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Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

11 December 2010

Reflecting on James 5:7-10

It’s easy to tell someone to be patient, and so hard to actually do it.  Our children need us to watch them closely, but they also need enormous amounts of “looking the other way” as they mature and eventually find their way in the world without us.

Our aging parents need our patience.  As they deal with the greatest losses in life―loss of health, loss of memory―they need us to care for them, finding creative ways to help them recover strength and well-being in an increasingly unsettling world.

We need to be patient with ourselves, too.  Real change―changes in how we eat, how we live, how we regain strength after surgery or an illness―will surely come.  Just as the farmer awaits the yield of the soil by waiting for both the early and the late rains, we watch ourselves for the changes we work on little by little through the years.

Last spring I had an ingrown toenail removed.  The whole event took about six months.  The new nail grew in as the old nail died.  I could actually see the boundary between death and new life every time I examined my toe. We don’t see that transition as clearly in other parts of our lives until, one day, we look at someone we love and ask, “When did you get so tall?  So beautiful?  So self-assured?  When did you grow into yourself?”

Patience, people.  God is surely at work in us, giving us grace and insight as the years go by.  Watch for the changes in yourself that signal that the Lord has been near all along.

Sharing God’s Word at Home:

How can you help God help you make a real change?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Advent - Cycle A

10 Comments to “Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle A”

  1. I have learned the hard way that God really doesn’t need my help. I have learned that many times my two cents aren’t very helpful at all. See I use to be one of those people who said “if I were God,I’d” I have learned that God is in the lead, and I follow, but when I try to lead I get oh so lost! yes I learned that God guides my quite unknowingly where he can best use me. Sometimes it as simple as a smile to someone feeling very alone and invisible that has made a big difference.

  2. They say patience is a virtue. I believe patience is a gift from God, that is always waiting for us just to recognize it is there. I many times must remove the log from my eye to see the small gift of giant possibilities before me.

  3. “They will meet with joy and gladness,
    sorrow and mourning will flee.”

    That is the promise in the amazing passage from Isaiah about what will happen when our God comes to save us. But we know that God has already come in the person of Jesus to ransom us. So where is the joyfulness? The end of sorrow? Am I impatient to experience this? Absolutely. But Kathy’s reflection is a beautiful reminder that the coming about of real change happens in God’s time. Sometimes it is dramatic and sudden. But mostly it happens in the imperceptible accumulation of one decision at a time, one small effort after another to recognize grace or to be a source of grace for another. 

    The hope and courage and real love I see in THIS community is effecting a change in me, and I am so grateful for the prayers and encouragement I find here. I believe that our shared journey in this new liturgical year will be a source of that joy and gladness promised by the prophet. That I will see a change in my own heart as we reflect together on the saving Word of God and how it grows in us. That I will become more attentive to the ways I can bring about the Kingdom. I just need a bit of patience. 

  4. Some people think I’m patient but ‘am average. ‘am patient perhaps 60% of the time and impatient about 40% of the time.
    But when I think of the Hebrew people who were in Babylon
    for close to 60 years of captivity, my patience comes to nothing compared to their faith. – – Cris

  5. being a person raised in a “faithless” home, it always astounds me to realize how many of my mom’s quotes were instrumental in forming me. We didn’t go to church or pray as a family, but I am filled with a multitude of “ism’s”, one being “patience is a virtue.” Growing up that was always one of the directions from mom that stuck with me, and I repeated to my own children. But, it just doesn’t come easily. Maybe that’s why it’s a virtue: we must work at it, opening ourselves up to God, surrendering to allow him to work through us. I always believed it would become easier in aging, but I still find myself wanting to hurry things along; get well quicker, change societal structure and the systems that control lives, bring an end to war. None of these things move fast enough for me, and it’s a constant source of frustration until I remember to let go and let God. Then, the frustration subsides for a time, until the next event that triggers impatience. Having always been an activist, my first instinct is to do something to right a wrong, take the initiative to speak out, offer ideas to promote the change that I think is needed. How arrogant is that? “God, I open myself to you and trust my humanity will not distance me from your love; that the change in me will come from your presence within; that my patience with all your creation and its flaws will become more visible in this life.” Cris has made the perfect connection with the Hebrews in Babylon: our patience can only come from our faith.

  6. Becky, I think God does need your help, as He needs help from all of us. We are the hands God uses to accomplish change He wants in this world. He cannot accomplish change in this world without us, and we won’t be motivated to make any of those change without HIm. It is by our teamwork with God that the world is made a better place. We need to listen, be aware always of what He wants us to do on HIs behalf.

    Never shortchange who you are by thinking that God doesn’t need you . . . and me . . . and all who are open to HIs graces.

    Prepare ye the way!

  7. I think we need to be careful with the difference between “need” and “want”. God does not truly _need_ anything. As our all powerful, all knowing God, He can do anything. However, he does desprately _want_ us (because he loves us) to be the active part of his plan for all humanity.

    The Catechism states:
    “Of all the divine attributes, only God’s omnipotence is named in the Creed: to confess this power has great bearing on our lives. We believe that his might is universal, for God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God’s power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it when it ‘is made perfect in weakness.'”

    I agree with brebis’ comment “We need to listen, be aware always of what He wants us to do on HIs behalf.”

  8. Hi everyone, it’s Kathy here. I keep coming back to the site this week because your contributions are so, so rich.

    I love Michael Carlos’ sentence here: But mostly (patience) happens in the imperceptible accumulation of one decision at a time, one small effort after another to recognize grace or to be a source of grace for another.

