Yesterday was the anniversary of Sandy Hook. In Times Square, Canadian tourists shared the incomprehensibility of that moment, the news coverage in British Columbia, questioning softly what is really going on in the world. But there are other fragments of conversation that surface on this Gaudete Sunday.
A breakfast shop wedged between storefronts on Ninth Avenue. He was sipping green tea and talking about First Nation, his tribe and heritage and the continuum of history: the costs of colonization and conficting identities and the need to revisit matriarchy. Reclaim the power: find strength in water and energy in earth and live with consistency.
Another setting. Private conversation. She spoke words touched with rage at a church that housed the misfits and elevated males in status. Episodes of scandal remembered, recited. Hypocrites, she said, leading with quotes from Sacred Scripture in conversation but clearly failing to practie what is preached.
Ours is a world of hurt and suffering, of pain and change, cycles of loss and gain. We exist with the demented sense that somehow, to be human is easy and life is fair. Into this confusion come glimmers of light, but that light is met with scrutiny and skepticism. And that is where the Gospel rests this week: with John the Baptist’s uncertainty about Jesus’ mission and message, and the promise of healing. The story sits there, on the edge of believing in the Light, and inviting us to that same space. In this third week of Advent, we sit on that brink, wondering about life and beliefs, wanting relief and hope and wandering through days and weeks. There is a tenderness to the vulnerabilty of it all.
And so there is the Christmas story, a story of loss and vulnerability, of a couple challenged by the requirements of a government, of the last weeks of pregnancy, of the kindness of strangers. No matter how the story is told, there is an intimacy to it that speaks to the deepest elements of what it means to be human, something that transcends our differences and offers the possibility of moments without distraction to comprehend the very miracles of relationships and birth. But to hear it, to revisit its simplicity and rediscover its purpose, there is the need to listen attentively, to trust that there is something worth learning from the world that is past and some continuity in the human story through the millenniums.
Standing on that edge offers a new perspective, a different vision. And it opens a series of questions: “What is Jesus about? What relevance does his message have? What does the Gospel offer about relationships? Can human relationships be lived out within social and political systems with joy and freedom? Can trust and peace be found within our own relationships? How can we really enter into loving one another and being present to each other and Jesus became present to us?”
But this is the Third Week of Advent, the pink candle in the Advent wreath known as the Shepherd’s Candle. Can we be like the shepherds, witness and grasp? Welcome and know wonder? Can we believe?