A Cycle – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time20
I was thinking about the time I drove the German Autobahn highspeed expressway from Northern Germany to Geneva, Switzerland. My thoughts ranged from the magnificent scenery, the high speed of all drivers, the courtesy of the drivers to honor the “slow: lane, and mostly the glaring difference between the rush to get to the border and the delay’s at the border. Yes, it was long before the European Union changed all that hassle by immigration and customs.
As I approached the Swiss border, I saw the stop and go of a long line of cars in both lanes that seemed to stretch for miles. As a typical American, my mind started calculating which line would move fastest so I could avoid the long delay. Much to my surprise both lanes were moving at the same slow pace; the car on my left continued to be on my left as we reached the bottleneck. What was happening was as one car approached the one lane that was open, the car behind it would allow the car on its right to move into the open lane. It was something we in America would not be doing because we are in too much of a hurry. This attitude of seeking the fastest way to get in and out of a place carries over to every aspect of our lives including our time in church.
We look for the shortest line in grocery stores, at the airport, waiting for a ride at theme parks or checking out at department store. We look for the fastest moving line or the shortest line, find the fastest route to a destination and avoid slow means of transportation. We do not like to wait. We are more and more being motivated by instant gratification. High speed internet is constantly offering us faster and faster service. Fast food, self service checkout lines, same day delivery. We want it now and that has had an impact on how we approach out faith.
Being still and waiting on God is not something we do well. If mass takes too long, if the homily runs over what we believe is long enough, or we must wait for a closing song to be completed we are upset at being held captive by the presiding priest. That approach to church does nothing to help us encounter Christ in the gospel, the community or in the Sacrament. But we are there for a reason and God is anxious to show you a reason to rejoice and spend time with Him. Even if we desire a short mass, a short homily, and no participation from us at all, we should never underestimate God’s ability to break through and speak to our hearts.
We need to recognize the voice of God, the work of God and the presence of God in ordinary things. This is where we spend most of our time so it should not surprise us that God is present to us in the ordinary. The woman at the well is just such a story as is the story of the blind Bartimaeus. In fact, the scriptures are full of God coming to us in the ordinary and the failure of many to respond to His being there. In fact, one spiritual truth I have come to realize is this: God is constantly coming to us, revealing himself to us, inviting us to respond, and we do not respond.
We do not respond because we do not know what to do when he comes to us. We become like Peter on that first occasion he encountered Christ and asked Jesus to “…depart from him for he is a sinner.” If we are desiring to spend as little time as possible with Jesus, we will never grasp what is being offered us by God. What if we miss the one opportunity to be touched by Jesus, to be healed by Jesus and fell the power of forgiveness? Can God break through to us if we never sit and wait on Him to come into our presence? Is there any hope for us because we do slow down enough to allow God’s presence to fill us and show us what He desires us to know and experience?
If we do believe, if we do want what God offers us, if we do feel the presence of God the answer to that question is yes. God is much more patient with us than we are with him. One lesson we can learn from this parable today is not to wander off. Physically, mentally, and emotionally we need to be like the Virgins who stayed long after it seemed nothing was going to happen. The Psalmist said, “Be still and know I am God” (Ps. 46:10) to remind us about God’s constant desire for them and his presence with them. Being still is hard for us because we never learned to wait for God to prompt us.
Why did some of those expecting to see the coming of the groom hold firm and wait while half did not? Could it have to do with our own understanding of how we want God to come to us? This was the Pharisee’s problem; they could not accept the Jesus who came for he did not fit in with their expectation. What is it we expect from Jesus? Could it be we do not want to have our lives turned upside down by the encounter like the woman at the well. Or could it be we feel unworthy as Peter did when he first encountered Jesus that day at the lake.
Asking ourselves what we are expecting is part of being a disciple and waiting for Jesus to reveal how waiting on him is the answer to all we seek. Those five that waited patiently for him rushed to meet him. I can tell you by experience, most of us are not prepared to meet him and instead of rushing to meet him we run away. Not in a way that says, I really do not want anything to do with you. No that would be denying Christ. Instead we do it in a way that says I do not understand this so I will not deal with it. We avoid responding to him because we do not know how to wait so we wander off and get busy doing things that keep us from being aware of his presence.
We blame others for not experiencing anything while we sit without realizing the invitation was there for us to accept but we were too busy thinking of the delay caused by the time taken by a long homily or worship time.