Dear Sacred Heart of Jesus Family,
I hope you had an amazing Thanksgiving! How can we keep the blessings of the season year round?
One way is this “attitude of gratitude” at the heart of our Catholic Faith. As a nation we give thanks for the countless blessings we have received. And the source and summit of our Faith is the Eucharist, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us. The Mass, the Eucharist, is an act of giving thanks to God. Eucharist means thanksgiving. Secular researchers increasingly remind our frenzied and busy world that gratitude is a healing gift to renew our lives. Science shows that when we are grateful, we are happier, or as a perhaps trite phrase captures it: “Too blessed to be stressed.” When in reality we are stressed and anxious often, how can we grow in natural AND supernatural gratitude? This Sunday and this coming season hold the key.
Doing a gratitude inventory is helpful to unlocking this hopeful approach to life. When we pause to count our blessings, we are often reminded in a new way how much God loves us, and why life is worth living. Pausing to give thanks as a nation, and to reflect individually on our lives, is a worthwhile and essential key to growing in happiness. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to focus on our blessings. But once a year is never enough! Therefore, thankfully, God mandates that every Sunday we pause—to give thanks! Each Sunday we offer the Eucharist in thanks and receive Him. And at the end of the Church year we do this as well.
Today’s celebration of Christ the King is a crowning of the liturgical year. Just as people end the fiscal year or an academic year, we end the liturgical year, the cycle of feasts and seasons. Christ is our King, or at least He yearns to be the King of our Hearts. He moves providentially to draw us closer to Him so that we can open the door of our hearts to His transforming Love and Mercy. However, if it is beneficial to list the blessings of the past year and turn to Jesus in thanks for 12 months of grace, what if we could carry this forward? Once again, the Church says, yes, that is a brilliant idea.
Advent is the beginning of a new Church year, a new year of graces, a new time of opportunity to grow, change, continue being healed and entering more into the Love of God. Our culture and society is so desperately looking for hope and healing but doesn’t know where to find it. Thus, it starts Christmas in October. Before the Halloween sales items are down, the Christmas lights and decorations are up at the mall and the store. This isn’t necessary bad. It’s a sign that the wonder of Christmas is still alive in our society. But if we want the most of Christmas, then the essential key is to prepare. Advent is a time of wonder and preparation where we have the opportunity to become still and become aware of the Presence of God in our lives.
How can we do that? A couple things may help. 1) Get an Advent wreath. Light the candles weekly and read scripture. 2) Get an Advent Calendar and count the days to the birth of Jesus. 3) Pray. There are many ways to pray during Advent. A traditional “novena” begins this Thursday on the Feast of St. Andrew. Each day you can pray 15 times (season the day and scatter this short prayer throughout) the following gratitude prayer: “Hail and blessed be the hour and moment In which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, [here mention your request] through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.” This approved prayer is powerful. It is traditionally prayed from St. Andrew’s Feast on November 30th until Christmas Day. Why not make it your Advent gratitude prayer?
I pray that Thanksgiving was a blessing for you. I pray that Christ the King reawakens gratitude for the blessings of the past year. And amidst the insanity of our society at this time of year, I pray that Advent can remain or become for you a new season of wonder, silence, preparation and grateful prayer that reawakens a childlike wonder at the miracle of Christmas in our lives. God bless you!
In Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart,
Fr. Bjorn Lundberg