Advent Reflection: Jesus Shows Us the Way

by Melannie Svoboda SND on November 30, 2014

Several weeks ago I drove to Our Lady of the Pines retreat center in Fremont, Ohio to give a talk. Before I left, I googled the directions and saw that the center was about 120 miles from me via the Ohio Turnpike. I had no problem with the directions until I got into Fremont itself. That’s when I got lost—on Main Street.

Now whenever I get lost, I always stop and ask for directions rather than ride around wasting valuable time and gas. I usually stop at a gas station and look for a man. (Sorry, Ladies. I know that’s sexist!) I found a gas station and saw a man–probably in his 30’s–coming out of the sing this waygas station and walking to his car at the gas pump. I went up to him and said, “Excuse me, Sir—but are you from around here?” He said he was. I then asked him if he could direct me to Tiffin Street. Immediately he (and his wife who was sitting in the car) began to give me directions. It was a complicated route. I added, “I’m looking for Our Lady of the Pines retreat center.” Right away they said, “We live near there.” And they offered to lead me to the center. “Just follow us!” they said.

I was very relieved. For now I wouldn’t have to look for obscure (or non-existent!) street signs. All I had to do was follow their car. And I’m glad they offered to lead me, for the way there included several turns and some railroad tracks. The couple led me directly into the driveway of the retreat center. Then the man stopped, got out of his car, and came to my car. I thanked him profusely and asked, “What’s your first name and the name of your wife?” He said, “Tim and Mindy.” I promised I would say a special prayer for both of them for their kindness to me. And I did.

I don’t know about you, but when I need directions, I prefer someone to show me the way rather than give me verbal or written directions. The other day our printer needed ink. Since it was a new printer, I didn’t know how to change the ink cartridge. But Sister Sandy did. And she showed me how. How much easier that was for me than consulting some manual.

In a very real way we are all on a journey. It’s called life. We are all on our way home, but we don’t always know the way. Thank God we have Someone who doesn’t just give us directions. He shows us the way. He leads us home. His name, of course, is Jesus.

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This is what Advent is really all about. It is the time in the liturgical year when we focus on the Incarnation, the coming of God into history as a human being. And why did God “pitch his tent” on planet earth? To give us directions—on how to live our life and how to find our way home. And Jesus did this primarily by the example of his life. In a way Jesus asks us: “Do you want to know who God is? Watch me. See how I relate to God as Abba, as Father. Do you want to know how to love? Follow the pattern of my life. Do you want to know how to deal with the uncertainties and ambiguities of your life? Watch me. Do you want to learn how to forgive? See how I did it. Do you want to have a full and rich life? Then come, follow me.”

The saints also show us the way. Though their circumstances might be very different from our own, the saints show us what’s really important in our journey of life: prayer, compassion, service, sacrifice, gratitude, and trust in God no matter what. Some of us are lucky enough to know other individuals who show (or showed) us the way. I think of my dear grandparents who immigrated to the US as mere teenagers, seeking a better life. In doing so they left their parents and some of their siblings back in Bohemia, yet they brought their Catholic faith with them, a faith they relied on their entire life. I also think of my own good parents who went to Mass every Sunday and who were persons of integrity and generosity, and who possessed great trust in God.

May our prayer this Advent be a simple one: Loving Jesus, you came to earth to show me the way to live. Please direct my decisions and choices. Help me to grow in love, compassion, integrity, and absolute trust in God. And, through all the turns, detours, and dead ends of my life’s journey, be with me. Lead me home. Amen.

Here is a beautiful Advent song by Francesca Battistelli called “Be Born in Me.” These are the words of Mary at the Annunciation. May they be our words too. May Christ we born anew in each of us this Advent! (Click below to hear the song. I’ve also included Tanner’s painting of the Annunciation below the video. You might want to reflect on the painting as you listen to the song.)

 

 

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How does Jesus show you the way?

What are some of the ways Jesus can be born in you this Advent?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy Frederico November 30, 2014 at 7:17 am

Thank you Sr. Melannie for your great story and Advent reflection. I was confused for a second as to which day it was today!

That was a beautiful song; first time I heard it. I pray this Advent to be open and nurturing as I prepare along with Mary for his coming to all of us. Jesus shows me the way by His example in ordinary things and especially the tenderness he showed to everyone. The flickering light of the first Advent candle calls me to gentleness and trust knowing that we are on a journey and He is born to us and in each of our hearts.

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Sunnie Poplar November 30, 2014 at 9:03 am

Your story about the couple who were so kind to lead you directly to your destination reminded me of a similar incident that happened to me this summer. I was in Poukeepsie, New York on a weekend with some friends. We woke early on Sunday and googled a nearby church to attend mass. We found it easily enough, but were confused about the route back to our hotel as all the streets were one way so we couldn’t just retrace the way we came. We found a group of people who had gathered outside and were chatting. When I explained our dilemma, everyone had a different suggestion as to the best way back. Finally one couple spoke up and said they were heading back in that direction and suggested we just follow them. And they also took the time to pull right up to the hotel to make sure we were back safe and sound. We told them they were our guardian angels. The example of this couple is a often a reminder to me to show that same compassion to someone else when the occasion arises. Kind of that “pay it forward” attitude that we should all try to make a routine part of our lives.
Thank you again for always giving me something good to mull over for the week.

