God, Please Help Me, I'm Failing at Advent Already
Friday, Dec. 08, 2017
It’s only the second day of Advent and I’ve already blown the whole liturgical season. As far as I’m concerned, we should skip Christmas entirely and go straight to Lent. At least that way I can focus on my shortcomings without feeling pressured to express the joy of the season.
All this is because, as usual, I have too much on my plate and grandiose ideas of what I can accomplish in the hours allotted me.
My plan for Advent this year was to immerse myself in the spirit by being present in the moment at each prayer opportunity. These good intentions have already been trampled underfoot. By Monday, the second day of Advent, I’d already failed five times, and that’s not counting Saturday’s Advent retreat, which I was reporting on. It’s not possible for me to be present at an event as both a participant and a reporter because the goals are too different: As a participant I want to immerse myself in the experience; as a reporter, I need to be objective.
Unfortunately, the excuse that I was working isn’t valid for the Advent vigil Mass Saturday night. It’s true that I attended that Mass at the cathedral specifically because they were going to bless the Advent wreaths brought forward by the congregation, and I wanted to get photos, but that ceremony was only about five minutes of the Mass, plus the additional time of posting the photo on Facebook and Twitter. Nevertheless, I spent the entire time preceding the blessing of the wreaths wondering how to get the best photo, and then stewed during the remainder of the Mass because the photo wasn’t that good.
Moving on to Sunday, my attempt at lectio divina fell flat because my mind refused to focus on Jesus’ warning that we must be alert so we will be ready when the master of the house comes. Instead, my thoughts chastised me for not putting in enough effort on the essay that I’d written for my class, admonished me for giving short shrift to guests I’d invited over and then abandoned so I could finish the essay, and fretted about the book I need to read for the presentation I’m supposed to give next week.
Attempting a fresh start on Advent, I made it to Mass Monday morning, but spent the entire time wondering how I was going to get all my work done. I needed to edit all the stories for this issue, write this column and the article about the Advent retreat, lay out the paper, deal with 50 emails (most could be deleted but several required attention), answer phone calls, compile the Around the Diocese listing and the obituaries, and then get up to Ogden for the blessing of the nativity display at Give Me a Chance.
That sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but it’s doable as long as I take one thing at a time and don’t allow myself to get distracted by how much needs to get done.
The preoccupation with my to-do list followed me out of Mass and into the office. It continued to pester me as I joined the rest of the Pastoral Center staff at the blessing of the Advent wreath, so that opportunity of communing with God was lost as well.
In his homily Monday morning, Fr. Christopher Gray asked whether we will wait until God comes knocking at our door, or whether like the centurion in the Gospel reading we have such faith that we will open our heart from afar. From where I stand right now, God’s going to have to pass me by this year. I’m just too busy for Advent.
I confessed this sentiment to Fr. Joseph Delka, who did the blessing of the nativity scene. He smiled kindly and said if I fail the first time, I should try a second time, and if that doesn’t work, give it a third go, and so on and so on and so on.
Determined to redeem myself, I took his advice with me to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and promptly dozed off.
I’m failing at Advent. All I can do is pray that God helps me prepare for his coming, because it’s painfully obvious I can’t do it on my own.Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic.