“Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” — Eph 5:8-9
This weekend is the Fourth Sunday in Advent. The readings can be found here. The themes focus on the metaphor of living in the blindness of the shadow self and trusting in God to heal us.
Today’s reflection comes from an anonymous author (primarily because I found it online but can not find the author) and focuses on trusting God to assist in our healing. You can find the full homily here, but set forth below is an extended summary:
“There is none of us here today who is not in need of healing of some kind. While for some of us, that desired healing is physical, for most of us, the healing we need and seek is something spiritual and moral. We seek healing from our weaknesses and sins, from the flaws and bad habits we fall into it, from the mistakes we have made and the ways we have wounded other people and turned away from God, choosing to live selfishly rather than lovingly.
… And God does heal us in those ways. But, for most of us, the healing is not as dramatic and life-altering as it was for the man in today’s Gospel reading. For many of us, the healing that we experience is not a “one-shot deal”. On the contrary, it is a slow, gradual transformation of our hearts and minds, learning to turn away from our sins and follow the example of Jesus. For most of us, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not the work of a single day or month—not only the work of a single season of Lent, which is precisely why the Church offers us this sacred opportunity, this six-week journey, every year. And with each Lent, hopefully we are a little bit more Christian than we were last Lent … a little more loving, a little more generous, a little more prayerful, a little more faith-filled. For most people, the law of spiritual growth is a law of gradual change. It isn’t instantaneous; on the contrary, it is the slow, patient work of a lifetime, allowing God into our lives, so that He can become more and more truly the master of our hearts and minds.
And for many of us, the single greatest help we have on that journey of growth and spiritual development is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In that sacrament, we can admit in all humility: “Lord, I’m on the journey … but I’m not there yet”. We can come to the Lord in our frailty and our need, and admit that, although we have made some real progress in some areas of our lives as Christians, there are other areas where we continue to struggle, when our weaknesses run deep, and where our sinful behaviors seem to be stubbornly hard to uproot and totally eliminate. For many of us, it can be frustrating, to confess the same sins over and over, and we can have a sense of not making progress—at least not progress in the sense that our culture thinks of it.
But God thinks differently. God knows us intimately, through and through. And God is infinitely patient … Whether we realize it or not, when we turn to God in Confession, we allow God’s love and mercy to work on us, to slowly but surely smooth the rough edges of our lives, to slowly but surely re-orient us, so that our focus can be on loving God and others once more. It probably won’t happen suddenly and dramatically … and sometimes the changes in us can be so small and gradual that we don’t know them. But faith tells us that, if we are willing to trust in God’s mercy, that mercy does heal us, and does make us different. As the great Jesuit theologian Teilhard de Chardin once wrote:
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually—let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”