As I sit to write this, it is difficult to believe that New Year’s Eve is upon us. As you read this, we will be ending 2008! It seemed like yesterday we were worrying about what the dawn of new millennium would be – would everything stop? Would computers go still and with them our modern system of communication? We do not hear about that anymore – the turn of the century came and went without a glitch. Yet, as each church year begins anew, we are asked the same questions and we are challenged to be ready. While this reflection is during the octave between Christmas and the Epiphany, as I write it I am still anticipating the coming of our Savior so it is somewhat of a trick to think beyond the next weeks. I am full of anticipation – a great word for Advent – yet one that works here as well. Therefore, my reflection is full of many questions for you but mostly for me!
John in the first reading refers to antichrists coming and our being anointed by the holy one. While we anticipate so much during Advent, it seems the actual coming of our Lord, leads us to even more anticipation. What is yet to come? In addition, of course, as we hear so many times, how do we make ourselves ready? I wonder if we approached life the way we do Christmas, how we would prepare? Would we hum songs of salvation under our breath as we hustle and bustle through each day doing all the right things?
The responsorial psalm fits this season so well. We are always in the mood to rejoice at Christmas and savor that joy for a while. How can we not be? We have just received the gift of a lifetime and we are looking at a glorious future. The rejoicing is, indeed, appropriate. How do we show appreciation for such a great gift? Where do we send the thank you note? It seems the best "thank you" would be in the way we live our lives. We can reflect that gratitude in all we do. However, I fear we take the gift for granted far too often – I know I am guilty of that. Although, when I do focus my thoughts and actions on that gift, life is clearly better.
The gospel captures one of my favorite themes: GRACE! I love the
sound of the word and all that it means. As a name, it has special
meaning for me since both my mother and one of my granddaughters
carry that as a middle name. I love the idea of receiving grace,
being graced – everything about it. I remember once someone
explaining grace by using a term in the insurance industry. As you
may remember, we used to receive “grace periods” in
insurance. It was the time after the insurance payment was actually
due that we had to pay the premium – it was not anything that
was owed to us or that we earned – just a nice gesture to
give us a break. Similarly, the grace in our lives is not earned
or even deserved, just given to us because we are so loved. We are
blessed with the grace of God and can allow ourselves to bask in
it. It is the grace of God that carries us through this life of
hardships and burdens and joys and triumphs. When I have the joy
of being with my son’s four children, I am clearly aware of
God’s grace. There is no doubt in my mind that this kind of
blessing cannot be earned. Certainly, I can be very grateful for
it, and frequently look at them, and say, “Thank you God,
thank you God, thank you God.” It is somewhat ironic to me
that as I write this reflection, “grammar check” tells
me “I am blessed” is passive and I should re-word it.
It IS passive; I am the recipient of this wondrous gift. No re-wording
is necessary. I just need to receive this gift and rejoice. The
action part is what I do to manifest that love and grace to others.
The way in which I act upon that “free will” that is
also given to me is the key to my life – here and eternally.
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