Celebrating Alabama

Celebrating Alabama

This morning I stopped at my favorite local stop for tea, quiche and scones—The Cambridge Tea House—for quiche and an order of bacon.

“I’m celebrating Alabama,” I said. The cashier smiled. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Home, I read the paper’s headline story and enjoyed my breakfast while perusing The Washington Post’s
Preliminary exit poll results: How different groups voted in Alabama.”  It’s worth a look. And before I hurry off to work, I have to say “Thank you,” to the Black Alabamian voters for overwhelmingly casting their ballots for Doug Jones. The number of women who voted for Moore baffle me. Well, to be honest, anyone who voted for Moore baffle me at some level.

Still, it’s a victory to savor. The former U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted two of the Ku Klux Klansmen who bombed the small church in Birmingham in 1963 bested the outspoken, bigoted Roy Moore. After work, I’ll take a closer look at the Washington Post’s informative infographics. For now, I’m walking with a little spring in my step.

Doing What We Have Learned

Doing What We Have Learned

Abstract painting of people of all colors embracing

Painting by Richard Duarte Brown

Originally published in The Catholic Times  Oct. 8, 2017

Perhaps it’s because I’m weary of the divisive speech that is becoming more commonplace in our country and of the racism and ignorance of the “other” that undergird it. Maybe it’s hearing hateful comments, seeing intolerance, and recognizing that choices are being made to stoke fear and anger rather that to encourage true listening and dialogue. It’s these things and more that make me read and reread Paul’s words this Sunday, healing, like balm on an open sore:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4, 8)

A friend at work gave me a flyer about a unity celebration being held at a local Episcopal church that Sunday evening. I’m glad I went. It was something gracious and lovely that reminded me of the many good people who, in ways large and small, are being love in the world.

A woman opened the celebration with a drum call to gather everyone, including the ancestors. I thought of my parents. Of people who have gone before, working for civil rights. I thought of the communion of saints.

The rector welcomed us and read “Blessing When the World is Ending” by Jan Richardson. It finishes on a hopeful note:

This blessing/will not fix you,/will not mend you,/ will not give you/false comfort;/it will not talk to you/about one door opening/when another one closes./ It will simply/sit beside you/among the shards/and gently turn your face/toward the direction/from which the light/will come,/gathering itself/about you/as the world begins/again.

A young Syrian refugee, 13 when she arrived speaking no English, 17 now, shared her powerful poetry. A woman pastor reminded us that while we look different on the outside, we are the same on the inside and pointed out the fact that human beings are made with two ears and one tongue, perhaps indicating we should listen more and talk less.

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

Two young women in flowing white dresses gracefully danced their prayer to the One we can’t live without, expressing with their movements the prayer in my heart. An Imam spoke of Islam and respect for all prophets. We listened and learned.

A folksinger led us in “We shall not be moved,” a song loosely based on verses from Jerimiah about one who is like a tree firmly planted by the water surviving drought and yielding fruit. A young girl called out that we should sing for peace. And we did.

A Jewish rabbi considered that we have many names the for same Holy One. She spoke of the prophets of old and wondered about today’s prophets. About being prophets and being bold.

A soloist shook the rafters and sang about God breathing on us, and I felt the Spirit-breath.

A community organizer pulled wisdom from each presentation and put them into questions for us to ponder.

Afterwards, we shared food, listened to stories, and wondered why all churches don’t have evenings like this.

Paul’s final words in that verse from Philippians—Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you—prompted me to consider that what we learn from Paul, he learned from Jesus. What have I learned and heard and seen in Jesus that transforms me?

painting: The Good van Gogh Samaritan, by Vincent

The Good Samaritan by Vincent van Gogh

In the gospels, I have learned that love, not power, is important. That one’s life doesn’t consist of possessions. That everyone is my neighbor, and I must take care of them. I have seen Jesus heal the sick, feed the hungry, hang out with those on the margins, and eat with outcasts. He was welcoming, patient, and merciful. He was a man of prayer. On his last night on earth he prayed “…that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me…” I watched Jesus wash his disciples’ feet and instruct them to do the same. He spoke truth to power, faithfully lived that truth, and was murdered for it.

