“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.’” (Luke 21:26-27)
November 29, 2015
First Sunday of Advent
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
“A farmer named Clyde had a tractor accident. In court, the trucking company's fancy hot-shot lawyer was questioning Clyde. ‘Didn't you say, at the scene of the accident, “I'm fine,”’ asked the lawyer? Clyde responded, ‘Well, I'll tell you what happened. I had just loaded my favorite cow, Bessie, into the...’
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“‘I didn't ask for any details,’ the lawyer interrupted, ‘just answer the question, please. Did you, or did you not say, at the scene of the accident, “I'm fine?’ Clyde said, ‘Well, I had just got Bessie into the trailer behind the tractor, and I was driving down the road....’
“The lawyer interrupted again and said, ‘Your Honor, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the Highway Patrolman on the scene that he was just fine. Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question.’ By this time, the judge was fairly interested in Clyde's answer and said to the lawyer, ‘I'd like to hear what he has to say about his favorite cow, Bessie.’
“Clyde thanked the judge and proceeded. ‘Well, as I was saying, I had just loaded Bessie, my favorite cow, into the trailer and was driving her down the highway when this huge semi-truck and trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my John Deer Tractor right in the side. I was thrown into one ditch and Bessie was thrown into the other. I was hurting real bad and didn't want to move. However, I could hear old Bessie moaning and groaning. I knew she was in terrible shape just by her groans. Shortly after the accident a Highway Patrolman came on the scene. He could hear Bessie moaning and groaning, so he went over to her. After he looked at her and saw her fatal condition, he took out his gun and shot her between the eyes. Then the Patrolman came across the road, gun still in hand, looked at me, and said, "How are you feeling?" Now tell me, what the HECK would you say?’” (Original source unknown)
In the gospel passage we hear today, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.’” (Luke 21:26-27)
Dying of fright — Farmer Clyde was just sure death was very near after hearing the gunshot that put Bessie out of her misery. And while we may find humor in his situation, yet we live in a culture increasingly marked by senseless violence. It’s not so hard at all to imagine ourselves, like Clyde, staring down the barrel of a gun.
But we must broaden the picture, for all of life is a fairly precarious venture, with potholes abundant and missteps frequent. Who of us has been spared the fright of surprise, the anxiety of the unknown? No one! It’s an essential component of the package deal called humanity.
What, then, can we do to prepare ourselves for the uncertainties of the continuing journey, for the certainty that fright and anxiety are just down the road apiece? What can keep us afloat when storms threaten? Consider an excerpt from an NPR article:
“For 20 years, Conrad Cooper has been teaching children in Los Angeles to swim by earning his young students' unwavering trust. They're lined up on the steps in the shallow end, 10 little ones, ranging from age 2 to 5. They are a rainbow tribe: black, Asian, white, biracial. And every eye is trained on the large man in the middle of the pool.
“Conrad Cooper — known as the Swim Whisperer — has been teaching little kids (and some adults) to swim for 20 years now. He has taught kids who scream with fright at being put in the water, and adults who never thought they'd ever be able to swim. A tall brown man with sun-bronzed dreadlocks and Pacific Islander tattoos, Cooper radiates authority, in and out of the water.
“The lessons are an hour each and run over five days. By the last day of class, students in Cooper's class have made a lot of progress. Parents say they're amazed at the transformation.
“Cooper says his students don't need prior experience. ‘Swimming is the easy part,’ he says. ‘It's the trust part that's the most difficult for them.’ And he's earned it. His students leave him with hugs, high fives and kisses. And last year, some of his early students returned with their own children. ‘That's rewarding, I love that,’ Cooper says, as he goes out to greet the next class.” (NPR, July 28, 2015)
“Swimming is the easy part. It's the trust part that's the most difficult.” And so it often is for us, trusting that God wants the best for us, both on this earth and in the eternal hereafter. Indeed, it can be very challenging to sustain faith in God when potholes threaten to suck us under. Why, we may even blame God for the poor road conditions! As Winston Churchill so aptly advised, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Yes, keep going for, as Jesus said to his disciples, “You will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:27)