Waiting, still – the 4th Sunday of Advent

Advent 4 candlesThe 4th Sunday of Advent finds me in an unusual position. It seems I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and I’m in the midst of a big flare up right now. Should I even be typing now? Probably not, but I am. Bonus for you – I will be brief.

In any case, with shopping not quite finished, with not a single card written or mailed, gifts not yet wrapped, I find myself in the position of having to essentially sit still. If I were listening to someone else, I’d think about how God has given them a gift – time to just be. Does it feel that way to me? Well – not so much. It is mostly a challenge to receive this gift.

Christmas is not here yet, we are still in Advent.  This is reflected in the playlist on my phone, where songs of Advent have sustained me on this journey. No Christmas music just yet. Yesterday my music helped me to sit still,  I had a retreat on my sofa; praying, listening, surrendering, pondering – waiting, still.

If you can take a few minutes today, to sit still, please try to do so. God is in the waiting, even – perhaps most especially, when it does not feel that way.

The beginning of Advent coincided with the anniversary of the death of George Harrison. This got met thinking about his song, My Sweet Lord. Listen to that profoundly plaintive cry of wanting to see God! Along with other songs, I hear this one as a prayer this Advent, and today I hear it again, waiting still.

And soon enough, we shall.

Glad Tidings – A reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

Helen Johnson embraces police officer William Stacy, after he helps her instead of arresting her.

Helen Johnson embraces police officer William Stacy, after he helps her instead of arresting her.

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent – a day meant for rejoicing because the Lord is near.

At mass these words were proclaimed at the beginning of the First Reading: “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted…” Isaiah 61:1-2

If you have not heard the story of Helen Johnson and police officer William Stacy, the link is right here. In a world full of seemingly bad news – death, destruction, devastation and more – we are given this story at a perfect moment. Who needs a homily? This is it.

As we make our way around the bend in the road that is the Third Sunday of Advent, we change our liturgical color from violet to rose, and we are reminded to rejoice. This rejoicing is our fuel as we watch and wait for the Lord. In our rejoicing however, it is important to remember just what glad tidings might mean.

San_Juan_Bautista_por_Joan_de_Joanes-1We start out with this word…. εὐαγγελίζω. What? OK, fair enough, Isiah would not have been speaking Greek, but if we transport ourselves to first century Palestine, the place where Jesus is about to be born, that is how we might hear “glad tidings.”  This is important in the context of today’s Gospel, in which John the Evangelist speaks to us about John the Baptist. Yes, the scraggly looking dude who ate locusts and honey, walking around the desert in a shmatte, was bringing εὐαγγελίζω. He foretold Jesus from before his birth and he did it in his adult life – and most people did not pay attention. Many of us may believe, with all good intentions, that we would certainly notice Jesus, but do we?
Continue reading

A song for Saturday

Weihnachtskugel - HintergrundThis version of this song has been my daily companion this Advent, so I share it with you today. I love Sufjan Stevens plaintive presentation, it always touches my heart, but even more so this year. Tomorrow is Gaudete Sunday, so the words “rejoice, rejoice, rejoice” hit nestled in my consciousness this morning.

May your Advent be blessed, and may watching and waiting fill your soul.

Comfort

Isaiah40_1-2Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

Just a few short words for today, this being the Second Sunday of Advent. The first reading from Isaiah hits a soft spot in my heart, a spot that left me with a question.

Can we and will we accept the comfort offered to us by God? I’m not so sure that as the Body of Christ that comfort means the same thing to everyone. I’m not sure? I’m certain that it is not the same. I find myself pondering the role of the other brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. That brother could not accept the comfort given to his wayward returning brother.

This is what is on my heart today, this is my prayer for today. And may we not deny comfort, in some crazy “I’m-not-worthy” mindset that can derail us from the grace of not only Advent, but the quotidian grace that God showers us with every day.

Have we waited so long that our hearts are hardened in a manner that prevents us from all from accepting the gift that we await?

¡Presente!

312093129_b64d023f134womenOn this day in 1980, those now known as “the four churchwomen of El Salvador” were brutally raped and murdered. Their bodies were found in these shallow graves two days later. And yes, I did place the grisly photo there for a reason.

A few weeks back, the New York Times published an excellent account of the story as part of their “Retro Report” series on the website. It is worth your time – 13 minutes -to watch this video. You can find “Killed in El Salvador: An American Story” here.

And yes, it should be distressing to all of us – all of us – to learn or to be reminded of the involvement of the US government in this event. We have a complicated history with El Salvador during that era.

The four women, Ita Ford MM, Maura Clarke MM, Dorothy Kazel OSU, and Jean Donovan lived and worked among the poor and destitute. The following words from Jean Donovan, the only lay person in the group always goes straight to my heart, particularly at this time of waiting during Advent.

The Peace Corps left today and my heart sank low. The danger is extreme and they were right to leave…. Now I must assess my own position, because I am not up for suicide. Several times I have decided to leave. I almost could, except for the children, the poor bruised victims of adult lunacy. Who would care for them? Whose heart would be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and helplessness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.

We have many creature comforts and conveniences, as well as distractions and demands in our lives. It is easy to look away, it is easy in fact, to never look in the first place. Hence my choice of a single photo for this post.

During this time of Advent, we are called in fact to wait and to watch. It can be boring, it can be distressing. And to do otherwise might cause more spiritual harm than many of the things identified as “sin” in the world. Hannah Arendt’s remarks on the “banality of evil,” in which she reflects on Adolf Eichmann’s involvement in the Holocaust come to mind. She wrote about how he was a dutiful servant, with some ambition – not simply an anti-semetic ideologue. (A great link to explore Arendt and her work is here.)

Today’s Gospel should remind us of what we “see” and don’t see, of what holds our gaze and what causes us to turn away – and possibly to never look again, as Jesus says:

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

Our Advent journey is meant to have us see it and hear it, even when – perhaps most especially when – we do not have the patience or courage to wait, to watch, to see and to hear.

The Four Churchwomen of El Salvador, as evidenced in Jean Donovan’s words above, waited, watched, they saw and heard – and it cost them their lives. So much might not be demanded of most of us, but make no mistake, remaining anything other than present – ¡Presente! – is not an option.

Ultimately, if you can’t stare at the Cross, deeply gazing at the Creche is not possible.

Unlikely and unexpected

(Image courtesy of lovecatchmsile)

(Image courtesy of lovecatchmsile)

Here I am, with a simple post about today’s Gospel ready to go. It is Sunday morning, and I would like to get it ready for publishing tomorrow. No, I don’t usually think these things up at 4am and hit publish! There is typically some planning involved. Until the Holy Spirit shows up, reminding me who the boss is.

The first hint came along as I prayed early on Sunday morning, with one Advent candle illuminated before me. My December copy of Give Us This Day was open to the “Within the Word” feature that begins every week. The author of this one was Anthony Ruff, OSB, a monk of St. John’s Abbey, and an authority on liturgy and music. Fr. Ruff moderates the blog, Pray Tell.

centurion-and-jesusIn this reflection Fr. Ruff spoke of how the Centurion in our Gospel today, had Continue reading

Lord, make us turn to you

adventThe words are quite clear, the Psalmist pleads with God:

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power,
and come to save us.
R/ Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Advent is here, and this is the psalm we intone at the first Advent liturgy. Please, Lord, come to save us, make us turn to you – if we see your face, we shall be saved.

How much time do we spend trying to “get saved?” Or to “be saved?” Yet, it has happened already, God has come to save us. Haven’t we turned to God, haven’t we have seen the face of Christ both in birth and death? We have already been saved.

IsaiahOr have we? Are we Continue reading