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Guest Reflection: Peter Winkler, Dec 12, 2013

posted Dec 12, 2013, 7:56 PM by Terry Brady   [ updated Dec 12, 2013, 8:01 PM ]

Mine Eyes Have Seen . . .


The words that welled up as I read Isaiah 35, the first lesson for Gaudete Sunday, were, I'm sorry to say, neither original nor spiritual. The prophet sketches a world of joyous wonder. Deserts bloom. Water flows through burning sand. The lame leap like deer. The mute sing for joy. The fearful draw comfort from the manifest glory of God. My response: I'll believe it when I see it.  

"Perhaps," whispered a still, small voice from I honestly don't know where, "you've seen it already."  
Now that was an arresting thought. I looked back over the timescape of 2013 -- my "annus horribilis," to borrow from Elizabeth II-- for glimpses of Isaiah's joy-o-rama.


To my astonishment, I found them. It helped when I stopped looking for Cecil B. DeMille-style drama and focused on how God works in the world today: through us. The words of Spanish mystic Teresa of Avila came to mind: "Christ has no body but yours. No hands, no feet on Earth but yours.... Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world."


Through the people in my life, particularly my sisters and brothers at St. Margaret's, Christ's hands have been busy indeed. Bouquet after bouquet bloomed in the desert of my hospital rooms, cheering not just me but my family. The healing water of laughter and conversation coursed through the barren loneliness of health disasters.


Shortly after a ten-hour operation to remove my rectal cancer, I found myself virtually voiceless in the face of medical bureaucracy. So a kind and committed nurse lent me her larynx, calling my surgeon almost hourly till my issues were resolved. By then, I was indeed ready, as Isaiah put it, to "sing for joy." And surely persuading a surgeon to rethink his rote orders in the face of a patient's actual needs is no small example of restoring sight to the blind!


Then there was Communion, from -- and with -- both St. Margaret's visitors and hospital volunteers. Just as Isaiah promises, that Holy Way proved open to all pilgrims. Catholic volunteers looked past denominational restrictions to feed me, and visitors of all spiritual stripes joined in the feast. No one, not even this fool, was left behind to go astray.


Turns out I don't need epic wonders to peer into Isaiah's heartening vision. Christ's hands -- through all sorts and conditions of folk -- embraced me, bringing joy to a bleak season. I saw it. And I believe it.


Peter Winkler