December 2, 2012
ADVENT I (C)
Stand erect and raise your heads, because your redemption is at hand.
- Luke 21: 28
A young widow had been left with her four small children to raise and her physically handicapped mother to care for. Over the years she devoted herself wholeheartedly to the task, nursing her mother through a long, difficult terminal illness and supporting and guiding her children through adolescence and teenage years. When the youngest child graduated from college, she said to herself, “for so long I had wanted to be out from under these responsibilities, and now I am free. But now that I’m liberated, I’m wondering what I am free for.
The scriptures tell us Christians not only how to confront the things that oppress us and how to deal with the heavy responsibilities that make demands on us, but they also tell us what we are freeing up ourselves for.
Now, the freedom to which we are called is neither a mindless, superficial optimism nor an alternative to facing life’s problems. On the contrary, Jesus charges us with the responsibility of decision-making every day of our lives. It is a freedom from the mindless worry and anxiety over that which is beyond our control. Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This prayer helps us to distinguish between our proper concerns and God’s.
A fashionable ‘in’ word these days is uptight. Uptight people are not necessarily neurotic; in fact, psychologists might even say they are normal. They just worry with a passion about getting ahead, about health, about bills to pay, about family problems, & yes, they even worry about worries. The uptight person, the excessive “worry bird” is enslaved by an inflated notion of his or her ability to manage the future. For practicing Christians there comes a point where they must let go, hang loose, & surrender their future to Divine Providence.
The “Fable of the Birds” is a story about creation. It seems all the newly made animals are walking around discovering what it is like to be alive, except for the birds. They are complaining because God has given them a heavy burden that He’s given no other animal: those awkward appendages on their shoulders. Why did they have to carry these things around, making it hard to work? Finally, two or three of the more adventurous birds began to move their appendages. They began to flutter them, & soon discovered that the very thing they had regarded as a burden actually made it possible for them to fly. No other animals could fly. The “heavy burden” turned out to be a beautiful gift.
I dare say many of us think like those silly birds. We regard God’s call to obedience as an awkward appendage to our lives, weighing us down. A heavy burden is it until a few adventurous souls take Him at His word & try it out. What the saints have discovered is that our Lord’s commands are really the wind of the Spirit, which enables us to fly as no other creature can fly.
To be truly free from the burden of aimlessness, we have to learn how to flutter the wings that our Lord provides us with & fly. Then we can discover what we are free for. We are free for God’s kingdom of love. We are free to discover new ways to give of ourselves to one another. We have not been designed by God to cope with life on earth in isolation. We have a built-in need for support from others & to support others, both. Our best earthly glimpse of the meaning of life – a meaning deeper than any human has yet formulated – comes to us in & through our mutual support & love. We are free to experience the fullness of the rule of love, & to treasure it eternally: “Stand erect & raise your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” AMEN!