Beware the Winds
Do not let the secular culture blow you off course this Advent
Ever since I was a teenager I have jogged. I typically run five times a week — anywhere from three to five miles. Back in March, I was running in a local park. It was a beautiful day except for the fierce wind that was gusting heavily. For the first two miles of that run I found myself running against the wind.
The famous Irish blessing always prays, among other things, that “the wind be at our back.” Although I have received that blessing many times, that March day the wind was in my face, and I felt it with every breath and step. The wind was so heavy in my face that it seemed as though I was being pushed backward with every forward step. This experience of running against the wind was unpleasantly disarming. I almost wanted to quit and just go with the wind.
The collect for the First Sunday of Advent invites us to go running. As celebrants, we will pray these words: “Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.” Advent is all about running with joyful hope and anticipation to meet Christ.
|Same Team, Same Goals|
Father Patrick Carrion
writes that the competitive-
ness among brother priests
has gotten out of hand.
This act of Advent running essentially is a four-week marathon that ends at the crèche, where we welcome the newborn King. During these holy days we run, always moving forward to reach our destination. Like any runner, our eyes are open to catch the wonder around us. And with any marathon experience, we encounter “the wall.” In this case, it could be the wall of apathy, despair, anger or cynicism — just to name a few. It is important that we acknowledge these walls and do our best to overcome them. What are the walls that emerge in your journey?
And then there are the winds. How nice it is when the wind is at our back in these days and everything goes smoothly and according to our plan. But for many of us, there are those unsettling moments when the winds intensify and push us back. These are winds that affect and threaten the journey of every runner, whether priest, deacon, religious or layperson.
From the beginning of the season, the Advent runner faces countering pesky winds that inevitably bring distraction and temptation. For example, while the runner seeks to run toward Jesus, there is a wind that can push in a different direction. This whirlwind blows in our faces and gives us the illusion that the journey is not spiritual but commercial, and not heavenly but earthly. Very easily we spiritual pilgrims can become shrewd consumers. The mall and online stores can stand taller in our minds than the Church. How sad it is when Black Friday is given more focus and reverence than Good Friday. It is just as sad when our so-called Christmas lists detail our wants as opposed to our needs. Jesus comes to fulfill our needs. He is the reason for the season.
Although this can be such a grace-filled time, it can become very stressful and difficult given the many winds. The prophet Isaiah isn’t kidding when he says, “Let us go up to the Lord’s mountain” (Is 2:3). The Advent journey is a mountain-climbing experience, and much of it is against the wind. The simple point is that if we are not on our guard, these winds subtly can blow away our focus and diminish our spirit, taking away our joy.
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Brothers, I wish you a great run, but beware of the winds! On behalf of our entire staff, I wish you a happy Advent and a merry Christmas!
FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 14 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. To share your thoughts on this column or any others, follow The Priest on Twitter @PriestMagazine and like us on Facebook.