Wednesday, December 25, 2013

In the Fullness of Time

A Christmas Reflection from Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT :
At the time of Jesus’ birth, the whole world is in movement.  Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to be counted in the census, reminding us that the world today is also traveling toward its definitive encounter with God.  The journey of the Holy Family toward the moment in which God enters the world from the womb of Mary, in the Person of Jesus Christ, for all human eyes to see, reminds us that we too are moving on our own journey through this life, in company with millions of others, to our own definitive encounter with God.

Mary and Joseph found no comfort, no welcome, no shelter, no understanding from the world on this journey.  They followed and were supported by heavenly inspirations and light, the presence of angels, and their own profound faith in God’s never-changing goodness and His ever-present Providence.   This was their strength and consolation.

We also should not expect too much help from the world on this journey.  The world has no space for God.  No time. No real interest.  It offers only distraction and a kind of movement which keeps the human heart in confusion, apprehension and vague unhappiness.  The world is full of activity which often has no ultimate meaning.  This activity spends the precious moments allotted to us to find our way home to Our Heavenly Father.

God enters our world in the fullness of time because He can no longer wait to be with us in Person.  But Christmas also comes because mankind, in the persons of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men, seek God as well; because the intense, hidden longing of their souls has not been misinterpreted to them by the false prophets of the world.  Their interior has not been cluttered with distraction.  It is unfettered by illusion.  God is their inner life and moves them in a mutual, eager longing, in silence, in poverty, in simplicity, in penetrating light and redeeming love.

Mary and Joseph “walk the way of perfection” to Bethlehem because they know God and are the friends of God. They call us to follow this way with them, a way which holds difficulty, discomfort, the contempt of the world, but which brings us to be the friends of God, as the psalmist says:  “He who walks the way of perfection shall be my friend.”  -Ps 101   Jesus silently stirs our hearts and beckons us to the embrace of true friendship with Himself, promising to make known to us all that He has heard from the Father. –Jn 15:15  This happens in God’s way, in His time and by His choosing.  And it brings us the most precious gift of all, God Himself as a tiny baby depending on us to love Him, to care for Him and nurture His life in ourselves and in others.

In Bethlehem, two longings meet:  the longing of God and the longing of man.  Two longings answer each other and fulfill each other.  May our poor and lowly souls this Christmas be still as the stable in Bethlehem at midnight, ever ready to receive our Lord in humble awe, in mutual longing.  May we be the ones to be wrapped tightly with the gifts of Christmas peace, light, love and joy.  And may that Divine love which becomes incarnate in Bethlehem, radiate outward to all mankind through our oneness with the Holy Family in this sublime mystery.  May this Christmas find us and those we love and hold dear, numbered in the heavenly census, as citizens traveling joyfully forward to our celestial Fatherland.

United with all of you in the joy and light of the greatest gift of the Most Holy Trinity this Christmas:  our Savior and Beloved.

Sr. Anne Marie

Society of Our Lady

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Practice of Virtue

Happy Advent to everyone! We come again to this wonderful time of year wherein we prepare our hearts and our lives for the coming of Jesus Christ. This is a time marked by interior cleansing, reconciliation, silence and beauty.

There are many wonderful talks on about Advent and Fr. Robert Barron at always has great resources about our life of faith and how to grow in holiness.

For us Catholics, this really is a brand new year and it begins with a deep outpouring of grace to aid us along the path. As you reflect upon the year gone by; what do you wish was different about your life? What changes would you like to see this coming year? Ask for the help of God and begin that path now.

As I was pondering this evening and practicing some music for an upcoming Mass, I was reflecting upon the fact that sometimes I really love to sing (and sometimes I don't!). And as I listen to people like Audrey Assad and Kim Walker-Smith, I surely wish that I could sing out in such beauty from the depths of my heart and soul like they do. But.....I can't. Why? Well, I may have that potential within somewhere but my voice remains untrained. I am not free to sing like that because I don't have the training or the practice to sing with such competence and glory. I see something that I desire but my voice is not trained enough to achieve it.

This is very similar to our spiritual lives. True freedom is being able to see what is good and then choose to do that good. How often we admire people who are kind, patient, hard working, courageous, brave etc., and what we may not realize is that they have had a long training in that virtue aided by the grace of God. They don't develop competency in that virtue overnight anymore than Audrey or Kim achieved a disciplined voice in one music lesson. It takes practice, hard work and sacrifice.

Maybe this Advent, you might want to look at a virtue you desire to acquire and have a conversation with God about that. Do you struggle with addiction or luke-warmness and desire to be pure and have a heart on fire for God? Do you struggle with judgment or criticism or anger and desire to be generous, kind and giving? Talk to God about that. Listen to what He says and make a plan of action.

Nothing ever happens by having only good intentions. We must choose the path of grace and dedication. And by doing so, we choose the path of freedom.

Let us pray for one another on this brief but powerful journey toward Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World.