Advent 2022 newsletter
Deirdre Griffin, SSJ, U.S.-Mexico Border
I need simply and only
to wait upon God
resting in me,
of my soul.
~Edwina Gately, Waiting
During this Advent, my experiences of the past few months have drawn me to reflect on the spiritual practice of waiting. How am I called to wait for, and to wait upon, God?
Four companions in scripture arise to accompany me as I ponder the very complex reality here at the border in El Paso, as well as my own limitations as I strive to be faithful.
The first is the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus when he was at dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee (Lk 7:36-50). Each time I visit one of the shelters to help welcome guests being released from immigration detention, in my heart I want to wash and anoint their feet. I want to acknowledge the suffering they have endured along their journeys and to atone for the retraumatization experienced by being held in jail upon requesting protection in the U.S.
Just as Jesus explained to Simon that this woman provided him the welcome the Pharisee had neglected, so too I attempt to offer a missing welcome, with a smile, an encouraging word, and a simple meal and accommodations. This is true for all of our guests, and in a particular way for those traveling from Haiti, who, we know, have experienced heightened violence and racial discrimination along their way.
The second is John the Baptist. I met him in a sculpture in the desert at the Norbertine Abbey in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during my annual retreat a couple of weeks ago. His fidelity to being a voice in the desert brought to mind my experience of the Annual Border Mass celebrated on a simple wooden altar crossing the Rio Grande, joining El Paso, Texas, to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
The gathering as one eucharistic community fortified my spirit, but the small numbers of people in attendance left me crying out, “Where is everyone else?” I wished we were there in the tens of thousands, rather than approximately 150, to witness and to mourn the suffering and death resulting from our collective failure to “make ready the way of the Lord, and to make the rough roads smooth” (Luke 3: 4-6) by compassionately addressing forced migration.
John´s clarity of purpose and ardent simplicity challenge me to identify next steps in my journey as one who “must decrease so that Jesus may increase” (John 3:29-30).
Lastly, Mary and Joseph, subjected to arduous travel while they awaited God´s arrival in their baby, represent every family knocking on our doors for shelter.
An image by the artist Lee Kaercher illustrates the pain of family separation — with Mary and Joseph on one side of a wall and the baby Jesus on the other. The title, “Waiting for the Wisemen,” is devastatingly apt. Those who hold the political power to alleviate this suffering continue to prioritize fear mongering and re-election over gospel compassion.
Instead, I choose to wait with the wise women, the “posse of clever maids” in T.J. O’Gorman’s untitled Advent poem below, who do not fear the dark of these days but rather light the way with Love and take risks by choosing to wait on God in person, in service and radical hospitality.
This stance does not offer an immediate comprehensive resolution, but it gathers the community in hope, creates space for God to move in, and animates some healing along the way. How might you join us this Advent?
Face to face with our limits,
Blinking before the frightful
Stare of our frailty,
Like a posse of clever maids
Who do not fear the dark
Because their readiness
Lights the search.
Becomes the measure of their love,
Their ability to wait —
An indication of their
Capacity to trust and take a chance.
Without the caution or predictability
Of knowing day or hour,
They fall back on that only
Of which they can be sure:
Love precedes them,
No door will ever close.
Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Now and through Dec. 31, thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!