A season for waiting and anticipation

columban-christmas-2017

Greetings to ALL, I hope all is well. Just a few thoughts to share as we celebrate Advent and prepare for Christmas 2017.

Advent is a season for waiting and anticipation. Waiting: we spend much of our time waiting, just waiting! A little example. Most months for the past 8 years, sometimes twice a month, I cross the Thar Parkar Desert, in Sindh province, in the south east of the country, to a small rustic town called Nagar Parkar. This is the centre of a geographically large but numerically small parish; roughly a 100 families living in 15 villages scattered over a vast area. Because it is right on the border with India, it is a sensitive area. Both countries have lived out a difficult and tense relationship since partition and independence in 1947, including 3 wars. As an ex-patriot I need permission from the interior ministry to visit this area; which needs to be renewed every month. But even with a permission letter, three military check-posts need to be negotiated. At each check-post on every visit, a copy of my passport, visa and permission letter are given. So there is always a certain level of anxiety and uncertainty, especially as I wait for the officers at the check-posts to phone their superiors at headquarters. The 'waiting' can vary from a few minutes to more than an hour.

But waiting at a check-post for an hour or so is a minor inconvenience compared to the waiting that a desert people have to live through. Each year they wait in hope for the rains to come. If the first rains come in July, then they plough and plant, and again wait in hope that second rains will come after a few weeks; if the second rains come they again wait for a third rains. Three rains are needed for viable and productive crops.

Some years it does not rain so there are no crops. When this happens, in order to live, people cross the desert onto the irrigated lands of interior Sindh to seek seasonal work as farm labourers for feudal landlords. Some years one or two rains come, which is insufficient to sustain crops to harvest. Thankfully this year rains were plentiful, which turned the desert green, and produced good crops. The anxiety of waiting was replaced by gratitude and the abatement of hunger. But it is a precarious and subsistence level existence. The hoping, the longing, and the waiting that the rains will come are etched in the weather beaten faces of the people. As deep as that hoping, longing and waiting are; they point to a deeper longing that they be given the justice the dignity and the integrity that God promises in the Incarnation.

Fr Tomas King

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