Friday, January 13, 2012

Trusting in the Dark

(I have been sitting on this one for a couple of weeks. If you find the words a bit scattered, I'm sorry--I've been doing a little mental battle with myself. I hope to be posting more frequently in the next few weeks and hope to "see" you around then.)

The day before Christmas Eve, a family member, and we by near extension, experienced a crisis situation. I won't say "tragedy," no one was hurt; but there was profound loss. This family member has had rough holidays before, and is handling it all with more strength and steadiness than I fear I would show, and all prayers would be appreciated as she navigates this affair.

The next day, our Christmas Eve, felt very displaced as we dealt with both the immediate aftermath and all the last minute holiday miscellanea. This was the sort of thing which became both more and less urgent--routine was impossible, but for the sake of its solace we attempted to follow the traditional script of preparing and celebrating. I told more than one person I met that such an event brings into sharp focus what Christmas is really about.

The next day at Christmas' morning Mass, we heard in the homily the familiar story of how an unexpected Messiah came to a people who expected a mighty deliverer. The people of God wanted a hero who would restore everything they wanted of their former glory. Instead they got a helpless infant, who would grow up to say he would use our mourning, poverty, hunger and thirst to bless us.

Do you know yet--personally, from the evidence of your own life--how God uses the knocks and blows of this life to draw you to him? I remember reading, with a slightly stunned blink, a passage from one of St. Catherine of Siena's letters to a woman, apparently a widow who had lost first her son and now her daughter. The letter itself, I believe, is one of her better known ones, expounding on "holy patience;" but what struck me were these words:
It seems that God is calling you to great perfection. And I perceive it by this, that He takes away from you every tie that might hinder it in you. For as I have heard, it seems that He has called to Himself your daughter, who was your last tie with the outer world. For which thing I am deeply content, with a holy compassion, that God should have set you free, and taken her from her labours.
I admit, I wonder how this sentiment was received. We are often told it's no consolation to tell someone who has suffered a loss that "it was God's will." Perhaps in the 14th century one is used to thinking in such terms--or at least one in correspondence with Catherine of Siena. But it seems so cold, even cruel.

No matter who we are, though, the manner in which we should think, if we are to be saints, is this: Whatever is happening to me, how can this bring me closer to God?

I'm not really good at answering that question--not at living the answer. I tend to feel trials as a bit of a betrayal. There's another quotation that sticks with me, after reading it at another blog*, by C. S. Lewis: "We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be." But faith in times of crisis or tragedy is truly about trust: will we cling to God and know that He will bring us through this dark time into dawn? Or will we bolt and grope around for ourselves, trying to find what we want in the dark?

*The inimitable Danielle Bean's blog, whose blog has since been redesigned so that I was obliged to lift the words from other sources.

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