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 15, 2015

Willing to Make Sacrifices for Others: Real Life

Real life is full of opportunities for sacrifice. Because of the sinful nature of human beings, we operate on with a “me first” mentality. When we make a sacrifice for a loved one, or anyone really, we are putting that person before ourselves, before any selfish or prideful desires. These sacrifices can be small – think about letting someone merge before you next time you are in traffic (with a smile on your face). Or, they can be more significant – would you consider giving a full tithe of your income to support your church (biblically, a tithe is 10% of your earnings – before taxes now, we are talking first fruits here)?

Sacrifices can also be less tangible, such as the sacrifice of time. You could choose to stay home, warm and comfortable and watch a football game. Or, you can volunteer to ring a bell by a red bucket for  a Sunday afternoon in the cold with the Salvation Army, collecting donations for the poor of your community.

I know that traditionally Lent is the season for sacrifices, but as we approach the last days of Advent, consider what you might sacrifice or give up to better prepare your heart for the coming of Christ. After all, at Christmas Jesus isn’t just born in the stable. If we let Him, He would be born in our hearts.

What is one sacrifice you could make that will help you better prepare for the coming of Christ in just a few days?

Advent Reflections – December 13, 2015

Willing to Make Sacrifices for Others: Mary in Scripture

The thing about choices is that by choosing to walk down one path I have to necessarily reject or sacrifice whatever lay down the opposing path. When Mary was visited by Gabriel, she had two choices. By choosing her fiat, her yes to God, Mary was at that same moment saying “no” to the hopes and dreams she had envisioned for her life.

Mary was a young girl, recently betrothed to Joseph. Just as any couple just starting out, they must have had plans for the future. Maybe growing Joseph’s business, assisting their parents and other relatives, participating in upcoming pilgrimages to Jerusalem, etc. Mary’s participation in God’s creative plan meant sacrificing other dreams she (and Joseph to an extent) might have had. Her trust and obedience to God allowed her to let go of the life she dreamt she would lead. Her love for God, and by extension her love for Jesus, gave her the strength she needed for such a sacrifice. The life that God had in store was beyond her wildest imaginings.

Can you think of a time you sacrificed something out of love for another person? Did it change you in any way?