Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
July 18th, 2009

Eileen Burke-Sullivan

Theology Department
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Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Exodus 12:37-42
Psalm 136:1 and 23-24, 10-12, 13-15
Matthew 12:14-21

As I prayed with the texts for the liturgy on this Saturday in the height of summer ordinary time (here in the northern half of the globe) I was struck by a powerful memory of sitting beside my older brother’s coffin in the middle of the night on a cold December Friday some years ago.  Family and friends had gathered at our childhood parish Church to pray the Vigil liturgy for this beloved man who died in the prime of his adult life.  With the encouragement of our very insightful pastor we had made a decision to attend in vigil with the body through the night between the gathering in the evening and the Mass of Christian Burial the next morning.  The Church was dark, but for a few lights left around the edges of the sanctuary to allow those who came and watched through the night to read the scriptures or to see their way in and out.  Family and friends came in and out quietly through those dark hours, waiting, praying, occasionally singing, but waiting for the Lord to show both his unending mercy and his victory over this darkness. 

Then from the depths of my inner life came another memory of my Father telling the story of standing in the hospital delivery waiting room as my mother labored long hours to give birth to her 10th child . . . and then the memory shifted to my own waiting at her bedside forty years later as she struggled to be born into eternal life.  As the dark hours of the night began to give way to the early morning of Palm Sunday that year, she begged to “go home.”

Yet again, the memory of waiting at an airport for a plane long delayed by sudden bad weather to deliver my fiancé to his family home where I was to be introduced as his future spouse.

To vigil . . . is to wait in hope; to wait in joyful hope if we can, or sorrowful hope, or terrified hope; but with hope that clings to the confidence that God is in charge and it is God who will bring the newness of life.

The Israelites were compelled to Vigil through the night we call Passover, waiting for God to deliver them from their misery in Egypt. They did not know what the delivery would look like. What their new birth as God’s child would entail. They did not yet have an imagination of “Waiting for the Lord,” but they would very soon.  And then in perpetuity they were to stir up that imagination and remember each year by spending a night waiting.  Christians, too, spend a night each spring waiting with the disciples for the Lord’s victory over death.  They too did not know precisely for what they waited, but for them too, it was both death and birth.

In families and alone, in congregations, with friends, and sometimes with strangers most of us have had to vigil at some time in our life . . . to wait . . . to yearn . . . to hope in God’s victory without knowing what the victory will look like for us, or how soon it will come. And always it is a new and different life that we live after we have truly vigiled.

Mid-summer is an interesting time to be reminded of the compelling vigil that we live each day as we wait in joyful hope for the victory of God’s compassion in our broken world.  Let today be a real vigil – an opportunity to remember what wonders God has done for us, and will do for us tomorrow even has he holds us in his hands this night.

Give thanks to the LORD, for God is good.  For his mercy endures forever. (Psalm 136)

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