As I took my seat before my iMac word processor once again to write the final column for the current year, and make a fresh start in a new liturgical year, a long forgotten quote from the writings of British/American poet T.S. Eliot suddenly came to mind. In his collection titled “Four Quartets” he writes: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
For 18 years I have written letters exploring the Scriptures, month after month, hoping to find some new and astonishing insights. You long-patient readers have doubtless been hoping for the same result. Why then do we continue to explore the Word of God month after month?
Eliot seems to have come upon a possible solution. He suggests that the human mind has a certain ceaseless hunger to explore the very depths of the knowable, the unexplored, even the mystical. Scientists do this all the time, so too philosophers, jurists and even ordinary citizens who are convinced that there is still much to discover in this mysterious universe that surrounds us.
Interestingly, however, Eliot points out that when we are convinced that we have finally reached an end to our exploring, we will find, to our great astonishment, that we have not only arrived back where we started but that we will now have a totally fresh insight into whatever it is we were searching for. Could that be the reason why I keep doing this every month and you keep unfolding the Catholic Anchor with hope in your heart? I sure hope so.
I am not acquainted with Eliot’s religious background, but my hunch is that he was a member of the Anglican Communion. Being such, he would surely have thought of his quote in reference to the religious search for the mystery of faith.
Given that assumption, let us turn to the Scriptures of the Second Sunday of Advent.
It is there that we encounter another poet, Isaiah the Jewish prophet who writes for his flock in exile. Despite their captive condition, Isaiah urges his compatriots to continue exploring God’s promise of freedom. “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care.” The Israelite exiles would readily understand Isaiah’s poetry as a sign of God’s care for all people.
In our own age, of course, many people remain exiled, whether by outside forces or by their unhealthy habits. Nonetheless, hope never runs dry for those willing to explore better answers to life’s tragedies.
Finally, we meet a scruffy desert poet/prophet named John the Baptist whose calling was to offer people hope under the sign of baptism if they showed repentance. He spoke in these words: “One more powerful than I is to come after me. I am not fit to stoop and untie his sandal straps…he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”
Now the question remains for us to decide within the context of our own lives whether we are willing to explore the options open to us to bring hope to others? This sounds like and exciting venture if we are up to it.
Dec. 10 Scriptures
Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11
2 Peter 3: 8-14
Mark 1: 1-8