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We are now half way through our Advent journey, this season of hope and expectant waiting. This year, I have been particularly struck by the words we have been hearing from the prophet Isaiah and how these words speak of finding life in unexpected places. A new bud, full of life, sprouting from an old, dead stump (Isaiah 11:1). A parched desert wasteland blooming forth with abundant flowers (Isaiah 35:1-2). What beautiful imagery for this season of hope. A reminder that God can bring forth life from even the most desolate situations. We see this also in the life of Jesus: born to a couple in poverty and raised in the backwater down of Nazareth; in his ministry, intentionally seeking out and raising up those who were rejected by society; and ending on the cross, where eternal life was found in the most unexpected of places – through death.
I can think of situations in my own life and ministry where life came from unexpected places.
· I volunteer with the Ignatian Spirituality Project, a program which offers retreats and spiritual reflection for women and men in recovery from addiction. For some of these women, they say that going to prison was the best thing that ever happened to them, because it was in that moment of total desolation that they turned to God.
· My parish community is largely Guatemalan. When they first arrived at the parish, they were not even allowed in the church. With time and change, they have been welcomed with open arms. Now, baptisms of little Latino babies are a frequent occurrence at our Sunday liturgies. Those who were once shut out are now the flourishing life of the parish.
· When I was in my mid-twenties and about to begin my career, I was surprised by an invitation to consider religious life. I never could have imaged the abundant life I would discover in the vows of obedience, poverty and celibacy.
During this season of Advent, we are invited not only to wait, but to wait with attentiveness. May our eyes be opened to the places where God is bringing forth life in unexpected places.