Advent has begun! Candles? Check. Meaningful activities planned for kids? Check. Extra cleaning, baking, service projects, prayer time for me and the family, gathering with friends and family, etc, etc.! Since having kids, my Advents have been considerably crazier than before. A little like my son’s soccer matches…
Have you ever watched 5 year-olds play soccer? Fun, hopefully. But a bit crazy, to say the least! Everyone heading in the same direction, reacting to whatever happens, no strategy, sometimes no idea of where (or what) the goal is.
Parenting can be a bit like that. And with it Advent, too, don’t you think? We can be out running around, giving it our best effort, keeping our eye on the ball… and, at the same time, losing sight of the bigger picture. Ahh, time to slow down for a moment! Our 5 year-old started talking about “recharging stations” this fall during soccer season, saying, “I head back to my recharging station, take a deep breath and figure out what to do next.”
When you think about it, Advent – and Lent, retreats, regular prayer & reflection – are our recharging stations, places where we make room for contemplation, for new insights, intentions and unexpected new directions. As a parent and as a disciple, I am much more effective (and prophetic) when I am rooted in such transformative stillness. God is speaking in and through all of life. Each person. Each moment. These encounters are part of our ongoing conversion. Can you even imagine how much we must miss?
Think of Romero for a moment. When he was named archbishop, he was by all accounts a good and holy man, pastoral and prayerful. But, he was not yet the prophet he became. Here you can read how, “By Romero’s own account, he owed his change of attitude to his brief tenure as bishop of Santiago de María, where he witnessed first-hand the suffering of El Salvador’s landless poor.” Like us, there was still so much of God of which he was unaware. He kept listening, and he continued to be transformed. His world was shattered by how he encountered Christ in the poor, as our worlds must be.
“What is most fundamental is the courage not to turn away from the eyes of the poor but to allow them to break our heart and shatter our world.” Dean Brackley, S.J.
For us as parents, Advent can be a challenging time as we try to keep the focus on Christ and honor what this season is about. For us as disciples, it is just as important that we find ways to do this that allow time for our own transformation. As a “recharging station” Advent is a bit of a boot-camp for our faith as the new church year begins. During this time, we are encouraged to draw closer to Christ, allow Him to open our eyes and be transformed anew. The activities we choose, the way we pray, the gifts we make and buy, how we celebrate – these should all lead us to Christ.
I hope we relish the going within and slowing down, contemplating again the wondrous gift of God-with-us, Emmanuel. And, that we take time to name how we have encountered Christ in friend and stranger. May this awareness overwhelm us with awe and gratitude! Just as importantly I hope that we keep our hearts wide open as we consider how we may be overlooking Christ – who is unrecognized in different forms by each of us. May that awareness shatter our worlds, deepen our understanding of the Gospel and call us to new ways of living and loving, of caring for and revealing Christ. Ah, Advent!
Keep in mind that when one signs up for a boot camp, the goal is not to be super fit in 4 weeks and then settle back to one’s prior state. The goal, rather, is that this intense training will lead to lasting change. A butterfly does not flit and float gracefully, seeing so much more than ever before to then crawl into its cocoon, reverting later to inching along, having chosen somehow a more limited view. So it should be when we embrace the mystery of Advent. Having recognized Christ, we are forever changed. So, too, our lives must be.
in all moments of our daily lives,
may we come to an ever-deeper awareness
whom we encounter in our families,
in friend and stranger,
in the poor, oppressed
and all in need.
Open our eyes and hearts,
so we might recognize you
in unexpected faces
allowing You to shatter our worlds
and graciously transform us, Lord.
May we bring Your light wherever there in darkness,
marking our world with justice,
and shaping it with Your love.
Karon Latham lives in rural Michigan where she strives to create a world marked by justice as a mostly stay-at-home mom to three little ones, ages 2, 4 & 5. She also works part-time as the Director of Faith Formation for three small parishes and is involved in retreat ministry. She has a MAPM from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, CA, and a B.A. from the University of Michigan. Karon served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Montana from 1995 to 1996.