Vigil for the Second Sunday in Advent

Janelle Maes, OSB | Dec. 8, 2018

In the year two thousand and eighteen in the sixth year of the ecclesiastical reign of Pope Francis when Donald Trump was President of the United States and Laura Kelly the upcoming governor of Kansas, the Benedictine Sisters of Atchison Ks were quietly preaching by their committed lives to the country surrounding them. With voices raised in prayer each morning and evening the sisters remember the intentions and needs of the world. They live what Michael Casey calls “the unexciting life” which looks that way by the world’s standards; however, their simple lifestyle conveys a deep-seated peace and joy that permeates the monastery. They themselves have experienced the truth that “love has found them” and they want others to know and experience God’s lavish love. They want in their quiet manner to bring the “good news” to everyone.

How do they do this, you may ask? First of all by just being themselves and knowing they are so blessed by God. They have experienced what Aelred-Seton Shanley says “From earth, the Word drew nourishment, from us, the body we possess: now these enfleshed within the Word, return God’s love thus glorified…” As you all know we are these Sisters touched by God’s love. We can only attempt to return God’s love with our own lives of praising, praying, working, loving, and empathizing with others. It is thus that we are proclaiming the kingdom, “making crooked roads straight and rough ways smooth, filling in valleys, and making mountains and hills low.” An important witness that does just this is found in the community life we Sisters live.

Benedict our founder believed in the wisdom of community living. In rubbing elbows with each other and becoming impatient, frustrated, angry, upset, depressed we experience the difficulty of living together and then we remember that Christ lives in each of us and also in our own selves. From this comes the realization that the world does not need violence to settle disputes. Moreover, swords can easily be changed to plowshares.

Now, that sounds as if all of us are ready to be canonized and probably never misstep. Not so….one important piece of proclaiming the kingdom is knowing all of us are sinners and as one desert father said we fall at least seven-plus times daily! However, God wants to share mercy and love with us and forgives everything if one just asks with a contrite heart. We Sisters may fall many times; however, with God’s help we get up and begin again.

Yet we know we are the ones who “bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation” as Isaiah states in the first reading. He also says “The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” We could read this as a militaristic call. However, the Lord laying bare his holy arm can be a very vulnerable stance for God. No longer is the shield on his arm nor the sword in his hand. God is defenseless. All peoples are called to not only see salvation, but to have it. God wants the Trumps, you, the Obamas, the Assads and all peoples in the peaceable kingdom. How this happens is a mystery that we are unable to fathom; only God can bring about justice, mercy, and love to all peoples and in all creation so that there is a “new heaven and a new earth.” God’s love is boundless and that is our message; community is the way we live it.

At this beautiful time of the Church Year as we encounter the Word becoming Flesh---a mystery so powerful and incomprehensible for our limited minds, I am reminded how we, the Benedictine Sisters of Atchison are called to make the Word become flesh each day for all around us. Gerard Manley Hopkins expressed this reality so wonderfully:

“…I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond."