Photo: On Retreat, SVD Missionaries from Indonesia working in Congo
By Fr Roderick Salazar SVD
“Unsure of my lines, no one is there,”
I sing to myself, ruefully, nearly sobbing,
like Desiree with the words Stephen Sondheim
gave her for the song, SEND IN THE CLOWNS
in A Little Night Music.
Hers, though, are: “SURE of my lines, no one is there.”
And she means SINGING lines, SPEAKING lines.
I refer to PHONE lines, wi-fi connections, internet.
One night, my computer screen stood pat, unmoving.
Next day, my phone locked me out, refusing me entry.
While thankfully internet connection is back, and my
phone re-opened, all its memory is gone, and I still
cannot call or be called, send or receive texts. Sigh.
All numbers and names of my contacts, yours, too, maybe
except for a few, are gone. I don’t know why or how.
“Unsure of my lines, no one is there..”
So if anyone would contact me, if at all text or call goes
through, I would not immediately recognize origin, and
I would have to ask, albeit awkwardly: who is this, please?
and try to explain my query. My phone number remains
the same, as does my email address, but things are
no longer as before.
“I’m sorry for sentimental reasons.”
A rude awakening, a crude throw from left field, about
the meaning of Advent, Christmas, indeed, of life.
They are all about – CONNECTIONS.
Happy or sad, loving or not, joyful or full of hurt, life
is about relationships, mine with others, all of ours
with God. I don’t know why I came to be. Why at
this time, to the family that I have, in all the places
where I am and have been. I cannot explain how I
can taste and distinguish different flavors in my tongue,
the sweet , the bitter, the hot, the cold, that I can
appreciate some kinds of food, but not others, how
when I eat, some of what come inside my body stay
and strengthen me, and others I just expel.
How is it that I can breathe without even thinking
about it, and when unhealthy am made aware of the
importance of air? Where did I come from and why?
I call “God” the One I realize is my origin and my destiny.
By His grace I understand this. By His love realize
that anything and everything about me, He knows.
Through His blessing and guidance I am made to
appreciate what I now believe and practice, to accept
and admit that my failures to follow His guidance are
of my own making, that my sins I have personally
committed but His love is greater than my falls.
He has come to redeem me, has indeed saved me.
Things and events explored and explained by philosophy
and theology, and celebrated in liturgy, help me trace
the origin of my creeds, the heart of my prayer, the
direction pointed to me to follow.
I believe that God created me. I cannot explain all that
I believe about Him: Three Persons, but One God –
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son is the Divine
Word who became human like me born of Mary by
the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus the Christ, born at the time
He was not accepted by many of His own, but welcomed
first by a few and now by many more across time and place,
not always easily, not ever comfortably, but His life is
known, His words and thoughts followed, lived, even
as He has identified with the least of humans such that
whatever I do or not do to anyone I do to Him, and
on that basis my life eventually has meaning or not, I
enter Paradise in eternity or regret my life forever elsewhere
wherever “else” may be and how: Aghast. Adrift Alone.
ADVENT is the time I am invited to remember the longing
for the Savior. CHRISTMAS is the event and loving mystery
that He who came from Eternity was born in Time.
Come to tell the world how to go back to God, He has been
rebuffed but also welcomed, ignored but also recognized,
snubbed but when accepted is the Redeemer of us all.
To accept Him is to connect, to relate to Him and all in whom
He lives, in all He is, any time, all the time.
To be with Him is to truly live. I must make time to own this.
And so, as in some countries the seasons change, the air
becomes colder, even as in other places they grow hotter,
I am invited to also see if I myself have changed for the
better, over the seasons of my life. Advent ushers me to
a reflective time to see as one sees in a retreat where I am
now and where I really should be.
With the rest of the world, I also plan what I might do this
Christmas, oh yes, gifts, too, that I could share as I try my
way to extend God’s own gift of Himself to our world.
But more than gift-planning, I need to take time, MAKE time
to truly reflect on my life connections – with others, with God.
To gain or regain perspective.
Jeannette Angell reminds: “We pay the price in losing
PERSPECTIVE in our lives, in no longer realizing what is
important and what is not important. We pay the price
in losing the ability to order our priorities. Losing perspective
is easy, maintaining it takes deliberation and courage.
“Perspective means taking God at God’s word, accepting
that loving is enough. All the rest – professional and
personal achievements, wealth, security, activities, the
ability to control one’s actions and feelings and career –
are, at the end of the day, IRRELEVANT to life in Christ.
All that God asks us to do is: LOVE.”
This Advent I will make time to improve my Love.
So when Christmas comes, I can truly welcome again
the birth of Jesus in me, in my life, in all with whom
I relate, in all the world.
My phone links I have lost, are missing. I miss.
New Life connections I must make:
with myself, others, God.
My phone rings or does not ring.
When God calls. I must make sure, I hear and reply.