Focusing on The Things That Matter
As we begin November and enter the last few weeks of the liturgical year, I am reminded of the coming of the holidays. As I mentioned in my last post, this is a sacred time of year no less than any other time. Today we celebrate All Saints Day and tomorrow All Souls Day, remembering all who have gone before us. We also are mindful of all those who have lost loved ones and the burden of sorrow that they may be experiencing. It is important for us to pray for each other, for all those who have indeed gone before us, and to be present to one another.
The other day I was directed by a friend to an article about listening to Christmas music well before the Christmas season. It got me to thinking about the issue of too much/too soon in terms of the commercialism that has accompanied the holidays the last number of years. I used to think that it was awful and did not want anything to do with early signs of Christmas. I still think this when the signs of Christmas begin in September and supersede everything else in order to get us to buy stuff. It takes the focus from living each day, from savoring the "now," and puts the focus on the future too much. It also takes the focus off the interior, heart values, “the things that matter," (our relationships with family, friends, and God), and puts it on the exterior, surface values of materialism and things. This is not to say it is all bad, but simply to say it refocuses us on things that are passing instead of things that are lasting.
However, in November we do begin the month with a renewed focus on "tttm" (the things that matter); that is, we begin with a remembrance of people who mean a lot to us, whether they are our beloved dead or the saints who are our mentors in how to live a holy life. From there we begin to focus on what we are grateful for, both the people who have touched our lives and the blessings we have received. These indeed are the things that matter! It is never out of season to be filled with gratitude. We should live our lives that way. But in this season we have a particular focus on that which is important. Maybe it would be a good idea to spend the entire month of November being grateful for the things we have and the people in our lives. All is gift. A suggestion is to begin each day this month by being grateful for one spiritual gift you have received or one thing you possess or one person who has touched your life. Choose a different one each day and write what it is on your calendar, spending the entire day reflecting on this gift and being grateful for it. I suspect we will realize just how much we have been given if we do this. It will be interesting to look at the calendar at the end of the month to see what has appeared on our list.
As we approach Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent we may feel celebratory, and so if we decide it is putting us in the giving mood and it gets us creative in planning for our Christmas giving, so be it. We do not have to be Scrooge to avoid the commercialism. We simply need to keep our focus. If we feel the music gets us in the mood to welcome the Son of God at Christmas, so be it, even if we do begin to listen early. So long as we keep our focus on Thanksgiving, then on Advent when it arrives and take it one day at a time, savoring each day as a gift, there is nothing wrong with getting in the mood for the holiday early. I think that we can still enjoy each day and not be overwhelmed with stress and a frantic chase for getting all the stuff we think we need to get, even if that feels focused on giving to others. Once it starts feeling frenetic and harried, we know we have lost our focus. It is about the things that matter, which really is about the people that matter and the Lord who gives all gifts. It is about spending time with them. That needs to be our focus.
Maybe the gifts we give need to be about our presence and savoring the presence of the other, letting the other know how loved and valued they are just for being who they are. This is the way God loves each of us. We can take our cue from God and try to love in this same way. We do not need to impress God with all we can give Him. In fact, there is not much we can give Him that He does not already have. The one thing we can give Him that He cannot get otherwise is our trust, our attention, our worship, and our love. If it takes Christmas music in November to do this, then bring it on!!
May we spend the month of November refocusing on God so that each day we can savor the gifts we are freely given by our loving God. May we be filled with renewed gratitude. May our gratitude move us to compassion for others who do not have the gifts we have received, and therefore move us to action to help the poor, lonely and lost in our communities. May we be filled with the love of God so as to seek and find His presence all around us. Let us continue to meet in the Heart of so generous a God! Peace!
I cannot end this post without remembering all those on the east coast who have been so devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Like many of us, I have family and friends there, but all the people are in my thoughts and prayers. Maybe our gratitude, compassion, and inspiration to action will lead us to be generous in some way to help the people hardest hit. Here on the Gulf Coast we know the experience and we know the feelings they must be having. Therefore let us pray about what we might be able to do for them in addition to our heartfelt prayers. Thank you.
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Heart Speaks to Heart