Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas is coming....

...but it's not here yet!

As life gets hectic as Christmas gets closer and closer, I invite each of us to remember what Christmas is really about.  It's not the presents or the decorations, the food you'll prepare or the cookies that are already baked.

Meister Eckhart reminds us that Christmas is about Jesus, the birth of God in our world, and our role in making God present to those we encounter.

We are all meant to be mothers of God.
What good is it to me
if this eternal birth of the divine Son
takes place unceasingly,
but does not take place within myself?
And, what good is it to me
if Mary is full of grace
if I am not also full of grace?
What good is it to me
for the Creator to give birth to his Son 
if I do not also give birth to him
in my time and my culture?
This, then, is the fullness of time:
When the Son of Man is begotten in us.
Ah.  One of my favorite Christmas quotations.

But what does it mean?  How am I to give birth to God's Son, here and now?  What does it look like, in my ministry, with my students, in community with my sisters, in my church and world here today?

I don't know the answers completely, but I know that in this moment, I am called to be gentle with those who are suffering, to give others the benefit of the doubt (that is, to assume the best possible interpretation of words and actions directed at me), and to recognize the things in me that need softening, changing, and fostering.

It means Love.  The kind of love that honors the uniqueness of every person I encounter.  The love that shows me how to be a better person.  The love I call on when I need patience in difficult situations.  The Love that invites me to prayer, with my Beloved, bringing all the cares of this world and all the ones I love with me.   

How does Love come to birth in you this day?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Waiting in friendship

Last night I heard a homily for Our Lady of Guadalupe (and also Advent) that focused on the phrase --

Estoy esperando contigo.

I am waiting with you.  We might offer, "I'll wait with you."

In Spanish, esperar also means to hope for, or to expect--which always seems (to me, not a native Spanish speaker) to make waiting a more positive thing.  We do not wait in vain.

This idea of waiting together got me thinking about friendship, and that being a friend is about being with someone.  Caring enough just to be there, without agenda or anything.  Waiting with someone might be easy (waiting for a plane to take you on vacation) or it might be very hard (waiting at their side through sickness or death).  It doesn't require any special talents or skills, just the ability to be.

I woke up this morning having dreamt of a friend. We lost our friendship when (as she told me) she realized she couldn't "help" me and had decided it was better if we went our separate ways.  I wish I had the presence of mind to say that I didn't need help, I just missed her presence in my life.  We all make that mistake sometimes--to think that being a friend means solving someone else's problems, offering solutions.  Sure, that's part of friendship sometimes, but it's not what makes it friendship.

"I'll wait with you." Isn't that what prayer is, too?  To pray is to be present to God, who is always present to us.  That's what we're doing in this season of Advent:  preparing for Christ's coming by being present to the God within, by making space in our lives for Jesus to be born in us every day.   We wait for his coming.

The good news is, we do not wait in vain.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Conflicting messages

From today's first reading, Isaiah 26:4:

Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal rock.

That image of God has been with me for years--God as the bedrock, the rock that lies beneath the earth, below our feet, entirely solid and unshakeable.  It's an image that helps me get through hard times and reminds me of the solidity of my own call to be God's own.

I just read another image of Advent--one that contradicts the image of bedrock, or, rather, makes that rock an earthquake.  It comes from Alfred Delp, SJ, who died a martyr, executed by the Nazis in 1945 for his resistance.

In a sermon for the first week of Advent, Delp describes the "shaking" that the Advent lectionary discusses, shaking that anticipates the coming of the Lord at the end of time.  He says we need to be shaken, to feel instability, so that we know "inner movement and restlessness of heart" that bring us to God and to clear knowledge of our world.  

Delp says, "That is the first Advent message: before the end, the world will be set quaking.  And only where we do not cling inwardly to false security will our eyes be capable of seeing the Ultimate."  

We need to be awakened our of our sleepiness, to be aware of God in our lives and our desire for God, and to know of our final destination in God, which cannot be shaken.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Waiting, anticipation

Most of us don't particularly enjoy time spent in a waiting room, or the anxious anticipation of news that concerns our lives, such as a job offer, acceptance into a school or study program, results of a test.

Here we are in Advent, waiting on God. The good news is just that--Good News, the gospel message that God has come into our lives and our world, forever altering the course of history.

So what, then, do we wait for? What are you waiting for? Or, what is being born in your life or your heart at this time?

In Advent language, we wait for three things:  the coming of God into our world in the Incarnation (which already happened, and which we celebrate at Christmas), the coming of Jesus into our lives in the here and now, and the coming of Christ at the end of time to usher in a new age.  That new age is described in today's reading from Isaiah 25:6-10a:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.

On that day it will be said:

"Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!"
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

We wait for a lovely world, where all have their fill (and the food and wine will be delicious!), none will be at odds with one another, and all will be joy-filled, for they have been saved by God.

What are we waiting for now?  Most of us don't think this is coming right away, and yet we wait.  Part of our waiting involves making this world fulfill some of the desires of God--helping one another get what we need to live humanly, treating one another with respect, and working for peace in our own little worlds and in the world as a whole.  Sometimes the world we live in seems so far removed from that Kingdom of God, and yet we must continue to hope and to strive for God's desires.

Right now, we can prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives. We can examine how we live, and make improvements, even if we are already basically good people.  We can ask ourselves, how can I grow in these weeks before Christmas?  How can I become more like the image of God that is implanted in me?

Maybe that means spending a few more minutes with Jesus each day in prayer, pondering the birth of Jesus in my heart.

Maybe it means being kind to someone who annoys me.  

Maybe it means dwelling on the Gospels as they tell us of the good news of Jesus Christ--the one who heals us, who feeds us, and who calls us out to be our best selves.  In that, may we find hope and encouragement for our Christian journey.