Romance and violence

People can be very patient. They sit by the road and wait for a bus for hours. Or they can be very impatient, dodging across traffic lanes, overtaking on the left as well as the right. Some of us are good at waiting. Others, with the prophet, say, ‘we cry for help and you do not listen.’

But the message is: ‘Wait! Even if it come slowly, it is sure to come.’ I belong to two countries; one by birth, one by adoption. The one gives me hope for the other. One waited seven hundred years for freedom and does not have it fully even now. The other waited seven decades for freedom and it too does not have it fully even now. Both, in their frustration, resorted to violence but the violence only yielded a partial solution. You cannot force solutions, unless you are a mechanic. But people are not machines. They cannot be fixed.

Waiting does not mean you sit on your hands and do nothing. But it does mean you trust a solution is on the way and we do all we can to allow the solution to emerge – even if it comes slowly. It is like the farmer. They are quite different from the mechanic. They work with vigour to sow their crops but they cannot force them to grow. They have to wait.

The poet WB Yeats wrote, ‘Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / It’s with O’Leary in the grave.’ Those leaders, who, like O’Leary, had a romantic optimistic view that goodness and truth would triumph, are now being challenged by the men of violence who want to force a solution. They did force a solution but it didn’t satisfy the people.

So they had to go back to waiting. And now, after a hundred years, a solution is finally in sight. So it is with them. So it will also be with us. ‘We are only servants.’ We do what we can. We cannot force the river to flow faster.

All this is common sense but it is hard for us to wait. We want solutions and we want them now. We need the gospel to tell us: authentic permanently satisfying solutions only come through patience. And patience is a word that comes from the Latin patio, meaning suffering. A patient in a hospital suffers in the hope of healing. So it is with us; we suffer but our suffering is not useless. It is the raw material of a solution.

2 October 2022    Sunday 27 C          Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4      2 Tim 1:6…14    Lk 17:5-10

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