Stay Awake!

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The song that is repeating in my mind this morning is a favorite one of the young children (all grown up now) every Sunday in religious education classes throughout Advents of long ago: “Stay awake! (clap, clap) Get ready! (clap clap) You do not know the hour when the Lord is coming! Stay awake! (clap, clap) Get ready! (clap, clap) The Lord is coming soon!” The claps were, I suspect, the actual wake-up call for sleepy heads.

This is the perfect kind of day to look out the window, then turn over, pull up the blankets over yourself and go back to sleep. We had a hard frost in the night…the first really hard one of the season. But it’s Advent now and if we go back to sleep today, what will happen on all the coming Advent days? Where and when will the Lord enter in? How will we hear his footsteps on our hearts?

So turn up the thermostat and put on a sweater, grab a cup of coffee and sit in the quiet…Listen. “The Lord is coming soon.”

Be Vigilant!

When I see the word vigilant I am thrown back in memory to my early convent days when we took turns sitting in chapel all night, keeping a vigil with a Sister who had died, praying her on to eternity, I suppose, assuring her safety along the way to heaven. And then there’s the story of the wise and foolish virgins and their lamps with or without enough oil to get through the night.

I was amazed at the amount of definitional information about the word vigilant that I found on the internet, beginning with a rather long section on good dental care and the results to the entire body of inattention in the long run! There was advice about safety in many ways, especially regarding money, and a long treatise about avoiding bodily harm in all sorts of situations…and finally, the advice of Scripture to “stay awake, for you know not the hour that the Lord is coming!”

I have felt very lazy over the last several months as the Corona virus pandemic has come to rule our lives. I have tried “in fits and starts” to change, to re-establish a routine, to “get back to normal” with very little success. I’m hoping that Advent will provide the impetus for renewal. That’s the key for this season, isn’t it? Hope. That is the thing that will carry me along, I know. It always does – one day at a time.

Down to Earth

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The images in the Book of Revelation often alert us to the time when God will “make all things new.” It seems that we have been waiting for a long time now for things to change, for the world to be transformed – or at least to “go back to normal.” But then I think of the quote from Scripture that sees us like a breath, our days “like a passing shadow” and wonder how it is that our existence is so brief…The goal is to wake up and make it count, I guess.

As we sit today and tomorrow on the verge of Advent I am called to pay attention by a quote for today in my Living Faith magazine. Commenting on that first reading from the Book of Revelation, the author says: “We don’t have to float above reality to find God. Already, he has come down to us and made all things new. He brings fulfillment and life as it was meant to be…” So maybe it’s up to us, after all…

It’s getting late. I’d better get going on a concrete plan for Advent.

Giving Thanks

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It is raining outside. I saw it when I first woke up and stumbled downstairs about twenty minutes ago to find coffee made for me as usual. Just now the rain started in earnest, easily heard on the roof and the pavement. So how shall I respond? I could say: “What a dismal day! I wish I could go back to bed! Why couldn’t we have just a little sunshine on Thanksgiving Day!” But things are moving along already in the kitchen…and (truth be told) I would love to go out and walk in the rain!

We have come through what has likely been the most tragic period of life in our world. It isn’t over yet but soon there will be a vaccine – or two or three! – that we hope will eradicate the virus that has been decimating the world population. Yesterday we heard a voice of hope from our next President urging us to come together as who we are: “the United States of America.” Within the past five minutes the phone in our kitchen rang bringing a sung wish from across the country in Albuquerque for our amazing Liz whose birthday we celebrate today and a picture appeared from my dear friend and colleague whose first and only grandson is smiling out at me from the internet. He will have a new brother or sister by summer!

There will be many such connections today, even though we are still needful of caution in dealing with the virus that has ravaged the world. I will pray throughout the day in thanksgiving especially for those who care for the sick, for those who are bringing us a vaccine, for people whose major activity today will be serving free meals at innumerable venues throughout the country, for the Sisters of St. Joseph who have been my life companions for 54 years and are beginning a new chapter in our life together as of last Saturday, for my family members whose voices I expect to hear on the telephone (and maybe see on a zoom call…) and for so much more. May we all give thanks for the great and the small blessings of our lives and come to know in an ever-deeper way the love that undergirds our lives.

Let us give thanks for all good gifts today. Happy Thanksgiving!

Personnification

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On the verge of our Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.A. when we are being reminded of the gifts of God to us, we ought perhaps to stop and remember all of what comes from the earth to nourish us – as this was the goal and celebration of the first Thanksgiving meal here in our country. Our earth is a great gift that keeps on giving, regardless of how we misuse or ignore her participation in our lives.

In preparation for tomorrow, let us enter into a prayer of praise with the earth for the God who gives us all good gifts. Try to picture the prayer, PS 98 in images, vivid as they are, in the words of Lynn Bauman – and be sure to smile as you pray.

Praise God till all the earth itself becomes a song, till seas and all the waters flow and waves begin to dance with land and all the peoples sing. Let every river lift its hands to clap in time, while hills and valleys join in song to offer hospitality to the Holy One who comes to right our every wrong. This God will weigh the worth of everything that was, and is, and shall ever be, so mercy can be known in full and justice here be balanced with compassion.

