We are in the Advent season and I have a proposal to make. The Year of Faith ended with the Feast of Christ the King – ended, but, in another sense, has just begun. I would like you to use this Advent season to begin to practice what a life of faith would look like. There is a book that has had a deep effect on my life and I want to introduce you to it – if you have not already read it – as a way to look at this Advent.
Writing in The Essence of Prayer, Sister Ruth Borrows, OCD, states, “Faith is not a thing of the mind; it is not an intellectual certainty but a felt conviction of the heart. It is a sustained decision to take God with utter seriousness as the God of my life. It is to live out each hour in a practical, concrete affirmation that God is Father and he is ‘in heaven.’ It is a decision to shift the center of our lives from ourselves to him, to forgo self-interest and to make his interests, his will our sole concern.”
For faith to be an active part of our daily life, it needs to grow. If it doesn’t, it will wilt, then fade, then die. A key to growing in faith is to practice daily having God in the center of our thoughts, our conversations, our work, our emotional reactions, the development of our relationships, our trials and crosses, our failures and our triumphs, our joys and pain of everyday life. In short, to grow in faith is to place ourselves in the presence of God, when we rise in the morning, as we go about our responsibilities, as we live the daily circumstances and as we lay down at night.
Spiritual exercise – How do we do that?
- Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the grace to remember, as you move to each new thing each day, to ask God to prompt you to consciously say: “Be with me, Lord, as I meet this client.” “Be with me, Lord, as I bathe and care for my children” “Be with me as I cook and clean.” “Be with me as I move from meeting to meeting.” And so on. You get the idea. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to form a habit to stop for even five seconds before you start something new.
- Give this time, whatever each segment is, to God. “Lead me, Lord, teach me, speak to my heart. Give me wisdom or patience or courage or strength or hope or love. …” As you persevere in building this habit, your soul will become more attuned to what I call the whispers of the Holy Spirit. He will lead anyone who puts him dead center in the most mundane and the most important events of the day. As you do, you will experience being less alone. It takes practice, but, after a while, you will find the rewards – more peace, more wisdom, more courage, more trust. Your faith becomes real. God is with you. You are not alone.
Advent is the most wonderful time to begin to practice putting your faith in action in your daily life. Advent is a time of silence, of quiet, of waiting ... What comes out of that is the greatest gift God could ever give us – his own Son, in the flesh.
Use this Advent season to invite the Lord into every part of your life. God’s presence and assurance and peace will come, even in some of the most troublesome areas of your personal or family life. Put all your trust in him.
God’s greatest gifts often come in silence and quiet waiting. He will not fail you. May this be a most blessed Advent and, as a result, may you know the beauty and the power of God’s silent presence in your soul. May you walk then in newness of life – in him and with him and for him; that is living faith. May it be yours this Christmas!
Sister Ann Shields is a renowned author and a member of the Servants of God’s Love. Questions can be addressed to Sister Ann Shields, Renewal Ministries, 230 Collingwood, Suite 240, Ann Arbor, MI 48103