My theme for this Advent is inspired by the Windows to the Soul segment that I’m doing with Salt + Light Radio about movies for Christmas. The theme of the movies I pick out for Advent/Christmas viewing is films that offer insight into Mary’s “Yes” to the Lord.
When you’re extra busy with traveling, promoting a new book (Chicago, I can’t wait!) while writing another book, and in the midst of all the extra activities that Thanksgiving and Christmas entail, it can feel threatening to discern whether to say “yes.” Indeed, my temptation is not to take the time to listen to God. When I give in to this temptation, I either say “yes” all the time (I’m feeling good about my life), or “no” all the time (I’m feeling overwhelmed!). But whenever something comes up, it is really an opportunity for prayer, for discernment, for listening to God’s invitation, and then saying “yes” to however God is inviting me.
Even when I say “no” to what is in front of me in the moment, it should be because I’m saying “yes” to God’s invitation at that moment. But how do we discern that? How do we listen to God’s invitations, especially when we feel not just busy but frantic?
In his homily of May 16, 2014, Pope Francis talked about the three doors we need to open to get to know Jesus, which he called the most important work of our lives. Those three doors are: Prayer, the Eucharist, and the Word of God. Our new digital magazine released in time for Advent, A Heart to Heart with Pope Francis, briefly looks at all three doors. Each “door” helps us to learn how to listen to God’s invitations in our lives and to respond with a resounding “yes!” They are wonderful “doors” to open to Jesus this Advent. (The pictured books are some wonderful resources for these doors for any season, but especially for this Advent.)
1. Prayer. Every annual retreat, I resolve to make sure that prayer has first priority in my life. And every year, I eventually let it start to slide into a place of lesser priority. I still make the time to pray, but I’m too distracted by everything to enter deeply into prayer. Or I let taking the time for prayer slide until the end of the day, when I’m too tired to pray well. Now, it’s not a bad thing to “squeeze” prayer into your day, and sometimes fitting it in at the end of our day is the best we can do. But for me as a religious, prayer should usually be my top priority for the day. If I am truly committed to my relationship with God, most of my prayer time should be at a time when I’m not so exhausted that I simply fall asleep. Maybe I need to focus a little less on doing, and a little more on praying? (Prayer and You can be found here, and the beautiful new edition of Queen of Apostles Prayer Book can be found here.)
2. Eucharistic adoration. The above point especially applies to times of making my Hour of Adoration. My daily Holy Hour is such a precious time with the Lord; and every few months, I look at the patterns of my prayer and try to figure out how I can pay more attention to our quiet Eucharistic Lord. How can I listen better to Jesus in the Eucharist? How can I remember that, instead of being a time for Jesus to listen to me prattle on about my complaints, the Hour of Adoration is a time when I can simply let Jesus love me? (Soul of Christ: Meditations on a Timeless Prayer would be good for Advent or Lent, drawing us closer to Jesus.)
3. Spending time with God’s Word. Simply taking time to pray with the Bible itself is the best. If we feel dry or simply want some help in applying the words of Jesus to our lives, there are some wonderful resources for praying with Scripture. The Gospel according to Saint Luke is wonderful to pray with during Advent, as it has the full story of John the Baptist, the Annunciation, and all of the Christmas “figures”: the magi, the shepherds, etc. Our new Discern It! App offers a wonderful novena that helps those discerning their vocation to focus on listening more attentively to God’s Word in their lives. You can find Meeting Jesus Christ: Meditations on the Word here.)