I heard him say that whatever we do to the least among us, we do to him. And when it came right down to it, when someone asked him what was most important, he had two things to say: Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

These are the things we need to keep on doing, each of us bringing the God of peace who dwells in us into our times and places. Through all people of peace, God transforms the world.

© 2017 Mary van Balen

A Confluence of Events

A Confluence of Events

Originally published in the Catholic Times September 10, 2017

Sometimes disparate events come together, touching a common place in my heart. Only after reflection and usually some writing, do I understand their connection and what they are saying.

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White supremacists clash with police (36421659232)

By Evan Nesterak

Protests and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the responses that followed uncovered what we’d rather avoid. Racism, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy raised their ugly heads reminding us that, no matter what we thought or what we want to believe, anger and hatred based on race, ethnicity, and fear of the “other” remain a blight on our country’s soul.

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Pencil drawing of Blessed Fredric Ozanam

Blessed Fredric Ozanam

Perusing this week’s liturgical calendar, I discovered Blessed Fredric Ozanam (1813-1853). He moved to Paris at 18 to study at the Sorbonne. Conditions were wretched for the poor and working class. As a result of its old and public alliances with the aristocracy, the Catholic Church was attacked by intellectuals as oppressive and harmful. Ozanam had a different view. The Church was more than its hierarchy. It was all, clerics and lay alike, and he understood service to the poor as central to the call to discipleship. Actions must accompany words. He organized debates and argued that the Catholic Church had brought much good to the world.

There is a story that during one of these debates, when challenged to show what the Church was doing to help the poor and suffering in Paris, he had no answer. A few days later, Ozanam gathered a small group of Catholic students and together they began what would become the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. They were helped by Sister Rosalie Rendu who served the destitute in the Mouffetard area of Paris and insisted that the young students visit them in their homes and learn what was truly needed.

painintg of Saint Peter Claver surrounded by African slaves

Saint Peter Claver

I read about St. Peter Claver (1581-1654), a Spanish Jesuit who found his life’s work in Cartagena, a hub of slave trade, in what is now Columbia. When slave ships arrived, he managed to get into the hold and minister to them with food, water, and medicine.

“Deeds come first, then words,” he said.

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NASA photograph of the total solar eclipse taken at Oregon State Fairgrounds by Dominic Hart

PHOTO: NASA

I joined two daughters, a friend, and other family to experience the eclipse in Columbia, South Carolina. We gathered with others in a school’s athletic field. The mood was festive and people moved in and out of the green space to observe the moon sliding in front of the sun. But, with fifteen minutes to go, they found a spot, put on eclipse glasses, and didn’t move.

When totality arrived, glasses came off. People clapped, shouted, cried, or stood in awed silence as the black disk of the moon covered the sun, revealing its brilliant corona. For those two minutes and thirty seconds, we were one people, small creatures on a single planet in the vast universe.

Of course, it didn’t last. Totality passed. Eventually people picked up their chairs and coolers and walked home or to their cars. The one family became tribes again.

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Photo of poet Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni

Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast featured an interview with poet Nikki Giovanni. Tippett describes her as a “revolutionary poet in the Black Arts Movement that nourished civil rights.” Now in her seventies, Giovanni is joyfully alive, a professor at Virginia Tech, and still writing.

“…race was a bad idea 200 years ago, 300 years ago. It’s a ridiculous idea today,” she said in the interview. “Hatred was a bad idea, and it’s a ridiculous idea today. We’re on the third planet from the yellow sun. We have got to come together to see—and how to make sense out of this…How do we find a way to make the best of us?”

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How indeed. How to root out hate and anger? How to stand with the marginalized and oppressed? How to bring Love into this time?

Ozanam, Rendu, and Claver saw what is often forgotten: Every person is a child of God deserving respect and love. They responded to physical needs as well as spiritual ones; actions accompany words. We are called to do the same, recognizing all are God’s people—Black, White, Latino, Indigenous people, refugees, LGBT, Jews, Muslims, prisoners, the poor. All one family on this planet. No exceptions. As Giovanni said, there is no place to go but forward. We do what we can. We love. We speak the truth we have been given. Bit by bit, we let go of what separates us and hold on to what binds us together. We listen. We pray. Like Mary, honored this week with the feast of The Nativity of Mary, we are called to birth Christ into the world.

