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FAITH AND CULTURE | Advent orientations

Today, we are used to traveling with confidence, trusting technological gadgets to get us where we want to go. More to the point, we’re quite comfortable getting into our vehicles and awaiting instructions from the GPS on our phones.

The days of owning roadmaps and keeping them in the glove compartment are gone. Taking the time to review maps and mark desired routes to destinations appears ancient and impractical. Now, with little effort, we type the places we seek into our systems and off we go.

While these new ways of traveling and moving from place to place have brought numerable advantages, it has also conditioned us to perceive traveling in purely practical ways, leaving little room for planning and reflection. Consequently, the feeling of being in an adventure or journey seems lost when paired with mechanical and high-tech systems of navigation.

Similarly, this practical way of travel also affects our spiritual sensibilities. If we aren’t mindful, we can all too easily engage spiritual journeys with this sense of mechanical and practical urgency, forgetting to note where our lives have been and where God might be inviting us to go next.

It’s important to reflect on the different steps we take in our life’s journey — no matter how small or large our steps may be. In particular, our faith encourages to grow in our knowledge and love of God and one another (2 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 6:1; Colossians 1: 9-10; 2 Timothy 4: 6-8).

Likewise, in faith, we know that God guides our steps. “The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people (Exodus 13:21).”

Indeed, our days and nights are filled with the promise of God’s providence. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for your harm, to give you a future with hope…When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:11;13).

As we journey through this Advent time of waiting and searching, it’s advantageous to take time to listen to what God has planned for us. Scripture provides clear orientations for us to follow and trust. In them, we are invited to be vigilant and attentive to the signs that are around us so as to not act contrary to God’s ways (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36).

More to the point, the orientations we receive instruct us to change our ways and prepare the way of the Lord. “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:1-6). In like manner, these Advent orientations encourage us to remain faithful, knowing that God’s promises of joy and salvation will be ours (Philippians 4: 4-7; Luke 1: 39-45).

Although we are busy with travels, events, and aspirations, we pray that this Advent season be a time of deeper reflection, so that our hearts can more fully be oriented to God’s path before us.

Orozco is executive director for Human Dignity and Intercultural Affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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