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FAITH AND CULTURE | Remembrance, gratitude and hope

Warm summer and fall weather has given way to the winter chill. Summer months have flown past and now the holidays appear imminent. This leaves some of us wondering where the time went, and others panicking about all kinds of action items in the Christmas and other holiday “to-do” lists.

These transitional and frantic feelings are often an exasperating aspect of commercialism. We see a surge of advertisements and decorations for cultural and religious celebrations. If we aren’t attentive, we might quickly move from Labor Day to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Advent and onto Christmas with very little reflection. Even before Thanksgiving, we were bombarded with commercials for the best Christmas gifts of the year.

Given our cultural propensity to acquiesce to the immediacy of the moment, it’s advisable to step back to honor this time with dignity and purpose. The change of leaves, the brisk air and the gentle snowflakes serve as a reminder of how graceful this time of change and transition can be. Our connection to the rhythms of nature ought to help us slow down and find quiet time to reflect.

Christian spirituality teaches that transitional moments in our lives can be opportunities to be more contemplative and prayerful. In November, we are invited to take time to remember loved ones who have passed away and were a blessing in our personal lives. Likewise, in our remembrance, we are encouraged to think about holy men and women who mirror for us the love and compassion of Christ. So reading about the lives of the saints can be an excellent way to elevate our meditations.

This season of transition also invites us to reflect on the world around us with gratitude. Without gratitude, different cultural and world events often feel weighty and might tempt our spirits to grow weary and cynical. Violence in our neighborhoods, schools, sacred places and social gatherings can be discouraging and lead to spiritual desolation.

Amid this apparent world of negativity, we know that God’s love and care for us is real and visible: “But now thus says the Lord: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you’” (Isaiah 43: 1-4).

The challenge for us is to hope in this promise and not let the waves of human brokenness make us forget what God has done and continues to do in our lives.

As this time of change and transition continues to unfold, each of us is invited to let go of some of the commercialism and busyness that distracts us so that we might become more mindful and grateful. More importantly, this season of change encourages us to hold fast to our hope in God’s loving protection and promise: “I am about to make a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the dessert” (Isaiah 43:19).

In faith, then, we remember, give thanks and hope, knowing that God’s love is with us.

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

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