© 2017 Mary van Balen

“Breathe Free”: Columbus Crossing  Borders Project Documentary

“Breathe Free”: Columbus Crossing Borders Project Documentary

Poster with information on he Columbus Crossing Borders Project's documentary opening at The Drexel Theater in Bexley, Ohio, August 10, 2017. The poster shows an artist working on a painting for the project

On Thursday, August 10, 2017, the Columbus Crossing Borders Project documentary, BreatheFree, premiered to a sold out audience at The Drexel theater in Bexley, Ohio. In order to accommodate those unable to attend the first show, a second screening was scheduled for later that same evening.

Breathe Free features the stories of five refugees as well as the creative processes of some of the 34 artists participating in this project.

According to Laurie Van Balen, project director and producer, The Columbus Crossing Borders Project was created in response to the alarming levels of anti-immigration sentiment and racism being stirred throughout our country. The project consists of 34 painters and a film crew employing art as a means to instigate critical thinking and compassion for the millions of refugees in our world.

The Columbus Dispatch published an article about the documentary and exhibit in the Weekender section of the August 10, 2017 edition of the newspaper.

Next showing and exhibit

Breathe Free will be shown at The Drexel Theater again on August 31 at 8:30pm in conjunction with the reception—5-7:30pm—at the exhibit of the 34 paintings on display at that time at the Schumacher Gallery at Capital University. The exhibit opens there on August 28 and runs through Sept. 1.

Both the exhibit and the documentary will continue to be shown in locations around Ohio and other venues around the country. To learn more about the Columbus Crossing Borders Project and future dates to view it, visit the CCBP website.  You can see a trailer for video here.

Paintings and artist statements

Oil painting, "Waiting" by Mark Gingerich, which shows a mother and two children, refugees waiting for a place to go

“Waiting” by Mark Gingerich oil on canvas 20″ x 24″

Waiting

​”When I came across the image of a Muslim refugee family waiting to be received by a host country, I was struck with the sense of helplessness conveyed. It is a powerful image that I believe captures the spirit of the plight of the refugees. Thus, with the permission of Irish photographer Andrew McConnell, I have painted “Waiting.”   Mark Gingerich

 

Gaye Reissland

 

Painting by Gaye Reissland of diverse group of poeple with hands held high forming a heart shape with their fingers while approaching the Statue of Liberty.

Gaye Reissland acrylic on canvas 26″ x 12″

My painting is putting the world on notice that the poem “The Great Colossus” inscribed at the base of The Statue of Liberty still stands true in the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans! We are a nation filled with immigrants and their descendants. The vast majority of us want to welcome our brothers and sisters whether they are refugees or have a dream that includes the potential prosperity our great nation. Our nation stands great because of its diversity and willingness to open its doors to those ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’  Gaye Reissland

 

Virginia Carvour

Painting of a refugee woman holding a small child

Virginia Carvour acrylic on canvas 16 x 20

Devastation

noun

1. great destruction or damage

2. severe and overwhelming shock or grief

 Empathy

noun

  1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

 Refugee

noun

  1. a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval or war, etc.

Virginia Carvour

Fountain Fullness and Good Stewardship

Fountain Fullness and Good Stewardship

éFirst published in The Catholic Times  July 16, 2017 issue

Close up of fountain at the Vatican

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

And since the nature of goodness is to diffuse itself…the Father is the fountain-fullness of goodness.        Ilia Delio

Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.      Pope Francis

Standing Rock is everywhere.   Chief Arvol Looking Horse

 

Water has been on my mind. As Ilia Delio, O.S.F. writes in Simply Bonaventure: An Introduction to His Life, Thought, and Writing, the 13th century saint whose feast we celebrate on July 15 referred to the first principle of the Godhead as the fountain-fullness of goodness. (Bonaventure referred to this self-diffusive Goodness as “Father,” not in a biological manner, but in the sense that God is generative, Delio explains.)

I first heard this phrase over fifteen years ago while attending a lecture by Delio. When she made time for questions, I was unable to formulate any but sat in silence allowing some of the imagery and expansive thought she presented to find a place within me. The image of God as infinite fountain-fullness, pouring out Divine self, has always remained.

Niagra Falls

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

I’ve thought of it while standing at Niagara Falls, getting soaked in a rainstorm, or while drinking a refreshing glass of water: God, ever-flowing outward, creating and sustaining all.

