Look anew at Advent - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Look anew at Advent

I saw my youngest grandnephew, Kevin, crawl for the first time recently. It was a delightful experience to watch him explore the large living room of the parish house at Sacred Heart Cathedral, where I live.

His search wasn’t systematic, but before his stay with us was over, he examined all of the people and pieces of furniture that filled the room. He stared at everything and everyone. He reached out to touch. Sometimes he smiled at the touch; at other times he looked quite serious — almost as though he had questions about what he was touching.

I think of Kevin now as we all receive the biblical invitation to listen, to be attentive and to enter anew into the mystery of God’s saving love for us in Christ the Lord. That invitation calls us to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to deep truths with which we long have been familiar. But, it also calls us to do so in fresh and new ways so that we can deepen our friendship with the Lord, and understand more of the wonderful things God has done and continually does for us.

When I was watching Kevin make his tour, I tried to look carefully at each item he was exploring. It was an interesting experience to look with care at items I see every day but hardly ever notice. It helped me to appreciate them more — the graceful lines of a table, the comfort of my favorite sofa, the happy blend of colors in this recently refurbished space.

I think that our Advent life is meant to be like that. We don‘t need to do many new things. Rather, we are asked to bring an intentional, contemplative attentiveness to those elements of life that are important to us. I mean things like God’s love for us in the Lord Jesus. I mean the gift of life that is ours. I mean the relationships that strengthen us and help us grow. The new or deeper direction in which the Lord may be leading us. And the ways in which the Lord may be asking us to extend — to be — his compassion to sisters and brothers in need.

In a hectic, fast-paced world, even with talk about multitasking these days, it is difficult to do more than one thing at a time — especially when one of them is to give deep, inner attention to things that really matter.

I don’t have any one-size-fits-all recommendations as to precisely how you might come to such a disposition of attentiveness. There are, however, some tried and true methods that can help us contemplate Advent themes with fresh insight. You might think about one or another of the following:

1. Participate in the Sunday Eucharistic Liturgy with the intention of paying special attention to all that comes to you via your senses — the Word you hear proclaimed, the aroma of incense, the savoring of the Eucharist in which you share. Pay particular attention, too, to the people with whom you share the experience — and be sure to embrace them in your prayer during the liturgy. Be mindful especially of those whose joys and sorrows you know. When we come to the liturgy with such dispositions, the liturgy sheds light on our lives and we more easily present our lives to the Lord.

2. It can be helpful during the Advent season to be mindful in easy and peaceful ways of the ebb and flow of your faith life, starting as far back as you can remember. When we remember in a spirit of faith the ups and downs of life and how we have responded to them, we become more aware of the compassionate and gracious character of the Lord’s love for us. No matter what we decide or what direction we take, the Lord is always there helping, always ready to forgive. When we are in touch with all of that, the readings of Advent mean more to us than ever.

3. Without forcing it, try not to take for granted those things that bring pleasure to your life. To put it more positively, take some time to reflect upon and give thanks for the gift you have received when you read a good book, watch an exciting ball game or spend time with someone you love. Such a disposition heightens our awareness of how much we owe to God and to neighbor, and that always opens us to new gifts.

I pray that your experiences of Advent will hold for you the discovery and awe Kevin experienced in his exploration of our living room.

Peace to all.

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