By Barb Arland-Fye
A hard-cover spiral notebook contains clippings of prayers that I cut out of church bulletins, prayer cards received from charitable organizations, an encouraging email I printed out from a friend and a hand-written bit of inspiration. During Advent, which begins Dec. 3, I plan to add material to my treasured prayer book.
This commitment presents a doable opportunity to enhance my awareness of and watchfulness for Jesus, individually and as a member of a faith community. A commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (the second reading of the first Sunday in Advent) observes that “Every gift given by God through Christ is for the building up of the community.” Commentator Elaine Park says that the “life of the community begins with and is sustained by the faithful God who calls the members into fellowship.” Paul emphasizes relationship in his description of the church, which Park sees as an important insight for all believers (“Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word”).
At the same time we are being called to build community, the Gospel reading from Mark this first Sunday of Advent (13:33-37) calls us to “watch and wait for Jesus’ coming again in glory. We are attentive to his presence each day, especially as we meet him in the Eucharist. During this season, we are all sentinels, watching for the coming of the Lord and rejoicing in his presence,” Park reflects. Her insights are worth adding to my prayer book.
So, too, are some of the daily Gospel commentaries from Bishop Robert Barron, who challenges readers to stretch in their commitment to live as Christians. On the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Bishop Barron reflected on the scene of the Last Judgment from Mark’s Gospel (25:31-46).
“This is not love in the abstract, having affection for ‘humanity,’” Bishop Barron writes. “It is caring for that person who is homeless, for that person who is ill, for that person who is in prison.” Bishop Barron, author and host of the award-winning documentary “Catholicism,” encourages readers to consider an examination of conscience at the end of the day, using the passage from Mark’s Gospel as criteria.
“Perhaps put it up on your wall or post it next to your bed so that you will see it before you go to sleep” he advises. I am contemplating his advice. I recall examining my conscience on a nightly basis as an assignment from the late Father Joe DeFrancisco, one of my professors in the Master of Pastoral Theology program. My appreciation for his teaching may provide the impetus to resume this spiritual practice.
Liturgy of the Hours, the universal prayer of the church, enriches my journey of faith year-round. But I especially appreciate the antiphons and readings for Advent. The antiphon for the Canticle of Mary for Evening Prayer, Second Sunday of Advent, fills me with anticipation. “Come to us, Lord, and may your presence be our peace; with hearts made perfect we shall rejoice in your companionship for ever.” That’s a keeper for my prayer journal.
You can join me in praying the Liturgy of the Hours in your own home. Order the book (“Christian Prayer” or “Shorter Christian Prayer”) online through Religious Supply Center at www.religioussupply.com. Find other ideas for Advent on the front page of this week’s Catholic Messenger and in our Advent calendar on Page 3 and our weekly calendar on Page 4. These activities, prayers and services may give you the inspiration to start or add to your own prayer journal!
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)