Sunday, December 13th, Advent III, Light
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, Psalm 126, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 1:6-8, 19-28
John the Baptist is not the Light, and we are not the Light, but where do we go from here? How do we testify to the Light? Henri Nouwen sheds some light on this when he in his book “Spiritual Direction” points out three steps to ministry. There is a progression from one to the other, but how we experience this may be in a non-linear fashion.
The three are; Solitude, community and ministry.
We understand community and ministry as making sense for this, but why start with solitude? As I mention earlier, solitude may not be so much a start as a foundation.
Nouwen has something important to suggest when he says that solitude is the place where we truly get in touch with the reality that we are beloved by God. I have said that both the baptism of Jesus and his Transfiguration are not just for him but for all of us. This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased. Maybe I came across this in previous readings of Nouwen’s books. We are beloved by God yet imperfect as well. This means for us to take to heart God’s unconditional love for us. Nouwen says that no one but God can love unconditionally, and if we don’t find this love from God, we will try and get it in community, from others who are not capable of loving unconditionally. So the thought is, if we strive to take to heart God’s unconditional love for us, we can benefit from being in community even though it is imperfect. The notion he mentions is forgiveness. This means forgiving others for not being God, and forgiving ourselves for unrealistic expectations of others.
The image which comes to mind which I have used in marriage preparation is of cake.
Our sense of self as of value and beloved by God is the cake, and the relationship in marriage is the icing. What kind of cake do we have if it is all icing? This means we will make too strong and unrealistic demands on the other in terms of giving us value and meaning in our lives.
But we need the other and community because ministry comes from community, that it is a shared ministry and not just us ourselves alone.
I cannot help thinking that at this time it all goes back to the beginning. The foundation is Solitude and getting in touch with being beloved by God. If you are like me, you feel that you are not doing what you should be doing, and feel like you are failing, but the reality is, we may know in our minds that we are beloved, but it is another thing to take it to heart. The world has a way of questioning our value and making us feel that we would be beloved if only………
It is as if, we may know that God wants to love us unconditionally, but we keep coming across the conditions that make us less than lovable. Paradoxically, as we have more time in solitude to take to heart God’s unconditional love as beloved, we seem to have more reasons to feel we are not measuring up.
This issue is part of our lifetime journey of faith, but as difficult as it is, maybe this isolation is a blessing and an opportunity to spend some quality time in solitude with God, so God can remind us over and over again that we are beloved unconditionally, and we can in ministry together show people the Light of Christ in and around all of us.