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Getting to ‘Yes’ this Advent

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge is challenging us, his flock, to set our sights above all the shopping, food and busyness: With “Just One Yes” (JOY), he invites us in the Advent and Christmas seasons to increase our “connection to God” through “prayer, service to others, and self-sacrifice.”

Count me in. The Blessed Virgin Mary said “yes” and the Son of God entered into history. Jesus said “yes” to the cup of suffering, and won salvation for us. Odds are someone close to you said “yes” at a decisive fork in the road years ago, and the love of Christ took on flesh in your own family tree. 

How will you take up Bishop Burbidge’s JOY challenge this Advent? What, practically speaking, will your “yes” look like for you, your home and your family?

Consider whether one or more of the following can help you make your unique and personal “yes”: 

1) Prayer. Say “yes” to the Lord in prayer first thing in the day this Advent. “Honor the Lord,” we read in Proverbs, “with the first fruits of all your produce” (3:9). Give the Lord the first fruits of your day and you will find that God cannot be outdone in generosity. Challenge yourself to not check your smartphone until you have spent at least five minutes grounding your day in prayer. 

2) Eucharist. Say “yes” to Jesus Christ in his body and blood this Advent. Open your “yes” more widely by going to at least one daily Mass during the week. This will inevitably require saying “no” to something — more sleep, a longer lunch — but that’s the kind of “no” you will never regret. 

3) Confession. Say “yes” to accepting the Lord’s mercy by going to confession this Advent. “Therefore, stay awake,” as we hear the first Sunday of Advent, “for you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (24:42). If you have children, prepare your entire family to put confession much higher on the priority list than shopping and movies.

4) Scripture. Say “yes” to at least five minutes a day meditating on the living word of God this Advent. “Ignorance of scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” as St. Jerome warned us. Give your spouse or kids the gift of possibly “catching” you reading Scripture, instead of scrolling through emails or media feeds. This “yes” will be contagious — not only in their lives, but also in the deepening of your own interior life.

5) Presence. Say “yes” not to buying more presents, but to upping the caliber of your presence to your family. This Advent, work on how you walk into your kitchen, your kids’ bedroom, your family room: Are you communicating a loving “yes” which says that you’re ready to welcome them, listen to them, and serve them? Or are you telegraphing to your loved ones that you’re preoccupied, unavailable and guarding your “me time.”

6) Service. Say “yes” to one or more acts of service to your neighbors or community this Advent. Far fewer Americans (26 percent) say they know most of their neighbors than in decades past, and a staggering 47 percent of adults report feeling lonely or left out. Finding our JOY this Advent might mean just walking over to your neighbor’s house with an open heart and some homemade food.

7) Gratitude. Say “yes” to embedding one daily practice of gratitude into your busy life. “The best prayer is that of gratitude, that of praise,” said Pope Francis. Keep a gratitude journal or add an “examination of gratitude” to your nightly examination of conscience. Write thank you cards. Kickstart conversation at the dinner table by sharing with your family one thing for which you’re grateful. 

Get creative with your JOY. Put a JOY Post-it note on your fridge, dashboard or home screen. Find a JOY accountability partner. Follow St. Paul who said, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord,” and share on social media what you’re learning through JOY. Or enter the silence of St. Joseph and make your JOY offering known only to you and the Lord. Whatever form your JOY takes, just get started.

“Through the power of the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Burbidge encourages us, “your one yes will transform the world by turning darkness to light, division to unity, and chaos to peace.”

Johnson is co-founder, with his wife, Ever, of Trinity House Community (trinityhousecommunity.org).

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019