As someone who writes for this blog once per liturgical season, I’m always on the lookout for an overarching theme for the current season. Sometimes finding this theme (or understanding what I’m taking away from a given chunk of the year) feels like hard work, and sometimes it just stares you right in the face. Guess which one this Advent has been! Let’s take a look at a few examples:
I was leader for the second week of Advent at the MCC church. Our keyboard player kindly pointed out to us that that week’s theme, according to our Advent song, was “peace.”
One of my choir directors at my Catholic church picked this year to dust off “Peace, Peace”
Fast forward to the third Sunday of Advent, and I can’t get the line from Paul’s letter to the Philippians out of my head that talks about “God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding” (4:7, The Inclusive Bible)
One of the Norbertines asks if I’d be willing to do the Christmas proclamation for Christmas eve at a rural Wisconsin parish, and I shoot back to him the only line I can remember: “Is that that ‘the whole world was at peace’ chant?”
Clearly Advent is trying to tell me something! Admittedly, I never seem to have much time for Advent – it always comes at the end of the semester, when there’s a big rush to turn everything in before it’s too late. And just when I’m done with that, it’s time to make sure that everything is in order for Christmas. Therefore, I’m grateful for the reminder to slow down and experience some peace.
Thinking about it some more, searching for peace is quite an appropriate Advent thing. Every Mass, we are reminded that we need to be at peace with those around us before we can receive Jesus – that’s why there’s the sign of peace immediately before communion. As a precursor to Christmas, Advent should function the same way.
In an effort to “let peace begin with me,” as the famous song says, I’ve been more observant of my own inner peace. There have been a couple times when I’ve done well: I’ve had a few days at work where things that would normally get to me just haven’t bothered me, and I’ve been able to take a couple moments when I’m not singing during my choir rehearsals to simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the music. Yet at other times, I’ve still let stress and frustration get the better of me. (I’m still not any good at Mondays!) I am certainly open to your suggestions for finding inner peace. In any event, I am grateful to have not completely missed Advent this year. And since half of my examples were Christmas songs anyway, maybe Christmas can be about peace, too. As we wrap up Advent and move into Christmas, I pray that the peace “beyond all understanding” is with us all during this season and beyond.
About the author:Francis Beaumier is on the leadership team for the Dignity Young Adult Caucus and an active member of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family as well as Angels of Hope Metropolitan Community Church. He currently works for Brown County Library as an IT Specialist and is pursuing a Master’s in Liberal Studies at St. Norbert College.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
In a post on the CTA 20/30 site last week, Justin Sengstock, a blogger-colleague (blogleague?) of mine, reflected on Lent in high school days of yore, when he treated the penitential season as a “competitive sport.” He told of going without food between meals every day, complete with pounding headaches and an ill-placed sense of accomplishment.
Justin is not alone. I’ve tried various innovations of Lenten piety. One year, fresh off of three earned Middle Eastern history credits, I did a Ramadan-esque fast of waiting until sundown to eat (at which point I ended up making up for lost time). Even as recently as this past Ash Wednesday, I elected to limit myself to bread and water for the day. It turns out that it’s hard to adequately perform a high-stress teaching job when my own body is yelling at me to stop starving myself.
I kind of missed the point. And that’s why the readings this week appear during the season of Lent, because a lot of us miss the point. Mortification of the body for mortification’s sake is not really fasting. It becomes either an obsessive-compulsive Christianity that frets over a self-imposed process or the hypocritical “look at me!” Christianity that Jesus warns us about in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:16-18).
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” – Thomas Merton
Covering a high school football game for the local paper, I was alarmed to witness what was for me a first: a JROTC Senior Night ceremony. I shook my head as I listened to repeated future plans to “serve our country” and even one cadet whose interests included “watching the Military Channel.” I wanted to go ask the school’s instructor if he accepted responsibility for every severed limb, lifetime of PTSD or body bag of those impressionable youths who go on to learn the hard way that war is no video game.
But my righteous indignation settled on one bare theological fact: those kids are going to need Jesus. And that is why I, as a Pax Christi member, support the chaplains.
“Great and glorious God, my Lord Jesus Christ! I implore thee to enlighten me and to disperse the darkness of my soul! Give me true faith and firm hope and a perfect charity! Grant me, O Lord, to know thee so well that in all things I may act by thy light, and in accordance with thy holy will!” – St. Francis of Assisi
This year was the first time that I observed Easter in the purpose for which it was intended: a 50-day celebration of Jesus’ sucker-punch into the face of death; a 50-day party at the end of a three-day test match that ended with the score, Jesus 1, Death 0. The joy that comes with a true Easter has carried me through one of the most difficult times of my life.
Some time ago, I was walking around the various military monuments at the Four Mile Cove Ecological Park in Cape Coral,Fla., site of a famous Iwo Jima statue (one of the originals, I’m told). At the end closest to the flags stands an army monument displaying a larger-than-life soldier saluting the nearby U.S. flag while holding his M16.
“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. … According to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” – 2 Peter 3:8-9,13 (NASB)
Wednesday was the feast of St. Stephen, a man who could arguably be considered the patron saint of rhetoric, an activity which ultimately gave him a title of greater reverence: the first martyr. In today’s society, his life is particularly relevant.