Mindfully Advent

Christmas is in a few short days.  I know, it’s hard to believe, but, if you have spent some time prayerfully preparing for our remembrance of Christ’s birth, then, you are probably ready.  Personally, I haven’t done much shopping, but I’m not worried.  I have no doubt I’ll get just the thing for everyone on my list.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve really focused on reading and re-reading the Nativity story (Matthew 1:18-2:12; Luke 2:1-20).  Using Ignatian Contemplation, I’ve put myself right into the story, and it’s been wonderful.  And so it was with Christ. 

He put Himself right into our story, and made a difference like no one before or since.  Jesus’ birth was an epic game-changer for “those that have eyes to see and ears to hear.”  So often, especially in our over commercialized Christmas preparations, we might just lose sight of what it is we are celebrating.  As we continue to get ourselves ready for Christmas, it might be helpful (and challenging) to make an assessment about our preparations.  Can you find God in them?  If you can, great.  If you can’t, you still have time.  Advent is not quite over yet.


The Year of Mercy

When I first heard that Pope Francis had declared that there would be a Jubilee Year of Mercy, it resonated with me.  Yes, I thought, doesn’t the world need more mercy?  As I continued to reflect, I think the thing that kept running through my head was that, not only the whole world, but I also needed more mercy in my daily life.  What a difference it would make in the world if we were all more merciful?  The pope is challenging all people, regardless of their faith, to begin a “revolution of mercy.”  What a challenge!

So, this morning at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Holy Father ushered in the Jubilee by opening the Holy Doors, opened last in the year 2000 by St. John Paul II.  I got up really early so I could watch, and I felt as though I was there.  I know those doors well, since I had the chance to walk through them with my family in October of 2000. There’s a spiritual sense that when you walk through them, you leave the past behind and move into something new, full of faith and hope for the future.  Even though I may not have the opportunity to make it to Rome this year, my heart is telling me that I’ll have plenty of chances to experience the richness and spiritual fruit of the Jubilee.  Something which happened to me yesterday tells me so.

I was traveling and needed to catch a cab.  Usually, I tend to check my email, read the paper, and maybe close my eyes and chill out a bit when I’m riding a cab. The drivers aren’t usually talkative, which is ok with me.  My driver yesterday was different.  I began asking him about the weather, and we struck up a conversation about the upcoming winter.  We both agreed that we weren’t looking forward to it. 

I told him I was from Maryland, and he told me he once lived there too.  He said he lived near Washington, and worked as a delivery person for a photo business. His route was north of Baltimore, but he couldn’t remember the name of the place he went to most often.  When I told him I lived in Westminster, his face lit up.  That was the town.  He started naming roads and stores which I see every day.  What a very small world we live in.

I asked the driver his name, and he said it was Amir, and that he was originally from Sudan.  He as moved around the U.S. a lot, trying to find work and a nice place to live with his family.  When most people moved to using digital cameras, the photo business he worked for in Baltimore closed.  Since then, he’s lived in South Dakota and Illinois. 

Although we never talked about faith, several things I saw in his cab led me to believe Amir was a Muslim.  As we arrived at my destination, he said with a big smile and a handshake,  “Paul, I hope we meet again!” I got out of the cab thinking that would be just like God to make that happen.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a more enjoyable cab ride.

As I watched the Mass this morning in St. Peter’s Square, Amir came to mind.  I got the chance to usher in my own revolution of tenderness yesterday.  We live in a time of great fear and anxiety, but I can attest to the fact that we can change our opinion of “the other.”  More than likely, Amir and I will never meet again, but my experience with him yesterday helped me realize that, with a little effort, this Year of Mercy can be a life-changer for all of us.  I hope we take advantage of it! 

If you are looking for Year of Mercy resources, visit Loyola Press’ website