Monday 11 December 2017
Advent Season of Creation.
Isaiah 35:1-10. Psalm 84(85):9-14. Luke 5:17-26.
Our God will come to save us!—Psalm 84(85):9-14.
Our God will come to save us!
Some time ago, I had the chance to visit an inspiring school on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, more than twenty kilometres from the bustling tourist areas of that city. It was called Fe y Alegria 26, a name which means Faith and Joy. These are great values to put at the heart of any community. The number 26 indicates that there is a family of such schools throughout Latin America. This particular school was established as a place of peace and safety at a time when terrorists were wrecking havoc in Peru; many people had flocked to the city in the hope of avoiding violence.
Lima is nothing if not dry. Water is such a precious resource that a tank near the school is protected by a high wall and barbed wire. The soccer pitch and playground are baked hard. There is hardly a blade of green grass anywhere to be seen. Whatever person or community was responsible for today’s first reading. The Prophet Isaiah surely understood this. Today’s reading longs for a time when:
Water gushes in the desert
Streams in the wasteland,
The scorched earth becomes a lake
The parched land springs of water.
I saw this vision come to life in Peru. At Fe y Alegria 26, students are encouraged to bring water to school every day. Not just drinking water but also water recycled from washing and laundry at home. Each day, numbers of old soft drink bottles, filled with murky water, are lined up along the wall and counted. Students win house points for bringing the water which is then used to grow vegetables in the school garden.
So there is some greenery in the school. Tomatoes ripen on their trellis; passion fruit hangs from vines. In the middle of such an arid place, the words of Isaiah capture the spirit of what is happening: ‘let the wilderness and dry-lands exalt.’
Of course, it takes many bottles of water to make a viable garden. The whole school has to work together. This is one of the themes of the story of the paralysed man in the Gospel today. His friends have to find a way through the crowd, get him up onto the roof, remove the tiles and then lower him down. It all sounds like hard work, and it was. But the Gospel notices this. It does not say that Jesus saw his faith. It says he saw their faith.
Advent is a time when we acknowledge that we are like parched lands. Large parts of us are a wilderness, longing for rain. As we wait, we do all we can to bring water to those who are struggling around us. We pray the words of the poet Hopkins, ‘send my roots rain.’