Dear Fellow Heirs of the Kingdom,
Dear Fellow Heirs of the Kingdom,
This morning Andy was beaming with expectation about the trip to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life. While working in the pro-life movement is something he’s involved in, it’s much deeper. You can sense his passion. He’s fully engaged in whatever he can do to be a voice for the unborn.
There’s a difference between involvement and engagement. Certainly we want more persons to be involved in pro-life activities, but the most effective people are those who are fully engaged.
Engagement is what I FEEL. It’s a strong emotional connection. It’s the feeling I get when I’m doing what I do best, using my greatest talents and passions. Even if it’s work or service, it seems a whole lot more like joy–like the huge smile on Andy’s face.
Gallup research has shown that those who are permitted to do what they do BEST are nearly three times more likely to be engaged. Not any job will do. While involvement may lead to burnout, engagement makes me stronger, more energized, and all the more engaged. Don’t let a week go by without being fully engaged in something you’re passionate about.
What are your talents and strengths?
What do you love to do?
If time and money were no object, what would you do for God?
What will you do this week that solicits your full engagement?
We are to pattern our lives on the life of Christ. The author of Philippians writes that he wants to know “how to share in his [Christ’s] suffering by being formed into the pattern of his death” (3:10). But is patterning our life on Christ’s life akin to oxymoron? God made each of us unique. While patterning my life on Christ’s gives God honor, I think I honor God more by being fully who I am created to be—one of a kind.
Today is the Christmas play at the school where I teach, St. Richard, Swanton, Ohio. Its title is Bed, Bethlehem, and Beyond. Although the play opens with Mary and Joseph trying to find a bed for the night, the narrator reminds us that the incarnation began at the Big Bang when God wanted to become one of us. The children perform a choral reading of the Prologue of St. John’s gospel, reminding us that “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God.”
The children echo “love following upon love, upon love, upon love” to let the audience know that the Incarnation continues. The “Beyond” of the play’s title began before time and will continue long after earthly time ceases. There’s more to the celebration of Christmas than a straw bed in Bethlehem. Take time to delve into the big picture of Christmas and discover “love following upon love” for all eternity.
The Church celebrates three major comings of Christ during Advent: the historical coming of Jesus born 2000 years ago (Memory), the Second Coming (Majesty), and his coming in to our lives moment by moment (Mystery).
There are many reminders of Jesus’ historical coming: manger scenes, Christmas trees, Christmas plays, Advent calendars, and more. The Second Coming stays pretty much under our radar. What should hit us between the eyes is the Mystery of Christ among us in his Word, in the Eucharist, in other people. God can mysteriously sneak up on us is thousands of ways: lyrics of a song, advice of a friend, opportunity for service, collections for the needy, a hug, an idea, a gorgeous sky, a new snowfall. Memory, Majesty, Mystery. May your Advent be filled with good things because of your goodness!
Every year in early December there is a collection for retired religious sisters and brothers. You may wonder what we Sisters of Notre Dame—and other congregations–do when we retire. Well, we keep right on working! There’s always something to do for God!
We have sisters who do prison ministry, adult literacy, and musical entertainment in hospitals and nursing homes. Some teach English, tutor, sell crafts and cards, do laundry for the homeless, help adults get their GED, and assist migrants in becoming naturalized citizens. If you ask them, what they do, they’ll say prayer, presence, praise, and mission support. They’ll never say “retired.” Shouldn’t we change the name of the Retirement Fund to Seed Money for our Very Active Sisters and Brothers to Advance the Kingdom of God?
The Church devotes the month of November to remember those who have gone before us. We have prayed for all our deceased loved ones. Perhaps our thoughts were turned toward heaven more frequently in November. What do you expect when you arrive in heaven? What excites you the most through anticipation of your new home in God? Will it be seeing your family? Learning what heaven is like? Getting your questions answered? Some may look forward to seeing all the persons who have been helped in achieving their heavenly reward because of their influence. How many persons have you influenced so that they live in heaven forever?
Well, reading the Bible may do us very little good if we don’t put it into practice. The Bible encourages us to praise God and give thanks for everything (see Eph. 5:20 and 1 Thes. 5:18). Can we praise and thank God for everything today whether it’s snarled traffic or the best parking place, an empty toothpaste tube or a refrigerator blessed with abundance, a stubbed toe or a heart full of joy? Praising God for traffic jams and stubbed toes takes more “trust muscle,” but that muscle will strengthen over time with use.
Yesterday was the feast of St. Martin of Tours and it got me thinking. Had we lived in another century, this would have been the first day of Advent. It took a few centuries to get Christmas and Advent on the Church calendar, because the focus was on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When people became interested in history and genealogy, Christmas became a feast and along with it Advent. Priests wore white vestments in Advent; it was not a penitential period then. Rather it was a period of anticipation.
But down through history people began to think, “If Easter has a forty-day penitential period, then shouldn’t Christmas have the same?” Thus Advent became more penitential, and the priests began to wear violet, a penitential color. We are now back into a four-week preparation. Just as it’s never too early to begin Christmas shopping, it’s never too early to make Advent plans. How will you anticipate Christmas?