Daily Reflection
December 27th, 2006

Elizabeth Furlong

School of Nursing
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Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist
1 John 1:1-4
Psalm 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12
John 20:1a and 2-8

I write this on 12-8-06 and react with dissonance upon first reading the Gospel for this day, December 27th. I write this from the consumeristic United States society two and one half weeks before Christmas Day – and, yet, the Gospel Reading is about a time shortly after the Crucifixion. Thus, my time rhythm dissonance. Given all the religious and secular societal and media messages in our country about preparing for Christmas, it is difficult to understand the placement of this Gospel Reading for December 27th. However, on further reflection I am able to make connections between themes of Advent and this Gospel.

As I write this, I am suffused with the Advent themes of Waiting, Preparing, and Being Patient. Besides the spiritual aspect of the Christian Advent time, I think about many other aspects of life that have parallels to the Advent themes of Waiting, Preparing, and Being Patient. As someone who teaches and lives a rhythm of an academic calendar, I wait for the end of the semester. I have a very good friend who is ill, who has been through a long hospitalization, and is now in a rehabilitation center – I wait for her recovery. I follow the news in the Middle East – and worry about possible civil wars in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. I affirm a friend who is about to start a Catholic Worker House in Omaha – he and his fellow Catholic Workers are waiting for homeless men (who they call angels or ambassadors from God) to experience their hospitality. Designated work hours diminish during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays (because of the academic schedule) – and, I wait for more quiet time for self. How did you prepare for Christmas? What did your Waiting, Preparing, and Being Patient consist of?

I re-joined a group of women work colleagues who had met earlier this year to discuss Dr. Wendy Wright’s book on Advent. We left last week’s meeting with this prayer – “There is great virtue in practicing patience in small things until the habit of Advent returns to us.” (Caryll Houselander, English mystic.) Two days after learning this prayer, I was starkly reminded of it. Early one morning I atypically was on a side street slowly following a garbage pick-up truck. My immediate reaction was one of impatience because I was running late, had an early morning commitment to make, etc. But, then, I invoked the above prayer. And, I was graced with new insight. I had the opportunity to “re-frame” my attitude and for several minutes to observe the work of garbage collectors who need to quickly pick up garbage cans, throw the contents in the truck, and quickly hop back on the exterior step of the truck to keep pace with the truck’s speed. I had the opportunity to “practice patience in small things.” I vowed I will be more sensitive to the weight of garbage sacks I put outside in the future. I had the opportunity to see one aspect of another worker’s life. I will do my part in making someone else’s work easier. This small example of “practicing patience” inched me along a journey of more solidarity with others.

Waiting, Preparing, and Being Patient. And, in the Gospel of today, 12-27-06, the apostles did not know what was happening. They had to wait, to prepare for the explanation, and to be patient. They, unlike us, did not have the total evolving story of the Christian faith. How much more were their qualities of Waiting, Preparing, and Being Patient. What lessons those apostles give us! While I do not have the theological educational preparation to know and understand the placement of this particular Gospel Reading for 12-27-06, I do see connections between Advent themes and this Gospel. Rose Marie Bereger wrote “The disciplines of Advent are ones that teach us to small things greatly, to do few things but do them well, to love in particular rather than in general” (The Habit of Advent, Sojourners, December, 2006.)

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