TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: A time of waiting

What a joy the past week has been. Many have written to me and the Diocesan Synod Working Party speaking positively of their experience of the Diocesan Synod that began on Saturday 23 November. It seems to have been the spark of hope we needed, and how appropriate to have this encounter with hope as we begin the liturgical year.

Richard Rohr in his daily meditations wrote on 1 December:

Yet Advent was once (and still can be) a time of waiting, a time of hoping without knowing, a time of emptying so that we can be filled by the divine Presence. Though you may be wrapping gifts, planning special meals, and spending time with family and friends, I hope you will also take time to allow the Advent darkness to do its work as well.

Not knowing or uncertainty is a kind of darkness that many people find unbearable. Those who demand certitude out of life will insist on it even if it doesn’t fit the facts. Logic and truth have nothing to do with it. If you require certitude, you will surround yourself with your own conclusions and dismiss or ignore any evidence to the contrary.

When I read these words, I thought of our advent as a church. We are waiting for something, an unknown breaking open and we are journeying with each other in that time of anticipation (synodal). We are being asked to “empty ourselves and to walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5) or as it says in the reading from Paul to the Romans (13:11-14), “let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.”

I recall that Pope Francis has used the word patience a great deal in his writings and spoken words. In an audience with the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation, Sept. 20, 2014, Pope Francis said:

The Word of God entered with ‘patience’ in the moment of the Incarnation and thus unto death on the Cross. Patience and perseverance. We do not have a ‘magic wand’ for everything, but we do have our trust in the Lord who accompanies us and never abandons us… Let us do good, but without expecting to be recompensed. Let us sow and offer witness. Our witness is the beginning of an evangelisation that touches the heart and transforms it. Words without example are of no use! Our witness is what brings and gives validity to our words.

So, as we spend these days preparing for Christmas, I hope we are able to witness to something greater than ourselves. Fr Andrew Doohan noted aptly in his homily that here in Australia, we are being invited to prepare spiritually during Advent for this great feast and yet we are simultaneously bringing to close the school year and work year, with the associated end of year functions, concerts, dinners and parties. We are preparing for summer holidays and so many are tired and not feeling much like witnessing.

And yet, the Gospel reading from Sunday from Matthew (24:37-44) reminds us:

Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.

This is the longing of the human heart. We yearn for complete and utter love, which we are unable to grasp even when it is given freely and without demands. I invite you to listen to the conversations that happen around you, in the supermarket, on the train (for those who are not on their devices), in the lunchroom, around the dinner table, on a queue or wherever you may find yourself. Listen deeply to the yearnings of the heart but also listen to our inability as humans to respond adequately.

I am aware that you receive this message on Tuesday 3 December, International Day of People with a Disability (IDPwD). It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions. May we be welcoming and accepting to those who surround us and who struggle with some form of disability.

In his address to Government officials in 2019, Pope Francis stated:

True development is measured by concern for human beings, who are the heart of all development; concern for their education, health and dignity. The greatness of any nation is revealed in its effective care of society’s most vulnerable members – women, children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled and minorities – lest any person or social group be excluded.

As members of the Catholic Church in Australia, are we ensuring that no one is left behind?

Thank you to those of you who took the time to send through lovely words of affirmation around the Diocesan Synod. We now begin the work of collating your words and giving those back to you in an attempt for us to discern with each other what the Spirit is saying.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.