Advent Reflection Series #4

Where could you use simplicity in your life?

Usually, I try to keep things simple. I have a relatively new car with a lot of nice electronic features, but I don’t use any of them because they complicate things. If the car drives, it’s good enough. I don’t use any software beyond Microsoft Word while I’m writing because to learn it would be to make something that already works for me (a regular document) very complicated and therefore frustrating. At work, they’re trying to make us learn all these different editing software programs, and to be honest, I couldn’t care less because it makes my job more complicated. I don’t want to waste time checking behind the software to make sure it didn’t create errors.

But that’s not to say I couldn’t use even more simplicity. Right now I’m looking around the apartment, which is filled with baby stuff and Christmas stuff and writing stuff and books, and I’m getting overwhelmed because it’s a lot. Material things, as useful and as necessary as they are, tend to complicate, and I like as few of them as possible. If there are tons of things lying around, and my desk and counter and kitchen table and closet are cluttered, then my brain is cluttered too.

Too cluttered to fit God in.

I’ve always thought that God appeared to more people “back in the day” because their lives were simpler and they had more time, fewer “things,” and therefore more opportunity to encounter him. They could focus on God rather than figuring out the latest gadget or rushing to the store to buy a ton of Christmas presents that are ultimately unnecessary. Their minds were less cluttered. It’s almost the same way with people who have “simple” minds, like children. They are closer to God because their minds are uncomplicated by all the “stuff” in the world.

So as we get ready for Christmas, it might be better to take some time to de-clutter our minds… or de-clutter our spaces so we can de-clutter our minds. As one of the cards I got from a baby shower said, “Babies don’t take up mushroom.” Neither will the baby Jesus, so all we need is a little sliver of space. It might make all the difference.

Advent Reflection Series #3

How do you handle change?

Put it in a change purse, wait till I have enough, then bring it to the bank and deposit it into my account.

No, but seriously. It depends on what kind of change it is. If I have made plans, I hate when something appears out of the blue and destroys those plans. It reminds me of when I was a little kid, and I’d be looking forward to going somewhere, then one of my parents would say something like, “Never mind. Change of plan. We’re not doing that today.” Oh, the disappointment. I’m sure there was a perfectly good reason for the change of plan, but as a child, I didn’t understand it.

Sometimes a big change happens that you have planned yourself and is looming in the far future. As big as those changes are, they might even be easier to deal with because there is usually a date associated with them. Buying a house, or getting married, or graduating from college, or having a baby… very big changes, but they are hardly ever sudden. There is time to prepare, and that makes dealing with the change easier.

I don’t really deal with change that well unless it’s a change I want to make. Then I over-plan and get too involved in the minutiae. Ultimately, I need to get better at handling the sudden, random changes that are bound to occur every day.

Advent Reflection Series #2

Have you ever met Jesus?

Usually, I don’t like questions like this because I am reminded of the overzealous kids in the Campus Crusade for Christ back when I was in college. They’d approach you randomly while you were eating dinner in the dining hall by yourself and not wanting to be bothered, and they’d ask questions like, “Is Jesus Christ your personal Lord and Savior?” “Have you ever met Jesus?” “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?” At the time, I didn’t know enough about being Catholic to try and turn the tables on them and respond in a Catholic way like, “Yes, I’ve met him. I encounter his True Presence every Sunday in the Body and Blood of Christ.”

If someone were to ask me one of those questions now, that’s exactly how I would answer. The Eucharist is a personal thing—actually, it’s as personal as you can get. Who else can say that they have encountered the risen Christ through his very real Body and Blood? Christ, King of the Universe, deigns to come down to earth every time there is a Mass and to dwell in our weak human bodies.

However, I think when Protestants refer to a “personal relationship” with Jesus, they mean praying to Jesus in one’s own words. I do agree that this aspect of the personal relationship is important. You can say all the rote prayers you want to, and pray the Rosary, and go to daily Mass, but if you don’t pray in your own words and really talk to Jesus, you’re missing something. The “personal” relationship is not there. Prayer is a personal thing. Many devotional practices can seem empty if you don’t talk to Jesus like a friend and let him know what is really in your heart.