Preparing for the Lord’s coming through renewal and reform
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 06:15 AM December 06, 2015
In the Master’s program we run for public school teachers, the first thing we do is explain the main objectives for the program, which is also the mission statement of our work: to inspire a renewal-and-reform movement in public schools that will lead to the building of caring communities in these schools.
We also emphasize the order in the process: renewal first; then the reform. We want the teachers to experience reconnecting to their mission to happen first, thus renewing their sense of mission before the reform.
This Second Sunday of Advent, we see the figure of St. John the Baptist—the precursor of Christ— who issues a call to repentance and asks us to prepare a way for the Lord. Like the process of renewal first, then reform, John the Baptist says we need to first repent and prepare for Christ’s coming.
This Sunday, let us reflect on the need for renewal and reform in our own life.
What is it that will inspire renewal in our life: our relationship with God; our relationship with others, our loved ones; or our relationship with ourselves—our sense of worth and meaning?
‘Wasting time with God’
There is one point for reflection in renewing our relationship with God and others. In his valedictory to the Jesuits in 1983, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., exhorts the young Jesuits going through formation to learn to “waste time with God.”
Father Arrupe advises that, instead of watching TV, they should go to the chapel and waste time with God.
How have we wasted time with God? In a world of connectivity and constant motion, it has become more and more difficult to do this.
I started writing this reflection while on the plane; it was amusing that the person seated across me fidgeted with his gadgets throughout the 75-minute flight. From his phone to his laptop, he must have gone through at least a dozen games, among other things.
This is our “curse” now; connectivity has actually disconnected us from the more personal relationships that we need to “waste time” on.
Grounding one’s self
Last Holy Week, one of the persons who attended the three-day recollection in our formation center was struck by Father Arrupe’s exhortation. In the recollection he said that he constantly grounds himself in his important relationships with his wife and children.
Though a successful executive in his company and a respected industry leader, he was pulled in all directions by the demands of work. Realizing his stressful situation, he spent four whole days one Christmas break in silence and prayer. In this retreat he committed to his rituals of grounding.
He made sure to do the following: devote at least three of the five weekdays to have quiet time with his wife, or even just half an hour, to chat; one day of the weekend, normally Sundays, to be with the whole family (going to Mass, lunch together without rushing, watching a movie at home or in a cinema); dinnertime on weekends and at least two of five weekdays; and whenever he comes home late, he would go to each of his four children to greet them or bless them if they’re asleep.
Consider what’s important
He saw the important moments to “waste time” with those who mean much to him, those whom he loves. This gave him focus on not just what he was doing but also why he was doing it. He was renewed in understanding it.
From then on, he changed the way he did things. He put in the “wasting time” safeguards without losing his effectiveness as an executive and industry leader.
The description of one of his colleagues shows us the grace of renewal and reform: “His passion for his work and mission has not diminished from the first time I met him. In fact, it is now made even more powerful by the serenity with which he does things—always inspiring, but with so much serenity.”
Father Arrupe ended his 1983 valedictory with a now famous prayer which ends with this line: “Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
Advent is a time to renew our love and to allow this love to decide everything, to reform the way we do things and “waste time” with those whom we love—God, family, the people we serve and work with.