Advent Reflection Series #6

Are you letting God find you?

Supposedly, it is impossible to hide from God, who knows all and sees all. No thought is hidden, no action goes unnoticed. Some people find that creepy, like having a divine stalker. I mean, we already have enough to worry about with Google and Facebook watching our every move, right?

The difference is that God doesn’t want to steal your data and glean personal information. He has no need. He created you, after all. He already knows everything about you. He just wants you to reach out to him and stop hiding.

When I first read the question, I pictured someone standing out in the middle of a field with their arms outstretched screaming, “Here I am, Lord!” We may not do that literally, and we don’t need to be that dramatic. I suppose letting God find you is more a simple matter of praying and opening your heart to him. He does know everything, but in the act of telling him, you grow more open.

Advent Reflection Series #5

Are you good at preparing?

Most of the time, yes. If I have a checklist to go through and enough time to prepare, then yes. Weirdly enough, I don’t feel like I have prepared enough for the baby, though. There are checklists out there, and I have most of the stuff on the checklists done or bought, but somehow it all feels inadequate. I never felt like I had enough time, because I still feel like I wasted time during the first trimester when all I wanted to do was sleep.

And who is totally prepared for their first child?

But anyway, I suppose the real question is… “are you good at preparing for Jesus to arrive on Christmas?”

Earlier this month, I went to a penance service. Think of it as a spiritual communal shower—everyone’s getting their sins washed away at the same time. Penance services are nice, but as with every time I go to confession, I never feel as though I have said everything that’s on my heart or use the right words or appear that I am sorrowful. Truthfully, if I thought very deeply about it, I would never stop crying at church or during confession or when I think about the lives of Jesus and the saints. But I don’t cry in public or in front of those I don’t know well, so none of that sorrow would show in the confessional. I suppose it’s OK as long as Jesus knows I am sorry. So penance services are a way of preparing for Christmas, but I don’t know if I’m any “good” at them.

Preparing for Jesus isn’t about the presents or the meals or the get-togethers. It’s about keeping your soul free of stain so you can welcome the infant in the manger with a pure heart. I typically don’t do much preparation for Christmas beyond buying the gifts and maybe cooking a side dish for someone’s party. I hate for Christmas to be stressful when it is supposed to be a time of joy and peace. So we could prepare by enjoying some peaceful time—and actually making that peaceful time, because it is unlikely to just appear.

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.