Heavy with sleep

‘Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep’!  What are we to make of that? Jesus had led them up a mountain and showed himself in glory to them but they fell asleep!  The same happened in Gethsemane.  They could not stay awake.

So, whether in ecstasy or agony, they were overcome by sleep!  It is hard to imagine. I can only think that it is something to do with our inability to bear what is real. ‘Human kind can not bear very much reality’ (T.S.Eliot). And there is a comment in Google;

Our age is one of deep confusion about the nature and authority of reality, and one of endless amusements to help us avoid it. We are, to return to Eliot, “distracted from distraction by distraction,” working tirelessly to avoid God, our neighbours, and ourselves. No generation has been able to bear reality—ours is simply the first that has been able to construct a virtual alternative that is more to our liking.

The notion of us wandering through life in our sleep is not new.  Wise people, especially from the east, often speak of ‘awakening’, awareness, enlightenment. The shocking events of the life of Jesus, and his words, have awakened many.  We can think of examples, but since March 17th is the day we remember St Patrick, patron of Ireland, and since I happen to come from that blessed isle (!), allow me to tell you a thing or two about that remarkable fifth century man.

He wrote something called his ‘Confessions’ and they glow with a sense of his own confusion and wretchedness and yet his deep faith.  At times he simply could not believe that he had been rescued from a life of slavery in Ireland and then sent back there as a missionary to enlighten them. At one point he compares himself to a stone sunk in mud by a wall which has been lifted out and placed on the top of the wall.  This homely image was his way of expressing the unbelievable experience he had of having his eyes opened to God and then being able to open the eyes of a whole nation.

He found much opposition in Ireland and many accusations against him.  Who did he think he was?  He confesses that he was a simple unlearned country man and yet he had been chosen for this task of preaching the Good News to the Irish. He had many helpers but his name stands out and resounds through the centuries. In Harare and Lusaka this week there are celebrations, not just of Irish expatriates, but of all who come to celebrate with them the enduring wonder of a man with ‘rinsed eyes’ awake to the glory God has in store for all his people.

17 March 2019                   Lent Sunday 2 C                                St Patrick’s Day

Genesis 15:5 … 18            Philippians 3:17-4:1         Luke 9:28-36

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