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Keeping Your Light Lit

There is much nuance to the English language, and recently in my reading, I’ve been paying a good deal of attention to the articles that accompany subjects and objects. In a particular way, my interest is in how the meaning of a phrase changes depending on the use of the article “a” versus “the.” One such example recently occurred while in Mass.

Advent is a season of preparation and, thus, the scripture passage, “prepare the way for the Lord” often takes center stage. However, while singing Michael Joncas’ A Voice Cries Out this past Sunday, I noticed that the refrain includes, “prepare a way for the Lord.” I hadn’t previously given that much thought, but this time, it stuck like an earworm; I must say, I think I rather prefer it.

In my last CrossCurrents post about pride and humility, I suggested that one of the most difficult aspects of parenting, teaching, and coaching is knowing when and how to push. In response, I received a very nice reflection from a friend who noted that it is equally difficult to know what struggles our students and colleagues are facing that might hinder their pride and humility. I thought of her words as I read Fr. Jim McDermott’s recent America Media contribution Why Does God Hate Me?. The article is an open letter to those whose life struggles seem so persistent and insurmountable that they feel as though not only is God’s love not attainable, God is actively working against them. Wow. Thankfully, this is a place I have never been. Still, there have been many times throughout my life where God’s love hasn’t been terribly apparent. “Distant” is probably the best way to describe it - as if God just isn’t paying attention. This is the internal lens through which last Sunday I received and reflected on the phrase “prepare a way for the Lord.”

In reflecting on the nature of my own writing over the years, I trend toward the themes of perseverance and hope rooted in a Divine Master. This has not been intentional, but these are the two things that, from a metacognitive perspective, I find myself consciously attempting to activate in response to my own life challenges, meager as they are in relation to what many others are facing. And, in short, perseverance and hope consistently get me a pretty long way. What happens, though, when they are not enough?

We all experience times of loss, abandonment, or, perhaps, injustice that leave us feeling alone and powerless. Occasionally, these experiences are pivotal moments that could alter life’s trajectory, or spiral into a debilitating emotional state. Why would God allow this to happen? Why did God abandon me in my moment of crisis? God really doesn’t care about me as an individual.

It’s in these times when it is most important that we “prepare a way for the Lord.” What I mean by that is to intentionally keep the door open for grace to enter. Prepare a way by which God can find you and you can find God - eventually. The bigger the space you prepare the better, but if all you have available is a small spot in the corner of your heart, so be it. Perhaps your “preparation” is choosing not to toss out the prayer card in your wallet, keeping the crucifix that’s hanging on your wall, or taking a few seconds out of your day to tell God that you are still mad or hurt. All of these might seem insignificant, but in doing them you are acknowledging your faith in God’s existence. This is the necessary kernel. From here, anything is possible regarding the relationship you ultimately foster.

Though much of this post has focused on those among us who may have good reason to question God’s goodness, “preparing a way for the Lord” is equally important for those of us suffering from a more prevalent condition - indifference: when we look at our lives and determine that our belief or unbelief doesn’t really matter. This tends to be where a lot of young people find themselves - and I’m not just talking about today’s youth. MANY of us went through a similar stage as young adults, and continue to experience periods of indifference throughout our lives.

Thus, while “preparing the way for the Lord” has a seasonal aspect to it, “preparing a way for the Lord” is a constant - sort of like a pilot light. So as we approach Christmas and the resolutions that accompany the start of a new year, I invite you to consider what it is that you might do to keep your light lit.


CONTRIBUTOR: Jeff Hausman, AVLI President

vol 5 issue 5


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