A few weeks ago, I struck up a conversation with an old friend, with whom I hadn’t spoken in several months. He teased me about my tendency to be critical of the way he dressed, the way he talked and the fact that he absolutely cannot be bothered to watch any movie or show that has come out in the last two years.
It bothered me. It did not bother me because he pointed out something I did not know and was embarrassed to realize.
I know I have been an overly critical person. I know I am blunt. Together those qualities are abrasive to everyone at some point.
It bothered me because I thought I had improved myself.
A few years ago, I did not like the person I had been, and knew I could do better. After graduating high school, I began to change the way I would react to disagreeable jokes, actions and plans my friends made. Part of my plan for change was going out of state for college—it would give me a clean slate for cleaning up my attitude.
In some ways, my college years were traumatic. Rarely did the biggest challenges have anything to do with school, finances or dorm life. Knowing God never gives me more than I can handle, it is clear to me He was holding back the floodgates in high school for a time when I would be in a faith-filled community. I was better equipped with reliance on God and His grace, and He knew I could handle the harder challenges.
Looking back I see a big difference in myself. Only halfway through my college career, I could tell I had made progress. I was, and am, so grateful for the sacraments and my wonderful teachers, who encouraged introspection and self-challenge.
Yet, when I graduated college, I was voted most likely to have kids who beat up other kids and “least changed.”
I was willing to forgive what—I estimated to be—was a misjudgment by a large group of people who didn’t know me before college.
Then this conversation happened with my friend, who has known me for many years.
Surely, I thought, he would be able to see the change in me. He would be able to see I value his ministry over his appearance, his message over his words. “I have changed!” I wanted to scream. “Why don’t you see it?!”
I spent a lot of time reflecting on that conversation. I knew God was trying to tell me something with it—it cut too deep for it not to be important.
I think God has been calling me to a renewal of my “old” efforts. Now married and pregnant, I have been blessed with great reasons to be more contemplative and compassionate.
At 18, I chose graduation as a new beginning. Now I will choose Christmas as my renewal. Christmas marks the beginning of a new era on earth. I will use that time, and the time of Advent that remains, to mark a new era in my life.
A liturgical celebration is the perfect way to begin any new ritual, because there is always another one around the corner. Unlike a New Year’s resolution, Catholics have a new reason to celebrate and re-commit less than a week after Christmas with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
As a part of my renewal, I will draw strength and inspiration from one of my favorite events: daily Mass. The readings and homily are His opportunity to show me how to live, and the sacrifice of the Eucharist is my opportunity to revel in His selflessness and my unworthiness.
However we choose to respond to God’s call to us for a closer relationship, let it involve His divinely ordained Church. Our rich liturgy, traditions and prayers will make the journey to God easier.