Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!
I want to share with you a Christmas reflection. Exams are done, meaning I hopefully have just enough time to write some Season filled words before leaving for Brazil to spend the Season with my friend Rafael and his loved ones. I hope this reflection finds you and your loved ones in Joyous Spirits anticipating and realizing the Love around you. Thank you for your continued support, generosity and prayers. This reflection is a small gift from me to the network of love community to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. ~ PEACE ON EARTH ~
When I think of Christmas, I think of family, friends, food, festivities–––people and ways to bring us together in a Spirit of Love. Our five senses allow us to capture the essence of the promise of Christmas. The taste of eggnog, the smell of a fresh Christmas tree (though many of us use artificial trees…it’s easier to maintain…I understand), the sight of an uncle, aunt or cousin we haven’t seen in months, maybe even since last Christmas. We embrace loved ones as they enter our homes, we hold those dearest to us on Christmas Eve night, and we see sights that make our imaginations jump: lights painting neighbor’s yards, newborns and young ones growing seemingly in front of our very eyes. Tis’ the season to be jolly; that’s what we are told to be and how we are told to be–––we hear it trumpeted through the airwaves (93.9 and 105.9 here in Chicago play Holiday music non-stop), we watch it on our televisions in the form of Christmas specials and images of Winter wonderlands in T.V. land, and recognize it in advertisements and almost everywhere we shop. Our workplace or our schools throw a holiday party before Christmas break, and we find ourselves rushing to get presents for loved ones to keep the season jolly, to give gifts that show we care.
This is all wonderful; it shows the sense of hope that comes with the Season of Christmas. But, I propose (like countless others before me), that the Spirit we shine during the season, the Love we foster during this most giving season, becomes a Spirit that consumes our being even after the music has stopped, the trees have shed all their pines (or if it’s artificial, the tree has been shoved back into the attic where it hibernates for ten months), and the eggnog (or any other of your choice Holiday drinks) pours no more. The surprise of a rapidly growing young one in our family can spark a desire for us to metaphorically grow in action and word with the child physically growing in our midst. Now, during this season of anticipation, is the time to anticipate how we plan to re-energize our Spirits for another year of communal and neighborly living. No matter where we live, the people we meet, the jobs we work or the schools we attend, we all have the potential to lay claim to an anticipation that will lead us to greater participation.
Our life is full of anticipation. After I take a morning run, I anticipate the coming meal that will replenish my body for the day ahead (I also anticipate, like many others, the morning cup of coffee that will help me complete the tasks of the day!). As a person who believes in prayer and community, I anticipate the times of the day where I can join with a group, whether it be with fellow seminarians at my college, with small prayer groups on the campus of Loyola, with friends at All Saints Church in Milwaukee singing and clapping to give thanks and praise God while entering into fellowship, friendship, and, above all, Love. I also value the times in my day alone spent pondering, reflecting, reading a good book, running or simply taking a walk. These silent times are difficult to come by and even more challenging to appreciate when I am busy with schoolwork and other commitments. Stress enters life, forcing me to try and find creative or beneficial ways to slowly show such a hindrance the way to the exit. Prayer and community and alone time–––a health mix of solidarity and solitude–––are amazing stress relievers. But it is a constant struggle, and, even when I think I am fully alive in the moment, content and at peace, I feel as if there is a kind of anticipation nudging me.
I think this anticipation, this restlessness, as many spiritual writers have referred to it, can be of great value to our lives and our desire to grow as a strong person holistically. When I anticipate something that is going to bring great fruits to others and myself, my anticipation is for something with possibility. For instance, as a Christian, I anticipate Christmas Day in the form of Advent. In the four weeks before December 25, we take time to prepare our homes, minds and hearts for what is to come. The birth of Jesus is like any other birthday celebration in that we honor and thank the Creator for the gift of life made real through the womb of a woman. But the birth of Jesus becomes different than any other birth before if we believe that through the life of Jesus, God becomes fully present in a radical, life-giving, sin-taking way. The gift of life to which the Christian anticipates during the season of Advent helps prepare him or her to be individual with constant potential–––a potential that is fully unique, fully divine.
