Monday, December 9, 2013

A Christmas Gift for Your Spirit

Dear Friends,

Are you steadfast? That’s a word we don’t use in today’s parlance, but it’s worth including.

Steadfastness means that we keep on keeping on. Sometimes, the word “patience” is used in place of steadfastness. The problem is that “patience” has overtones of “putting up with.”

When my high school friend, George, was voted the most patient in our class, he didn’t like it one bit. Patience is just not as rich a word as steadfastness. One ingredient in being steadfast is the capacity to work at seemingly impossible things. Isaiah offers us an array of surprising and impossible images: the wolf lying down with the lamb, the baby playing in the cobra’s den. Impossible! Get real! Everyone knows that a lamb in a wolf’s lair is lunch.

The steadfast are ready to live through seemingly impossible things. The steadfast also hang on when it is tempting to let go, walk away, cave  in. I think of hospice workers who tenaciously serve the dying who have no personal or familial claim, or government professionals who work behind the scenes preparing the way for peace accords and breakthroughs.

John the Baptist is certainly an example of steadfast love. His vision of God’s reign led him to preach and act with conviction. He would not be dissuaded, even though his words led to his death.

Being steadfast is no easy thing. Some days, we have no vision to draw on – only a glimpse, if that. In fact, some days all the steadfast person can do is to put one foot in front of another. We may think they don’t, but the steadfast need encouragement. On the day after Thanksgiving, the steadfast women and men camped on the National Mall in Washington calling for immigration reform. That day, they received encouragement from Michelle and Barack Obama, who came to sit with them, to  listen, and to talk. The president said to them: “Don’t ruin your health.” The fasting men and women then passed on the call to fast a day at a time to supporters.

There are many ways to be steadfast. Not every life situation requires us to be steadfast. It is not virtue to stay in an abusive relationship. Cut loose, for the sake of life.

You and I are not born steadfast. We become steadfast through practice. We learn the meaning of steadfastness from others, figures like Mary, Joseph, and John the Baptist. Choose steadfastness among other Christmas gifts for your spirit. Priceless!

~Joan Sobala, SSJ