By Barb Arland-Fye
Several months ago Nancy, The Catholic Messenger’s circulation manager, brought an African violet to place on a window sill in my office. Her gift came in response to wistful comments I’d made about the thriving population of African violets lovingly tended to by Barb in the Faith Formation office across the hall. Plants have failed to thrive for me in the past, so I consulted with Barb about the care of my violet. Now I’m witnessing a miracle. Exquisite white blossoms with a button of pale purple in the middle rise above the velvet-like leaves, stretching toward the sunlight. For me, this violet plant is a manifestation of God.
I mentioned this observation to Father Andy Kelly who writes a weekly Gospel reflection for The Catholic Messenger. His column for the first Sunday of Advent reflects on the manifestations of God during this “in-between” time, “the Advent of the present moment that believers need to be alert about and stay awake for”
Well into my adult years I understood God’s manifestations to be contained in human history, the sacraments and Christ’s return at the end of time. I didn’t begin to experience the “Advent of the present moment” until later, during my studies and my work for The Catholic Messenger. One year, I took part in the Diocese of Davenport’s Stewardship Institute where I was introduced to the concept of gift. Everything I am, everything I possess and the things of nature — all of these are gifts from God.
This revelation has enhanced my awareness of God’s presence in daily life and to be more attuned to God moments. Prayer plays a huge role, too, along with Scripture. These are among the best ways to invite God into my life. Even an advertisement in this week’s Catholic Messenger from the Trappist Monks of Peosta, Iowa, heightens my awareness of God in the present moment. “The life of a monk is devoted to finding the divine in all things,” reads one line of the ad. I couldn’t help but think of the white violet plant thriving on my window sill.
Fr. Kelly’s challenge to readers of his Gospel reflection for the first Sunday of Advent made me realize that the Advent of the present moment calls me to action every day. God is manifest in the hungry, the poor, the sick and the stranger, among others. I know that, but acting upon that knowledge is the tricky part in my daily life. Right now, I’m dealing with an autistic son bursting with excitement and anxiety over the changes in routine this season will bring. In his need for reassurance, he asks the same questions repeatedly. It’s really hard to practice patience, but I know that’s what God wants of me right now.
“… Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping …” (Mk. 13:33-37). I need to be alert every day, not just during Advent. I’m hoping the white violet blossoms will serve as a beautiful reminder.