Advent Thoughts – Be Vigilant

 

I apologize, I haven’t been writing much at this blog lately.  Things have been pretty busy and my focus has been elsewhere.  I’m hoping to get back to a more consistent blogging schedule soon.

 

In today’s Gospel, Luke says in 21:34-36

 

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

 

I heard this at Mass this morning and it just struck me.  How often am I too distracted by what is going on at home or work or society in general to pay attention to the spiritual?  I get distracted by Facebook, Twitter, running, house chores, diet, reading, all sorts of things and I don’t take the time to quietly meditate on my relationship with God.

 

I think it becomes even more apparent at Christmas.  Father Jason said this morning (paraphrasing) that in the “world” it’s already Christmas, and that by the time December 25th gets here, everyone’s tired of it.  But for Christians who have been paying attention to the meaning behind the season, December 25th is the celebration – we are in a period of waiting.  Waiting for the birth of Christ the King.  We need to be vigilant for ways to watch for Christ’s blessing during this busy time.

 

This year, my husband and I are trying to get all of our gift-buying done early.  Typically, we don’t start decorating for Christmas until after my birthday and I’d like to have all of our purchases done by then as well this year.  I really want to focus my girls on the true meaning of Christmas and taking the time to sit with them and talk about Advent.  They see the Advent wreath at Mass, but they don’t know the meanings.  I will confess – I don’t truly know them as well.  I want to make this season special for them and start creating traditions – now that they are old enough to understand.

 

I need to be vigilant.  I need to watch for those gifts that are presented to me as I go throughout my day.  I need to make sure I spend time communing with God, even beyond this season.  I need to make sure my heart does not become overwhelmed by daily life.

 

How will you be vigilant this Advent?

 

Being Watchful During Advent

In the readings for the first Sunday of Advent, we were admonished to “be watchful”.

  • Be watchful for Jesus. 
  • Be watchful for opportunities to minister to others. 
  • Be watchful for others ministering to us. 
  • Be watchful for the movement of the Holy Spirit

Be watchful for Jesus.  To Christians, we are in a perpetual season of Advent, waiting for the coming of Christ. This is amplified annually during the Christmas season as we wait for the birth of the Christ-child. Our readings, our reflections are about watching…watching those around us for the joy of the season.

I am seeing this daily in our home. This is the first Christmas that our youngest actually understands that there’s something going on. She is sooo excited about Christmas – sure, it’s the excitement of Santa and of getting gifts, but she is enthralled by everything Christmas-related. She was so happy to help me set up our small Nativity scene the other night. We talked about each piece and what they were. Now whenever she walks by it, she says that it’s her “special thing” that she did with Mommy. For her, Advent is taking “too long”; but for us, it’s not long enough.

Be watchful for opportunities to minister to others. The holidays are a time that donations spike. People are in a giving spirit and they are called upon, whether by others or by their conscience, to give of their time, money, or talents. Ministering to others doesn’t have to be formal affair…maybe it’s as simple as holding the door for someone who is burdened with items, or a kind smile when you see someone who is frazzled. It may be volunteering for a task at work, your church, or other organization that would stretch your comfort level. It’s amazing how ministering to others can influence your everyday life.

Be watchful for others ministering to us. I tend to rush through my day always playing catch-up. I don’t always notice others as I go about my tasks. I tend to want to do things on my own, and I will struggle through a task even though someone else may have offered to help. My challenge in the coming years is to learn to accept others who are ministering to me. To accept that smile, to accept that offer to babysit, to accept that little girl’s hand in mine and not to rush through my day. Accept each person ministering to you as a gift and say “Thank you” with a spirit of thankfulness and grace in your heart.

Be watchful for the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves in unexpected ways. Stories of people who made a serendipitous connection with a stranger abound, or how the non-answer to a prayer was really the answer to the deeper prayer. Be watchful for how the Holy Spirit moves in your life and the lives of those around you. For us, we struggled for years with wanting to have a child. We decided to become foster parents so that we could help others, but we still wanted to have a child of our own. We were finally blessed with the gift of two little girls who fit perfectly into our lives and our family. God heard our cries and even though we weren’t blessed with a child of our bodies, we were blessed with children of our heart. The Holy Spirit moved in mysterious ways.

How have you been watchful this Advent season?

What I am Thankful For – Day 10

I am thankful for the opportunity to spend time quietly in adoration today.  I took an early lunch and spent an hour at church this morning sitting quietly in adoration of the Blessed Eucharist.  I don’t usually sit in adoration, and although I like doing adoration at night, it was nice to be able to take time out of my day and relax.

It allows me the opportunity to refocus.  Today, I read The Lucado Inspirational Reader while sitting in adoration.  It gave me an opportunity to reflect on my relationship with God and prayer in general.  There were lots of times I just sat and thought about particular passages.  I know that the other people at adoration tend to sit and pray the rosary, but I am not comfortable doing that, especially since I haven’t prayed the rosary in such a long time.

I am trying to learn and trying to re-evaluate certain things in my life.  This is not a fast process by any means, and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to explore my faith.

A Prayer to Accept Change

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, Lord, things change again.

When will I be able to rest in the comfort of knowing what comes next?

 

You, who transcend all time,

who created the stars and set them in place,

you, who are ageless yet known in every age,

grant me the grace to accept the

changes that are happening.

 

Empty my heart of anxiety,

and fill it instead with wonder and awe.

Release me from the chains of complacency,

and bind me to your ever-moving Spirit.

 

When the things I believed to be permanent and stable are left by the way side,

enfold me in your undying love that I may remember in whom all things are

bound.

 

When fear of something new paralyzes me,

And grief cripples me with anger over the loss of what had been,

Send your angels to give me a gentle push over that frightening edge into the unknown,

So that I may learn to trust in you.

 

For you alone are eternal.

You alone are enduring.

You alone are the everlasting Lord.

And in you alone will this restless world find peace.

Amen

-Diana Macalintal (2010)

This was read the other night at church, and it was especially appropriate since we are in the midst of much change – the New Roman Missal is due to be released in November, we are undergoing diocesean strategic planning, plus our parish will be beginning strategic planning in the next few months.  Our parish needs to have the strength to make some difficult decisions and still remain true to our core.  We are a parish with a great sense of community that can only get stronger.  We have undergone a lot of change in the last 15 years – not because chose to, but because the situation forced us to.

At every turn, change is upon us – no matter if it is at church, at home, or at work.  Change can be uncomfortable, and it may make people leave because they are unwilling or unable to change.  It boils down to how the leadership of the organization approaches change.  Are they willing to undertake the journey with the group, or do they subliminally set up roadblocks or give the impression they don’t want to change?  If the leadership is willing, change will come and the journey will be a lot easier than if leadership gives the impression that the change is unwelcome.   As Father Jason said tonight, “I can’t make the decision for the parish, but I can walk along with you during the journey.”  That’s what is required of leaders – to walk the journey.

Prayer for Humility

This is another one I read a few months ago.  I had a boss once who said that I need to work on being more humble.  I am still working on that, but at least now I am more cognizant of how I appear to others.

A PRIVATE LITANY OF HUMILITY
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honoured, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of comfort and ease, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being criticized, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being passed over, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being lonely, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being hurt, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering, deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, strengthen me with your Spirit.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, teach me your ways.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
help me put my self importance aside
to learn the kind of cooperation with others
that makes possible the presence of your Abba’s household.

Adapted from a prayer by Rafael, Cardinal Merry Del Val,
from the prayer book, For Jesuits, 1963, Loyola University Press