handmaid's
behold, from now on will all
ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great
things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his
arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind & heart.
He has thrown down the rulers
from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with
good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to
our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.