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     A Season of Grace And Gratitude: an Advent meditation

How do I know that God loves me? Because, when I pay enough attention, I can see how much he cares for me, I can see his grace flowing in the world. It is quite a treat to be able to "see" it. It only happens on some occasions, and it is a minor miracle when it does. I can't seem to maintain this "open-to-grace-mode" as often as I should. But this is exactly why I need the liturgical life of the Church, to remind me at regular intervals of the whole world (the visible AND the invisible one) and to remind me of my responsibilities. It tells me again and again how God's love is coming at us with every breath and at every sunrise and how it is a gift.

Our own capacity to be thankful

The proper response to a gift is to say Thank You, to express gratitude, with joy and respect. It does not always come naturally (ask any parent!). But our hearts and souls can be exercised and trained just as well as our muscles. I know how much I appreciate being around kind and grateful people and it makes me want to emulate them. To think that there is a lovely dance between grace and gratitude and that the link between the two is within me is very encouraging to me.

It is easy to forget it when listening to the news. It seems that new threats and fears are popping up every day and the media are doing such a good job of keeping us informed. I'm kept up to date on the latest WikiLeaks and the latest foreclosure statistic, I hear about every political accusation hurled from one party to the other. Bombarded with useless data, I'm expected to accept forced austerity (in my case, recent unemployment) and economic uncertainty. This is why I can't always see the grace of God at work in the world, I keep being distracted and confused.

Facing the truth in ourselves

But the truth is that it is not just the media, there are enough forces within myself - such as my own arrogance or apathy - to obscure the delicate ballet of grace and gratitude. I try to resist the temptations of glorified anger and the general trends of whining. But only the season of the Church gives me the reboot I need: it helps me to focus on relationships, to pay attention to goodness, to practice the works of mercy. And there is much personal growth at stake here since I need to trust that there is also a point in the end where "all is grace" as the saints have already told us. Because there is something so poignant - and ever so graceful - when one can still hold on to gratitude even in the midst of suffering, it's called courage, dignity and fortitude, and it generates our own admiration, and furthermore it transforms the world in the process. Yes, the creation is drenched in grace.

When the goal is also the journey

This is the goal of the season of Advent, to prepare for the amazing feast of Christmas, the Incarnation! To grow, to become richer in the only wealth that truly matters, concentrating on relationships, kindness and peace, listening to and serving others. And to welcome God, the God of love and forgiveness and hope. As we say it at every mass: God has come to us once, God is here right now and God will come again!
And to think that I am offered a place at this banquet, at this extraordinary exchange, at this amazing opportunity!
Thanks be to God.

Copyright©2010-2022 Michele Szekely

Catholic San Francisco published a shorter version of this Advent meditation on December 14, 2010.

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