4th Sunday of Advent
December 23, 2018
4:00pm and 8:00am at Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville
11:00am at Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore
A Soldier and a Woman
Several years ago, the Boston Globe carried a memorable story.
It takes place at the Denver airport. A forty-six-year-old woman is sitting near the gate where she is waiting to board her plane.
She glances up and sees a young man, probably in his early twenties, standing in front of her. There are a number of empty seats in the waiting area, but he nods his head at the seat next to her.
This woman’s suitcase is blocking that seat. She is mildly annoyed, but she moves the suitcase.
The young man sits down and drops his duffel bag at his feet. He is wearing a U.S. Army camouflage uniform.
He asks, “Where you headed?” She responds, “Home.”
He then tells her that he has just returned from Afghanistan and is heading to Florida to surprise his mother. He hasn’t seen her for five years.
The woman notices that when he looks at her, his eyes show need. He wants something from her, but at first, she doesn’t know what.
She also notices that he keeps scanning the terminal. Eventually, he says that it’s hard to stop scanning for danger.
Yesterday he was in the desert. Some fellow soldiers had been killed.
Today, he is in an airport where the biggest issues are waiting for a latte or being upset over a flight delay. He admits that he doesn’t know how to be here in this place.
The woman now wisely senses what he may want from her. So, she opens her heart a bit and tells him that just last week, her friend’s teenage son had died suddenly.
She shares that she is a mother and she has felt disoriented and distant from the everyday world. And with that, the soldier seems to relax.
They had made a connection. The woman writes: “This young man had seen the raw and the unbearable.
“He knew that it was not the time of the flight, or a latte that was his concern. But he did not know how to tell me.
“This was what he needed from me – what we all need. He did not want the seat beside mine.
“He wanted to sit with me. He needed to feel safe and understood for a while.”
Mary and Elizabeth
That soldier and that woman and their visit together, and the visit of Mary and Elizabeth in today’s gospel have an important lesson.
Mary travels to visit Elizabeth. She knows that she, still very young, needs time with this older woman – for Elizabeth’s sake, and for her own sake too.
Elizabeth is surprised by Mary’ unexpected visit. But she welcomes it and gives herself to it.
In a similar way, the soldier seeks out this woman, old enough to be his mother. He knows that he needs someone at that moment and senses that he will feel safe with her.
The woman is a bit annoyed at first. But, very quickly, she is there for him in a remarkable way.
Remember What Is Important
I see a simple, but important lesson here, especially at this time of year.
Let’s be aware of the persons in our lives. Let’s take the initiative to be with them and to share what is really going on with us.
In turn, let’s be open to the family member or friend or anyone who reaches out to us. Let’s be alert and give that person some attention.
Maybe some very needed personal support will occur. Or maybe a relationship will get enriched or reconciled.
Underneath all the glitz and rush of these December days, this is what’s really important. These connections with one another are Godly moments.
The younger Mary and older Elizabeth sit with each other and end up seeing the hand of God at work. The younger soldier and middle-aged woman sit with each other and a God-filled experience happens for both of them.
So maybe the question for this Sunday before Christmas is this: With whom do I need to sit? Or, to put it differently, who needs to sit with me today?