Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Rejoicing in Mary: Third Week of Advent 2017

Advent has been different this year for many reasons. For one, it is very short this year! The fourth week of Advent only lasts for barely 24 hours before we celebrate Christmas Eve that same night as the fourth Sunday of Advent. I find myself wanting to celebrate Advent a little longer which makes NO sense because I should be rejoicing that it is now almost Christmas!

The third week of Advent has been a week of rejoicing, but for different reasons. On Gaudate Sunday last Sunday, I found myself very grateful for community. The previous and second week of Advent had been filled with celebrations and meetings with various communities in my life: faith communities, work communities, and friend communities. I was out celebrating almost every night that week! And even though I am an introvert, I do enjoy a party when I know it will be with a strong community.

Advent has also been different for me this year because I have been doing the 33 day consecration to Mary, but a slightly different version than I have done in the past. This version was suggested by a friend and former member of one of the many communities I have been apart of in my life, who knows me well. The consecration focuses on Mary (obviously) through the lives of three of our more modern day saints: St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. Pope John Paul II. (Two out of the three are of my beloved Polish heritage! I've got good genes :)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, 2017- particularly at the beginning of this year and also this fall- were a struggle for myself and many of us. Our country has exposed many of our open wounds in our culture and in our history and we are very divided on how to deal with them. It seems as soon as I would regain hope, a new wound would be opened and I would be overwhelmed again. I also have mentioned that it feels lonely to be a Christian in this time. Well, a Christian, at least, who seems to interpret the Gospel in a way that is very different than the Christians shown in the mainstream media.

Taking this journey with Mary through the eyes of these great saints has helped, however. Each of them must've felt very alone and overwhelmed in their lives: Maximilian died in a concentration camp in Poland. I can only imagine the sadness and confusion he must've felt to witness such evil. Teresa of Calcutta surely was overwhelmed by the poverty she encountered in India and in our world. She even experienced the "dark night of the soul" where she lost the consolation of "feeling" God is near. And lastly, John Paul II suffered when a person attempted to take his life, and he also witnessed ramifications of the Holocaust and the Cold War.

If all of these saints also felt alone or overwhelmed, like I believe they must have, I am- we are- in very good company. The opposite of being alone.

 St. Maximilian Kolbe with the Auschwitz prisoner's attire is heart wrenching...
 Love this image of St. Teresa of Calcutta!
Look at that holy, Polish saint!

Today, I woke up to more bad news in the media. Every day when it seems like it can't get worse, it does: fighting in Jerusalem fanned by our own president, tax bills being passed in the middle of the night that will cut taxes for the wealthy, threats of nuclear war from the East, tampering from spies in Russia with our democracy, people believing fake news to be real. I was feeling overwhelmed again, but then I started my meditation for the day.

The author spoke of Mary as the ultimate mediator of God's Mercy. Pope Francis reminded us almost two years ago about the importance of Mercy as well. We need God's Mercy in times like these. Only His perfect Love and forgiveness can fix and heal us.

Mary stood at the foot of the cross. So many must've thought all hope was lost in that moment. But as Christ poured out His Mercy for sin, she stood there willing to help and continuing to trust. She can help us receive and administer God's Mercy as she did then with her strength.

I've mentioned before that this year, more than ever, I've come to finally appreciate and understand Mary's role as one of strength. The author of the book we are using shows her as "perceptive" and knowing the needs of others at the Wedding at Cana. He shows her bravery and openness in the midst of suffering in the foot of the cross. These are things that I, we, need right now.

As we continue to draw closer to Christmas- thinking about God bringing His Light into the world- I continue to hope that we realize that Christmas is about Light. Peace. Hope. Joy. Not money. Not fear. Not condemnation. Jesus came into the world to speak against those things.

I have to remind myself that the Light has already conquered the darkness and Truth sets us free. God is that Light and that Truth and we remember this at Christmas.
May the Light that Christ brings at Christmas give us the Peace that we need.