From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
December 11 – Third Sunday of Advent
John the Baptist was a powerful preacher who had great faith and conviction about the coming of the Messiah. His ministry, his passion, his in your face style had landed him in prison. When he heard of the works of Jesus, he sent his disciples with a simple question: “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” What a challenging time it must have been for John. He didn’t really know what was happening outside the prison walls. He only knew what was told to him. He had to wait to get any news. The reality is, he was in the dark about what was truly happening. He had a mission and he may have been starting to doubt if he had accomplished it. The walls of his prison kept him from being able to see and experience the hope of Jesus. Jesus sends his disciples back – “tell him what you hear and see…” All John could do was sit….and wait…for his disciples to return. He had no control at this point and I am sure some doubt was creeping in behind those walls. But Jesus finds a way to reveal the light to John – and to us. Although John was blinded by the walls of his prison to the hope of Jesus, his disciples became the messengers who revealed the light.
How many of us have walls in our lives that can sometimes make it hard for us to see hope on the horizon? How many of us find ourselves in situations where we feel like we have no control? We know what we want but it is beyond our grasp – and frustration, fear and doubt can begin to settle in. Like John, we may be tempted to ask a similar question of Jesus: “Are you the one…or should I look for another?” If we but remain patient though, Jesus gives us signs along the way. He will speak to us in the silence of our prayers and events around us – if we will simply be patient. It may not be the answer we want, but it will be the one we need.
Our reading from the Letter of James counsels us to patience. “Be patient…see how the farmer waits…do not complain about one another…take as an example the hardship and patience…the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” Like the farmer who waits for the harvest – sometimes for longer than he would like – we too must wait, but with the assurance that God does provide us what we need. It may not always be in the way or time we would like but He is always faithful and provides for us. We also need to be patient with one another, not judging and always acting with mercy, compassion and forgiveness. Finally, we need to be patient as the prophets were, enduring the hardship, the scorn and the ridicule that sometimes comes with the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. John had to wait like so many others – and so do we! Many have suffered greatly but we all rest in the assurance of God’s faithfulness and the hope of His coming and salvation.
As Vincentians, our patience is sometimes tested. It is hard to see where help is coming from, or how we will overcome the challenges some are confronted with. Our neighbors in need can find themselves walled in by circumstance, and we need to be the messengers of light to them. Prayer and patience are the cornerstones of working through many of the situations we face. We need to be patient with the mistakes our neighbors have made and decisions we may not agree with. Likewise, we need to be patient with each other and cautious not to be judgmental. Our ministry can be quite challenging at times, causing us or our neighbors to suffer emotionally, financially and otherwise. Do I exercise the patience, humility and trust needed to persevere? Do I have confidence answers will come? Do I offer understanding, tolerance and hope in the face of adversity and tension? Do I see my suffering – and that of my neighbors – as being connected to the suffering of Christ?
Lord Jesus, grant me patience, tolerance, forgiveness and mercy that I might reflect your love out to those I minister to. Allow their presence, their humanness and frailties, their vulnerabilities and their failures to help me to see in them the very same in myself. Allow them to see in me your face, your love, your sacrifice and your hope for the future. Allow this Advent season to be transformational for me as a Vincentian and for those whom you bring before me as children of God. We pray all of this in your name. Amen