Spirituality of the Readings
What things make you grateful? In this time of troubles? Maybe there aren’t any.
But maybe Advent is a time to rummage around your mind and look for some. You don’t have to solve all the problems, just get some balance.
Purple and rust colors interleaved in tonight’s sunset. A woman in a hospital bed, beautiful, and waiting calmly for tomorrow’s diagnosis.
Unthinking courtesy from strangers who stopped their car far down the street so that you can complete your jaywalk in safety! Your family. The dog. Your own life in its wonder and mystery even with all its losses and tangles. Trees shedding their leaves, wise about the snow and cold to come, The ability to see, if indeed you can do so. The holy darkness for those who cannot.
And a paradox: the shocking smallness of your own self. This is good news, not bad. You are not the center of the universe. You do not have to control the everything or your neighborhood or even your own home. You can rest in God’s everlasting arms and act when you can to help others. Smallness.
Once any of us gets a peek at how much God is giving, then gratitude might be on its way. For instance, Katharine Lee Bates took a trip to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado and then wrote America the Beautiful. Her heart sat in awe at the spacious skies and amber waves of grain. Beautiful, and she put forth her gratitude for what she saw.
You and I do very little to “deserve” the mysterious goodness around us and in us. We are not required to be worthy of it because God gives everything out of pure generosity and love. God gazes in wonder at the world and each person in it, and says, “You are worth it. I will never leave you. Let me in.”
Such a gift.
Perhaps this gift is not tendered to you right now. Maybe life simply has too many problems, real problems. If so, then as you open your Advent eyes you will need to wait. God’s delicate care for you and for us all is on the way,. Maybe this year you will see a bit of it.
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength (First Reading).
God takes joy in small things. God will help us poor ones in the wrongs of this life. “He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted.” He does not erase trouble, he loves us within it.
If you cannot catch a glimpse of God’s intimate love “for each hair on your head,” then you must wait. God labors to give each creature the gift of a lifetime. It is well worth it.
I know, I know, with all the catastrophes in our world, how could any of this be possible? The answer? Wait. Clean your lenses. Open your eyes. Wait to see.
All shall be well,
and all shall be well,
every manner of thing shall be well.*
The shoot of Jesse is sprouting fast.
John Foley, SJ
* This story of Arthur is based on the book “The Sword in the Stone,” first of the series by T. H. White, called The Once and Future King (New York: Penguin/Putnam Inc., 1965). It is quite worth reading.
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University