Welcome to the first installment of our Advent series for the 2019 liturgical year (Year C), which begins on Sunday, December 2, 2018. Each week, I will draw a theme from the Sunday Scripture readings, offer some reflections for your enrichment, and provide some suggestions and resources for bringing this theme to life in your learning setting.
As I reflected on the Scripture readings for the Sundays of Advent this year, I thought of the image of a group of castaways shipwrecked on a deserted island, feeling hopeless and abandoned. The Scripture readings provide us with a four-step plan for being “rescued” from the perils of this life and the evils that swirl around us. For the First Sunday of Advent, the Scripture readings proclaim to us, in essence, that “help is on the way” and that our job is to be alert (mindful, ready, awake). It’s as though the radio on the damaged ship has crackled to life, and the message tells us that help is on the way but that we need to watch the skies to recognize the help when it arrives, and we need to stay tuned to the radio for further updates.
In our spiritual lives, we need to awaken from the anesthetized state that the world lulls us into so that we can recognize the dangers around us and, more importantly, recognize the help—the rescue—that is being offered to us by God through the Incarnation of his Son, Jesus. One way to awaken ourselves to the help that God offers is through the reflective prayer of the Ignatian Examen. Advent is a season that pleads with us to take some time to do some serious reflection in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the secular holiday season so that we can recognize the grace of God that alone can rescue us.
As a catechist, you can benefit from doing this kind of reflection for yourself. Praying the daily Examen is a great way to remain awake, mindful, and ready so that we do not miss the saving grace in our midst. I highly recommend A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer by Jim Manney as a wonderful guide for praying the Examen. This is also a great resource to use to introduce those in adult faith formation to the practice of the daily Examen.
If you are doing children’s faith formation, I highly recommend a wonderful new book, Shhh…God Is in the Silence, as a way of introducing young people to the practice of reflective prayer and eventually the Examen. The book also has its own website with links to activities you can use in your learning setting or encourage parents to use at home.
During the week ahead, let’s commit to paying closer attention to all of the ways that God offers his saving grace to us and live with the confidence that—no matter how challenging life gets—help is on the way! And let’s commit to bringing that message to others who are desperately seeking hope in the midst of despair; may we embody the help that comes from Jesus Christ.