People can seem a little self-obsessed nowadays, with our endless selfies and social media posts. But during the season of Advent, the Church asks us to look at ourselves in a way that isn’t about vanity, in a way that’s truthful, honest, and can change us for the better.
In his new book from Ave Maria Press, entitled “Daily Devotions for Advent,” Deacon Greg Kandra has written a series of reflections to help us spiritually prepare for Christmas, and we talked about it recently on “Christopher Closeup.”
Deacon Greg explained, “It’s easy to forget that Advent is there because we’re so distracted by Christmas, and the shopping, wrapping, parties, food, and everything else. We’re consumed with consumption in a lot of ways. One of the goals of this little book was to try and encourage people to take a few minutes a day, if not more, to step away from all of that, and spend more time quietly, prayerfully reflecting on what is about to happen when we celebrate the Incarnation.”
Each of Deacon Greg’s reflections begins with the words from Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God” because he knows that silence is a rare commodity in today’s world unless we intentionally make time for it. The deacon also cites the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” because of its appropriateness for the season.
He says, “It’s a song of anticipation, of yearning and longing. There’s a mournful quality to it, also. Advent comes at the darkest time of the year. As the nights get longer, the days get shorter and it gets colder. So we string lights all around us to try and fill the darkness with light. But we need to look to Christ to be that light. That’s really what we’re yearning for.”
Discovering that God-shaped hole inside each of us requires taking an honest look at ourselves, as well as reconnecting with a sense of wonder that many of us lose touch with when we reach a certain age – and especially in the cynical culture in which we live.
Deacon Greg states, “It comes down to trusting that there is a higher power, that there is a God who is looking out for us and who loves us.” In addition, adds the deacon, “[Advent] helps us to be more authentically what God wants us to be and what God made us to be. The other big part of [that] is generosity and centering ourselves. The more that we know ourselves and know who we are and what we’re about, the more we’re able to give to others, and do it joyfully and selflessly.”
One person who gave of herself joyfully and selflessly was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, whom Deacon Greg greatly admires.
“Mary is such a great example for all of us,” he concludes. “So often we ask ourselves, ‘What would Jesus do? WWJD?’ I challenge people [in homilies], ‘Ask yourself, WWMD? What would Mary do?’ She accepted everything that God asked her to do, and did it unquestioningly, and with so much trust, love and fidelity. I think that is part of our great challenge, particularly in the age that we live in now: to trust God, and to not be suspicious of Him, and to feel like whatever happens, God is going to get me through this. Certainly Mary did that with courage, conviction, and complete trust. If we can live our lives like that, what a joy.”