Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead we may rise to life immortal, through him who livest and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. amen (Collect from the book of common prayer).
We ended up going to two Masses today - we thought that the early Mass at one parish was at 0900 but it actually started at 0830 - so we arrived after after the Offertory. We stayed to the end, because our daughter would not be able to attend a later Mass (she had scheduled an alumni interview for her first choice college). Moral - don't always trust masstimes.org - check directly!
Anyhow, John and I ended up going to a complete Mass a little later. As often happens, the homily hit upon items that I have been struggling with in my life. Father talked a bit about his recent pilgrimage - a return to the place where he surrendered his life to God and not-so-incidentally found his vocation (after what sounds to have been a typically screwed up early adult life filled with the usual sins and addictions). But this trip was not filled with the emotional highs and blessings that he had come to expect. And eventually he realized that what was different was not God but him.
The particular priest likes to refer to God as occasionally using a 2 by 4 to whack him upside the head - as in some of us need that kind of reminder or we won't pay attention. In the homily, he reminded us that God will use whatever concrete examples He needs to get us to pay attention. Around this point, I started to drift off a little bit, trying to remember points at which God has thwacked me a good one to get my attention... and so I missed a little bit of Father's specific examples (something about finding a heart shaped rock and realizing that is was his own heart of stone that was keeping Jesus out).
When I came back to attention, Father was talking about how we try to fill the cracks in our hearts with stuff. And how we need to really look at the stuff in our lives and see it for what it is. Is it stuff that we truly need, or is it filling the cracks with a false repair that will further harden our hearts and ultimately further block Jesus from softening and healing our broken hearts?
I went Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving. I really had a rough time, because I don't do well with crowds but also because I found that I had no attraction to most of the stuff that was being hawked. I found a couple of gifts for some of my children, but I found also that the blatant consumerism was really giving me a headache. When I got home, I realized that what I really needed to do was to give away a lot of the stuff that has been cluttering up my life and my house.
Yesterday we sorted and bagged lots of clothes that are in good shape but not getting worn. Tomorrow I will call St. Vincent de Paul and see if they are interested in it. Our deanery penance service (individual confessions to follow) is coming up next Sunday afternoon - time to unclutter the soul as well. Or maybe I will try to get to confession Saturday if it is quiet when I am on call.
Meanwhile, I realized while unpacking the Advent box what a packrat I occasionally am. Remembering one year when I couldn't find Advent candles for the wreath, I now almost compulsively buy marked down Advent candles during the after Christmas sales. I have enough pink and purple candles in the box to get through the next ten Advents!
I pray that the Lord will continue to be able to reach me and help me to soften my heart. I pray that He won't be compelled to use the two by four on me, either!