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To Leave a Lasting Mark: Weekly Message for 12-10-2019
Dear Fellow Pilgrim, Pax Christi:
We had an early snow this year in Michigan. Long before Thanksgiving, a white carpet was quieting the landscape (and closing down the schools). And, of course, it made me think of Advent. Winter, Advent, Christmas – they all go together for me, born and bred as I was in a snowy part of the Northern Hemisphere. I have discovered over the years that they also have a lot to do with each other theologically. Let me explain.
During winter, the natural world slows down. A stark, cold landscape invites us to deeper reflection about what really lasts in life. During spring and summer, it’s easy to be distracted with all the vitality and newness of things. But during winter – at least from the point of view of the natural world – we have to face the fact of our mortality, of the passing nature of things, of our fragility.
That Jesus chose to be born on a cold winter’s night is no mere coincidence. The scene at Bethlehem is a scene of human life in its most basic elements: a mother, a baby, a small family visited by some poor shepherds. No palaces, no fancy technology (although using a manger for a crib was certainly a creative solution to a pressing challenge), no frills.
God reveals not only in his words but even in these simple facts that what really matters in life is not to be found in the frenetic hustle and bustle this fallen world tries to use to distract us from real meaning. Rather, what really matters in life are people. Human beings. Created in God’s image and called to eternal life with the Lord in heaven. To restore that image, which sin had twisted, and to renew that call – these were the reasons Jesus came to earth.
Keeping It Simple
We cannot go wrong if we think more and more about the essential elements of what really matters. We cannot go wrong if we listen to the message of winter, inviting us to become more keenly aware of our fragility and the passing nature of earthly realities. We cannot go wrong if we simply gaze, filled with faith, at Mary and Jesus and Joseph living a simple life full of love and discovering therein the secret to happiness.
Maybe during this Advent, if we give God a little bit of time and space – even only a stable cave in our hearts and minds – we too will discover that secret in a new way. Our Advent Retreat Guides, our daily series of “Finding God in Unexpected Places”, in fact, all of our resources here at RCSpirituality are designed to help make it easier for you to do that.
I want to finish by sharing one of my favorite quotations from Pope Benedict XVI. It’s from the homily he gave – while still just a cardinal – right before the conclave in which he was elected pope in 2005. It is, to my mind, one of the most beautiful expressions of what really matters in life. I hope it touches you as deeply as it has touched me:
All people desire to leave a lasting mark. But what endures? Money does not. Even buildings do not, nor books. After a certain time, longer or shorter, all these things disappear. The only thing that lasts forever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity.
The fruit that endures is, therefore, all that we have sown in human souls: love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching hearts, words that open the soul to joy in the Lord. So let us go and pray to the Lord to help us bear fruit that endures. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God.
God bless you all!
Fr John Bartunek, LC