It’s a desert out there. Everyone’s avoiding each other like the plague.
What happens in this solitary place? The Old Boy prowls for sure, but it’s in the desert that the greatest saints like Abba Anthony, St. Mary of Egypt, Saint John Chrysostom, and Saint Paula encountered Christ alive conquering any evil spirit prowling and up to no good.
Solitude directed toward God tunes our hearts to hear the Word. This morning’s Gospel had some sharp teeth honed to cut away the chains.
So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. Jesus answered them, “Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world, you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:22,31-33)
If we take Jesus seriously, throwing our lives into the ocean of his authority, his joy will engulf us and remain.
The apostles who fled the crucified Lord had no joy after his death. They doubted with every footstep and hid from the world fearful of its authority. Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, worked on them for forty days.
That’s how we sometimes face the world today when our faith is tested. Our world is far more dangerous in its subtle effort to topple the Church’s pillars that stand firm on the secure foundation of Christ’s promise.
How beautiful if we let the Lord cut the chain that ties us to our worries and fears and keeps us clinging to the rootless securities of our surroundings and activities where we try to chop away the troubles and calamities with frail human strength.
After his 40 day appearances to the apostles Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem “for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak…”
Just before he ascended he told them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:3-5,8-9)
Through persevering prayer sprinkled with deep and longing sighs Jesus, who ascended for us, will take hold of us. We’ll find our eyes looking away from this passing world toward the One who has conquered it. The chains will fall away as we experience Saint Paul’s words,
For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:17-18)
We won’t be taken out of the world with all it’s clamour when we fix our gaze on him. Quite the opposite. We’ll be sent with unshakable peace and confidence in the One who truly has conquered all its protest against the Way, Truth, and Life. Jesus will also be at work conquering the protest that tends to rise within us.
Lord, help me to cling to you and not to myself who so often clings to illusions of security in this passing world. You know how I sometimes walk backwards toward you holding on to what has been taken away, wife, children, house, my mother and father, the school you called me to teach in for 16 years.
Help me to keep my eyes on you, turning toward you, walking with you, helping you in the building of your City of Eternal light where there will be no more sadness, no more tears, no more anguish.