Advent Reflection Series #9

Here’s the last Advent reflection series post, and the prompt seemed to be pretty appropriate for Christmas:

Do you believe that Jesus is the answer?

Well, I wouldn’t be a Catholic if I said no to that, right? I do believe that Jesus is the answer to everything. Some aspect of his life or his teachings can always become relevant to wherever I am in life. Many questions can be answered by the Bible, and if they’re not, then I’m making things too complicated or not looking in the right place.

Like worrying, for example. Most of us worry incessantly for no good reason, and we know it’s not a good reason, but we somehow can’t stop worrying. Plenty of places in the Bible remind us not to worry and let us know that Jesus has our best interests at heart.

This Christmas season has been anxiety ridden for me, because I haven’t been able to really give like I wanted to. There wasn’t any time to send Christmas cards, and I always wish I had the creativity to make handmade gifts instead of buying something from a store. I’m trying to save money for the baby and sure-to-be-outrageous hospital expenses that accompany that, so I haven’t donated to a charity in a long time. I didn’t contribute to my company’s holiday get-together. I haven’t cooked anything. The apartment complex was having a toy drive for needy kids, and I didn’t donate to that.

Kinda feels Grinch-y, especially when people have been so kind to me. I feel like I have no way to adequately repay them. But is Jesus the answer to this problem? Yes. I’m sure he would tell me not to worry. Perhaps in some years, I am supposed to be the recipient of gifts rather than the giver. Maybe next year, I’ll be in a better place to give. Or maybe I won’t. Either way, feeling guilty and worried isn’t going to solve anything.

So I turn to Jesus in the Bible, and he says, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (Matthew 6:34).

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Advent Reflection Series #8

Do you trust God with the little things?

Not as much as I should. I don’t like to bother God too much, so I will turn to the saints instead. The little things often seem too silly and insubstantial to bother God with. Does he really care about whether I find that object I’ve lost? Will he really help me in a matter as basic as picking what outfit would be most appropriate to wear to that important work meeting?

I know he will help me, but I don’t like to bother him. It’s the same with earthly people—I very rarely ask for help because I don’t want to make a pain in the ass of myself. The only way I ask for help is when I am totally confused or under a deadline or just can’t wrap my brain around what the solution might be.

This is bad. Not asking for help leads to pride—the “I don’t need anyone else” mentality. Everybody needs each other, and we all need God. So it will be important to ask God to help with little things in the future, almost like a warm-up exercise for asking him for big things when the time comes. He is our father, and he wants us to feel like we can come to him with anything. Little kids don’t hesitate when asking their parents for even the tiniest things, so why should we hesitate to ask or trust God?

Advent Reflection Series #7

How do you prepare for Christmas?

Eh, to be honest, I don’t like these reflection questions. They’re all somewhat similar. Bishop Robert Barron published a small book called Advent Gospel Reflections, which I’ve been studying with my church’s Bible study group. His reflection questions are much better. Food for thought for next year.

Anyway… the context of the question has to do with John the Baptist, who went away from the world to prepare for Christ. He has always struck me as a kind of grotesque figure, wearing animal skins and eating grasshoppers and honey, shouting like a madman. If we were to see him in the street today, we’d think he had some kind of mental illness and should be taken to a psychiatric hospital or men’s shelter.

But as Mother Teresa said, Christ and his message come in “distressing disguises.” We’d have to look beyond John the Baptist’s appearance to absorb his message: prepare yourselves for the coming of Christ. Get away from the world and its entrapments.

Strangely enough, preparing for Christmas in these modern times doesn’t get you away from the world. It draws you into the world because you tend to get bogged down in the cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping, and decorating, so much so that you put spirituality on the back burner. Even when the crazies try to take Christ out of Christmas and turn it into a secular holiday, they should realize that they never truly can. It’s in the word itself: Christ. Mass. The Mass for Christ.

That fact alone should remind us that this is at its core a deeply spiritual time. Even those who are not particularly religious often stop to think about that and ponder the real meaning behind it all. I mean, you don’t have to wear a hairshirt and start screaming in the desert, but perhaps quietly reflect on the way you have been living over the past year and whether that is an honest reflection of who you really want to be.