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mary james November 30, 2014 at 10:19 am

Once more-Many Thanks! I love the idea of watch–there are so many
people and circumstances that lead me to God when I just watch–so
simple even I can’t complicate it too often! I am going to Watch, Wait, and Wonder this Advent at the God who is watching, waiting and wondering
for me. I will watch, wait, and wonder WITH God –not For– because
of course God never left!

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Mary Schneider November 30, 2014 at 11:22 am

Thank you Sr. Melanie for both the beautiful reflection on just what Advent means, and for the likewise beautiful song at the end of your reflection. Both are very inspiring.

I also recalled an incident in Longford, Ireland, when I was trying to find the Convent of St Joseph to visit some friends. I stopped at a very rural gas pump, and when I went in to pay there was an elderly man there who asked if I needed help. When I told him where I wanted to go he began a lengthy explanation of how to get there. This involved passing at least 3 pubs along the way. I was more confused than ever! Then the owner of the gas station came out from a back room and asked me if I was lost. I told him where I was trying to go and he gave me very simple and explicit directions. Jesus gives me directions to follow Him so that I can find my way Home. I pray that I will always follow Him in love and thanksgiving.

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Joy November 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm

The music brought tears to my eyes…to feel loved and be safe….
compassion & kindness are what the weary need…may I be the
bearer of those gifts at this time…

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Josita November 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Dear Melannie,
The beautiful song and my favorite Annuntion picture really touched my heart this AM. “Be born in me” will be my mantra this Advent…as I try to bring him to birth in all I do or see or meet.
I resonated with your story since I am definitely “directionally challenged” and always grateful for any help I ca get!
Have a joyous and grace- filled Advent. Praying for you. Josita

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Joanne Bennardo November 30, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Dear Sister Melannie,

On most days, I see clearly the blessings of my life, and can hear the directions of my Shepherd, God. However, in times of confusion and temptation, like this evening, I struggle to hear the Voice deep within me. I find I am lost, and most grateful for your directions.
God bless you and thank you. Joanne

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Kathleen Magiera December 1, 2014 at 5:37 am

What a beautiful song Sr. Melannie!

Be born in me will be my mantra for Advent too. A simple statement packed with peace.

I find Jesus in the tiny stillness during my meditation. I want to take time this Advent to be still.

Kaleen

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Karen December 1, 2014 at 9:15 am

As I started playing & singing along to Christmas songs once again, I was struck by the line in Joy to the World … “Let every heart prepare Him room.” It always takes me back and reminds me of what the Advent season is for. When I was a child, decorating for Christmas was a process of ADDING more stuff to the stuff that was already decorating the house. It was a cluttered sight. But when I had a home of my own, I realized that you had to MAKE ROOM for the special Christmas decorations. It was a revelation and although it is more work to put away the normal bric-a-brac, it makes the result so much more pleasing. I remind myself every day not to be so “packed” that there is no room for Christmas spirit. Advent=Make Room!

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Anne Busch December 1, 2014 at 10:55 am

Beautiful Song. Just went to an Advent tea and Mary was the central theme. She points the way always to her Son. Can’t get better directions than that! Thank you as always!!

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Diane December 1, 2014 at 11:51 am

I too have encountered “travel Angels”/complete strangers helping us when lost, or out of gas.
Thank you for that beautiful music and painting…I’d like to share it with lots of people. It really touches the heart and soul.

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JoAnn Haney, OSF December 2, 2014 at 5:37 pm

beautiful and inspiring, the line I will take away is “the only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy” make my heart your Bethlehem! Thanks, S. JoAnn

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Sunnie Poplar December 3, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Loved your commentary in today’s Living Faith titled Grow Up. You always touch a nerve, Sister!
So nice to catch you twice in the same week. Even saw you in Give Us This Day recently. You do get around. And not the same article twice yet. Don’t know how you do it, but so glad you do.
Just gave your name to the leader of our GOTS (Gifts of the Holy Spirit) leader. It is a relatively new group here at St. Basil’s that has a speaker every few months on Sunday morning for the women of the parish. I know how very busy you are, but hope you can add us to your very long list sometime in the near future.

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Deacon Larry Cummins December 5, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Thanks Sr. Melannie for the triple. Not just a reflection, but a song and beautiful Marian image as well. The Adventish word with most meaning for me is the word WONDERFUL.
When I am full of wonder, Jesus can be born again and again within me. When I take time to wonder fully Jesus can be my guide along the way.
It is when His word takes on my flesh that the fullness of wonder not only becomes a reality but also my saving grace.
May you have a Blessed and Joy-Filled Advent.

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