Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What Do We Do When We Run Out?

2nd Sunday Ordinary Time/Yr C - 2016
Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center

What do we do when we run out?
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Sometimes it feels like our jars are running dry.  We’re running out of energy, or patience.  Sometimes it feels like we’re running out of time.  There are days when we just don’t think we have enough humility left to go to the confessional one more time to confess the same old sins.  Many of us sitting here right now have been away from the sacrament for a long time, because we ran out of courage and humility a long time ago.  Sometimes our jar of faith is running low – spiritual or emotional or physical illness and struggle seem to have used up all of our reserves, and when we need it the most it seems like we’re running low on faith.
Chances are, each of us can identify something it feels like we’ve run out of if we’re honest enough to admit it.  Take a moment right now and ask – what do I feel like I’m running out of?
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What do we do when we run out?  Sometimes we just ignore it, and do the best we can to keep on going without whatever it is we most desperately need.  Sometimes we pretend – we pretend to ourselves and to everyone around us that we’ve got plenty, because who wants to admit to being the guy or gal that has run out?  Especially in our culture, we’re embarrassed if we’ve run out, we don’t want to be thought of as somehow less than – and so we say all the right things and go through all the right motions to try to convince ourselves and everyone around us that we have enough; because, after all, that’s better than being the one without. 
I wonder what would happen if we stopped doing that?  I wonder what would happen if we began responding to our own running out the way they did in today’s Gospel.  What if we told Jesus honestly that we’ve run out, and then listened for his instruction and did whatever He told us to do?  That’s what they did, isn’t it?  Starting right with the Blessed Mother, she told him they’d run out.  That’s a quite beautiful and simple model for prayer, isn’t it?  She didn’t confuse the issue with lots of soul-searching or explanation; she didn’t wait until she knew whose fault it was that they ran out.  Mary didn’t delay until she understood the implications of running out, and she didn’t feel the need to explain a lot about it.  She just quite simply turned to Jesus and expressed the need.  What have you run out of?  Why not just tell Jesus – right now – tell Him.  “Lord, I’ve run out of…”
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They told Jesus that they’d run out, and then they listened for Him to tell them what to do next.  Sometimes we get as far as the prayer, don’t we?  We get that far, and then we start telling Jesus what to do next.  Notice…Mary didn’t say, “Jesus, they’ve run out of wine.  Can you make some miraculously appear in the empty jars?”  She didn’t say, “We’re out of wine – so what we need right now is for you to make it rain fermented grape juice, a nice Merlot perhaps – but not a Shiraz, that won’t work.”  Mary didn’t say, “Lord – they’ve run out of wine; so what we need you to do is have the vineyard spontaneously appear with a truckload of good wine and offer to give it to us.”  No – Mary gives us the perfect example here: she simply and succinctly stated the need, and then quietly waited for the Lord to describe what they should do next.
How much of our prayer when we’re in need is just so much noise filled with us telling God how He should go about meeting our need.  “Lord, I’ve run out of faith and I need you to give me some more, so help me encounter you in everything I do, give me an experience of your love and presence like I had on that retreat a while back, and then just show me a sign – any sign – show me some sign tomorrow that you’re here, that you love me.”  I’m not saying that’s a bad prayer…but…think about how different it might be if we simple said, “Lord, I’ve run out of faith” and then waited, listening, hearing what He has to say, and ready to do whatever He suggests.  Isn’t it possible that He has something in store far better than what we might be able to come up with?  Isn’t it possible that from His loving and eternal perspective He has a better plan than we do?  Isn’t it possible God intends to meet more of our needs in this situation than we’ve even become aware of?  Isn’t it possible that sometimes what makes it seems like God isn’t doing anything is that He’s waiting for us to listen for what He wants to do that’s far more amazing and providential than what we can see in our place of having run out?
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What do we do when we run out of wine?
What should we do when we run out of wine? 
Friends – when we run out – God always has a plan, and that plan is always to provide for our need and – at the same time – to reveal God’s glory; very often, to reveal that glory to us when we’ve run out.  If we can just get out of God’s way, and follow this simple example from today’s Gospel.  What if we get honest about what we’re lacking, tell Jesus our need simply and briefly, then listen for Him to tell us what to do next, and no matter how ridiculous it sounds, follow His lead.  It will never fail…

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