|by Angela (Lambert) Jendro|
December 10th, 2017 2nd Sunday of Advent
Gospel of Mark 1:1-8 NAB
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
It’s the time of year for making room – in our closets, our homes, our schedules, and our lives.
We live in a culture so in love with stuff that we need storage units just to hold the overflow of possessions. Additionally, the rampant competitiveness in the culture adds pressure to our schedule, forcing our waking hours to overflow into the late night and early mornings.
When I was single I could handle quite a bit of buildup in things and reduction in sleep. A few weeks into motherhood however it became clear we would all drown if I didn’t take regular action. When my kids were younger we had a tradition every year of cleaning out their rooms and closets a couple of weeks before Christmas and a couple of weeks before their birthdays. I would give them two bags – one for garbage and one for giveaway. Anything broken, grown out of, or no longer used had to go to make room for the new gifts. I too would clean out my things and reassess our calendar.
Advent provides an opportunity for us to do the same thing in our spiritual lives a few weeks before Christmas. In anticipation of the greatest gift – Jesus Christ, the Son of God – we must make room in our souls, our schedules, and our lives. It’s a time to step back and make an honest examination of what occupies our hearts. Much like when I hold up an old sweater and debate whether I will really wear it again or not, I must examine the things I spend time and energy on and ask if they are still worth it, or just taking up valuable space.
If it’s so difficult to let go of an old ratty sweater overrun with pills, how much more difficult to let go of old bad habits or frames of mind. We hold on to useless or worn out things simply because we hate change and we love nostalgia. We may rationalize that we will “use that someday” but we don’t even know all the “thats” we have anymore. We just don’t want to let go of something that’s been with us so long.
Similarly, we resist honestly evaluating our priorities, bad habits and sins. In some ways they can begin to feel a part of our identity. However, the process of decluttering our soul can be marvelously freeing and enable us to move forward in our lives. The questions we must ask will vary as much as the clutter in our homes. You may have to consider, “Am I a hard worker, or have I become a workaholic? Or the opposite: “Do I have a healthy amount of down time in my life, or have I just become lazy?” About attitudes one might ask “Am I someone who doesn’t get riled up about much, or am I just complacent?” or the opposite: “Am I someone who cares passionately about things, or do I make an idol out of causes or get too involved in other people’s business?”
Outside perspective can help. If you share a closet, garage, or home with someone, they will quickly tell you which items have been hogging space for no reason. Loving family and friends can also offer valuable insight. They can more easily identify the ways you have grown as a person and the things that hold you back. The Holy Spirit can also guide you if you ask. He can enlighten your mind to see things from God’s perspective and soothe you with grace to let the lesser goods go.
After decluttering, the final preparations for Christmas celebrations involve cleaning. Mineral build up on the faucet, sticky fingerprints and globs of ketchup on the refrigerator, half-finished projects that have become an eyesore or safety hazard, and dusty surfaces dull the beauty of our homes. It takes time and sweat, but the shiny glean in every room renews our appreciation of the gifts God has bestowed upon us and the joy of home.
In the same way, our virtues and gifts can dull from the challenges of everyday life. Stepping back for a little introspection can help us reclaim those pieces of ourselves we love and let them shine again.
Some things may need to go and some things may be reasonable to keep, or some things may need a deep clean, but at the end of the process our souls shine with the beauty God has given us, and Christ has more room to fill with His divine presence and peace.
- Prayerfully list your priorities. Where do God, work, family, friends, hobbies, and self-care rank?
- Consider your schedule: How well do you balance time for God, time for taking care of yourself, time for helping others, and time to accomplish your work well?
- Consider your possessions: How well do your things represent your priorities? Are there ways your possessions could better reflect what matters to you?
- Consider your heart: What occupies your desires most? Be honest. Then relate them back to your priority list. Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to increase your desire for the Lord and for loving relationship with others, and to decrease your desire for what competes with them.
- Consider your mind: What occupies your thoughts? What do you spend time learning about? How well are you making time for introspection and spiritual growth? Do you take the time to think of others or to identify your own needs? What tends to distract you or consume your mind? How might you detach somewhat?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Make room for Christ in your home, your schedule, and your heart. Declutter your biggest horde, simplify your time commitments, and increase your prayer and spiritual reading by 10 minutes.
- Do an examination of conscience and encounter Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Keeping Christ in Christmas, and John the Baptist in Advent
- Setting goals for the New Year – Lessons from the Magi
- Keeping Things in Perspective
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017
|* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.|