In his encyclical, Laudato Si’, from the conviction that “…everything in the world is connected…” Pope Francis reminds us that fresh drinking water holds primary importance because “… it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.” As with the effects of other instances of environmental degradation, the lack of clean water and the consequences of that fall most heavily upon the poor.

He addresses the people of the world, calling for a change of lifestyles of consumption and immediate gratification into lifestyles of sacrifice and sharing. Pope Francis quotes Patriarch Bartholomew’s eloquent words saying we all need to repent since in some ways we have all harmed the planet.

That realization deepened for me when I recently viewed a water bill for my apartment. The amount of water used was surprising.

I began to notice that water usually runs while I wash my hands and brush my teeth. Without a dishwasher, I often fill the sink with soapy water, even when only a few plates and glassed need cleaned. As weeks passed, water and my consumption of it became an exercise in mindfulness. A big water drinker, I usually find two or three half-filled glasses on tables or counters at bedtime. No longer dumped down the drain, the extra now waters my plants. In a month’s time, my water use decreased by half.

Who would’ve thought that such small efforts would make a difference? Patriarch Bartholomew realized that we all “generate small ecological damage.” Some is unavoidable; some is not.

Water came to mind again this week when a longtime friend sent a copy of an article published in the June 26 issue of America Magazine. “The Spirituality of Standing Rock: Activists see a moral imperative for protecting our water” by Eileen Markey begins with the historic gathering of Native Americans and their supporters from around the globe at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to prayerfully protest the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline under their water supply.

“Water is life,” the women said. While oil now flows beneath their land, the stand to protect the environment, particularly the water, continues as groups and individuals across the country carry on the protests, calling for action from governments, corporations, groups, and individuals. The setback at Standing Rock was not the end of the issue.

“Standing Rock is everywhere,” Lakota chief Arvol Looking Horse said in the article. Indeed, it is.

Summer, with its long spells of hot, dry days interspersed with sudden storms or a day or two of soft showers, is a good time to reflect on water and how we use it. To change wasteful habits. To stand with Pope Francis in his call to work together to move into lifestyles that reflect reverence for the earth and recognition of the importance of good stewardship, especially as it affects the poor. And it is a good time to join our voices with that of Saint Francis, in thanksgiving and in praise of the Creator, the Fountain-Fullenss, the source of all that is.

© 2017 Mary van Balen

Connecting through the Columbus Crossing Borders Project

Connecting through the Columbus Crossing Borders Project

Project Director of the Columbus Crossing Borders Project speaking to audience

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

People gathered at the Martin de Porres Center last Sunday to see the traveling art exhibit, Columbus Crossing Borders Project, and to hear Project Director/Producer, Laurie Van Balen, share its vision and mission.

She spoke of the refugee crises around the world and in our country and the need to welcome the “other” into our spaces: our country, cities, neighborhoods, and home.

Before and after her presentation, people viewed the exhibit of 34 paintings by Ohio artists whose work draws the viewer into some aspect of the reality of the refugees’ journeys, hardships, and successes.

a mother and daughter viewing an art exhibit

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

People took their time, reading the artists statements that were posted below the paintings. Pointing out how some element of each painting crossed over into the space of the painting to its right—crossing borders and creating a powerful visual testimony to the love, strength, and resilience that sustain those who must flee their countries and build a new home in a strange land.

“I had to move away from the group of people looking at the painting with me,” one woman confided. Her eyes were filled with tears. “I was afraid they’d ask me something, and, well, I just couldn’t speak. It’s overwhelming.” She paused for a moment and then said, “How could anyone think these wonderful people have nothing to offer to us, to our country? How many gifts they bring!”

Conversations like this or the longer ones among artists, refugees, immigrants, and others gathered around the tables or standing in clusters in the room, are one of the most important result of this amazing exhibit. It opens hearts. It opens doors. People share and get to know one another. Like the title of this project suggest, they cross their own borders and leave enriched and changed in some way. Come, and experience it for yourself.

the logo for the Columbus Crossing Borders Project shows silhouettes of immigrants, men, women, and children, against a blue clouded sky.

The Columbus Crossing Borders Project is currently being exhibited at:  the Martin de Porres Center, 2330 Airport Drive, Columbus, Ohio through June 30.