When we look at the world through the eyes of an anticipator, one who is in the present, but always longing, we understand there is a kind of restlessness or stirring within ourselves. This stirring, when understood and appreciated to be some kind of stirring of a Great Spirit that is infinitely larger than us but, incredibly enough, present and powerful in us, can bring us to a form of anticipation that touches the Divine in unbelievable ways.
I think of the good works of so many faith-filled people who struggled with but ultimately listened to the Spirit within. I think of people like Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero–––three people who walked with the poor and, by doing so, influenced countless others to do the same–––to realize that the Spirit of Charity can work through each and every one of us.
I think of the love pastors like Martin Luther King Jr. and Henri Nouwen had for the people they ministered to–––Dr. King and his work for African Americans and all people to usher in truthful Civil Rights laws, and Fr. Henri Nouwen and his constant love and devotion to mentally handicapped individuals at L’Arche community. Both of these men were prophets in pen, peacemakers in person. As believers in the Spirit, they brought justice, hospitality and peace to people whose voices were–––and still are–––often quiet whispers in the world.
I think of people I know and have known who show me the power of the Spirit. Friends that have been there along my journey, pastors, parish and community members and religious leaders that have helped me grow in faith, and a family that has shown me a Love starting at the moment of my own anticipation, my moment of conception, that continues forward in a kind of anticipation that leads to active participation. In raising me, my parents have been guides to beginning a journey to the Heart of the World. For the Heart that my mother and father have given me–––for their love and support at all times, I truly thank them. They have helped prepare me to anticipate times when I will struggle and witness a struggling community and world.
And our community and world struggles. We face challenges and seek solace and reconciliation in so many complicated ways. To write only about happiness and the Spirit of Love would be to disregard the fact that there is always more work. “The laborers are few,” Jesus says in the gospel, “but the harvest is plentiful.” In this season of anticipation, I encourage all of us to look into our own heart and challenge ourselves and our loved ones to try and consider a way we can personally be an active, fluid participant in this world. How will we go about bringing a Kingdom here on earth, that is, a place where all are truly welcome and where peace and harmony remain a realized reality? We need more leaders, more communities that Love because they Love to Love. We need people who constantly anticipate how it is they are called to participate in the shifting tone of society. We need believers in a Spirit that resounds within them and that calls them to achieve wonderful things. There is a will in each and every one of us; there is a way in each and every one of us. Where there is a will there is a way.
In small ways, in everyday ways, we can show others how much we care about them and how much Love we receive from them. These ways are the most critical ways to anticipate your own participation in the world, for it is only by understanding how to bring about Love on a small scale that we will come to realize the potential of an entire Community of Love, an entire world of Love–––a world in Spirit that comes to realize the workings of the Great Spirit within, the Spirit that calls us to service, to giving, to Love. It is in the anticipation of this Spirit that Christians say, “Come Lord Jesus, send us your Spirit and Renew the Face of the Earth!” Before even having a Teacher like Jesus, a person to show us God in human form, he needed to be born. Jesus, as true person, dwelt in the womb of Mary, his mother, for the months before breathing on his own on this earth. However, Mary carried a special secret within her womb, a secret that God really can breathe in our midst every single moment of our life. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that us Christians come to believe Jesus really did become Word made flesh in a fourteen-year old girl. It is with faith, with an understanding that much of this life is truly a beautiful mystery that we come to believe the nativity story. And thus we anticipate a birth that allows us to actively participate in the world we live in. Live the paradox! Anticipate but always create–––create relationships that will lead you and others closer to the center of the Spirit of Love.
“For unto us a child is born.
Unto us a son is given
And his name shall be called
Wonderful! Counselor…Prince of Peace.”
~Wishing you Peace in this Season~
your friend bob.