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Advent, a season of waiting

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Advent is my favorite liturgical season. There’s something about the colder weather, the shorter days, the appearance of Christmas lights, and the purple and pink candles in the churches that I always have loved. Despite the busyness of the season, a desire always surfaces in my heart to spend a little more time in prayer, a little more time actively waiting for the Lord.

As the vocation director for my community, I often have been struck by the parallels between Advent and vocational discernment. Advent is a time of preparation, of waiting and of hope. During Advent, we prepare for Christmas — both exteriorly and interiorly. We put up our Advent wreaths and Christmas lights, we might do some extra spiritual reading or spend some extra time in prayer, we go to confession.

Besides preparing during Advent, we also wait. We can’t do anything to hasten the coming of Dec. 25. We can prepare our trees and decorations and minds and hearts, but at the end of the day, we have to wait for Christmas — we have to wait for the Lord.

Lastly, Advent is an exercise in hope and trust. Every year, we put our trust in the Lord that he will come.  We put our trust in the Lord that the magnificent event of the Incarnation — in which God in his divinity comes down to us in our humanity and remains with us — will have an effect in our lives again this year.

All of these characteristics of Advent are characteristics of a time of vocational discernment. In order to make a good discernment, we need to prepare our hearts. We prepare by living the sacramental life (going to Mass, confession and holy Communion), by reading and meditating on the Scriptures, by a habit of daily prayer, and by cultivating our relationship with God.

Discernment also involves a lot of waiting. This is because vocational discernment happens on God’s time, not ours. While we might imagine a nice, linear path with clearly marked signs, the reality is that God often asks us to wait, as St. Augustine says, to increase our desire for him. He won’t make us wait forever, but more often than not he does ask us for the faith and trust in him that comes with waiting.

This brings us to trust — waiting is an act of trust, and vocational discernment itself is an act of trust. To discern well, we must put our lives wholeheartedly in God’s hands. We must say to the Lord, I want to follow you, no matter how, no matter where. I trust that wherever you lead me, you will be there; I trust that whatever you ask me, you will be there. I trust in you — I trust in your love.

So, this Advent, I invite you to put your lives and your vocational discernment in the hands of the God who loves us so much that he came from heaven to be with us, to be one of us, to be one with us.

Sr. Marsh is the vocations director for the Daughters of St. Paul in Alexandria.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021