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Hope in the Dawn

by Fr. Miguel Batres, O.Praem.

 

“If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?” then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.”

All too often, people hear passages from the book of Job and they like to think they are just like him. “Woe is me. Life is miserable. I shall not see happiness again in this messed up world.” Perhaps there are times when life seems very difficult. We cannot see what God is doing. We cannot understand why certain things are happening. And since we know Job complained, and at the end everything turned out well for him, well, it does not sound too bad to use Job as an excuse for our complaints. I do not know about all of you, but when I have tried to pull that one off, it is usually called despair.

“If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?” then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. Brothers and sisters, relating to Job is a consolation because we see a man who is suffering, and all of us can relate to that in one way or another. However, the reality is we are only scratching the surface of this deep relationship between Job and God. Job “was a blameless and upright man, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Job is a figure of Christ. Christ became like us in everything except for sin.

Is there hope? Of course, there is hope. Even for Job. He says: I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. There is hope in the dawn. What is so special about the dawn? It is at dawn that darkness begins to flee. It is at dawn that the rising sun begins to shine. The first light emerges from the darkness, just as Christ rose from the darkness of death. It is at dawn when we are reminded of the hope of the resurrection.

Have you ever wondered why there is so much fuss in the Church about the Liturgical East? Simply stated, it comes down to ignorance, and it comes down to man trusting in himself.  You hear: “Why face east? The Muslims do that. I do not want to see the priest’s back. God hears prayers in any direction.” Brothers and sisters, I know you know better than that, but why do we face east? Why do we care about all this exterior stuff? To make us feel good about ourselves? No. We face east to remind us that Christ is the light of the world. Christ vanishes all darkness of sin in our life. Christ gives us hope in the resurrection, and Christ will come again. 

As beautiful and rich as this practice may be, remember that the reason for facing east is to find Christ. So, my brothers and sisters, be sure not to get caught up in the things you may not be able to change. Our east is Christ, who is sacramentally present in the tabernacles throughout the world.  

To my brothers in the sanctuary, the Gospel reminds us of our beautiful obligation at dawn. Speaking of our Lord, the Gospel says, “Rising very early before dawn, He left and went off to a deserted place, where He prayed.” 5:45 Office can lose its meaning when we are tired and groggy and always showing up late. Mea culpa for my bad example. But the Liturgy of the Hours is the very prayer of Christ. It brings about the sanctification of the world, of the Church, and of all its members. We have the beautiful practice in our abbey of lining up at statio, where we are reminded of the cold, dark world we live in. Then we process into the Church and the first thing we do is look for Christ. We bow toward the Maiestas, the east, where Christ is truly present in the tabernacle. Then we bow to Christ Who is truly present in each of us by bowing toward one another. It is a beautiful reminder that Christ is in my brother. Then we fill in the choir and, while facing east, we begin with the invitatory psalm, remembering the Lord God Who is our salvation.

Brothers and sisters, all this that I have mentioned gives us a glimpse of that hope which Job saw in the dawn. This very hope we also see in the Gospel. Simon Peter’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and when Christ is told about her, it is He Who approached her, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. We too are sick and in need of much healing, some more than others. Nevertheless, we have the same hope, Christ. We have the hope of sharing that grace-filled moment to have Christ approach us, to grasp our hands, and to help us. Then maybe our fever will leave us and we too will wait on Him.

Now before my words turn into nothing but a nice thought, let’s keep it founded in reality. If we are going to compare ourselves to Simon’s mother-in-law, just how do we wait on Christ? St. Paul always has a good answer for us. In his letter to the Corinthians, he says, Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.” Most of my homily has been a consideration of the liturgy, and in light of that I challenge everyone to evaluate their reasons for coming the Mass. In no way am I saying good liturgy is not important, nor am I telling you not to come back. However, to all of us, priest and faithful alike, the liturgy must free us, so that we can actually relate to the sinner, so that we can actually bring the Gospel to others. If our perspective of liturgy boils down to “mine is better than yours,” or “my observance is better than your observance,” that is not liturgy. That is nothing but self-praise. The liturgy is not about me, and it is not about you. The purpose of the liturgy first and foremost is to worship God, and in so doing we are made holy. It is then that we can become everything to everyone, and like Christ, we will not only go where we have made progress or where we feel comfortable, but we will continue to live the Gospel. We will follow Him when He says, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”

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