Advent Reflections – December 23, 2015

Living in Harmony: Real Life

Living in harmony and unity grows out of the cultivation of a few habits. Really, living in harmony and unity, within ourselves, with others, and with God could be concluded to be our main goal in life. After all, Jesus’ final prayer, according to the Gospel of John, was

That they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also be in us. John 17:21

Jesus’ final prayer is about our unity, both with God and with one another. You can be sure that if this is a desire of Jesus, it is a desire of Mary, our Mother, whose purpose is always to concretely bring us into greater unity with her Son. In a way, each of the themes we have reflected on this Advent season pave the way for unity.

  1. Open to Life – we cannot find harmony and unity with others if we are not open to experiencing their life, no matter how different it is from our own. No only must we be open to it, we must find a way to reach common ground when our differing experiences cause us to view one another in suspicious, concerning or even hostile lights.
  2. Able to Love without Requiring Love in Return – we cannot find harmony and unity with others if we are not willing to be the first to love, to be the first to extend a hand of friendship. Being willing to love without requiring or needing love in return means making ourselves vulnerable and humble. We love not because someone else acted toward us in kindness, generosity, respect, or love first, but because we have been created in the image and likeness of Love Itself. We love because God loved us first, unconditionally and completely (cf. 1 John 4:19).
  3. Willing to Sacrifice for Others – we cannot experience harmony and unity with others if we are not willing to give up something of ourselves for the sake of the other. The gift of perfect love, of perfect unity, is Jesus on the cross, giving His whole self for the sake of our broken, imperfect, yet beautiful selves. If we are to live out Jesus’ call for unity, we can expect nothing less to be demanded of us. The more we die to self, the more we allow God to move and shape our lives, the greater and more perfect unity we will experience.
  4. Capable of Forgiveness – we cannot experience harmony and unity with others if we are not willing to seek and extend forgiveness. We are no longer the perfect creatures from the garden. We are broken. We are sinful. We are in need of mercy. These are not sentiments. They are facts. If we wish to find true harmony with one another and with God, we must accept the fact that we will need to become the living embodiment of forgiveness – quick to forgive and quick to seek forgiveness.

The beauty of Jesus’ final prayer is that even before He prayed it, He had prepared for us a practical, living example of how to bring it to fruition. The example of Mary’s Motherhood shines forth for each person, illuminating key moments which, when gathered together, present a path for holiness, for peace, and for unity among all peoples and most importantly, unity with her Son, Jesus our Savior.

 

Advent Reflections – December 14, 2015

Willing to Make Sacrifices for Others: In Church Tradition

In late November, our family participated in a new ritual that our parish began at the end of October. Each week, a family is bringing home a special crucifix and promises to pray together each day, in the presence of this crucifix, for vocations, especially vocations to military chaplaincy. It is sitting on my kitchen table from where we prayed with it last night at dinner, watching over me as I write this post.

If I felt I needed to do research or seek inspiration for this post, I need not look farther than across the table. There, waiting for me and you with open arms, is Jesus, forsaken and crucified. Here is God, the creator and savior of the universe, who is greater than anything we can conceive of, subject to human cruelty, torture, pain and anguish. For what? For what purpose could God, who operates outside of time and space, enter into the finite world as a baby, born of simple origins, to live a simple life and to die an unwarranted painful death?

Love.

jesus-753063_1920For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17

This is really what we are waiting for, what we are preparing for. Yes, we are waiting for Jesus to come as a babe. But we would be missing the point if we did not connect cradle with cross. One of my favorite Advent songs is called “Wood of the Cradle.” This is the last line of the refrain:

Kneel at the manger and rise from the grave.

Jesus gives us the ultimate example of self-sacrificing love. What is one way you can unite yourself with Jesus Crucified today?

Advent Reflections – December 11, 2015

Able to Love without Requiring Love in Return: Real Life

How do we do this in real life? How do we love someone without expecting them to love us back or at least expecting some kind of good return on our investment?

For starters, love is a choice. We are conditioned from an early age to associate love with good feelings, of warmth, hearts and red roses. When we understand love in this way, the focus is inward – it’s all about me and how I feel loved. We will never be satisfied with this kind of love.

The love that does not need anything in return is a much deeper, harder and more profound love. Rather than a love of self, this kind of love stretches beyond us and reaches to the other person. This selfless love seeks first the comfort, health, nourishment and safety of the other person, setting their needs above your own. A loving choice places someone else in the center of your focus, rather than yourself.

Think of someone who has shown you this kind of love, a love that put your own needs before their own. Reach out to them if you are able and thank them.