There is a story told of a terrible flood which left most of a village under water. One man who lived in the village was a devout Christian and he prayed to God and said, ‘Lord I know you will rescue me and not let me die in this flood.’ He was in the upstairs of his house when a boat came along and the rescue team told him to jump in. But he said, ‘No, the Lord is going to save me, I know it’. And he couldn’t be convinced otherwise. After a few more hours the water had risen higher and by now he was on the roof. Then a bigger boat came along and they shouted to him to climb aboard, but he said ‘No, I know that the Lord is going to rescue me.’ Try as they might, they couldn’t convince him to get into the boat. Eventually when he was at the very top of the roof and the water was almost up to him a helicopter came along and they lowered a rope for him to grab. But he refused and shouted up to them that there was no need as God was going to rescue him, he was quite sure of it. Shortly after, the man drowned as he was washed away by the flood.
When he came before God in heaven, he said, ‘Lord, I had such faith in you. Why didn’t you rescue me?’ The Lord said to him, ‘I sent you two boats and a helicopter; what more do you want?!’
Sometimes I hear people complain that the Christian life is too hard, or unrealistic, not with the times. ‘How can God expect us to live this way?’ The truth is that God doesn’t expect us to live it on our own without his help, but often the help that He gives us is a bit like the story of the flood, not quite as dramatic as we would like it to be. We would like God to appear to us and explain things to us personally. And when we pray, we would like to be in ecstasy all the time, enjoying visions of heavenly things. Sometimes when I pray with people I would love to see them healed instantly. But faith isn’t like that. It tends to be much more down to earth. And a lot of the extraordinary things that God does for us are hidden in the apparently ordinary.
God speaks to me all the time; He really does. He gives me direction and encouragement. But He doesn’t appear to me and I don’t hear a voice. He speaks to me mostly through other people, through nature and often through something I will read in the Bible.
The Lord comes to us in the mass, in a very real way. In the Eucharist He is really and truly present so that we can receive him. All we can see is what looks like bread, but Jesus is there. He grants us his forgiveness through confession, so that we can live in peace and not be dragging the past around with us. These things might not be as spectacular as we’d like them to be, but God is most certainly there. So why does He always remain so hidden and come to us in such apparently ordinary ways? The reason is that if God appeared to us in a dramatic form we wouldn’t need to have any faith, but faith is important, so God remains hidden so that our faith will continue to grow.
Advent is time of preparing for the coming of Jesus at Christmas and also for when He will come again in glory. Perhaps part of that getting ready for him is to recognise what God has already given us. It is there for us to use and make use of. We don’t want to be like the man in the flood and end up saying when we die, ‘Lord, why didn’t you help us as you promised you would?’ Maybe He will say, ‘I gave you all the help you needed. I gave you my body and blood to feed you, in the mass. I gave you forgiveness through the priests. I gave you guidance through the teaching of my Church. I gave you my own words in the Scriptures.’
May Advent be for us a time of rediscovering what God has given us.