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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | Taking a journey means preparation for an unknown future

We can face uncertainty with fear or with patience that’s rooted in the Lord’s promise

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The readings this week are filled with the image of a journey. There are three journeys that I’d like to focus on. First is the journey of Advent.

The Church makes the journey of Advent as a collective and external sign that invites each of us to make an individual and internal journey. How’s that individual journey going?

Every external journey requires preparation. The same is true for the spiritual journey that each of us is invited to make during Advent. What spiritual preparations are you making to make room for Christ in your life? Is there something in your heart, attitude, mind or schedule that could change to make more room for Christ?

I encourage you to take up some deliberate preparations during Advent, just as you would for any journey.

Second is the journey of Mary.

This week on Dec. 8, we celebrate the fact that Mary was conceived without original sin (the Immaculate Conception). But the fact that Mary was conceived without original sin, and lived her entire life without sin, doesn’t mean that everything was easy for her! She wasn’t omniscient, and no Church tradition or doctrine declares her clairvoyant. She had to walk into the future, as we all do.

Let’s think, for a moment, about how we walk into the future. I think we all have the experience of looking back on things we did during a journey and thinking: “Anxiety about the future made me act badly. Knowing how things turned out, I wish I had done that differently.”

We see that same pattern in the way the apostles act all through the Gospels — knowing how things turn out, they would have acted differently! And if we look back even further, we can see that same pattern throughout all of salvation history.

That’s where, I suspect, Mary was different. In the face of uncertainty and anxiety, being without sin, she would have been able to move forward with trust in God’s plan. That would have given her a certain kind of gentleness and patience in the face of the future that we could all use.

And that leads me to the third and last journey: All Things New.

As with Advent, so with All Things New: The collective and external journey of the Church is also an invitation to make an individual and interior journey. How’s that interior journey going? We’re putting the structures of the archdiocese under closer inspection and considering some changes. Are you going through the same process with your own life? It might be fruitful to do so.

And, as with Mary, so with All Things New: There is uncertainty as we move into the future. We can face that uncertainty with fear, or we can face it with gentleness and patience that’s rooted in the promise the Lord holds out to us: “Behold, I am with you always.” Asking Mary to help us grow in trust in the face of uncertainty and anxiety would be a great way to spend Advent.

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