When you read the title of this column you probably thought I was several weeks ahead of myself or that a little dementia has set in. Well, I know what date it is and I am not losing my mind, yet! The new liturgical year began on Nov. 29 and, just like many people make resolutions to improve their lives at the start of the calendar year, the season of Advent presents us with an opportunity to reflect on the spiritual aspect of our lives.
To deepen one’s spirituality and relationship with God takes time and patience. It can be a real challenge, particularly now, to set aside the time needed to develop our spiritual lives when we are surrounded by the materialistic aspects of the holiday season. Taking some extra time to reflect on our relationship with the Lord takes a lot of discipline. It can be so easy to let shopping and Christmas parties and events fill most of the time we are not at work or school. Perhaps our culture has such a strong hold on us that we might as well wait until the holidays are over to work on our spiritual lives. That may sound like a good excuse, but I don’t think so.
Try not to fall into the trap that many do on the first of the year and make too many resolutions that are unrealistic. It is better to concentrate on one or two behaviors that you can do. Here are a few of my suggestions:
Set aside 10 or 15 minutes a day to read Scripture. You might want to use the Mass readings of the day that can be found in a missalette or online. Find out the references and use your Bible. (You might have to find it first!) Or you may prefer to take one of the books of the Bible and read a little each day. The more we read the Scriptures the more we get to know God. This may require you to get up a little earlier or stay up later.
Try to find and use a book that gives a reflection for each day. If you don’t know of any, you might ask your pastor or one of the parish staff to suggest one. Also, some Web sites provide daily meditations. If you don’t have time to read them on the computer, print and reflect on them sometime during the day.
Another possibility is to make the time to join a faith sharing or Bible-sharing group. If you can’t find one, get a couple of friends and start your own. A good way to start is to read and share on the readings for the following Sunday. It is a good way to make the Scripture more meaningful to you at Mass.
Another suggestion is to spend a little time each evening reflecting on your day and how Christ was present to you in people or events, or how you reached out in love to someone. If you know you are going to do this it might encourage you to become more conscious of Christ’s presence in your life.
You might think of other exercises that can help you come closer to the Lord and to deepen your faith. The main thing is to try something and not get discouraged if you break your “resolution” every now and then. It is like when someone is on a diet and slips up and eats a forbidden food. It’s better to start the diet again rather than throw up one’s hands and give up.
I don’t think our God expects any of us to be perfect, but I would wager that it gives him a great deal of pleasure to see that we are trying to live good Christian lives.
It is a blessing that God gives us so many opportunities to live our faith. All we have to do is do our best and continue to respond to his abundant grace. Happy New Year!
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