By Fr. Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry
With the beginning of Advent this past weekend, we enter a joyful but often stressful time for many people. Deadlines, expectations and any number of other external demands seem to bombard our interior lives, with the foreboding sense that there is not enough time--so much to do, so little time to do it.
For many of us, these are dueling, sometimes conflicting, messages: What we are told needs to be done, and what we tell ourselves needs to be done, and what really needs to be done, lead us often to miss the joy and peace at the very center of this time.
The shoulds, coulds and woulds are like store lights. They often blind us and stop us from seeing the real illumination of this time, the love of God, Who demonstrates that love for each of us by becoming one of us. We put our own expectations--blinded by our own lights--on these times, rather than doing what these times call us to do: to let God be God.
The Advent Twilight Retreat, Dec. 1, gives faculty and staff one opportunity to do just that. This evening can help us reflect and enter into--peacefully, calmly--the richness of this time, using the traditional music of the season to rekindle our expectations for the greatest gift in our lives.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, we will celebrate the feast of Francis Xavier, the patron of our College Church, the best friend and close companion of St. Ignatius, one of the first Jesuits, and one of the first Jesuit missionaries. We celebrate this enthusiastic Jesuit who was asked to take a job which would lead him far from his friends and companions in this new Society of Jesus to faraway lands, and the real knowledge that he would probably never return to any of what he had known as his life. We will recall his enthusiastic efforts, and his staggering achievements, in India and Japan. We will remember his desire and his attempt to enter China, which, similar to Moses and the Promised Land, Xavier saw only from his deathbed.
Above all, we will be able to see that Xavier learned to change his expectations--for himself, for his future and for his work--to allow him to see the wonders of God's work in all places and people, wherever and with whomever he found himself. Maybe, we can use his example to approach our lives and this hopeful, busy, consoling, perhaps even stressful, season, and keep our eyes on the real prize of the times.
Today, in anticipation, hope and expectation let us look at and learn from the example of Xavier and examine our own expectations of ourselves, others and this time. Frankly, sometimes we just need to take a hopeful, deep breath, let our stress go, live and look forward in hope, and put our frenetic activity on pause. We need to take some time to rework our expectations and to re-discover the light at the heart of this season, the real light in our lives.
With the temporary lights of our contemporary time, we may be blinding ourselves from the real and eternal light of Christmas which frees us from many of the burdens which others, and we ourselves, put on our shoulders.
Have a blessed Advent.
Happy Feast, St. Francis Xavier!
We look forward to seeing you at the Twilight Retreat Dec. 1.