Tag Archives: Advent

Waiting … a radical attitude

Advent is a season of waiting. We wait with Joseph and Mary for the coming of the Christ child. We wait for the inbreaking of God into the human family. We wait, radically, in a culture that prioritizes control and instant gratification.

In the words of Henri Nouwen:

“To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.”

(Excerpt from “Waiting for God” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, Plough Publishing, 2001)

Advent Thoughts

You might be forgiven for thinking that it is Christmas time. Shopping, lights, carols and the general hustle and bustle of a commercialized holiday season are already upon us.

The Church year however begins on Sunday with a different season … Advent.

It is a time of expectant waiting for the coming of God with us. A pause. An opportunity to be.

I don’t know about you, but I especially need Advent this year. My spirit yearns for the rhythm.

The candles of the Advent wreath each symbolize something we need: hope, peace, joy, and love. Each of these are desperately needed in our wounded world.

And so we pray in hope. We work for peace. We celebrate joyfully. And we live in love..

Let it begin…

We wait

We wait in hope

for the day when no one goes hungry or feels unwelcome.

We wait in hope for courageous leaders who are also kind and just,

for peace to prevail, and

for the possibility of togetherness to overcome division.

We wait in hope with Mother Earth, our common home,

that human activity will not spell doom after all.

We wait in hope for the in-breaking of love, God among us, Emmanuel.

We wait, yes, but we also know that we

We must act

… choose goodness

… be kind

… move beyond impossibility

… promise to love, listen, live, laugh

no matter what

Because the in-breaking of love begins

has already begun

even as we wait.

Best Intentions & God’s Patience

I had the best of intentions at the start of this Advent season, hands down my favorite liturgical season.  And then …. life happened and I responded with my little human ways.  You know the drill, anxiety and busyness leads to stress and grumpiness and less patience and less compassionate responses to the folks in your own life because of course you are busy and stressed.  Maybe you don’t know, but it’s a familiar pattern for me unfortunately, and one I fell right back into the past couple of weeks.

Thankfully, this past summer when I was on my annual directed retreat I made a commitment to schedule some mini-retreat time this December.  I tend to take the most beautiful photos when I am on retreat, and so when I saw a listing for a Contemplative Photography retreat in Advent, I signed up right away.  For the months since, I have guarded this weekend on my calendar, knowing I suppose deep down that by now, I’d need it.   And I certainly did!

While the retreat itself was excellent, especially the experiences of guided visio divina and the opportunity to pray with the photos taken by the other retreatants, really it was an opportunity to reset my own best intentions.  Adapting today’s second reading from the 2nd Letter of Peter, I pray:

I can no longer ignore this one fact,
I am beloved, and so are those around me and all of creation,

and with God one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
God’s promise is not delayed, as some think of ‘delay,’
but God is patient with me,
not wishing me or you harm 
but that I would return & center myself on love.

Since everything is grounded in love,
what sort of person might I be
living with a spirit of gratitude and compassion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of love in our midst.

That is of course the kind of person I want to be, to see with God’s eyes the beauty and love and light and hope in the midst of the busyness and anxiety and sorrow and uncertainty.  My best intentions may not seem like enough, but they are because God is patient and there is always today to return to the center and prepare the way for the incarnation of love, reflecting God’s love for us to the world.


Advent Reflection

lady-in-waitingAdvent begins on Sunday, and with it the season of waiting.  This year, it feels like we are waiting at the edge. I reflected on this theme in my latest column on Global Sisters Report: Advent Waiting at the Edge.

Advent is not a time to despair or become overwhelmed by all the turmoil and woe, but rather, watchful and alert, to prepare God’s way joyfully. In the midst of it all, the surprising call we hear on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, is to rejoice: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks … Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.” We are invited to rejoice, even as we stand on the edge, recognizing that life itself is gift in all circumstances and that our actions, no matter how small, can make a difference.

On the one hand, this message is so simple, and yet life can seem so very complicated even on the best of days. We know the promise of the good news, yet like Mary, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves pondering, “How can this be?”

Mary’s question to the surprising news of the angel Gabriel always comforts me. I find myself with lots of questions; the biggest one these days is how to be the presence of love in such a mixed-up world.

Advent gives us the much-needed opportunity to pause, step back from the chaos, and wait on the edge during these in-between times.

Head over to Global Sisters Report to read the rest.

Blessings of Peace!

Waiting and Wondering

What do you do when life gets a bit topsy turvey 

or just filled with too much uncertainty 

or chaos 

or plain old messiness?

Do you ever find yourself wondering …

what next?

how do we get through this? or

why are things so complicated?

I know I do, from time to time.

I am sometimes tempted to wait,

for the solution, the savior, the end of the messy situations.

This is advent after all, a season of waiting.

But expectant, not passive waiting. 

It is a season of joy and hope, not gloom and doom.

How I wait, how I anticipate, how I participate and co-create makes a difference.

