Jules Does

Jules Does Lent: Waiting While Walking

Posted on: March 7, 2016

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Ok, so I have been pretty terrible at posting lately, and I apologise. Part of the reason is being busy and not managing my time super well, but another part of the reason is that sometimes these readings are either really challenging or, frankly, a little blah, and I just don’t feel like writing about them. And that’s no good.

Biblically speaking, the desert is often used to suggest the obvious – barren, empty, lifeless, inhospitable. Sometimes, though, the desert can be a crucible for change and growth and challenges. For me, this Lent, the desert has been a lot of the former. Sometimes in doing these readings, I feel like God is really communicating with me, pointing out things that I need to realise. I know that I cling to moments of grace like Tarzan swinging through the trees, grasping one tightly and riding it to the next one. If the next one doesn’t come soon enough, then I fall. But maybe what I need to do is think of grace more like the springs of water we’ve been told about so often this season, and fill my canteens while I can so that I can eke it out until I find the next spring, whenever that may be.

It would be simple enough to attribute my tendency to seek new graces instantly to this generation’s short attention span and sense of ‘I want it and I want it now’ brand of entitlement, but in reality this is something that has been going on for millennia. Sometimes I feel like the Bible even panders to our desire for things to happen and happen right this very second. In the first reading for today (at least in the translation at Universalis), God tells us that He is creating a new heaven and a new earth “now” – twice. The new heaven and earth is obviously wonderful, with abundant life for all and an end to infant mortality, as well as delicious food and enough to spare, and it is happening now. God’s grace will spring up for all right now. It is happening even as He speaks.

The immediacy of the first reading doesn’t initially seem to mesh well with what happens in the Gospel reading. In it, Christ returns to Cana, the location of his first miracle, having done a bit of travelling in the mean time and, crucially, no miracles between then and now. Hardly the “now, now” arrival of God’s kingdom mentioned in the first reading. When the man whose son is ill approaches Christ to ask for healing for his son, who was apparently over a day’s journey away from Cana at a town called Caesaraea, Christ chastises him slightly, claiming that the people are dependent on signs to inspire their faith rather than being capable of belief on its own. Again, not exactly a “now, now” moment. To that charge the man makes no reply or defence, but simply asks again that Jesus heal his son.When Jesus promises that the child will recover, the man leaves immediately, and encounters his servants on the road the next day, coming to bring him the good news of his son’s recovery.

What was that man thinking as he travelled? He would have had to stop and stay the night somewhere and continue on his way the next morning. Did he really think that whole time that his child would certainly be healed, even though Jesus had only said the boy would be healed and hadn’t even seen him? He would have had to hold on to his hope until he made it back to his home, going step by step, only as fast as his legs could carry him. But he doesn’t even make it home before his servants intercept him to tell him the good news.

I like this man, and he’s a good example for people like me in how to take grace as it comes. For him, his perception of the miracle of his son’s healing came both slowly and quickly; slowly in that he had to go all the way home to see the miracle performed, but also quickly in that the news of it came while he was still on the road, not quite expecting it just yet, but looking forward with faith to it coming soon. The miracle of course, was one of those immediate transformations promised in the first reading, but it took time for his awareness of what God was doing to match up with the reality. All he could do was walk steadily towards it.

It’s important, then, to remember that God is indeed working “now, now”, but our understanding may be obscured by our own distance from God, our other preoccupations, or other such obstacles, and that it’s crucial that we keep walking forward. Under the desert sands, between each tiny spring of water, lies a huge, sustaining reservoir.

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