    How beautiful. I’m struck recently with the changes in our spirits which happen little by little, year by year, as we make the decisions to “recognize grace and be a source of grace for another.”

    I had an interesting experience two days ago. My nice doctor, responding to me PLEAS for a sleep aid that works for my epic insomnia, wrote me a prescription six months ago for Trazadone. When he handed me the prescription he said, “You’ve been through a lot. You deserve to have this.” I didn’t think much about that at the time.

    Fast forward to two days ago. I woke up after a nice long sleep, and I was THRILLED to realize that I had actually slept the whole night without taking the sleep aid. I had been too tired the night before to open the bottle (I know) and had fallen asleep and stayed asleep the whole night. Wow! I’m going to try it again tonight and see if I have solved my sleep problems and can get off of altogether!!

    Within a few hours I was droopy. It was seventy degrees out, Ben was home, we went for a gorgeous nine-mile bike ride. The combination of those three “graces” would normally put me over the edge with ecstasy, but by the time we got home I was teary and blue and just kind of “flu-y”.

    I went to bed at 7pm, exhausted and sad for no reason I could imagine. I took my Trazadone, and woke up yesterday feeling WONDERFUL! My cheerful spirit was totally revived, the blues of the day before had disappeared, and I had no trace of the flue symptoms of the day before.

    Hmmm….what could have caused such a dramatic difference???
    That’s right. My pharmacist-husband now confesses to me what my doctor meant when he said, “You deserve this.” Unbeknownst to me all these months of blissful sleeping (and living)later, Trazadone is a mild anti-depressant! And going one night without it had brought on the blues, tiredness and flu.

    And it had worked up in my system little by little, day by day, without my noticing that it was giving me a little boost. (I thought that finally getting great sleep every night was the sole reason why I feel so great.) But take it away for just one night, and yuck!

    So I naturally thought of that farmer who watches the soil during the early and the spring rains, and one day the shoot just begins to rise. Little by little, things change us.

    It doesn’t make me feel too comfortable, knowing that if I ever feel that I can sleep on my own I will have to painfully wean myself off Trazadone. But it does give me tremendous compassion for those who struggle with depression, and now that I’ve had one day of it I have a teeny sense of what so many great people struggle with every day.

    So I “recognize grace”—the grace of medicine that created a drug that has restored my sanity after years of insomnia, and the grace to recognize that I have been given a small glimpse of the challenges that so many brave people face every day. i resolve to be much more present and loving and understanding, and will stand in watchful hope with all the people I love who struggle with depression.

    Isn’t Advent wonderful?


  9. How can you help God help you make a real change?
    A new friend by the name of Lindsay said, “That’s easy. Even God can’t drive a parked car.” Hmmm…
    As I thought about the image, I recognized that road signs suggest good ways to cooperate with God. It’s important to yield to the God who loves me. Surrendering is not always easy but I have to trust that the God who created me sustains me, nourishes me and embraces me. And when it comes to other people in my life, sometimes they may have the right of way.
    Stop signs are red so that they stand out. They remind me to pause a while, to be still and present in the moment. It’s about looking both ways and all around, and accepting more than just my own opinion. This teaches me to not live with an “either/or” but a “both/and” attitude, to be less judgmental and more inclusive. I tend to run around too fast with too many different things to do, so stopping to breathe in the power of the Holy Spirit is essential to my hearing what God has to say to me. I can get caught up in my own self-importance so “just wait a minute” is a brief refresher course in humility. Not only have I had to pause, but I’ve also had to sit at a red light and wait for the light to change to green. And in those amber moments I wonder what God is cautioning me about and what transformative power is occurring.
    I try not to drive above the speed limit, but even I lose patience and accelerate to pass the person in front of me, who might be going too slowly for my taste. I’m probably in a hurry to accomplish something. I learn how to pray for that person’s concerns, even if it’s just a quick prayer from someone who’s driving in the fast lane.
    For a while it seemed as if there were a lot of curves in my life, with uneven pavements. It’s made for some rough miles. But when I reflect on what’s happening, I realize that I am under construction. Both God and other human beings are working on me. Knowing who I am, it can take a long time.
    Here in Fort Collins, the train runs right through the middle of the city. Those railroad crossings ring a bell. Some thing bigger than I am is passing through, and if I’m not patient, I will miss the significance of the moment and of the One who is inviting me to notice. Most of the time, there are plenty of cars sitting and waiting, it’s an exercise in community building, possibility and hope (that the train really isn’t too long.)
    God and I are one, so I merge into the heart of God, even as we are unique. This God directs me and leads me to make only right turns. Sometimes, I still go the other way, because I stubbornly choose the opposite direction. Thankfully there aren’t any signs posted that say no U-turns.
    For me, there is only one way to God, and that’s being in relationship with the Holy One, who regularly fills me with premium grace. I “check my soul” through reflection on Scripture and examination of consciousness. And then, when I really am cooperating with the Spirit, I allow God to take the driver’s seat.

  10. As I have meditated on this week’s reflection by Kathy, I am aware of the many ways in which scripture teaches us compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and love. Joseph might not have been expected to protect Mary and Jesus considering the laws of his time. But, the Holy Spirit gave him the support he needed to do the loving thing. Jerome and others may have changed a word here and there to support their position, but the basic message always seems to come through.
    My sister and brother-in-law have been trying to sell their house in Minnesota so they could move back to Denver for five years. Poor Joseph remains on his head in the frozen tundra and the house is now off the market!

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