Some of you who have been part of the development of this new parish from the beginning will remember that one of Fr. Wayne Funk’s nicknames for me was “Pollyanna”. For those of you who are newer members, Fr. Wayne was the pastor of St. John the Evangelist parish (in downtown Frederick) where I was an associate pastor charged with developing this new parish. The nickname implies he must have thought I was naively optimistic at times about the possibilities. Prior to building a new church on this property, we were instructed to build a new St. John Regional Catholic School here first, and then use the gym for Mass for a while. I remember him more than once saying to this Pollyanna, “You’ll never raise enough money to build a new school out there.” I wouldn’t let him get me down, and would just walk away saying, “If God wants a new school built there, it will get built.” (Shrug and smile.)
This Advent we are reflecting on the importance of “expecting the unexpected”. I don’t think Fr. Wayne was very good at that! But the whole process of finding this land and developing this campus and doing capital campaigns and constructing the school and constructing this church faced many obstacles and stumbling blocks, and there were many times when I was ready to give up. This is when I would let go and say, “If God wants this to happen, it will happen.” And darn if it eventually wouldn’t happen. I have concluded through this experience that the key is to allow God to be in charge, and to place yourself attentively at God’s service. If you can learn to do that, you can confidently begin to “expect the unexpected” because God is involved, and good things will happen.
The scripture readings we just heard urge us in this direction. The prophet Isaiah directs us to “climb the Lord’s mountain, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in the light of the Lord.” St. Paul suggests a greater alertness on our part, as he says “it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.” And Jesus urges us to expect the unexpected, because “In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.”
Noah certainly had to expect the unexpected as he placed his trust in God, and the rainbow at the end of the flood assured him that God was in charge. This is the miracle that happens when we place our trust in God—instead of limiting the possibilities, we increase the possibilities. God presence and God’s plan among us are stymied when we are not open to the possibilities… when we limit the people involved to simply us, instead of us and God. When we offer God our cooperation, we can begin to expect the unexpected. Without our cooperation, we restrict the activity of God in the world.
During Advent we are in solidarity with Mary who was preparing for the birth of her son Jesus. For we know that Christ can also be born in us today. And so we are called to a kind of “pregnant waiting”—not a passive, disengaged waiting (for we don’t know what), but rather waiting that anticipates and makes possible now, the good that is to come. This is a waiting that is alert and expects the unexpected. Now, as will occur throughout the weeks of Advent, a parishioner will continue this reflection.
Good evening (morning). My name is Carole Tchatchoua, a mother of 3 beautiful children. I met the love of my life, Beaudouin Tchakounte, in 2011. The first day I met him, I was carried away by his beautiful smile and his sense of humor. It was so unexpected! We fell in love with each other and things moved quickly. We started planning things and a year later, we were blessed with a beautiful boy. As most couple do, we had plans for the future. We planned to have more children, see them graduate from university, witness their weddings, and play with our grandchildren. As Jesus often says, our plans are not necessarily God’s plans.
On August 27th this year, the unexpected happened. My husband was tragically taken away by a gunman while he was working. I was in disbelief because my world was shattered. I was in a state of shock until the day I went to the funeral home and saw his body lying there lifeless. Reality sunk in, and I immediately felt a deep emptiness within. With what I saw, I felt the pain he went through. I thought about Jesus, our savior, who died on the cross, and invited him to fill my emptiness with his peace. That is exactly what Jesus did.
From that moment on, I knew I was not alone. I had been trying to fill a shoe bigger than my size. Many people that came to comfort me were wondering how I was holding up so well. They did not expect to see me so strong when they met me. Some of my friends were scared to visit, because they did not know in what shape they will find me. But seeing me holding up the way I did gave them relief and strength. This was due to the presence of Jesus giving me peace and strength.
My husband and I had been expecting only good things to happen to us. We never planned for death to strike at our young age. This situation left me with endless questions about how to handle the unexpected that occurred. What will the future be for my children left fatherless? And so on and so forth.
As the saying goes, God will never give you a cross that you cannot carry. He will always put people around you that will help you carry it, like Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross on the road to Calvary. In my case, even though I have been part of this faith community for the past 11 years, I never expected to experience the level of love, care, togetherness that I did during the passing of my husband. That unexpected love, support, and comfort is still ongoing.
This reality made me see life differently. It made me appreciate life more than before. I am more grateful when I get up every morning. I am seeking the face of the Lord more than before, because we never know the day or the hour. I am a hospice nurse, and this experience changed the way I do my job now. Prior to this, I sympathized for the loss– but now I really understand the loss, and that makes a big difference in how I relate to others.
Since this tragedy happened, when I come to Mass, I see people through a different lens– the magnified lens of love. I know you are all my brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all members of the same family. It made me want to know each one of you by name. I received hugs and comforting words from people that I never thought knew me before, and I am grateful that this situation brought us closer. I want to take this opportunity to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart to each and every one of you that supported me and my children in one way or another. I cannot thank you enough– only God can repay you.
These are all changes in my life that I could never have expected. I pray that you may learn to expect the unexpected… as I have. God is always at work in our lives when we look through the eyes of faith. May God bless you always!