Today is officially the first day of Advent and the countdown to Christmas, which means it’s a brand new year on the Church’s liturgical calendar. At times like this, I can’t help but reflect on how the past year has been.
They say the word “Israel” means to wrestle with God. Well, if I were to describe my past year in spiritual terms, it would certainly sound like that.
Let’s see. It consisted of:
- Intentionally surrounding myself with people who have different beliefs and challenging my own assumptions, because I refuse to live in a bubble, because I believe critical thinking is healthy, and because I want all of my choices to actually be chosen and not inherited.
- Becoming acutely aware of the animosity hurled at the Catholic Church (or what people seem to think it is), while also being acutely aware of the hypocrisy and vile acts of some people within the Church … But also wondering why I should base my own faith on someone else’s misunderstanding or misdeed, rather than on my own direct experience.
- Wondering if religion is a mere delusion, the “opium of the people”—nothing but a psychological tool to help human beings cope with suffering, or a social tool to police behaviours and create societal order … But also wondering why the only time I feel anything remotely close to peace is when I come back to the Church. (Is this peace simply the result of eliminating cognitive dissonance, or is it truly a fruit of the Holy Spirit?)
- Wondering why my life away from the Church feels flat, two-dimensional, shallow, and inconsequential compared to how it used to be when I was closer to the Church, when everything was in 4D, deeper and more meaningful, more substantial and more significant.
- Wondering how it could be possible to crave Divine sustenance after living off junk food for so long, while simultaneously feeling allergic to all things “churchy” in a knee-jerk sort of way.
- Wondering why it is only when I’m closer to the Church that all my faculties are awakened, that the part of me that has felt dormant for so long comes alive again, and I feel energized in a way that I can’t fully explain.
If you’re confused about where I stand in these points, that’s probably because I am too. It’s a tug-of-war. I am still searching. I am still wrestling with God. But, as a friend of mine said, “Maybe the reason you’re so frustrated about this is because you care.”
There are a lot of voices out there. And it’s good to take them into consideration (sometimes I feel suspicious when people cling to their beliefs with a bad case of confirmation bias … but then again, maybe they’re just blessed with the gift of faith that I clearly am not). But there comes a point where we must all listen to our own hearts, to our own experiences—to not be swayed by all the voices from either side—and to come to our own conclusions.
As we trudge through the Second Wave of the Pandemic and set aside the party dresses and clinking glasses in adherence to all the restrictions, it seems like this holiday season really will resemble more of a “silent night”. But maybe that’s exactly what we need: to get away from all the bells and whistles and to turn inward instead, to examine what really matters this Christmas.
I wish you a productive time of silence and reflection—something we all seem especially pushed towards during this strange year of 2020. 😉
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