By Carrie Gress, Ph.D.
As Christmas is rapidly approaching, many of us get swept away in the rush and flurry of preparations. Advent, however, offers us a unique opportunity to find silence and look carefully at our own spiritual lives. The short days, the crisp air and a heavy sense of waiting can prod us into finding a quiet space—even just for a half hour—to look at our faith and ask a few simple questions: Is our relationship with Christ as deep or as I would like? Do I connect with him on a daily, hourly, even on a minute-by- minute basis? Do I feel his presence in my life? Do I yearn to be closer to him?
The fall of Lucifer happened when he pronounced his Non Serviam! I will not serve! Through this act, Satan forever separated himself from God. In our own sinfulness, we all have grey areas that we don’t want to shine a spotlight on for fear that we may be asked to do something we don’t want to do, like St. Augustine who famously said, “Lord make me chaste, but not yet.” It is often easier to ignore these tough knots of our own weakness altogether without making a bold protest like Satan. But a weak “maybe he won’t see that I just hid that piece in my napkin” approach to the problem won’t work for long. With God, nothing remains hidden.
These areas of darkness can take on many shapes and sizes: Maybe it is forgiving someone over an old disagreement? Maybe it is a sin we struggled with for so long that we have given up hope that we can overcome it and no longer fight it? Perhaps it is an area that we have decided not to consider at all—that maybe the Church is just wrong on the topic and therefore we don’t have to worry about it, such as contraception or homosexuality? Or maybe it is an issue that people don’t really talk about as sin anymore—like anger, greed, or gluttony? Or maybe we need to take action on something—like asking that girl on a date or calling that vocations office—that we have been comfortably avoiding? Maybe it is pride and fear of failure that keeps us from doing what we know we ought to do.
It is possible to have an obstacle to God in your life and not even realize its damage. During my college years I was miserably unhappy and I spent a lot of time trying to find God everywhere – anywhere. I went to confession frequently, but I simply didn’t know that I was actually missing some pretty big sins on my list. I eventually found myself at a Marian conference in confession with an unknown priest and he brought up a topic that I had never run across before. “Drunkenness is a sin?” I remember asking incredulously, my memory flashing back to the previous weekend’s events. “Yes,” came the stern reply. “Well, let’s add that to the list.” I remember the new sense of freedom that came with actually knowing what it was that was keeping me from going deeper in my relationship with God. Yes, I had to make some lifestyle changes but these were easy in comparison with the empty and energy-sapping feeling I had lived with for years. Sometimes we have to be the one to look deeper into what the Church actually teaches to know if perhaps we are the ones barring that door from Christ reaching deeper into our lives.
God in that still small voice calls us to look deeper in our lives as what keeps us from him. God does not separate himself from us, but we, through our actions, separate ourselves from him. He is always calling, always searching to find a new way into our hearts to give him room to grow. This Advent, as he knocks, let him in.