More Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflections


Steady Your Heart, Be Patient

Sr. Jane Snyder, IHM
IHM Center, Scranton, PA
January 12, 2006

The following reflection was given at a prayer service at the IHM Center during the season of Advent.

"Be patient until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer awaits the precious yield of the soil. He looks forward to it patiently while the soil receives the winter and spring rains. You too must be patient. Steady your hearts, because the coming of the Lord is at hand."

I had this major insight last week. I was rushing about doing a variety of things and wondered, "How did people get all this done a hundred years ago?" My great insight was that a hundred years ago people had exactly 24 hours in each day of their lives. Indeed, everyone in all of human history has had as much time in one day as I have in one day. What they didn't have were wrist watches and clocks that reminded them that they were late, or that they were "running out of time," or that maybe they had "saved" a few minutes.

Life is full of labor-saving devices ~ computers, microwaves, hair dryers, clothes and dish washers, e-mail, faxes, and so on and so on. But all of these time-savers leave me more and more impatient. I am caught in the paradox of wanting things to happen more quickly and longing for time to slow down and be quiet. In pondering the word patience, I have concluded that P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E may be an acronym for a deeper reality.

First of all, Advent is a season pregnant with possibility. Mary's pregnancy held the possibility of redemption for all of us. It was rich with relationships - her woman to woman visit with Elizabeth, her time of home-building with Joseph, her daily conversation with the child in her womb. There is also the reminder that this is a season of prophetic messages. Baruch tells us to fill in the valleys and level the mountains of our own lives so that the Lord's way will be smooth. Isaiah says that blind eyes will see. Oh, the possibilities that lie before us when we wait patiently for the prophetic pregnancy to take root in us.

Advent is a time of attentiveness to the voice of God in these busy days. It may be the tiny snatches of quiet that fill us when we latch on to a seasonal song or hymn that lifts our spirit to the Spirit of true Christmas. It is attentiveness to life-long memories that need to be shared, traditions that need to be upheld, values that need to be passed on to new generations.

Advent reminds us of what the Celts called "thin time." The Celts called on the spirits of their ancestors and practiced hospitality to wayfarers, whether from this world or the next. In this "thin time" of ours, we reach out to the wayfarers in this world through multiple acts of kindness - volunteering at the soup kitchen, wrapping gifts for the elderly. This is the time of tenderness and trust and transparent good will.

Advent's time of waiting is a time of deepening intimacy. It is about exploring my relationship with my creator who was so pleased with the idea of me and who saw so clearly how I could reflect his redeeming love that I just had to be. There was a popular slogan a few years back that said: "God don't make junk." Indeed, God does not make junk!

Without patience, our expectations degenerate into wishful thinking. The root word for patience actually translates as suffering. But this is not passive suffering, this suffering is called "birth pangs." It is the suffering that opens doors to new life, that clears a pathway. It is the kind of suffering that can yield a change of heart. It is the expectation of great things to come that allows us to turn our tears of sadness into tears of rejoicing.

This brief season is for me a time when names become more important than ever. It is part of my Advent ritual to listen to all of the Handel's Messiah. God is named Wonderful, Counselor, mighty God, Everlasting, Prince of Peace. Christ is God with us and we are the flock he tends, the redeemed, those who have been made whole. This passage of music reminds me that I am not a clothing size, or a music or reading preference, or an address in a book, or anything else that limits me. I am the beloved of the Lamb.

Advent is care, concern, compassion, connection. Mary joyfully proclaims: "He has cast the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed." Mary is our model for connection with all who are forgotten, rejected, despised, pushed aside. The times in which Mary said yes to God were not peaceful times. It would have been easier for her to say no and continue her life like every other woman of her era. Mary's choice to participate in God's plan has made all the difference for us.

Finally, Advent is about Eucharist. It is about celebrating the birth of a body that would be blessed and broken for us. It is in every way the first step on the path to our salvation.

Possibility, Attentiveness, Tenderness, Intimacy, Expectation, Naming, Care, Eucharist ~ this is the Advent call to patience.

So, what do I do about my time dilemma? Shepards were willing to listen to the voices that told them there was cause to celebrate. Kings were willing to travel to find the source fo great light. Simple animals were willing to share their space with an unexpected guest. My 24 hours each day are quite enough. I just have to be willing to travel deeper within myself, listen carefully to the voice of God within me, and move out of the way of the guest I long to entertain for eternity.

"Be steadfast, for the Lord is near."