Next exhibit: Schumacher Gallery at Capital Univeristy, 2199 E Main St, Columbus OH from August 28 – September 2 with a reception on August 31.

For more information visit the Columbus Crossing Borders Project website

Columbus Crossing Borders Project

Columbus Crossing Borders Project

the logo for the Columbus Crossing Borders Project shows silhouettes of immigrants, men, women, and children, against a blue clouded sky. The Columbus Crossing Borders Project was begun by Columbus area artist, Laurie Van Balen, in response to the alarming spread of anti-immigrant sentiment that is sweeping the country. Visit the website to learn more about the artists, traveling art exhibit, and documentary film that is the result of 34 artists, refugees willing to share their stories,  a film crew, and many volunteers.

You can watch parts of the video made by Doug Swift,  meet some of the artists, see their work, and hear some of the refugees’ stories. This project aims to inspire compassion and encourage critical thinking when considering the plight of refugees in our country.

Columbus Crossing Borders Project is working with the Community Immigration and Refugee Services (CRIS) in Columbus.

Currently in production, the traveling art exhibit will open on May 21, at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus. You are welcome to attend the opening reception:

“As we seek to inspire compassion and support for the 65 million people in our world who are fleeing war, terror, persecution and hardship, The Columbus Crossing Borders Project warmly invites you to attend the initial public presentation of our traveling art exhibit and documentary film.

Sunday, May 21  2 – 6pm    Cultural Arts Center  |  139 W Main St, Columbus, Ohio 43215

This event is being presented with support from the​ Greater Columbus Arts Council.”

I hope to see you there!

We Walk Together

We Walk Together

The oil painting "Supper" by Joseph Hirsch shows twelve homeless men, shabbily dressed, sitting and eating at an lavishly set table.

“Supper” 1963-1964
Oil on canvas
Joseph Hirsch American 1910-1981
Columbus Museum of Art
Photo: Mary van Balen

Originally published in The Catholic Times, April 9, 2017

On Saturday, I had the unexpected pleasure of spending a few hours in the Columbus Museum of Art. My sister and I slowly moved from one gallery to another, savoring the opportunity to see the world and explore ideas through the eyes and souls of the artists. They “wake us up” to realities easily overlooked as we hurry through our day to day lives, or challenge us to see the world, others, and even ourselves from broadened perspectives.

A small white sign on the wall of a hallway between two larger exhibits proclaimed: “The Extra Ordinary.” It referred to displayed works made of old bricks, cardboard, and other common objects.

I took a closer look at the row of oil paintings of a water glass. The artist, Peter Dreher, had painted the same glass at different times of day and night for years. “What can change?” you might ask. Light. Reflected images. You’d be surprised what you discover by simply focusing on the lines and beauty of something that usually doesn’t get a second glance. Our lives are filled with opportunities to wonder at the creativity and grace evident in objects made by human hands or that are part of nature. “When was the last time you took a close look and really saw?” the artist seemed to be asking.

A room or two later, I stood in front of a painting by Joseph Hirsch titled “Supper.” Twelve men sitting around a long table, sharing food that included bread and wine immediately suggested the Last Supper. Images of Leonardo da Vinci’s mural of Jesus’ final meal with his apostles might spring to your mind, but this painting is different.

Instead of a white Jesus surrounded by men in flowing robes, twelve homeless men of various colors, unkempt and dressed in shabby jackets and coats, eat hungrily, drinking wine from goblets and lifting food to their mouths with silver forks.

No brightly colored clothing here. The men are dressed mostly in grays, blacks, and browns. The brightest things are on the table. A silver serving dish and coffee pot rest on a white table cloth beside serving bowls heaped with fruit and salad. Obvious at the front of the table sits a goblet of wine and a broken loaf of bread.

The contrast between the poverty of the men and the opulence before them is striking. It spoke to the truth that wealth in our country and the world is held by an increasingly small percentage of people while so many are without food or shelter or hope of finding it. I read the signage to learn when “Supper” was painted. It was finished in 1964. “…at about the same time that President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted laws and reforms known as the War on Poverty, designed to aid disadvantaged American communities.”

I counted the people again. Twelve. “Why didn’t Hirsch include a figure to represent Jesus?” I wondered. Gazing at the image, I slowly became aware of Jesus’ presence. No need to paint him. The Christ was there, dwelling in each of those men.

