was the most empty person I ever met. She seemed to have no inner
self, direction or authority. She just floated along, like a piece
of paper on water, blown by every breeze and carried by every current.
Her three elder sisters had married 1975, 1976 and 1977, respectively.
She fell into the pattern and got married in 1978. Five years later
she was childless but was not sure whether or not she should get medical
help. Her husband Tony thought it would be a good idea but her grandmother
had told her that doctors were no good in those things. She was not
sure if she really wanted children or even that she loved Tony. Her
sister advised her to take a job but her mother said she should not.
She was without passion. She could not say that there was anything
in life that she truly loved or hated. There was nothing about which
she could rage or get angry. She had no opinion of her own on anything.
I was not so surprised when I heard that, a few years after I had
spoken to her, Lourdes got cancer and died. After all, what did she
have to live for?
was 45 when he got the big C. His oncologist gave him a 50/50 chance
of total recovery after surgery and chemotherapy. But his psychologist
gave him an 80/20 chance. His oncologist said that the outcome was
not easily predictable. He was ever being surprised. Given two people
who had apparently the same physical conditions, one would recover
and the other would not. The psychologists seem to have a better record
of accuracy in prediction. For them the person who could accept the
reality honestly, and have hope, had a better chance of recovery.
The psychologist knew that Mike had a very good chance because after
he had listened to his doctor about his operation and further therapy,
he had set up a game of golf for himself for the first reasonable
date. He was looking to the future realistically, and with hope.
Today, is the First Sunday of Advent, the period of preparation for
Christmas and the coming of the Christ child. But the dominant idea
in today's readings is the second coming of Christ and the end of
the world. Does it not seem a bit strange that the church puts a gloomy
prospect before our eyes as we prepare for a joyous event? Maybe there
is a good reason for this.
at the start of the Liturgical Year the church invites us to set out
on a great journey - to follow the footstep of Christ in all of his
mysteries so that we can live as he lived. St. Luke gives us the last
address of his public ministry where Jesus is clearly fretful about
the future as he paints a bleak picture of the end of the world. There
is talk of nations in fear and of people dying in agony. Yet Jesus'
advice is "Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength
to survive all that is going to happen." In Jesus' view there
is a far side to disaster. The good news is that final liberation
and resurrection comes out of the disaster.
the prophets before him Jesus is painting a grim view of the future
in order to influence the present. He does not want to paralyse them
with fear but to energize them into action. The real purpose of speaking
about the last days is to affect the present ones. Be awake, look
reality in the eye and then act accordingly.
gospel story calls on us to do two things that can be very hard to
hold together: to be realistic about how the world is going and at
the same time not to lose hope in the future. Today we begin to retell
the story of a God who so loved the world that he sent his only Son
to be human just like us. This son did not have an easy time. No indeed!
But he worked through suffering and disappointment, passion and death,
to resurrection and a new fullness of life. He left us the message
that if we live with him we will die with him, and if we die with
him we will also rise with him. Many people view religion and prayer
as ways of escaping from reality and suffering. Prayer is rather a
way of sitting still with reality, knowing that there is another side
to suffering, and gaining the courage from this to continue on the