By Deacon Tom Hardie
For The Catholic Messenger
When I was a youngster, we would often travel from our home in Des Moines to visit my Irish uncles in Council Bluffs, Iowa. After planning for weeks, Mom and Dad would load us, their kids, and all our gear into the 1957 Ford Ranch wagon and off we’d go. Usually in the predawn hours of Saturday. We didn’t want to arrive at our destination too late to catch up on all the latest family affairs before heading back after Mass and dinner on Sunday.
There was always great excitement and anticipation in the weeks leading up to the trip, but there was also worry and a little fear on the part of Mom. Dad of course was the pillar of strength exuding great confidence even though he was probably worried and a little fearful as well. Would the car perform as it should? Would we have a flat tire? Would one of the kids get sick? Would we have an accident or some other problem on the way?
Mom and Dad kept these worries to themselves; we kids were oblivious to any thoughts of misfortune that could befall us. So, off we went, heading west out of town on Highway 6 as the interstate wasn’t finished. It wouldn’t be long before one of us kids would ask Dad how much longer the trip would take. “A while yet” was the standard answer. That was sufficient for a while until the same question would be asked, garnering the same reply. This went on until he got the question, “Are we there yet?” This question got an entirely different answer — in the form of another question — “Are you ready to be there yet?” he asked.
What? What do you mean, “Are we ready to be there?” Then he would tell us about all the things we should have seen while we were traveling. “Did you see the dog chasing the bull? Did you see that farmer hauling his hay? Did you see the freight train with the red caboose? Did you see that beautiful sunrise? How about that cloud up in the sky that looked like an angel? Did you see that?”
How often we miss the journey because we look too far down the road. We are at the end of Advent. An Advent that has given us so much to see and experience. But have we missed it? Were we too busy wishing away our time thinking about the destination? Our world right now seems to be wishing away its journey, looking for the end to the pandemic and all the problems and, yes, the misery it has wrought.
I want to see the end of this time of trial as well, but I have also seen and experienced so many good things that God has given us during this time. He has stripped away the unnecessary things that we too often focus on and has allowed us to see him in everything more deeply. He has also called us to trust in his providence and to learn to trust in his will. Does that mean we have no fear or anxiety? Probably not, but I pray it is short lived.
In the Gospel this final week of Advent, we are given the image of a young teenage girl visited by an angel who tells her that what should be an impossibility is going to happen to her. We know she is scared. But she trusts her God and that’s the difference. Is her journey going to be all fun and laughter? No, but how often do we hear about what she experienced and held in her heart as she journeyed to the foot of the cross with her only Son? For sure, not all of her memories and experiences were unpleasant. We can take courage from her example of trust and love.
As we prepare to celebrate this Christmas, let’s focus on the good things that our God has done for us in these troubling times. Then ask the question, “Are we there yet?” We can say with all humility, “Yes, we are ready for Christmas!”
(Deacon Tom Hardie serves at St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville and Sacred Heart Parish in Melcher.)