Yesterday I received the news that a dear friend, whom I’ve known for about 30 years, has terminal cancer.
I last saw her in June when I went to Dubuque for the ordination of two men I knew when they were Iowa State students. I stayed with her and we got many chances to talk and share.
I called someone here in Honduras who is also a friend of Mary’s. As I told her the news tears came to my eyes and I got choked up.
Yesterday, I also finished spending two days with the Dulce Nombre parish assembly, which was actually a very hope-filled experience. We evaluated the year and made plans for next year. I’ll have a lot of work.
This morning, as I read the first reading from Isaiah (40: 1-5, 9-11), I felt sustained in the desert of my distress about Mary.
Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom…
The image of the Lord comforting us, carrying us in his arms, gives me hope – not for a miraculous cure, though I am praying to God for a cure (through the intercession of Archbishop Romero).
No, the reading from Isaiah gives me hope that God is there sustaining us, opening roads where there are none, making paths straight where they curve, providing us with light in the midst of darkness.
So this Advent will be different in one sense – the sadness at the illness of my friend makes the sadness of the world very personal for me.
But Advent will also be a time to reconnect with the sorrow and pain of those around me here in Honduras – especially when I move out to the countryside within two weeks.
In many ways we are always surrounded by the sorrows and the pain of the world and of our friends; but God provides us with signs of hope, signs that life conquers death and suffering – not in an easy way, but in the difficult ways of solidarity and conversion, which will let the light of God appear in our world.