God Has Not Forgotten Us

On this first Monday in Advent, let me share a reflection written by Jack Treloar, S.J., one of the Jesuits on staff at the Oshkosh Jesuit Retreat House. He writes:

There is a great temptation abroad.  Perhaps one can summarize it as the invitation to weariness.  We certainly have many things around us that encourage us to feel drained.  The fight against COVID has been exhausting and quarreling about vaccination adds to the trial of the disease itself.  Politicians cannot decide anything, and in their disagreement, they have forgotten about the healthy give and take of compromise.  The list of wearying topics is endless.

Amid all our fatigue, we move into the Season of Advent, a season of consolation.  We must realize that Jesus came to a world filled with weariness; but he came to bring good news.  God has not forgotten us. Gerard Manley Hopkins recalls God’s care in his poem, God’s Grandeur.  He says, “The world’s charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out like shining from shook foil.”  Hopkins reminds us that even in dark and wearisome times God’s grandeur is present if we only look around.  As winter approaches can we see the beauty of snow and ice?  Can we anticipate the arrival of one who saves us? Can we give of ourselves to those in need?  Whether it’s snow and ice, or the arrival of the Savior, in our care for others God’s grandeur confronts our weariness letting us know that he cherishes us and even sends us a savior.

Advent is a season of hope! Let’s live into that hope in the midst of the things that threaten to drag us down.

Grounded in Action

Those formed by Ignatian Spirituality are said to be “contemplatives in action.”  Ignatius and his Exercises aim at an engagement with the world that is simultaneously active and contemplative. Contemplatives in action unite themselves with God by joining God’s active labor to save and heal the world. 

To be sure, prayer and retreat are essential – after all, it is God’s plan we are about, not our own. But out of our deepened relationship with God, we co-labor with Christ, doing God’s work in the world.

I thought this quote from John Philip Newell’s Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul, which came via e-mail this morning contains a beautiful expression of this:

Our vision of reawakening to sacredness needs to be grounded in action. It is not enough only to see compassionately. Nor is it enough even just to feel compassionately, as essential as this is. Compassion needs also to be embodied, both in the relationships of our lives and communities and in the structures of our societies and nations.

How will you embody compassion today?

Our Call To Sainthood

Today the Catholic Church celebrates All Saints Day. We can describe the day in many ways, but whatever else it is, the day reminds us of what we are all called to be.

Kenneth Woodward, former Newsweek religions editor, once defined a saint as“someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like – and of what we are called to be.”

One could say that we have all we need in Jesus to see what we are called to be.  And there is some truth to that.  Jesus Christ incarnated was fully human and is, of course, the supreme example of human holiness, the ultimate model for our lives.  My aim as a Christian disciple is to see as Jesus saw, to love as Jesus loved, to be Christ in the world.  And that is important.  But for all our proclamation of our belief that Jesus was fully human, it is too easy for people to say (or at least think even if they don’t say it out loud) – yeah, well easy for him – he was God after all.  So of course it was easier for him than for me.

And that is where I think the Saints are helpful to us.   They serve as examples about whom we can’t say – oh well, he or she was God.  No:  He or she was human – just like us.  These human beings heard Jesus’ call and followed it.  Saints provide examples to us, models, they give us strength for own journeys.

When I visualize the communion of saints, front and center are a variety of folks who inspire me in various ways – Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Francis of Assisi, Vincent dePaul. I suspect you “top” saints might include others.

The variety reminds us that the saints help us understand how God works in the lives of individuals.  James Martin, in his book My Life with the Saints, writes: “Each saint was holy in his or her unique way, revealing how God celebrates individuality.”  And he cites C.L. Lewis, who wrote in Mere Christianity, “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.”  Martin continues: “This gave me enormous consolation, for I realized that none of us are meant to be Therese of Lisieux or Pope John XXIII or Thomas More.  We’re meant to be ourselves, and meant to allow God to work in and through our own individuality, our own humanity.”

Who stands front and center in your visualization of the communion of saints?  Which saints inspire you and remind you of your own call to sainthood?