December 2013/January 2014 — Vol. 3, Issue 5
This is the anthem for the Third Sunday of Advent. In this season of preparation, we are encouraged to nurture a joyful anticipation of Christ. We know that the coming of Christ is a great thing. Yet at times we only know this, we hold back from moving from the knowledge of it to the pure joy of it. We know that Christ came. We know that He is with us. We know that He will come again. To know these things is to remain only on the doorstep of the joyful mystery that we are invited to participate in.
The move from knowing into celebrating requires some preparation. This work of preparation is the work of Advent; the work of building up in our hearts a real longing for Christ. When we harbor a longing, an anticipation, a real desire for something, its approach can be felt. Just look at the joy and energy in little children as Christmas approaches. They know that something good is coming and they just cannot wait for it. To really grow in excitement for the arrival of Christ requires the work of building up our longing for Him.
Not only is this important to recognize during this season of Advent, but it is important to realize in the discernment of one’s vocation. One can know that God has a call for each of us. There might be the knowledge that it is important to discover one’s call, but to really dive in and develop energy for discerning that call requires some work.
That work is the work of developing the desire to know God’s will. I often talk with men about the fact that there is an important prayer to offer before ever asking God to make His will known. That prayer is to ask God to plant deep in your heart the abiding desire for His will. If we are able to go beyond the mere interest in knowing God’s will and develop a true desire for that will, we will be able to go from hoping to find it to a longing for His will. That longing will prepare us to receive His call.
If one were to ask that God would make His will known, but has not developed the desire for that will, it is possible that the call will come but go unrecognized. God may offer the call but the person may not see it or recognize it as the call. It may just come across as an option and may be set aside as an undesirable option. Yet if the real desire for God’s will is there, then there is the longing that may help to make the connection when the call is revealed. The desire for God’s will helps to infuse one with the energy to move past all of the seeming obstacles to embrace and follow God’s call.
Some of the foundational work then for discernment is to nurture in one’s heart the desire for God’s will. This can be done by asking for the desire in prayer. Seek and you shall find. It can also be done by meditating on scripture and the lives of the saints. They followed and God did not disappoint. It can also be done by reflecting on the fact that God has our great good in mind when he offers the call. His invitation will lead to our joy. To know that our joy waits at the other end of following God’s call can help to develop the desire to hear and answer that call.
The work of nurturing our desire for Christ is the work that we are invited into in this Advent season. It is this wonderful work that promises to prepare us for a greater celebration of Christmas. It is also the wonderful work of preparing our hearts to hear and answer God’s call.
Pope Francis' prayer to Our Lady
Mary,Virgin and Mother,
you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life
in the depths of your humble faith:
as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own "yes"
to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
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