Monday, December 11, 2006

Awaiting the Word -- from John

It was the afternoon of the Feast of The Immaculate Conception. I had just arrived home from my teaching job in the Elmhurst public schools, and was listening to the radio trying to catch the weather report as my Friday night job, helping with the park district Holiday Walk, was held outside. But instead of the weather, a special report cut in ... something about a lock down/murder/hostage situation at the Chicago Metra Station. Usually I have a way of tuning out the bad news but THIS was the station my SON used for his train downtown and back. Was John there now, or worse, was he ...

Of course, we tried his cellphone, but we only got his recording. While I prayed, the radio/TV news stations were spewing more misinformation than (as it turned out) facts; "... at least three people were dead including two on the commuter level and one in the building's upper offices." The gunman had a hostage and the Metra Station was on lock down. No one was getting in or out. No trains were running, nor would they be for hours. And still no call.

By the time I had to leave for work for my second job, the suspect had been shot (and killed) by police, and whereas the commuter train spokesman maintained trains wouldn't be running for hours (and all 50,000 commuters should find an alternate route home), within ten minutes of that first announcement people were boarding trains again. I personally didn't find out that the four people who had been shot (3 killed, 1 wounded) were all in a law firm on the upper floors, far from the commuter level, and that my son -- "I usually take the afternoon train home dad, but there was a party after school today," stayed late at Columbia College and was totally unaffected by the incident. But there were hours of waiting ... and worrying ...

In today's Gospel for the second Sunday of Advent, the people were waiting for word of "The Word" (John 1:1) and they were hearing this word from John the Baptist, "A voice of one crying out in the desert 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths'" (Luke 3:4). But St. John himself was prophesied by Isaiah (40:3-5), and after years of waiting for the Savior, while some Jews certainly stood firm hoping against hope with the words of this latest (and greatest) Messianic prophet, many had no doubt given up hope, and when Christ indeed did arrive, failed to recognize him.

I, on the other hand, had only a few hours, tense as they were, to await word that my son would come home, but His message was loud and clear.

Ironically, when I thought about what to name our first born over 21 years ago, the passage in Luke 1:57-66 came to mind, for although neither me nor my dad nor any of my five brothers were named John, I just knew it should be his name, just the same. I actually picked the name John not just for Zechariah's son. I also chose it for the fact that there were more St. Johns than any other saint -- so whether it was the boldness of the Baptist, the benevolence of the Beloved Disciple, or the creative contemplative-ness of this week's Carmelite, John of the Cross -- my actor/writer/comedian son would be the beneficiary of their intercessions!

I did not have to wait long to hear of my son John's safety, just as I do not have to wait very long for a St. John feast day to arrive. But in this season of waiting, in the five days of the year (between the Feast of The Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe) when Mary's intercession (indeed, Our Lady gave me peace that John was safe before I heard his official "word") is perhaps its strongest, this incident was a reminder to me to always wait with hope no matter how dim the situation may seem. True, just as our prayers aren't always answered in the way we had desired, Hope in Christ isn't always rewarded in the way we predict it will, but in the BEST possible way to further His Kingdom. Welcome home, John! Come, Lord Jesus!

I can't WAIT 'til Christmas ...!!

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