Complexity

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After a first reading from the Book of Revelation today, my ears pricked up and my insides were warning: “Uh-oh!” because the “one like a son of man with a sharp sickle in his hand” was coming. I felt a shift, however, with Psalm 96, exhaling a long breath to hear that “He (the Lord) has made the world firm, not to be moved; he governs the peoples with equity.”

I know that we are coming swiftly into the season of Advent. I love this time of preparation and although it seems that it will be different this year, there have been intimations of hope. There are three vaccines now that seem to have the potential to slow the spread of the virus that runs rampant everywhere. For Americans in the USA, the 16-day stranglehold on the presidential election is finally over and we need not wait any longer for the transition to begin. Already in the first day, we can see civility and wisdom returning to life in these United States. But it is only a beginning. What has begun by decree from the new administration in Washington has to be accepted throughout the land and that will necessitate a monumental effort.

But that’s why I love the Season of Advent. It speaks of the time that is coming but has yet to appear. We cannot see but only feel what is happening underground, pulsing in the earth and in our lives. The signs are faint but soon to be seen. The potential is within. We have to look more deeply to perceive it.

The quote for today is from Alfred Lord Tennyson: Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “It twill be happier.”

Short Stories

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When I was younger, trying to explain something to my father, he would often say: “Short stories…” (Which, in his Boston accent sounded like “shot” stories) and meant that he didn’t have much time so he needed to summarize or simplify. That came to me this morning as I looked at the time when I pulled myself out of bed after (blessedly) almost 8 hours of sleep and looked as well at necessary tasks for the day. So here is today’s effort at a meaningful word:

The refrain for Psalm 24 (the psalm in today’s lectionary) calls out: Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face! I can imagine entire communities who have been enduring months of quarantine, fear of the Covid – 19 virus, political unrest (the similarities in so many countries!) and economic distress praying to know the presence of God with us.

Who are the people with whom you can join to find support for that need? Can you come together, physically? virtually? for support? Are you in a place of trust that you can impart to others, the person whose faith is not being tested right now? We need each other. Reach out at least to one person today. Share the truth of your situation – and your care. Amen!

Shepherd and King of the Universe

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Today Christians celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Americans don’t experience the reality of kings in our world too much any more. We find them more on the Hallmark channel on television. We modern types are more used to “Captains of Industry” and celebrities who have a lot of money. Thus, it is a bit difficult to conjecture Jesus the Christ as what he is now being called as “King of the Universe.” I was struck in today’s lectionary readings by the addition of the universe to that title. I don’t recall that designation – even though it was somehow assumed. Perhaps it’s because we have become conquerers not only of our entire world but of outer space as well…(Perhaps the title has been like that all along and I just didn’t notice).

Here’s the great question though. What kind of king is Christ? “Like a shepherd,” the prophet Ezekiel says, “I will look after and tend my sheep, giving them rest.” (34:11-17) And the psalmist chimes in with that well-known, comforting Psalm 23, saying to us: “There is nothing I shall want. He leads me, guides me, refreshes my soul.” And if that is not enough, Jesus himself gives the invitation when speaking to his disciples – to us. You can find it in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25. Listen today as if you were in the presence of Jesus, the Shepherd King, who is telling you what is expected of you.

...For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…Whatever you did for these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Nothing monumental, just the right thing: caring for each other in the basic needs of life. In other words: Take care of each other. Love as I have loved you. That’s the kind of king we have – and today we’re asked again to become like him.

Choose Hope

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Today is a day to choose hope. It is a day for us – the Sisters of St Joseph, Albany Province – to join together and try again for a virtual meeting, having had more or less success over the past 8 months to gather on Zoom and Vvoter to exercise our voices in the governance of our community. Because of the Covid pandemic we are not meeting in person, but life must go on so, as we have always done, we find ways to come together to govern ourselves. It is the way of things now and we accept the challenges before us, trusting that we will survive, and more…we know we will thrive and come through this time with confidence in a future not yet known to us but known to God.

From my new favorite resource (see yesterday’s post) I choose a quote from Barack Obama for this day. Won’t you join me in trusting the virtue of hope?

The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.

The End May Be the Beginning

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Today I will need a lot of discipline to accomplish the tasks before me. “Why?” you ask. Well, I just unearthed a magazine with 96 pages that I bought some time ago, somewhere that I don’t remember, that cost $14.99, a highly over-priced item, I thought…that I could not pass up. First of all, it’s called (in big, bold, black letters) BREATHE and is subtitled The Well-being Special. It’s unlike anything I have ever encountered for the beauty and breadth of topics and illustrations, truly a work of art! It will surely be nearly, if not totally, impossible to tear myself away for any other activity today more important than devouring…savoring this treasure!

Starting to explore from the back page (Why not?!) I found a list of quotes from all sorts of familiar but diverse sources from Aristotle to J.R.R. Tolkien, gathered under the title: A Triumph of Hope: A selection of thoughtful words to inspire and guide. Although each quote will likely show up in this blog at some point, I choose Tolkien for today when hope from the outside world seems in short supply. The words seem to be exactly what we need to go on.

How could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. (Extract from The Two Towers)