Into the Unknown

When I was first diagnosed with cancer and told it had spread significantly, I shared a little private anguish with my old friend, Bro Duncan PBGV. I told him my plans had been scuppered and I felt somehow ‘cheated’. But he just looked at me with those wise old eyes of his, and something about them brought me to my senses. We are never cheated by life. Our plans are exactly that: an attempt, a desire, to achieve something in the future, nothing more. They have no separate or real existence apart from our dreams. We may be reluctant to admit it, but our desire to control the future is illusory. We step daily into the unknown. To a dog, the unknown is a place to be explored with enthusiasm and delight, whereas to human beings it can be a source of confusion and distress.

In Advent we step out into the unknown in a new way. We are being called to prepare a place for the Lord in our hearts and that means being prepared to be turned upside down and inside out. I say ‘prepared to be,’ because most of us are spared such dramatic twists and turns. The majority of us seem to get by with just a little rust being scraped off here and there. That can be painful, of course, but it is hardly earth-shattering. Throughout Advent we shall constantly be reminded that this journey into the unknown is not made alone:

the glory of the Lord
will be a canopy and a tent
to give shade by day from the heat,
refuge and shelter from the storm and the rain. (Is. 4.6)

As the Israelites discovered in the desert, and as those in Aleppo and Mosul know only too well today, the protection of the Lord does not mean that we shall be immune from sorrow and distress. God never promised us ease or material success or any of the things we tend to prize. He promised us something much better: a Saviour, and eternal life.

A prayer intention for today: let us pray for the people of Syria and Iraq and for the thousands of refugees and migrants living in refugee camps or temporary shelters, especially those vulnerable to bombing and military attacks.

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12 thoughts on “Into the Unknown”

  1. Bro Duncan was so wise. How we miss him ^.^
    We lit our first Advent candle in church yesterday and sang some lovely Advent carols. This is my favourite season in the church calendar!
    I join with you in your prayers for those dear people in Syria and Iraq – I am praying that war will soon be over so that the healing can begin , let peace reign triumphant >

  2. I know what you mean about feeling cheated Sister – that’s how I felt in February when my mother died from 2 strokes (the 2nd far worse) after an operation on a broken collar bone. The month between the break and her death allowed me a small period to try to make up for the lack of kindness I’d often displayed. With God’s help I can come to some understanding.

  3. I’ve had to do a 180 degree shift myself recently, reassessing what is the way forward. My plans, my ‘precious’ plans, minuscule as they were in the grand scheme of things, are all for nought. But the way has deepened, is lived more moment to moment, and in closer communion with God, if I can say that. It has been humbling. That is not necessarily a bad thing, is it. The journey ahead will be more difficult than I had imagined. If that is what God asks of me, then I answer: Yes, Lord, yes. But I must rely on him for strength.

    For those who find themselves in the midst of conflicts and wars how much more are their lives turned upside down and inside out. For them, with you, I pray.

  4. Sometimes a post stops you in your tracks. This is one such.

    I always approach Advent with an idea that the reflection and repentance aspect is mixed with the excitement of the nativity of Mary for our Lord Jesus Christ – and the reception that we give him in the Christmas Liturgy – somehow, that puts into perspective our own plans, faults and failures and enables us to lay them at the foot of the cross and to move on past them.

    A new creation in our hearts and minds, of the faith and love for God, which we have, but often forget momemntarily, or ignore, because it’s convenient to do so – renewed and revived we can start anew on that journey of faith, which enlightens our lives and if we are sincere, and exhibit Kingdom of God values, will hopefully bring Christ’s light to others.

    Prayers for you daily as you live out your vocation to the religious life with dedication amid the suffering, borne with grace and good humour, which many of us would hope to do, but may not have the character strength to persevere with. God bless you and the IBenidictine community, QuietNun and your many supporters and trustees.

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