Whenever I read a homily or reflection or writing by Pope Benedict XVI, I am struck by his gift for reaching out and touching the hearts, minds and spirits of everyday Catholics who are struggling to make their faith real amid the busyness of modern life. It is amazing to me that this pope could be so in tune with what I'm going through in my frantic suburban family home. His words during vespers for the first Sunday of Advent struck a chord for me today especially as I ponder how to keep Advent front and center in what is becoming an increasingly secular season in the world around us.
From Pope Benedict's homily at the Vatican Basilica, as reported by the Vatican Information Service:
"In daily life we all know the experience of having little time for the Lord, and little time for ourselves. We end up becoming absorbed by 'doing'. Is it not often true that it is activity itself that possesses us, society with its multiple distractions that monopolizes our attention? Is it not true that we dedicate a lot of time to entertainment and leisure activities of various kinds?
"Advent, this potent liturgical period we are entering, invites us to remain silent as we come to appreciate a presence. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are signs God addresses to us, signs of the care He has for each of us. How often does God make us aware of some aspect of His love! To maintain what we might call an 'inner diary' of this love would be a beautiful and rewarding task in our lives. Advent invites us and encourages us to contemplate the living Lord. Should not the certainty of His presence help us to see the world with different eyes?"
Later in the homily, the Holy Father addressed the Advent significance of "waiting," something that can be difficult for those of us unaccustomed to waiting for anything, be it a long-sought-after job or a big-screen TV:
"There are many different ways to wait. If the present time is not filled with meaning, the wait risks becoming unbearable. If we await something, but at this moment have nothing - in other words, if the present is empty - then every passing instant seems exaggeratedly long and the wait becomes an over-heavy burden because the future remains too uncertain. When, on the other hand, time has meaning and at every instant we perceive something specific and valid, then the joy of waiting makes the present richer," the pope said.
Jesus, he said, is "present among us and speaks to us in many ways: in Sacred Scripture, in the liturgical year, in the saints, in the events of daily life, in all creation, which changes its appearance depending upon whether [we see Him] behind it or whether [we see it] shrouded in the fog of an uncertain origin and uncertain future."
May we all push past the "fog" in our lives to a place where we can clearly see God's hand at work in the daily events of our days. Do you have some Advent traditions you want to share? Do you have any tips for keeping the spirit of the season strong? Please share in the comment section.