This time of year is very full. It is busy, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday next week and as we anticipate the Advent and Christmas seasons. The world tells us we are already behind in our Christmas shopping, but we haven’t even sliced the turkey yet!
In the liturgical calendar, we are experiencing a time of fullness, too. We are coming to the close of the month when we honor the holy souls. Tomorrow is also the last Sunday of our liturgical year — the Feast of Christ the King — and the conclusion of the Year of Faith.
The world and the Church are inviting us into fullness! And yet they are two very different types of fullness. The world is saying “save now, “shop early,” “only 32 days until Christmas.” The Church, on the other hand, is drawing us into hope, stillness, anticipation. The Church is calling us to keep our hearts and minds focused on Christ, the King, our Faith.
We remember the Scripture passage in Romans that tells us “do not be conformed to this world.” And yet we live in this world, even though it’s not our ultimate home.
This time of year can be a wonderful time to practice that very idea found in Romans: to live in this world, to be present to our tasks at hand, but to keep our eye on the prize. An eternal perspective of sorts.
When things get busy, when we get overwhelmed, when we grow anxious about everything we have to get done, we have a choice in that moment. To get caught up in the anxiety and stress … or to trust in God’s providence through our praise and thanksgiving.
Sure, it still may be busy, and we still may have a lot to do. But rather than grumbling or feeling “on edge,” if we can cultivate an attitude of gratitude, we will experience greater peace and joy while we complete our to-do list. We will recognize the blessings that may go unnoticed if we remain too caught up in the hustle and bustle.
Last week at Mass, our pastor talked about making two resolutions for Advent: one that focuses on our daily life (to be faithful to our task at hand) and one that focuses on our eternal life (to keep our eye on the prize). I thought this was very practical and doable … and possibly even transforming of our attitudes and hearts.
It reminded me of Our Blessed Mother. Mary.
Mary must have been attentive to her duties. She was a wife and mother, after all! But I bet she did not let her to-do list take over her life! Her main focus was always Heaven-bound. Her tasks were done in the light of her yes to God and her praising Him in all things.
And when we say all things, it really means ALL things. Yes, Mary praised God when the angel appeared to her. She praised Him when she held Jesus on the first Christmas Day. But Mary didn’t just praise God in the good times! She also praised Him when she had too much laundry to do or when Jesus was sick with a cold. She even praised Him when Simeon said her heart would be pierced; when she lost Jesus in the temple; and as she watched her Son suffer and die. In other words, she praised God at the Annunciation and at the Crucifixion.
She praised Him, because she trusted Him. And trust can be hard. But when we trust in the Lord, we accept the good and the bad. We accept the peace and the stress. The joy and the sorrow. We trust that God has divinely chosen our crosses for us, and our crosses are just the right size—not too heavy and not too light (Consoling the Heart of Jesus, pages 96-97). And if we can remain in a state of trust, we can find even the littlest things to be grateful for and to call “blessing.” For nothing is impossible with God.
Jesus told St. Faustina: “Be grateful for the smallest of My graces, because your gratitude compels Me to grant you new graces.”
Poet John Milton says, “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday and reflect upon our blessings and gifts, perhaps we can also reflect upon those two resolutions—one practical, one spiritual—that we can bring into our Advent season.
Practically speaking, maybe it’s not getting distracted in our work or maybe its doing our least-favorite chores first instead of saving them until last. Spiritually speaking, maybe it’s increasing our prayer time by 5 minutes or making it to daily Mass one day a week or signing up for a Holy Hour once a week. Another idea could be to begin a gratitude journal, jotting down one or two things that we are grateful for every day.
St. Therese reminds us, “Jesus does not demand great actions from us but simply surrender and gratitude.” In Psalm 49, we are invited to “offer to God the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.”
So, let us enter the fullness. But not that of the world. Rather the fullness of praise. The fullness of thanksgiving. The fullness of joy.