Once, on a silent directed retreat, I was struggling with questions related to an ended relationship and my future after college. After three days of gloomy weather and arguments with God, I witnessed 5 minutes of sunlight on the trees across the lake before the sun set. A sudden spirit of peace and happiness wove through me and settled inside me. It made me realize that during the times when I face transitions and change and may not know what God’s doing or where he’s leading me, if I wait patiently, his Light will give birth and shine again.
Advent is a season of light, goodness, comfort, peace, and joy. It's fitting that the American holiday of Thanksgiving comes at the end of the liturgical year and the beginning of the season of Advent. Our practice of "giving thanks" for the blessings we've received over the past year opens our hearts to receiving the love of Christ born during this time of waiting and hopeful anticipation. Thanksgiving helps us enter Advent with an "attitude of gratitude" - a thankfulness that comes from being loved by God and witnessing his presence working in our lives. We're thankful for our families, who support and encourage us through life's big ups and downs; our friends, who make us laugh and help us relax and have fun; our significant others, who teach us about love and selfless giving; our jobs which provide financial security and hopefully allow us to do good in the world; our health, especially in a time of high health care costs; our safety and security, when much of the world experiences extreme poverty or violence. Whether it's big or little things, we have a lot to be thankful for this year and every year.
Last night I heard a talk by Claire Noonan, who runs the Siena Center at Dominican University in Chicago. The topic was "being called by our baptism." She and other responders shared about God's love being enough. Our baptism calls us to accept that love within ourselves and to share it with others; that is our mission, and that is enough. As we enter Advent, we begin reflecting on Mary's choice to accept and share God's love. She was grateful for the blessings of her faith, and she chose to follow God's call by being mother to Jesus. In turn, Jesus accepted God's love and shared it with others during his public ministry, to the point of death on the cross, which we celebrate in Lent/Easter.
It's fitting that the liturgical season starts after Thanksgiving, and that it follows a circle between Christ's birth and Jesus' death. During Advent, we are called to reflect on the light of Christ, the love of God, and the call of our birth and baptism - let us do so with open and grateful hearts.