Liz Vestal is a 2016 SLU graduate and a former Campus Ministry intern.
Friday, December 16, 2016
Reflection for Friday, December 16, 2016
Third Friday of Advent
JN 5: 33-36
Living in a tropical climate, this year the Advent season is not met with the snow flurries or fireplaces I have known before, but the same Christmas joy lingers in the air. In fact, the Christmas season in the Philippines begins on September 1. The Christmas carolers and characters remain celebrative, but more than anything they remind me of a similar message from today’s readings: God wants everyone to see the fullness of justice, if only we are ready and willing to celebrate what has been given to us. The hurried lives we lead around final exams, holiday festivities, and family gatherings often seem scattered or stressful. They only become fruitful once we pause and express our gratitude: for what we have learned in a class (or in celebrating its end), or for gathering together the dispersed in our families or friend groups.
The readings for today remind us the rushed life we live is not worth anything if we forget our true purpose. In the Church I attend right now, you can find Christmas lights hanging everywhere in the space and all the way leading up to it. The priest explained those lights are there to signify Christmas as the time when Heaven draws near. Heaven was in its most tangible form when Jesus walked in the world, alive and showing us how to live.
This year, I find myself living in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, working with the Casa Bayanihan study abroad program. So in a special way, I heard the psalmist proclaim that all the nations ought to praise God. And truly, I have seen that in this country. In a world that is hurting and where differences have the power to tear us apart or build up our walls, I find the Spirit of God moving in the world is a universal truth shared by Filipinos as well as in the United States. And, in a lot of ways, living abroad is not at all as glorious or exotic as one might think. I still have emails to send, tasks to complete, and I get annoyed in traffic. But at the heart of my work here is being with those who are suffering. When I pray with this suffering, when I understand how much I can transform when accompanying these communities of vulnerable populations, my work changes and the tasks and traffic seem much smaller. Working out of a space in which I know God is present in this place, I find myself with an inner peace that implores me to ignore the trivialities, because something bigger is happening.
As important as I think myself or my work to be, I know there is a far greater Force moving in the world and leading us to what is good and just. This what we should celebrate this Advent season; that Heaven is drawing nearer to us so that we might be drawn closer to Heaven. Being present to those who are suffering in our society and in our communities humbles us to recognize the work we are truly called to do. The “work” Jesus spoke of needing to accomplish in the gospel today is the real work and life each one of us is called to- to be with the sick, the homeless, the economically vulnerable. Then, and only then, might we feel the peace of the gospel acclamation to “bring us your peace, that we may rejoice before you with a perfect heart.”