This Advent let God do something new

The Church has begun its new liturgical year with the haunting strains of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The One who is Emmanuel—God-with-us—breaks through the prisons in which people had been confined by the experience and expectations of millennia of history. Yet this Jesus who is the key of all of history and the One who alone can make sense of our chaotic hearts was born in the dark of night to parents whose lives had been upended by a royal census. The shivering Babe was noticed only by sleepy shepherds and three wise men who found him inadvertently after stumbling into Herod’s palace for information about the star that had led them to Bethlehem.

I am doing something new….

As I leave my parents’ home to return to the new community to which I have been transferred, I too feel small. Yet Jesus said to me, “Do not allow the past to circumscribe the future I will create for you.” As we stand at the threshold of a new Advent, a new Christmas celebration, and the New Year 2022, these are words that the Christ Child says to all of us.

The Lord shakes us awake with similar words that he had once spoken through his prophet Isaiah. As I read them I think of the excitement of children on Christmas morning as they wake up and race to the Christmas tree to see if Santa has been to their house. How much more eager, I say to myself, should my heart be to see the fulfillment of these promises of the Lord in me, in us, in the world today.

I am doing something brand new, something unheard of.
Even now it sprouts and grows and matures.
Don’t you perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and open up flowing streams in the desert.
Wild beasts, jackals, and owls will glorify me.
For I supply streams of water in the desert
and rivers in the wilderness
to satisfy the thirst of my people, my chosen ones,
so that you, whom I have shaped and formed for myself,
will proclaim my praise (Isaiah 43:19-21 TPT).

 “Do not allow the past to circumscribe the future I will create for you.”

As I begin to allow God to do something brand new, I start each day with the expectation that events will unfold that only God can account for.

As I begin to expect God to do something brand new in my life, I feel less overworked and overwhelmed by the constant influx of bad news and fear-engendering headlines.

As I begin to expect God to do something new in the world, I find myself praising and thanking God throughout the day for—and sometimes despite—whatever happens.

As I begin to expect God to do something new in history, I am more confident that I can make a real difference and look around to see how I can serve and love.

As I begin to expect God to do something new, I close my eyes, know I’m protected, and exchange the hypervigilance created by screaming headlines for a constant affective gaze that rests with confidence on the face of the One who is God-with-us.

I wish you all a Blessed beginning of Advent, praying that you will discover the new things Emmanuel wishes to accomplish for you and through you. May no fear, no memory, no hesitation block the advent of the King! “God called you out of darkness to experience his marvelous light, and now he claims you as his very own. He did this so that you would broadcast his glorious wonders throughout the world” (1 Pt. 2:8 TPT).

Thanks for joining me on the journey,
Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

Photo Credit: Eduardo Montivero via Cathopic

Someone needs your “beautiful feet”

In today’s first reading in this first week of Advent, St. Paul refers to a verse from the great prophet who accompanies us through every Advent: the prophet Isaiah (flourished 8th century B.C., Jerusalem): How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news….

The entire verse found in the book of Isaiah reads this way:

Therefore my people shall know my name
    on that day, that it is I who speaks: Here I am!
How beautiful upon the mountains[a]
    are the feet of the one bringing good news,
Announcing peace, bearing good news,
    announcing salvation, saying to Zion,
    “Your God is King!” (Isaiah 52:6-7)

Those beautiful feet that Isaiah envisions came running to me in a restaurant parking lot several weeks ago when our family was gathering for a final meal before we placed mom in memory care in a facility where we could visit her daily. I was walking alone. “Hey, sister, is school out today?” a woman called out cheerfully. I laughed and shared with her the sorrow that was in my heart. “That is so hard,” she responded. “I promise you my prayers. I always ask God to take my body before my mind.” Then she continued with a mischievous smile, “But I tell my kids, don’t be afraid to put me in a nursing home at the end. If I have my mind it will be my last chance to evangelize. If I don’t have my mind I won’t know anyway.” Then she surrounded me with a great hug that completely warmed my heart before going on her way.

“Beautiful feet…”

In the last meeting we had with the administrator of the memory care facility on the previous day, she had said to my dad, “You have cared for your wife with great love till now. We are here to help you now. But in the end, even though we think we are the ones caring for her, we are the ones responsible, it is really God who is caring for her. God who is responsible for her. We are all just helpers.”

“Beautiful feet…”

Those who bring us the good news have beautiful feet because they are partnering with God to bring joy and salvation to others. Those feet that are actively moving about represent the way the Gospel reaches us in surprising places, through unexpected people, in exactly the right moment to assure us of God’s presence and God’s protection and God’s tender love for us.

Therefore my people shall know my name
    on that day, that it is I who speaks: Here I am! (v. 6)

Today is the feast of St Andrew and we celebrate liturgically the calling of this great apostle who in his turn became the beautiful feet that announced the good news to any and all who would listen.

You, too, can be the one who in beautiful ways brings the good news to someone else, in a parking lot, in a meeting, in a moment of confusion or sorrow or grief.

