An Advent Message

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“Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding, and those who find fault shall receive instruction.”
-Isaiah 29:23-24

From the beginning of my journey with the church I have often said that on the days that I went to sit in the church pews, the Scriptures spoke to me. Whether a random page read or a specific Mass reading or Scripture, and of course the homilies; they had, and continue to have a prescient quality, speaking of things that should only be known in my own mind. They often mirror what I’m thinking and unexpectedly offer insight and clarity into whatever is troubling me or weighing on my mind. This holds true for even the most seemingly innocuous things.

On a Monday morning at the start of Advent, I was getting ready to leave for Mass. I was running late, but I still had to get through my morning rituals. I was dressed, but I needed my jewelry. I don’t wear much, but I wear pretty much the same things daily. In addition to my mother’s ring and my earrings and triquetra necklace, I have two bracelets that I often wear – a corded bracelet with a stone that says Balance, and a metal one with crosses on it that caught my eye when it was on clearance at Cracker Barrel. I don’t wear a lot of religious things, but I liked it. For some reason I made the decision to leave both bracelets at home; if I wanted them later, I could get them after mass.

There was the opening hymn, the reading, the responsorial and the Gospel. My priest began his homily with the following words:

“Our faith is not a piece of jewelry to adorn…”

Pretty sure, my mouth dropped open.

He continued and I listened intently.

He talked about resisting change and embracing change.

He reminded the congregation that we are all called to be missionaries.

I just read that! I’ve been reading Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel. I’m really just trying to absorb as much as I can from sources I respect. I want to learn more. I need to. I had just gotten to the part about pastors and how best to write their homilies using the joy of the gospel. The entire book was a reminder of what we’re all looking for in the words and thoughts of the Gospel. I’ve found acuity there that I hadn’t been looking for. This section really spoke to me in regards to my upcoming session with the RCIA candidates. I’ve been wondering how to approach my day with the catechumens, and it’s been very frustrating. I’m not a public speaker, and this is a small group, but it’s still not easy to anticipate how to do it. It is very much anxiety filled.

In this section, and other spaces in his book, Pope Francis gave me some perspectives on the catechetical program that I’ve just become a part of. I hadn’t thought about those perspectives before. It’s been very helpful for that, and it’s been very rewarding spiritually to hear the Pope’s words in relation to the Word.

The biggest thing that I’ve encountered is my relationship with Jesus and how the Holy Spirit works to guide us in the right direction. Of course, not literally how the Spirit works – it’s all a mystery, but when it happens, it is unmistakable that it is indeed working.

And then on that morning at the beginning of Advent, I hear the very same thing from my priest.
We are all missionaries. Preaching isn’t dictating morality; it isn’t dictating rules to live by – we all know the rules that we should be living by; preaching is sharing our relationships with Jesus.

Evangelizing isn’t about changing minds, but broadening them. It should always be a positive, and that is the one thing that I’ve found at my parish; every encounter to bring me closer to G-d, and welcome me in is a positive, never a negative.

That doesn’t mean that we’re all on the same page all of the time, but we are respectful and we truly, truly care about each other. I love my priest. I adore him. He is the epitome of a pastoral and spiritual guide. After hearing his homilies and Masses or after speaking with him in any capacity, I always feel content and uplifted as well as able to take on whatever task I’ve been pondering.

I leave with clarity. Perhaps, not every answer answered, but the questions are productive, the path is clear; for a little while anyway.

This year, in fact I have three more RCIA sessions, I have a yearlong writing assignment that I will talk about next week, and I have my pilgrimage for the Year of Mercy. I’m still exploring exactly what that means.

But what I was really reminded of on that day in early December wasn’t that I’m a missionary or an evangelist, but faith isn’t a piece of jewelry that we put on and take off at whim, or to match our clothes for that day; it is with us always and like other things, we have the ability to share it, even if we’re trying to share it with ourselves.

I was reminded of a meditation from The Word Among Us, on December 4th :

‘You are a “work in progress,” and that’s perfectly fine with God… Now, ask yourself again, “What do I have faith for?”’

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