Growing in Holiness: In God’s will or in God’s way?
(POSTED: 12/24/12) As I was sitting in my parish men’s group on a recent Saturday morning reading the Gospel — “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” — the thought came to me, how often does the average Catholic man hear the word of God, in the desert, and how often does that man follow that word or get in God’s way? In other words, in a previous blog post I wrote about husbands and wives, I said “to get her husband to lead, a wife has to get out of his way and encourage and respect him, and not contradict him in front of children. Do that in private.” However, for a wife to do this she has to trust that her husband will lead the family and get out of God’s way.
How many times each day do you and I make decisions based on how God sees it compared to what “wins” for me? I’m reminded how in Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscover Catholicism he shares a story something like how a family was relocated due to a temporary job transfer, so they decided to rent their house while they were out of town. When it came time for them to return they knew that the renters were in financial hardship due to employment changes. To avoid causing more hardship on the renters, this family paid to rent another house a block away from their own, which cost them to do this, in addition to the renters not being able to pay their rent. Once the renters regained their employment several months later, this family moved back into their own house. Kelly calls this “the Catholic way.”
People in our culture don’t want to hear that you are a Catholic. They want to experience what an authentic Catholic is. Every decision that you make, and action you example, affects another person’s life one way or another. The Advent season (that we are in now) is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. It is a time to “go to the desert” and seek how God wants you to be an example of your relationship with Him and His Word while we await His return. It is a time to consider how you (and I) will demonstrate until then unconditional love to help each other make it through life … even if it costs you.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts. — Isaiah 55: 8-9
Every man wants to learn how to pray to prepare for Advent better. And every man is wrong.
Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.
How do you wait in a culture that is instant information? Every man I talk to about it seems to tell me they don’t pray as often as they ought to. If you are married, when it comes to our Faith we usually depend on our wives to set the tone. Amidst the holiday noise and chaos from the commercial industries, the Advent season is a time to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ. If you are a husband and father, your family looks toward you for spiritual leadership and direction. We hear about providing for our families financially and in other ways but, rarely do we hear about, or focus, provision and protection as prayer.
“Silence is so lacking in this world which is often too noisy, which is not favorable to recollection and listening to the voice of God,” Pope Benedict XVI said. “In this time of preparation for Christmas, let us cultivate interior recollection so as to receive and keep Jesus in our lives.”
It’s not so much then about learning to pray to prepare for Advent, but leading an example of silence that makes a positive and lasting impression on you and your family. Like the nun’s used to tell me in first grade, ”God gave you two ears and one mouth, so that you listen more than talk.”
This Advent, give yourself deliberate time of silence and resolute to bring yourself — and your family — closer to Christ! Here are some great Advent resources provided by the Maximus Group:
USCCB resources and information on Advent
Advent Activities: Making Advent Bright – 25 Ways to Focus on Christ
Advent resources from Catholic News Agency
The History of Advent
O Radiant Dawn – Preparing for Advent
Advent provides a reason to try new habits. One we strongly suggest is the “Family Prayer Before Meals” by Bishop Joseph Perry. Statistics tell us that when a family breaks bread and prays together at least three times per week, it makes a noticeable difference in your children’s stability and security as a family unit. Download it off the page and make it a lasting habit.
How about you, what are some ways that you practice Advent in your home? Please comment below.
Frank J. Casella is Executive Director of Catholic Men Chicago Southland (CMCS) ~ Living the Goodness of a Catholic Man. He is co-founder of the Bishop Perry Catholic Men’s Conference and the CMCS Parish Small Men’s Groups. Contact him on Twitter @FrankJCasella or through the CMCS website: cmcsvirtues.org