Advent Reflection, Sister Mary Clark, SC
December 12, 2021
After the Gospel reading from Luke 3:10-18, Sister Mary Clark, SC offers her reflection for the Advent visit at Caritas Christi. Sister reflects on the questions: “What should we do? What more can we do? How can we build a closer union with God?” In order to hear God’s answer for us, we must sit in silence and stillness. She speaks of discerning to separate what is truly important in our lives and urges us to pray in quiet and be open to God’s presence and answers.
Read her full reflection below:
What should we do? As this Gospel goes, that seems to be the question Luke wants all of us ask. What should we do to be the kind of people John the Baptist would urge us to be? What should I do to be the kind of person that deep down I really want to be?
Well, for starters, we can listen literally to the Words of this Gospel.
- We Christians can share our coats and food, as John urges the crowd to do.
- If we have any kind of job like tax collectors, we won’t take advantage of others by squeezing money or time out of them in order to meet our own needs.
- And whoever we are we won’t use our positions to take advantage of people —and, — hopefully we’ll be content with what we have.
That takes care of the crowd and the tax collectors and the soldiers. What about us? What about me? It is interesting to notice that John responds to these probing questions and adapts his message to the concrete social situation of each group. John asks each to consider his or her own way of life.
- I am a grandparent, an educator, a religious sister or priest.
- I am a retired person, a teenager, a politician, an overworked parent, a cook.
- I am a child, a young adult; I work in the medical field — or any other category.
The tax collector and the soldier and the crowd knew what they should and shouldn’t do. John just wanted to remind them about the honesty life calls for. Just as God often reminds us.
We are here at Caritas Christi today as good people. Religious and spiritual people. We may be asking not only “What can I do, but what more can I do? How can I be a more spiritual person? How can I be really close to God? be in closer union with God? What should I do?
I believe God delights in hearing us ask that question. We’re not asking today for more work or more activity. We probably all have more than enough to do. We don’t need to add more activities to our lives. We tell ourselves, “I don’t need more things to do. I want to know what I can do to deepen my life with all the things that I already am doing.”
Religious tradition looks at questions like these as a kind of searching. Tradition calls the search for answers or these deeper questions – discernment. Many of us have some acquaintance with discernment. It’s a practice that helps us to tune in to God’s ways and — notice them, to tune out what are not God’s ways — at least not for us with the circumstances of our lives at given times.
Discernment actually comes from a Latin verb, discernere. Discernere literally means to “separate.” Discerning helps us to separate what’s important in our lives from what isn’t important.
Practically speaking, with question about how we can live in closer union with God, we come to thinking about discerning as being still enough and quiet enough to hear what God wants to say to us. What can I do today to be more in tune with the Spirit of God and the spirit of God’s ways? Asking this question of God is a great step.
But we won’t get too far in discerning unless we also take the next step – another classic religious tradition – silence and stillness. Silence. Stillness. In God’s presence — therein lies the treasure.
What should I do? We ask again. Or what more can I do? We’re only going to discover this by embracing silence. In the 16th century the wise and prayerful St John of the Cross declared that silence is God’s first language. Silence is God’s first language. Those who speak several languages usually acknowledge that their first language is the language they are most at home with. It may point to God’s being most at home with his first language too — the language of silence. A 20th century writer, Thomas Keating, comments on Silence being God’s first language, saying anything else is a poor imitation.
Times of silence allow us to tune down even the inner noises and to increase our awareness of what matters most. Granted, silence is the only way to find God and hear God’s voice. But it is indeed an effective way. Silence is a powerful, sometimes sure way to find God and hear his voice. In silence we find answers to the kind of questions we hear people ask of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. What should I do? What more should do?
What do you think might be one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves at any period of our lives ——– Do you think it might be ——- just sitting still in silence before God. Truly, this is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves at any period of our lives. Sitting still in silence before God.
One might say, “I am a busy person. I mean really busy. How can I find time for silence?”
That’s another crucial question. I suggest this: Let’s take that question to silence and to prayer. Let’s ask God to help us discern how we will find the time — in a day, in a week, in a month. Today’s Gospel describes the people waiting expectantly and asking — in their hearts —if John might actually be the Messiah. They don’t just ask their question of everyone around them or make it the latest talk around the market place. They ask this important question in their in their hearts.
Maybe the next time you ask yourself “What should I do. You’ll have a little formula to turn to
- Take some time. Some silent time.
- Ask God your question; ask God to help you discern, to separate what really matters from what isn’t as important.
- Stay with your prayer in quiet and silence. Stay open. God will help you to know what’s best for you.
This little formula isn’t as simple as boiling an egg. Stay silent awhile. God’s ways are God’s ways. And they take time. God will bless you. You’ll most likely have some clarity, at least about “What should I do?”
Sister Mary Clark SC
December 12, 2021