For new energy in our relationships … we need to be heated up through perseverance and honest sharing
In her book, Listen with the Heart, Joan Chittister describes ADVENT as a series of events designed not to delay the celebration of Christmas, but to enhance it. It’s a kind of delayed gratification that culminates in a … satisfaction that is all the richer for the waiting.
At the same time I read again the article by Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI, Every Tear Brings the Messiah Close (1-Dec-2013). He gives several analogies that might help us use this Advent period differently, to overcome conflict within our communities, workplaces or families.
The analogy that might be most helpful is where two chemicals can be joined in a test tube and do nothing until they are heated up: causing a reaction. Whether it is the right reaction depends on our preparation, expectations and willingness to make sacrifices for the other.
Presently, most of us have relationships that are struggling: accompanied by suppressed anger, frustration and tiredness. For example: parents trying to guide their teenage children; wives waiting for husbands to grow up; husbands waiting for wives to reduce their demands; Christians waiting for kind priests; and all of us waiting for God to answer our prayers quickly!
The problem with most of the examples above is that we are waiting for the other person to change and not realising that perhaps it is “me” who has to change.
The image of two chemicals getting heated up should encourage us to see that loss/ arguments/ anger/ failure, might be the necessary steps required to bring about a change in ourselves.
But, for change to come, we must persevere during the heating up of our relationships. If we run away, no reaction will be possible.
Aware of the increasing cases of domestic violence in many countries, I hasten to say that the reaction should not be one of violence towards the other, but of new energy within ourselves, to help us see the other person, or group, in a different way. To put away the negativity that blinds us from seeing the great gifts/ contributions in the other person.
Often children or new people in an organisation can be full of negativity when their expectations are not being met. They start complaining about the leadership and forget to fulfil their own responsibilities, while justifying that on the action of the parents or leaders.
Often, our observations of leaders can be valid. They are not perfect!!!! But the question is: what’s my responsibility to the family, the organisation, or community?
Fifty years ago, many of the social actions in the local community were done by groups like the Catholic Women’s Association (CWA), or groups of men coming together to help a neighbour.
Nowadays, many (most?) people sit back and complain that the Government is not doing enough. Our education systems are focusing so much on academics and workplace preparation, but give little time to teaching our social responsibilities in a democratic society.
It’s like we are no longer our “brother’s keeper”, and feel entitled to be served rather than to serve others. If we want the Government to do everything for us, we need to pay more taxes. But most of us complain about the taxes we already pay.
More importantly, however, our mental well-being requires human experiences of love received and our sacrifices for others. So, until we wake up, our societies are going to continue becoming more unhappy with increasing levels of violence.
Using our chemistry image, what sort of reaction are we currently capable of making? Exothermic or endothermic. Exothermic is usually explosive and damaging to those around.
“Endothermic reactions are chemical reactions in which the reactants absorb heat energy from the surroundings to form [new] products. These reactions lower the temperature of their surrounding area, thereby creating a cooling effect.” https://byjus.com/chemistry/endothermic-reaction/
Mary our Mother was able to act like a great transformer, taking in the negativity around her and transforming it into love. Can we do the same? This period of Advent is like a pregnancy: where the mother-to-be, and the family, prepare for the new life to come. Whether we are single or married, each of us IS PREGNANT with desire for a good and happy life.
Advent teaches how to prepare for the birth of that desire at Christmas:
Week 1= peace: reconcile with your past by going to confession or look for counselling;
Week 2= hope: share your past struggles & success with others, and teach them new skills;
Week 3= joy: name & appreciate what you have, and the things people have done for you;
Week 4= love: express your appreciation for what you have received by helping some one.
May God give each of us courage to persevere in our preparation for the birth of Christ.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI