Happy Fourth Week of Advent! Today we are wrapping up our book study on Interior Freedom, and sticking with the theme of ‘we can only control what is within ourselves,’ Nancy is without a voice this week so it’s just me, Katie.
This episode focuses on the last third of the book (that first section was so huge!!). And for me, the two words that kept popping out were HOPE and IDENTITY, so they are the focus of the episode as well.
Fr. Jacques Philippe defines hope as, “the virtue of people who know they are infinitely weak and easily broken and rely firmly on God with utter trust… To learn hope, we have to pass through impoverishment.” (p100-101) On page 105, he goes on to say, “lacking hope, we don’t really believe God can make us happy, and so we construct our happiness out of covetousness and lust.” And doesn’t that capture the frantic-ness of “preparation for Christmas?” Our to-do list triples in length, we spend money we may not have (or don’t really need to), say yes to more events and outtings than is our norm (possibly even our comfort level) and why? Because it’s Baby Jesus’ birthday and He wants us to or are we afraid that that Good News isn’t enough?
I think the way the world prepares for Christmas (consumerism, greed, busy-ness, etc.) can also be linked to our need for Identity, the other theme for today. We desperately want others to like us, or at least others to ‘see’ us in some favorable light… This feeds our Social Media addiction (or maybe just mine?). Doing and making things, decorating in certain ways, so we can get that perfect picture worthy of a hundred likes and comments. As modern moms, we are more isolated than any other generation of mothers before us. If we haven’t worked hard to create and maintain our ‘village,’ we’re without one, so we put that time into an online presence which doesn’t actually fulfill our need for friendship and camaraderie. In the words of Fr. Philippe:
One of man’s deepest needs is the need for identity… we are trying to satisfy a need for being by having… or confuse being with doing. (p 121)
It is extremely dangerous to identify ourselves with the spiritual good we are able to do. (123)
Humans beings are more than the sum of the good they can accomplish. They are children of God, whether they do good or cannot yet manage to do anything… this is why humility, spiritual poverty is so precious: it locates our identity securely in the one place where it will be safe from all harm. If our treasure is in God, no one can take it from us. (p124)
So this Advent, my challenge to you is this: some time between Now and Christmas, sit silently for just 5 minutes, holding the creche in your hands, and ask Him “What do you see when you look at me?” Then ask Him to fill you with Hope and Awe at the mystery of the Incarnation.
Also: reach out to a real life friend and make plans for sometime in the next month (if you don’t have something on the calendar already). Maybe it’s just me (introvert and HSP), but in winter, I tend to ‘hibernate,’ despite my need for some (even just a little) interaction with other mommas. This hibernation tends to cause a resurgence of my ‘media addiction,’ which feeds the Mom-Guilt-Monster, so… I am going to be proactive and make some real life plans for interaction and I challenge you to do the same.
To close: I want to share a few of the quotes I shared in this episode that I haven’t already mentioned above. Anyone of these would be amazing to take before the Blessed Sacrament and ‘chew’ on. Here we go:
(on being Hopeful)
Pure-hearted people are not so much those free of all faults and all wounds, as those who put all their hope in God and are certain his promises will be fulfilled. The pure-hearted expect everything from God; they hope in him and in him alone. (p110)
(On gracefully receiving more than we could ever return)
It doesn’t come naturally to us to give freely… nor do we find it easy to receive freely… receiving freely means trusting the giver, with open hearts, It also means abandoning ourselves and it requires a lot of humility…. We commit a fault against this free giving and receiving in our relationship with God or with other people every time we make the good we’ve done into an excuse for claiming a right, demanding gratitude or recompense… learning to give and receive freely requires a long laborious process of re-educating our minds, which have been conditioned by thousands of years of struggle for survival. (p119)
(Words of Christ to an anonymous Spanish spiritual writer)
“Doesn’t God reveal himself as your Abba? Have not I, the Son, taken on your condition at its most wretched? Doesn’t the Paraclete defend you? Believe all this with heart and soul and it will fill you with trust and confidence…. God pitches his tent to dwell with YOU. God is incarnation. God’s new name is Emmanuel, God With Us: God with YOUR reality. Open yourself to it without fear.“
Your sisters in the small things,
Nancy and Katie
PS: If you still haven’t bought the book and this series sparked your interest, it’s available right here.