It paves the path, prepares the way,

for the in breaking of love,

for life-giving energy,

for the next steps in this journey.

We wait and we wonder, but we also live and risk and love.

Together. Broken and whole. Vulnerable and resilient. 

God is there, with us, emmanuel, through it all.

Mary’s Yes, Her Magnificat, and Us

Simone_Martini_078The Gospel readings for yesterday and today are really quite powerful stories of the transformative power of God’s love, as evidenced in the life of Mary. Yet they are also so familiar that we are apt to miss the importance of the message for us today.

The essence of yesterday’s Gospel reading (Luke 1: 26-38) is actually well described in our CSJP Constitutions:

Mary is our model of faith
because she listened, pondered,
and contemplated the word of God in her life,
and witnessed to it in action (Constitution 35)

Faced with the surprising news, from an angel no less, that she who has had no relations with a man will nevertheless bear a son, and this son will be be a ruler whose kingdom will have no end, she sensibly asks: “How can this be?” I love this painting of the Annunciation by Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi because Mary’s body language so perfectly captures her, “What???”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had more than a little bit of “how can this be” in my own life.  While our own surprising moments might not quite compare with the drama of Mary’s yes, the wonder of the incarnation is that each of us is called to bear God’s love and witness to it in action in our own lives and spheres of influence … again and again. Like Mary, we are called to live as if we believe in the power of that love, that truly nothing is impossible for God.  After all, in the words of Margaret Anna Cusack (Mother Francis Clare), founder of my religious community: “There is nothing Jesus desires from us so much as love.”

Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 1: 46-56) has Mary’s response, her Magnificat, which I like to think of as her proclamation of the promise and challenge of that love.  I also find it fitting that she is called to proclaim this message in the company of her cousin Elizabeth, who of course has faced a “how can this be” moment with her own unexpected pregnancy. Together, in community, these two women face the future with hope despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Mary’s Magnificat shifts the focus from “how can this be” to “what does this mean.” In the words of Pope Francis: “We need the Song of Mary, the Magnificat: it is the song of hope, it is the song of the People of God walking through history.” It is a song for all those who “believe in the resurrection of Christ, in the victory of love.”

Because we believe in God’s love, we are called to mercy.

Because we believe in God’s love, we are called to use our strength for those without power, to be in solidarity with those on the margins, and to share our gifts with those in need.

Because we believe in God’s love, made incarnate … indeed, God with us! … we are called to act in love, to be love, to incarnate God’s love in our own lives.

We identify with Mary’s acceptance
of the word of God in her life
and aspire to her spirit of openness
and wholehearted response. (CSJP Constitution 42)

During these last days of Advent as we anticipate the joy of the celebration of the Incarnation, how are we being called to respond in hope to the “how can this be” moments in our own lives?  Where are we called to show mercy? Who are the lowly and powerless we are called to lift up? Where and how might we say, with all our heart: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

How We Live Matters – Second Sunday of Advent

Prepare_the_WayAs I was praying this morning with the readings for this second Sunday of Advent, the thought that came to me was this … how we live matters.

“A voice cries out: in the desert prepare the way of the LORD,” (Isaiah 40:30) … In the literal and figurative deserts of our world today, when does my voice cry out? When I see mouths parched by thirst or children hungry, am I moved to cry out and act for justice? Do I proclaim God’s love and witness to that love in action? What about closer to home? How am I present and a sign of hope to people living through the desert moments of their lives?

“Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss.” (Psalm 85) … Is this true in my own heart? Is this how I witness to God’s transformative love in my life? Does the truth of the Incarnation manifest itself in my interactions with my brothers and sisters, both those I am related to by blood and those I am related to in the heart and mind of God?

” … what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God … Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.” (2 Peter 3: 11,14) … We wait in joyful hope, but we live in the present moment. If God’s reign is to come, do I live as if I really believe that it begins with me, here, now? Do I live my life each day, do I develop healthy habits of the heart which are reflective of my hope in God’s reign of justice and peace for all?

“A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'” (Mark 1: 2-3)  …. In the end, the message it seems is that how we live matters. God can make straight lines out of crooked ways, as the saying goes, but so too can I, in my own life, relationships, habits, and commitments.

I’m not a scripture scholar, nor am I a practiced preacher. But when I pray with these readings this second Sunday of Advent, I find myself reflecting on the ways that God’s love is (or isn’t) reflected in my daily life. If how we live matters, how am I living? And as I prepare for the celebration of the remarkable reality of God being with us, what difference does that make in my life and in my heart? How am I preparing room and making way?

Paradox of Waiting

We wait
in joyful hope.
Sometime anxious
for what might come.
Sometimes not sure of
what will be.
Sometimes not sure
we can let go.
But we are ready for
hoping for
new life, renewed love, and …

We wait for what is to come
but we already have so much.
Our hearts yearn to grow.
Our hands reach out to touch.
Our feet stand on the same ground
upon which others have walked
the walk of hope.

We wait
we long
we stretch
towards the One
who is