Advent is my favorite time of the entire liturgical year! I love the anticipation and HOPE that the readings at Mass convey, and the emphasis on preparing for Christ’s coming. We are to prepare for His coming in three ways during this season: reflecting on Christ’s entrance into human history through His Incarnation as a baby, His second coming at the end of time, and we prepare to receive Him more intentionally when He comes to us in the Eucharist and in our encounters with the human person. Mother Teresa once said, “In the Eucharist I see Christ in the appearance of the bread; in the slums, I see Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor. The Eucharist and the poor are but one love for me.”
I have been reflecting on how I should best prepare for His coming during this Advent season, and I am once again brought face to face with the stark change that has occurred in my attitude toward life. Much of my desire to be “serious Catholic” in the past was motivated by a very “black and white” approach to the world. I have been amused when talking with friends recently by some of the things they say I told them in the past about holiness and the meaning of life. I was very certain of how holiness is achieved and felt my mission as a religious was very clear. But PRAISE GOD for the hard knocks of life! I, like Paul, have been “knocked off my horse” and from my clear mission to consider again what it really means to belong to God. As a person who tends to be focused on accomplishment, I wanted to follow God in a way that was socially acceptable and clear in purpose. Of course it should follow the dictates of common sense and clearly reflect God’s approval! But what if that’s not GOD’S plan? I continue to struggle with discouragement over “losing my mission.” All I was going to “accomplish for God” now seems to have been just an illusion. I wanted my life to be important, to have MEANING.
I am starting to realize that God is much less concerned with me being successful at doing anything “for Him” than He is interested in helping me to KNOW HIM. And that the MEANING that I wanted to give to my life is not so much my work, but His. My motto is the Scripture from the Prodigal son story: “You are with Me always, and everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31) THIS is what I am to live: to KNOW that I am with Him, and that what I seek, I already possess in this relationship with the Father. I am starting to learn that “finding God’s will” is not necessarily the hard job that I have made it. In fact, I think His will is pretty simple: LOVE. That’s it. He wants us to know we are loved, and to help every person we meet to know they are VALUED and LOVED!!! Perhaps God intends for me to recognize and appreciate the meaning He has imbedded in the very smallest things, the places that seem insignificant. Rather than accomplishing a plan and giving meaning through my work, perhaps I have been placed here on earth to recognize meaning, appreciate it, and see the extravagant love God manifests in the littlest things. That is beauty too, and perhaps is the real source of happiness: “to soak up meaning” rather than to create it myself. This is my HOPE for this Advent.