Before leaving, I read the rest of the sign. It ended by noting “…the relevance to the present day of Christian values of compassion and charity for the poor.” I would say “justice.”

As we move into liturgical celebrations of the Last Supper, Good Friday, and Easter, reflecting on this painting’s message could inform our prayer. In 2017, as in 1964, we examine our response to the call to follow Jesus through death to new life—to share God’s Love given to us.

Do we see that Love shining through creation? Do we see the risen Christ in our sisters and brothers? Do we recognize God dwelling in every human being regardless of color, ethnicity, gender, religious faith or lack of it?  Do we share what we have with the poor, the homeless, the immigrants and refugees who live in our neighborhoods and cities and around the globe? Do we foster love and acceptance with our speech as well as actions?

Jesus was God’s face in the world, and it is a face of Love and inclusion, leaving no one out—not Samaritans or gentiles, not women or children. There was no “other.”  We walk together in Christ.

©2017 Mary van Balen

Quieting Down to Listen

Quieting Down to Listen

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

Originally published in The Catholic Times, December 14, 2014

The gospel from the first Sunday of Advent showed Jesus instructing his followers to be alert. Warning against the possibility of dozing and being asleep when the lord of the house arrives, Jesus had one word for them: “Watch.”

When I taught writing to elementary students and later to adults, my advice was to “be wide awake.” They kept a writer’s notebook, a place to hold thoughts, interesting articles, and favorite poems, anything that spoke to their hearts or passed through their lives. Sometimes what they jotted down ended up in an essay or launched them into a theme that developed into something longer. Most didn’t. The process of noticing and of being present to the moment was the important result. They developed “writerly habits.”

Prayer and writing have a lot in common. Jesus wasn’t instructing his followers to be writers, but to be “wide awake” for God’s presence. Jesus wants us to develop a “pray-ers habit.” “I am with you always,” Jesus says at the end of Matthew’s gospel, “even to the end of time.” The struggle for us is being still enough, inside and out, to become aware of and respond to that presence. Some people in Mark’s gospel audience were preoccupied with the future. They wanted to know when the end was coming, when Jesus would return. Jesus told them that wasn’t for them to know. Instead, they were to live in the present, alert to the “now.”

That’s what Advent is saying to me this year: Don’t spend the time I have in one place while my mind and heart are somewhere else. Don’t fill my mind with mental “chatter” that drowns out what the moment is saying. Easier said than done. I can’t tell you how many mornings I get up with the intention of spending twenty minutes in quiet prayer, simply trying to be present to God-with-Us, but instead end up rushing out of the house on my way to work without having sat still for a moment.

Stuff happens. I’ve thrown in a load of laundry, fretted over finding some other job, responded to emails, and perused the New York Times headlines. I gulp down my cup of tea and can’t remember if I had Constant Comment or Lady Grey. A pity since the aroma and taste of each is worth appreciating.

Even while driving to work I’m thinking about what I’ll do when I finish my shift. Never mind that the sky is clear and bright or that a friendly driver slowed down so I could make my turn. No matter that I have been given another day to live and breathe and love.

Yesterday, I read through Advent’s mass readings. Lots of them are concerned with justice and compassion, God’s and ours. God hears the cry of the poor, promises rest to those who are tired, takes care of sending rain and sun for crops, cares about the lost sheep, the littlest one, cures blindness, lameness, and broken hearts. God wants to love us all, but I’m afraid I’m often too busy to notice.

I think when Zechariah was stuck dumb it was to make him be quiet long enough to become a better listener…to pay attention and to see God at work in ways he didn’t expect.

Mary said “Yes,” after hearing the angel’s invitation. Joseph heard Wisdom in his dreams and took his pregnant fiancé into his home despite appearances.

You have to be listening to hear the “angels” of the moment or God talking in your dreams. You have to be paying attention to recognize God in the poor and suffering in this world. You have to be still to hear Divine Love and share it with others.

Advent’s a time to recall that the God who created us, who came to us in Jesus, and who will come again is, most importantly, here in each and every one of us this very moment. God’s concerned about the least among us. About justice and compassion. About what’s in our heart. Advent’s a call to be still and to be amazed that the most Holy Mystery wants to spend gracious time with us.

 

© 2014 Mary van Balen