Sister Ann Marie Wainright – Signs of God’s Love

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Sister Ann Marie Wainright – Signs of God’s Love

REFLECTION FOR EVENING PRAYER ON THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT

Advent Wreath of of Waiting

[Jeremiah 33:14-16 – 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 – Luke 21:25-36]

Weather patterns.  War.  Unemployment.  Disease.  Famine.  Droughts.  The news we hear every day is discouraging, to say the least.  It is no wonder that stress, frustration, and depression are on the rise.

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will die in fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world…’”  (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36).

In the winter when we gather to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, we start and end our days in darkness while awaiting the light’s return.  Our lives are filled with moments like this – when we are called to praise God even when evidence points to the darkness of despair rather than to the light of hope.

And so, we begin again…another Advent season of longing in the midst of darkness, of waiting for the Light to return, of hope in the fulfillment of promises.

“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made…In those days, Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure…”  (Jer. 33:14-16)

Judah was far from safe in the day of this prophesy from Jeremiah, nor was Jerusalem secure.   Conquered by the Babylonian empire and the Temple in Jerusalem decimated, the people were shocked and dispirited.   The prophecies of Jeremiah fell on deaf ears, and now they were left with nothing but memories and longing.

As a prophet, Jeremiah’s task was to reinterpret treasured traditions in light of current realities.  Jeremiah points to the Exile as a continuation of the Exodus tradition.  The Jewish people, and we, are on a journey intended to purify our hearts and lead us not to worldly circumstances that will change, but to the eternal shalom of the Promised One.

The reason for the Exile in Babylon, and for our Advent journey, is to increase our capacity to render pure worship to the God who has never forsaken or abandoned us, despite what “the signs” around us may indicate.

The circumstances of our human lives are powerful influences on our perception of God’s actions.  A vertically-oriented, patriarchal, power-oriented culture where “might makes right” and the strong arm wins leads to expectations of a powerful, militaristic, political Messiah.  A relational, Trinitarian God wants to liberate our hearts.

 “…strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.” (1 Thess. 3:12-4:2)

 The new Christians of Thessalonica, to whom Paul writes in the second reading, struggled with perseverance in the face of continuing harassment by those who misunderstood and misjudged them.  Paul encouraged the Thessalonians and us to persevere and to see the signs of hope and encouragement inside and around us during such times of darkness.

Jeremiah writes: “I will fulfill the promise…I will raise up for David a just shoot…he shall do what is right and just.” – no maybe’s about it…it will be so, count on it, and hang in there.

St. Paul writes:  “We earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God – and as you are conducting yourselves – you do so even more.” – in other words, keep living a life of love, justice, and mercy.  Pray even when it seems pointless, or you’ve run out of words to say. Persevere in doing what is right and just, and in praying, no matter how discouraging the circumstances.   Those are the times when God is closest to us and the signs are obvious.

Several weeks ago, I was returning from Morning Prayer in the chapel, and I remember feeling weighted down that morning, really needing a sign of encouragement to start my day.  I paused at a window in the cloister walk to watch the sun rising over Lake Superior.  It shined brightly between the branches of a maple tree that had lost most of its leaves.  It almost looked as if the bare branches of the tree were holding and cradling the tiny rising sun.  As I watched that beautiful sunrise, I heard God whisper to the ear of my heart, “I love you all over again!”

During the first week of Advent, we are urged to watch for signs, but not the signs we typically notice.  The signs to which Jeremiah and Paul and Jesus point are not natural disasters, crime statistics, and the latest bad news.  The promise will not be fulfilled in the bigger, better, newer, richer, or more powerful.  It is not about whom we know, what we do  and what we own.  The signs of the promise to come are in the snow globe world just outside our windows; in the Sisters who live right next door to us, above us, and below us, and who day in and day out live, pray and journey with us.  The sign to persevere and have hope are in the daily sunrise that insistently whispers, “I love you all over again today.”

“When these signs begin to happen, [says the Lord], stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36).

 

 

 

Sister Ann Marie Wainright  

Sister Ann Marie Wainright

Sister Ann Marie Wainright is a Benedictine Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she worked as a CPA for many years before earning dual masters degrees in counseling and pastoral studies. Sister Ann Marie is interested how people encounter God in their daily lives and how they use their faith and spirituality in meeting difficult challenges.

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