Waiting for a Sign

During my twenty years as a picture framer, I saw a lot of art. Most of it was brought in by customers who had a story to tell about the piece they were framing. Other was art we chose to display on the walls, for sale, but also to show our picture framing skills. A customer once asked me if I didn’t want to take everything home with me. No. I didn’t. But some pieces attracted me in such a way that I did, indeed, take them home. The newly painted walls of my office are still empty. Concrete block walls can’t be attacked with a brad and a picture hook. They require a drill and screw for the heavy pieces, and Command hooks or some other system for the lighter weight pieces. Two black and white pictures of Mary await hanging. One is a rather fierce depiction that shows Mary’s heart being pierced by swords, a reference to Simeon’s prediction at Jesus’ dedication (Luke 2:35). The other is “Our Lady of Medjugorje,” a radiant Mary ascending into heaven, who appeared in a vision to six teenagers in Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1981.
Many days, the two pictures reflect the highs and lows in life. Mary’s son would suffer, and so would she. Almost every life has its suffering moments on behalf of those whom we love. Diagnoses of cancer, death after a long illness, a sudden, unexplained disease that rapidly takes a young person from us, a suicide that was totally unanticipated, an accident, aim the swords directly into our hearts. We are pierced, unsure if we will survive the pain, sometimes unsure if we want to survive. The other Mary, who calmly looks down with benevolence, seems far less human, far more remote. And yet, at Medjugorge and in many other places throughout the world, Our Lady has been a source of comfort, advice and assurance for people in need. Her appearances are often to those who live in remote areas, people who are poor or less educated, or others who are often ignored or abused by the systems of both church and state. There is Mary, doing what she can to offer hope and peace to those who see her. Looking at that picture, I see Mary’s commitment to the people for whom her son suffered. (One of my favorite books about Mary is Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel of Mary, Faith, and Friendship by Diane Schoemperlen, in which Mary stops in for a vacation from her exhausting work of caring for people!)
Perhaps my favorite picture waiting to be hung in my office is not that of Mary. Although it could be. A copy of an ink and watercolor by Brian Andreas (Story People: Art for Real People) depicting a multi-colored, rather kooky looking woman, is surrounded by these words. “I used to wait for a sign, she said, before I did anything. Then one night I had a dream & an angel in black tights came to me & said, You can start any time now & then I said is this a sign? & the angel started laughing & I woke up. Now, I think the whole word is filled with signs, but if there’s no laughter, I know they’re not for me.” It seems to me that Mary – in whatever way she is depicted – would appreciate that angel in black tights. I do, and I hope you will, too.
Stay safe and be blessed,
Pastor Barbara

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