I wasn’t really eavesdropping—honest, I wasn’t.
Still, I couldn’t help but overhear bits and snatches of the phone conversation my wife was having with my cousin Gretchen the other day. And what occurred to me, from a few feet away, was how very much Gretchen’s voice sounded like her mother’s on the phone.
Hearing those echoes—the pitch, the tone, the rhythm of Gretchen’s words—instantly transported me back 45 years or so, to the times when I remember my mother talking to my Aunt Betty on the phone. My brothers and I would huddle near at least for the first few sentences of the conversation, because we knew the call might just mean the women were setting up a get-together: Cousins Bob and Tim (Gretchen’s older brothers) might be headed to our house for an overnight…or at least for a day-long adventure.
The familial echo was strengthened, no doubt, by the circumstances surrounding Gretchen’s recent call. She was inquiring about the health of our Aunt Rita (Betty’s sister), whom we’d recently visited in the hospital.
In Rita, too, the vocal evidence of our shared bloodlines is strong. Exceptionally so: To my ears, at least, she sounds exactly like my Grandma Gertie…who remains (on this, the 114th anniversary of her birthday) one of my all-time favorite people in the world.
To hear Rita chuckle today…is to experience my own heart melting in loving remembrance of her mother. (Grandma always told us that she loved each of her grandchildren equally…but I was nevertheless convinced that I was her favorite. Remarkably, I think all my siblings and cousins pretty much thought the same thing of themselves, too. Gertie had that way about her—a way of showering love that left no doubt in your heart about your fundamental worthiness as a person.)
And the echoes of those beloved old voices turned into an Advent reflection for me today, when I considered the readings we’ll hear at Mass this weekend…
The prophet Isaiah, promising that our God comes with good news….and with power…
And the passage from 2 Peter, reminding us that ‘with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.’
Perhaps God gives us echoes and old voices…in part to remind us not to get too caught up in the toils and troubles of our current circumstances. Love has the power to conquer today…just as it did in the days of our youth.
And we can be confident that we will be comforted in the end. We need only wait, and watch, for the glory of God to be revealed.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.