The end of the liturgical year, the anything-but-quiet waiting weeks of Advent filled with the tug between the contemplative and commercial, the awesome birth of Christ in hearts anew on Christmas night, the first day of the brand new year and the World Day of Peace. . . . There has always been something almost magical about the turn of the year. Children with their excited hope for what Christmas morn will bring and cloistered nuns with their contemplative immersion in the mystery of all Christmas is — and everyone in between — are swept up by something fresh and exciting and innocent in these weeks.
I’ve been thinking about how much we need this gift particularly at this time, this year. Our hearts have been so beaten and tainted by the mainstreaming of aggressive and violent language. It has infiltrated our hearts and minds through social and news media on our computers and television screens. Then like an unwanted blot of dark ink it has soaked into our conversations and relationships and thoughts and desires and dreams….
How can I keep a deep spiritual sensitivity of mind and heart so that I live as a citizen of heaven while yet on this Earth? (Philippians 3:20) The ancient practice of cleansing our thoughts holds a key. This is how I’ve started practicing this watchfulness in these end-of-year weeks.
There are so many good things we could do; how do we know which specific deeds God desires most of us? This passage from the Letter to the Ephesians is full of clues. Words such as “rich in faithful love,” “through the great love with which he loved us,” and “it is through grace that you have been saved” tip us off. God has planned a tremendous work of art for humanity and civilization. This artistic creation is a direct reflection of God’s love and life. It is that simple. The Father, from all eternity, loved the Son. The Son turned around and, instead of holding on to this love which he had received, gave it away. He emptied himself, became a man, walked among us, lived our life, and died our death, so that, as the Father had done, he could pour himself out in love for us who needed salvation. It is by grace that we are saved. The deeds God desires of us are self-emptying acts of service of others, love to the point of giving our lives for one another.
Jesus, make my life a work of art. May I love others with a faithful love that seeks their good before my own.
From the book Cherished by the Lord
Big questions. Is God reliable? Is life reliable? It makes me think of when I was 21 and had a stroke. How can God be trusted when something goes wrong in life: an illness, a failure, a betrayal. How do we recover from these situations? Does God really love us?