During this time of Advent, we as Catholics are told almost on repeat, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” “Prepare your heart,” “Be ready because Jesus is coming,” etc. And when I hear this, I tend to jump to the fact that I need to DO all this stuff that I haven’t been doing and I start to panic. I feel I need to pray a ton more and do all these sacrifices and make sure I am living Advent to its fullest potential and the list goes on. It’s stressful because this season is naturally stressful with preparing for Christmas and everything else going on, and so I stress over the fact that I have to do more spiritually as well. And although there is nothing wrong with wanting to do more for the Lord and that is a good desire, at the end of the day, it is exhausting to run around like that, and I’m lucky if I can stay true to all these things I have “promised” I would do for a couple days, let alone the whole season of Advent. But today’s Gospel shed some light on that for me…
Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
And it struck me: I am a product of this society, and it absolutely affects my spiritual life. We are constantly told growing up all the things you have to do, if you want to have success in life and therefore be happy. When you’re in high school it’s understood that you have to get good grades, but it’s not enough just to get good grades but you have to do extra curriculars, and it’s not enough to do extra curriculars, but you have to do a variety of extra curriculars – as many as humanly possible – and it’s not enough to just participate, but you have to be in leadership positions, or else you won’t get into a good college, and if you don’t get into a good college then you won’t get a job, and if you don’t get a job you have not succeeded, etc etc etc. And so as a result, we are trained to believe that sleep doesn’t matter, downtime doesn’t exist, and the only thing that matters is that you are producing results in whatever you are doing with your time. Success is everything. But the problem is, we are are run so ragged with this push to be successful and produce that we have to find a release somehow, and so we become addicted to Netflix and video games and anything else that has absolutely nothing to do with a true human connection, therefore leaving us empty and not refreshed at all, not understanding why we’re not happy or satisfied, when we seemingly “have it all.” When asked how we are, we don’t even know how to answer because we have so much lost touch with ourselves that we just quickly reply, “good, busy…”
And so it is no wonder that we take this attitude into our spiritual lives. We want to be successful Christians, and so we think we have to do all these seemingly holy things to accomplish that. We see Advent as a time when the Church is telling us to amp up these things so that we are ready for the Lord to come in just four short weeks, and we quickly fall back into this mode of productivity and success that we have adopted in every other area of our lives.
But this is not what the Lord is asking of us. This is not what Advent is about. He just wants our hearts. He knows how empty and tired and broken we are, and so He invites us into His Heart just to come away for awhile, and be with Him. He sees how we’ve been running around all year and trying to accomplish so many things. But He wants us to be still. He wants to renew us in His love and show us how precious we are to His Heart. He wants to be born anew on Christmas in each and every one of our hearts.
And so, I refuse to glorify busyness in my spiritual life this Advent. I might not be able to change the fact that there is a lot to do this season and a lot of errands to run, but I can choose to rest in the Lord. Rather than amping up all these unattainable spiritual practices in order to “succeed” at Advent, I am going to be still. I am going to receive the Lord’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and rest in His Heart. After all, I am His beloved daughter and all He ever wanted is for me to know that truth and be immersed in that love.
This season is one of renewal and repentance, and I refuse to allow Advent to do the opposite in me. I am His beloved daughter, I am enough.