Navigating a new workplace, a special project, or uncharted territory (whatever that may be) can be a challenge. In my first couple of months at the MBCE, I tried to figure out what the expectations for my volunteer work here were. I was able to settle in, dive into our work at the Center, and try my best to meet those expectations. As the year moves along, I continue to add to my understanding of what is expected of a Marist Volunteer. This helps foster a reflective process where I ask “Why do we do this work?” The answer becomes clearer and clearer.
Expectation is a fitting word for the season of Advent. This Sunday, a fourth candle will be lit on advent wreaths worldwide in preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ. That’s who we’re expecting! Even the name of the season, advent, signals us towards an arrival. Someone is on their way. In our chapel there is a banner that reads: “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God fourteen hundred years ago, if I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture? We are all meant to be mothers of God. God is always needing to be born.”
This quote from Meister Eckhart made me consider “How do I bring Jesus to other people?” In terms of expectations, part of the vision of our Center is to make Jesus known and loved, especially among young people. Our volunteer program has offered me a great opportunity to “give birth to Jesus” through our mission here at the Center. Through our ministry to youth, hospitality, manual labor, and intentional community, Christ has been present with us. A big part of our work is to help people experience that presence as well!
A lot of people have commented over the past months: “There is a lot to do up here.” or “So you and the staff work on all of this?” Yes, together as a property community we do! We also receive help from generous volunteers and the groups that join us throughout the year. It is a group effort. The work can be tough, but that is okay. After all, childbirth is not easy! We must consider that the story of Jesus’ birth is beautiful, but the actual event could not have been easy. Mary and Joseph had to travel, find a place to stay, and then Mary had to give birth to a child. It was not easy then, and it is not easy now. That is something to consider as we struggle or find our own work difficult. Through all of this, the work remains worthwhile and valuable.
In the way of Mary, we should be open to the work. When we are called to some type of work, a willingness and a desire usually accompany that work. A response is also necessary. At the Annunciation (another beautiful story that must have been at least a shock or surprise), Mary accepts God’s call saying “I am the Lord's servant, May your word to me be fulfilled." She accepts the work of carrying Christ, and raising him. I am reminded of the question Jesus asks Bartimaeus, the blind man in the Mark and Luke accounts. “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus replies, “Rabbi, I want to see.” This man’s desire became a reality, and it was Jesus’ response to help him. The model of a servant leader.
When we are fulfilled, blessed, struggling, desiring, what do we do with that? Do we hold on to it? Mary gave of herself, Bartimaeus shares his desire, and Jesus acts in His power. All is being given, a full effort. I think maybe that is God’s expectation this advent, and likely His desire.
This Advent season calls us to expectation, to “birthing”, to express our desires, and to serve. As Christ draws near, we need to ask “What do you want me to do for you?” and “What do you want me to do with you?” Listening, expecting an answer, with some burning desire in our hearts, we wait...