Advent is my favorite season of the liturgical year. But all the liturgical seasons are different for me now than when I was in consecrated life. The hustle and bustle, invitations, social expectations, shopping for gifts…it’s a far cry from the quiet preparation I had become accustomed to. It can be a challenge even to find time for a few moments of prayer each day.
How is it possible to make myself worthy of celebrating Christmas when I can’t enter into Advent the way I want to?
The good news is: I don’t need to make myself worthy. In fact, I cannot make myself worthy.
Even if I am faithful to my Advent meditation every day. Even if I dutifully light the colored candles of my wreath. Even if I resist materialism and put up my Christmas tree at the “proper” time. Even if I put a piece of hay in a little manger for every sacrifice, making it soft for Jesus.
Even if I do all of this, as good as it may be, I cannot make myself worthy of Christmas. I don’t earn the right to celebrate the Incarnation by behaving well during Advent. Jesus alone can make me worthy!
On Monday of the first week of Advent, we heard the Gospel of the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant. When Jesus makes it known that he will go and heal the servant, the centurion protests, in words that have become very familiar to us:
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Mt. 8:8).
We make those words our own at every Mass. And we can make them our own this Advent. I am not worthy to receive Christ anew this Christmas, but at HIS word, I shall be healed.
If you’re struggling with spiritual perfectionism or discouragement because this Advent has not quite been what you had hoped, be very much encouraged! The Lord meets us in our weakness. He comes not a perfect humanity, but a sinful one. He comes to redeem us, not expecting us to have already redeemed ourselves.
As we enter into these final days of Advent, let us dispose our hearts to the action of Jesus. Even if we haven’t done all that we had hoped this season. Let us remember that it is Jesus who does the doing. We offer Him our feeble efforts and wait with HOPE for the only one who can make us worthy.
by Myrta Moynihan
For the last year or so, I’ve been reading and meditating on the Sunday readings beforehand. It’s been interesting and fruitful. I am more aware of the readings themselves and better able to follow along. Furthermore, I’ve noticed patterns and relationships between the various texts. It is Year C in Ordinary Time and three of the Second Readings we heard last month come from I COR 12 and 13.
I’ve read this part of 1st Corinthians at various times in my life, but as we know, scripture is “ever ancient and ever new.” These passages are striking me in a different way today than in the past. Paul states that “there are different forms of service.” This line didn’t jump out at me until now. A great reminder that being in lay life isn’t “bad” or “less than.” Paul then lists spiritual gifts and his ending reminds us that these are actual gifts. God gives them “as he wishes.” As a result, I should not be jealous of others (though that can be easier said than done!). I should also have gratitude for the gifts I have received.
Next we had I COR 12:12-30 (I hope you heard the long version at Mass!). Once again, I’ve come across this passage a “million times” before. But I now realize that I only had gifts, talents or skills in mind when I heard or read this portion. The mouth (someone good at public speaking) cannot say to the arm (someone good at loving others), I don’t need you. We all have different gifts, of course! I’m sure I was in this frame of mind because it follows after the list of spiritual gifts.
But, this time I started reflecting on various states of life. Even if you only heard the short version (I COR 12:12-14,27), you’ll notice he mentions, “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons.” (vs 13) In my mind, this has to do with different “tribes,” ways of living, in-groups and out-groups. As a middle-aged, lay, single, woman, I am an outsider in Catholic communities. It could be easy for me to say to myself, “I do not belong to the body.” (vs15) And, let’s be honest, there are people in the church who have said “I do not need you” (vs 21) through their words, actions or both. But this is a lie. How do we know? Paul states, “But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.” (vs 18).
That’s great news! Even if I appear unwanted and unneeded in the Church, it’s not true. This also challenges me to step up and make sure that others feel welcomed and have a sense of belonging. Are there people on the fringes that are a part of your parish or community? Reach out to them!
Finally, this line struck me: “Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary.” (vs 22). This restates the above point that the body needs us and we all have a place in the body. But then it takes it even further. If you feel like you don’t have value because you can’t contribute, are too weak, etc. that is a lie. I live in the USA and society tells us that if you can’t produce things, your life has no value. As a result, weakness is a liability and I must conclude that I have no value as a person. But our faith contradicts this message. When I realize how weak I am, my response should now be, “Yay for me!” That weakness makes me even more important and valuable!
Today let’s ask God for the spiritual gifts and thank him for those that we have already. Let’s also make an extra effort to tell ourselves and others the truth: We need you. You are necessary!
How do you feel in your parish or community? Do you feel like a necessary member of the body? Please comment below!