Patience, People

Advent is a time of patience, and our patience is soon to be rewarded!

Among the various reflections I receive daily via e-mail were two that relate, albeit in slightly different ways, to the theme of patience. The first is Eknath Easwaren’s observation that

There is a close connection between speed and impatience. Our culture has become so speeded up today that no one has time to be patient. People in a hurry cannot be patient—so people in a hurry cannot really love. To love, we need to be sensitive to those around us, which is impossible if we are racing through life engrossed in all the things we need to do.

The second is from Caryll Houselander’s The Reed of God (a slim volume worth reading in its entirety). Houselander writes

Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions, unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures, doubts, anxieties and fears…. Our own effort will consist in sifting and sorting out everything that is not essential and that fills up space and silence in us and in discovering what sort of shape this emptiness in us is. From this we shall learn what sort of purpose God has for us. In what way are we to fulfill the work of giving Christ life in us?

Speeded up lives, overcrowded with too many nonessentials. Our invitation is to slow down and to lay aside the nonessentials, and to wait and see what God has in store for us.

Advertisements

Waning Days of Advent

Here is what seems to me a perfect poem as we enter the final days before Christmas, Denise Levertov’s Primary Wonder.

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.

And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

Believe Beyond Believing

My friend Bill included in his Christmas greetings some words from the advent hymn Each Winter As the Year Grows Older. I had not been familiar with the hymn and the excerpt he shared touched me deeply in light of our world today.

When race and class cry out for treason,
When sirens call for war,
They overshout the voice of reason
And scream till we ignore
All we held dear before.

Yet I believe beyond believing,
That life can spring from death:
That growth can flower from our grieving;
That we can catch our breath
And turn transfixed by faith.

O Child of ecstasy and sorrows,
O Prince of peace and pain,
Brighten today’s world by tomorrow’s,
Renew our lives again;
Lord Jesus, come and reign!

You can listen to the whole song here:

Believe beyond believing!

Advent Retreat In Daily Living: Calls and Responses to Invitations

Yesterday was the final session of the three-session Advent Retreat in Daily Living I offered at the University of St. Thomas School of Law this year. The theme of our first session was Creation and Fall, and in our second session last week we considered Promise in the Old Testament. The subject of today’s session was God’s Invitation and Responses to that Invitation.

After giving the participants time to share about their prayer with the reflection material I had distributed this week, I offered a reflection on God’s invitation for us to participate in his plan for salvation. I talked about God’s calls to Abraham, Moses, and other Old Testament figures. Then I talked about the God’s invitation for human participation in God’s entry into human form, addressing Joseph, Mary and Elizabeth.

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 20:59.) You can find a copy of the prayer materials I distributed to participants here.

I hope some of you have been able to participate in our retreat as we have gone along. If not, you can always return to the podcasts and/or the posted prayer material. And remember that if you go to the Podcast link at the top, you can find other Advent podcasts and prayer material.

Many blessings to all during this holy season.

Merton and Advent

Today, December 10, is the 47th anniversary of the death of Thomas Merton, poet, peace activist, Trappist monk, prolific writer, mystic, lover of nature, champion of social justice and contemplative.

Merton once wrote, “The Church’s belief in Christ is not a mere static assent to His historical existence, but a dynamic participation in the great cycle of actions which manifest in the world the love of the Father for the ones He has called to union with Himself, in his beloved Son.”

It is a great thought to keep in mind as we approach Christmas.

Our minds fill with images of a young couple who cannot find room in an inn as the woman approaches pregnancy. We focus on a star and shepherds and wise men. We listen to the prophesies of the coming of the Messiah.

And it is right that we celebrate the birth of Jesus into the world. But, even as we do, we need to keep in mind that our faith is about more than the historical existence of a man named Jesus.

Ultimately, it is about the love of God – a God who longs for nothing less than our total union with Him. A God who chooses to become human out of love – to show us what it means to be fully human – and fully divine.

And, as the Merton quote suggests, our realization of this reality demands a response. Not mere a passive enjoyment of that love, but our commitment to “manifest in the world” that love.

As we move through these days of Advent, days in which our world is groaning in suffering, we might ask how we might more fully manifest God’s love in the world.

Advent Retreat in Daily Living: Promise in the Old Testament

Yesterday was the second session of the three-session Advent Retreat in Daily Living I am offering at the University of St. Thomas School of Law this year. As always, we began by giving the participants time to share some of the fruits of their prayer this week with the material I distributed after our first session (Creation and Fall).

The subject of this second session was Promise in the Old Testament. In my reflection, I talked about the writings of three of the prophets – Isaiah, Micah and Malachi, although I spent the most time talking about Isaiah, one of the great prophets of Advent.

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 20:06.) You can find a copy of the prayer materials I distributed to participants here.

We Need Advent

Today is the Second Sunday in Advent.

Why do we need Advent? Jesus already came, didn’t he? So why do we need to prepare for His coming each year?

A song we sometimes sing in Mass during the Advent season (and at other times) – God of Day and God of Darkness – helps answer that question. Jesus came – He walked on this earth, he died and he rose, but

Still the nations curse the darkness,
Still the rich oppress the poor;
Still the earth is bruised and broken
By the ones who still want more.

Advent is here again because we desperately need it. Our world desperately needs it. If you have any doubt, read the newspapers. Look at the world around us – a world in desperate need of hope, of new birth.

We need this period of waiting and preparing. Unlike those waiting for the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago, for us the outcome of Advent is not a surprise. We go into Advent knowing the plot – we know Jesus Christ will be born. Indeed, we know the whole plot – we know that God will become human, live among us, die and then rise. So we wait each year for something we know is coming – the coming of Christmas, and our re-celebration of the birth of Christ and all that we know follows from that.

But we don’t just wait. We prepare ourselves. Advent offers us a chance to assess ourselves, to be sure we are ready to welcome Christ into our hearts, our homes, our world. It allows us to deepen our acceptance of God’s working through us to prepare for Christ’s reign. (Emphasis on “through us” – this is not a sit back and wait for God to make it all right attitude.)

And so as continue through these days of Advent, we might reflect on: What am I doing this Advent to give reality to the rule of Immanuel? How am I helping to birth Christ into the world?