At some times you will be the one who announces the news that God says through you, “Here I am!” At other times you will be the one who receives the message of God reaching out to you. Later that day, God whispered quietly in my heart, “You know, Kathryn, I love your mom too.” I had to let her go and give her to her Father’s very capable hands and hide her in his heart.

So I end with this Advent reminder: Every year Advent and Christmas is a relearning that God is saying HERE I AM! We have a month to receive this message into our very bones so that we can in the new year be the beautiful ones that carry this message to others throughout the coming year. Or maybe someone needs your beautiful feet to find them today.

Image Credit: Will Bolanos on Cathopic

No shortage on Christ this Christmas

Yesterday the haunting verses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel were a welcome massage for my heart. Since early October we’ve been warned of supply chain shortages and inflation that threaten ruin to all we hope for in the Christmas holidays. Hearing the name of God-with-us cracks open our hearts to receive the light, the Light of the World.

The invitation of this morning’s liturgy redirects our attention from commercial revelations to divine revelation. We almost catch our breath as we hear the nations cry out, Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain…. The Lord’s mountain will be seen as the highest mountain, according to the vision of the prophet Isaiah, speaking of the final age. Worship of the true God will be so conspicuous that it will be known to all people. The Kingdom established by the Messiah will be so attractive that all people will willingly lay aside the violence at hand to kneel before others in service: They shall beat their swords into plowshares / and their spears into pruning hooks.

This “mountain” envisioned by Isaiah is presented to us by today’s Gospel reading as a Person, a man with two hands and two feet. The One who doesn’t wait for us to climb the mountain but who instead comes to us who are poor, wretched, made up of a billion needs, dependent. The One whose coming we celebrate at Christmas, and whose coming is so tenderly depicted in the nativity scenes that we’ll soon see in churches and homes.

Jesus says to us, as he said to the centurion in Capernaum who appealed to him for his servant who was paralyzed, “I will come [to you] and heal you.”

As Christians we can hold on for sure to this promise even in the midst of the storms of these years we’ve lived: Christ has come. Jesus the Christ is here with us today. Christ will come again. The historical situation in which we live cannot rob us of the grace we’ve been given, the grace freely bestowed on us in Christ by the Father.

Take heart, my friends, from the simple words of the centurion in today’s gospel. A simple, clear, humble statement: Lord, my servant is suffering. Jesus immediately responds: I will come and cure him.

Lord, I am old and worry about my life. I will save you.
Lord, I am exhausted and suffering. I will come and cure you.
Lord, my children are far from you and from me. I will come and cure them.
Lord, I don’t know where to turn. I will come and hold you.
Lord, I feel alone and depressed. I will come and sit with you.

In the midst of all the struggles, trials and tribulations both in the world and in our lives, it is to the Lord himself this Christmas that we must look, to the God become man who walks among us even today, even now. It is to the Lord, more than any other resource, that we must turn to hear the Advent-Christmas promise: I will come. I have come. I will come again. There will be no shortage of Christ this Christmas.

Image credit: Laura Tapias on Pixabay

When your heart aches at the holidays

Have you been experiencing deep longings in your heart? As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday and the Advent-Christmas season, we wonder maybe a little more than usual about what truly makes us happy, what completely satisfies us. With the changes happening in my family as my mom has been placed recently in memory care, Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions are also being modified. Since I was a child I remember spending hours before the manger scene that graced the fireplace in our living room year after year. When my parents moved from the house to independent living, the crèche went with them and continued to have pride of place in their new apartment. But this year, I find my heart confused with a number of conflicting longings.

I long for things to be the way they were.

I long for my mom to be back in the apartment with Dad.

I long to set up the nativity with my Dad, as some sign that things will go ahead without really changing that much.

I long to let go and allow God to lead us all through this in his perfect design.

Our hearts ache a little more during the holidays, don’t they? We still haven’t found exactly what we are most deeply searching for.

And that’s OK. Because our longing–it’s good. The ache itself keeps us in touch with our need for God. The sometimes sharp pain keeps us focused on the billion needs that we are before God, that we are filled with needs that ultimately only God can satisfy.

Sr. Sharon, a good friend, shared with me an entry from her journal a number of years ago. In the very first line is the key to finding the peace we so long for:

Thank you, Jesus, for your delight in me, your creation.
I am a miracle of your love and mercy.
I love you. You love me.
Thank you for everything.
Love, you are love. May my humble life give you glory.
Lord, have mercy, have mercy. Amen.

Sr Sharon Legere, FSP

Our greatest desire is to know that God delights in us, wants to be with us, loves to hear our voices in prayer, chooses to “spend his time with us,” so to speak. God’s love for me is a miracle that will never fade. It is eternal.

What do you wish the Father would whisper right into the depths of your being? Quiet yourself down for just a moment and search inside for the answer to this question. Read as a prayer the journal entry above. And then listen to this Letter from God to you:

Image credit: #ArqTl on Pixabay