Give a few moments to letting the inner self find some quiet
As always it helps to close your eyes and to give a few moments to letting the inner self find some quiet. You are here to receive some new light on your life. Ask to be able to get in touch with your deeper desires. Lord Jesus, you said that you are the light of the world and our “way, truth and life”. Grant me to discover how to journey with you in this Advent time towards newness of light, towards you.
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.
Just as the Magi travelled in companionship so do we
- A traditional picture of the Magi or Wise Men might show three of them. In fact Matthew’s gospel does not mention any number. It speaks about three gifts and artists have nearly often depicted three different figures, one old, one young, one from another race. As time passed they also acquired names: Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar. What seems significant is that it is a story of travelling together, no matter what the number.
- It may also be helpful to reflect on the many people who have crossed our path in life, and especially those who have walked with us in our faith journey. The 17th century Spanish Jesuit, Balthasar Gracian, wrote that “life without friends is like life on a desert island”, adding that to find and keep even one deep friendship in life is the greatest of blessings. Of course many contacts with people do not become friendship, but these also influence the tone of our lives as Christians. How do I react to the stranger, the beggar, the difficult person? “As often as you did it to one of these”, says Jesus, “you did it to me”.
- It is through the quality of our relationships that we grow and change. It is here that the heart learns generosity or else can get hurt. It is here hopefully that our Magi-like journey towards God finds human nourishment. If we experience understanding and acceptance in friendships, we are more open to believing in the acceptance of a loving God. Just as the Magi travelled in companionship, so do we. Our prayer in preparation for Christmas can start from this aspect of our lives, and it can unfold in three moments – as an exercise in memory, in healing and in gratitude. In each of these dimensions you can re-read your story prayerfully, seeking to recognize God at work in our many human situations through the years.
Talk to God
Offer thanks for the blessing of your friendships and how they have made you more open to God
- Memory. Think of parents and family, of childhood or school friends, of special relationships of trust and of love, of relationships that last and of those that were lost in the course of time. Who are the key people without whom your life would be totally different? Do this slowly. Pause on the memories that seem strong for you. Did these encounters help you to become more faithful to the light that you follow (like the Magi on their journey)? Or did some of them leave you wounded or even embittered? Remember to re-visit the past (and the present) with the Lord, not just as a self-exploration.
- Healing. If you run into painful memories, do not avoid them. To find some healing is important as part of this pilgrimage towards Christmas. “Forgive us as we forgive”: that phrase in the Our Father is stressed often in the gospel. We are told to pray for our “enemies”. But that is not easy. We cannot always command our feelings, but we can try to avoid clinging to bitterness. Here is an image that could help. Think of a magnifying glass: it enlarges some words that are on the page but it distorts the rest of the page. If some relationship has gone sour or worse, it is easy to develop a negative magnifying glass, in the sense of concentrating on resentment and forgetting to read the whole page of one’s story. To break that glass is a grace, and one that sets the heart free for the journey of faith. Have the courage to stay and seek that freedom from the Lord.
- Gratitude. In our journey with others we hope that most of our memories will be life-giving and therefore sources of wonder and thanksgiving. We need others to set us free for love, and they do this in many different ways. Recall times of special intimacy or of ordinary enjoyment with others. Remember how a first casual meeting blossomed into a lasting friendship. In both our human belonging and in our relationship with the Lord we cross thresholds into new depth. Offer thanks for the blessing of these contacts and how they have made you more open to God.
- In this light our advent adventure becomes a journey of discovery towards that Friend who is coming again this year.