Be still my soul! The Lord is on thy side….
Lent and Advent seem to be mirrors of what we do all day, every day, all year, every year: We are waiting, waiting on the Lord. And it also seems like everyone, from Abram in today’s First Reading to you and me, we have been waiting forever.
Now some of us, like myself, are going to say, “OK, I can wait a little longer, if you don’t mind…”, but that is because we believe the words of the hymn that I started with:
Be still my soul! The Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to they God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still my soul! thy best, they heav’nly Friend
Thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Because we have faith that there will be a peaceful end and a heavenly homeland. Well, most of the time we believe this. Sometimes we…or should I more properly say “I”…mostly believe this. Yes, admittedly, there are days when I have my doubts. Do you? These are day that are usually filled with some physical or emotional travail. Some pain or sorrow that I don’t seem to be able to get away from. And it comes upon me like a dead weight, a frightening phantom, an empty abyss.
Oh it is hard to get away from these terrors.
Abram seemed to need quite a lot of convincing that the Lord was on his side, over much of his life. Today we hear that he had to be shown all the stars in the firmament, five animals to sacrifice, a flaming torch, and God making a covenant with him. And this was God speaking directly to him!
In today’s Psalm, the prophet is on the one hand expressing his belief in God and on the other, bucking himself up to be stouthearted and courageous in the face of anguish. And the Apostle Paul is telling the Philippians, again as he says, to “stand firm in the Lord.”
So it seems as though everyone in the Bible and scriptures needs constant pep-talks, constant reminders of what they believe and what is in store for them.
And isn’t that true in our own lives? We, and almost everyone we know, need pep-talks at one time or another…sometimes many times or another! Throughout literature, history, current affairs, our heroes and we are buoyed up by some one or some thing and we are buoying up our friends and family. It seems like a constant endeavor. Maybe because it is in our makeup to ride the roller coaster of feelings. I know I am cursed – or blessed – with this phenomenon. I can recount many, many times that I have either needed or given encouragement, with the emphasis on “courage.”
Helping others, this act of friendship which we call comfort or reassurance, is deep-rooted in society, especially in societies such as religious orders. And yes, it is found throughout the New Testament. For example, in 1 Thessalonians Paul says, “Therefore encourage on another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” And Peter: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” And again Paul, in that famous passage: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
And so, in the days of Lent, each day can be a lesson for us, with the Resurrection as the prize. And we should not be hesitant to anticipate that prize, because look, in today’s Gospel, Peter, John, and James were initiated in a way into the divinity of Jesus and as we know, it was not until after the Resurrection that they truly understood and believed, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Even the Transfiguration and the spirits of Moses and Elijah were not enough for them; so much so that they did not tell anyone what they had seen. I’ve always thought that it was so fantastical to them that they were afraid to be thought of as foolish.
But don’t lets us be foolish. Let us remember past Lenten days and past Easters and remember those times God has spoken to us in the quiet of our souls and sing again the old hymn “Be still my soul! The Lord is on thy side….”
Lord, thank you for being on our side. As we go through this Lenten season, help us to remember these words every day.