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God Alone Suffices

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Wednesday 2 of Advent

Readings: Isaiah 40:25-31; Psalm 102; Matthew 11:28-30

Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder My yoke and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart. And you’ll find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy, and My burden light.

In the depths of an Oxford winter, we are no strangers to the darkness. As people hurry about their December business, they valiantly endeavour to exclude the wet and the cold. Summer sunshine seems many miles away, and we can be forgiven for wondering if it will ever come back. In the midst of these dreary days, we celebrate the season of Advent, with its sombre purple and muffled church bells. We are waiting joyfully; we know what we have been promised: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’. But in our waiting we are tested, and sometimes it is difficult to cling on to hope.

In our earthly lives, we experience much darkness, and we are tempted to despair. Sometimes it is hard to hope. Sometimes it is hard to believe. We are unable to rescue ourselves from our own depression and misery, and we must wait for the light to shine.

We hope … and sometimes we wonder why. Sometimes the darkness is so very dark that we fear that it has overpowered the light. We wallow in the helplessness of our humanity – poor, sinful, fragile, weak. Despite our great learning and sophistication, we cannot shut out the darkness. It is simply too much. In the face of this, where is our hope, why do we hope, how can we hope? Is our search as futile as that of Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for a Godot that never seems to come, where nothing is certain and there is nothing to be done? Sobering thoughts.

Then, the small flicker of light penetrates the lacuna of darkness. There is hope, and we believe. The more that light is allowed to penetrate the more our hope can grow. As long as that flicker is glimmering, we know that we will not be left in the darkness. Salvation is at hand. The love of God shines through our human weakness, and there lies our hope. The light that shines is so glorious that our doubt becomes certainty, our weakness becomes strength, and our misery turns to joy.

In this Advent time, as the darkness closes in, we cry ‘Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus. Come to us and save us’. And He replies by saying: ‘Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder My yoke and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart. And you’ll find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy, and My burden light.’ What beautiful imagery – this mutual invitation to love. In our misery and weakness, we cry to Him, and He responds by inviting us into His love. To cast on Him our burdens, and find rest in His love.

The love of Christ for us is the cause of great joy in our Christian life. It was this that prompted St Augustine to cry, ‘We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!’ But we are also an Advent people, and Maranatha is our song. We must sojourn through this valley of tears, with the love of Christ as our guiding light, the flicker that invades the lacuna of darkness. We must be vigilant that the light remains aflame, so that the light is not diminished by hopelessness and despair. St Teresa of Avila knew this, and she offers this advice to her fellow sojourners:

Let nothing disturb you, let nothing dismay you.
All things are passing: God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
The one who has God lacks nothing
God alone suffices.

This beautiful little phrase is a great comfort, but a difficult maxim. It is hard to let nothing disturb or dismay. It is hard to endure the suffering as we wait for things to pass away. We are not a patient race – there are no heroes in the face of pain. But it is only in this kind of endurance that we can really learn to love and trust in God. Suffering brings us to humility, and in this humility we hear most profoundly the loving call of Jesus, when he says ‘come to me’. In the depths of our weakness, imprisoned in our own frailty, we can only cry, ‘Maranatha’.

Lord, we pray for the gift of hope. We ask that we may always be open to the flicker of light in the darkness of our lives. Through all our turmoil, may ‘Maranatha’ be our song, and may we sing a joyful Alleluia when we experience the power of Your love. When we dwell in You we lack nothing, as You are our strength, in You rests all our joy, all our hope, all our peace. We are not waiting in vain for a Godot who will never come. We are waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our saviour, Jesus Christ.

All praise eternal Son, to Thee,
Whose Advent sets Thy people free,
Whom with the father we adore,
And Holy Ghost, for ever more.


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