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Take a different route in 2023

By Judy Joseph Mc Sween
Time Out Specalist

We entered 2022 stealthily, not yet fully recovered from the social, psychological, economic, and spiritual pains that ravaged families, businesses, and economies.

As the year wore on, our frailty continued to rear its head at inopportune moments, impacting our interpersonal relationships.

We were perhaps more aware of the disastrous impact that our desire for progress is having on the environment, as the skies became clearer, animals dared to trespass paths previously dominated by humans.

We were like turtles with our heads sticking out of our shells, alert and ready to withdraw at the slightest disturbance. We returned to in-person events, anxious and cautious that any cough could signal a return to a past of restricted movement and quarantine – a period we could describe as anything but joyful.

Reigniting our faith

In the background, Pope Francis could be heard nudging us to reignite our faith and to ignite in others a desire to be closer to God. A challenging request when our personal anxieties and fears of uncertainty overshadowed our faith.

As 2022 progressed, we began to see the light, we saw reasons to celebrate, and for some, the continued engagement of their spiritual practices from the comfort of their living rooms superseded the desire to receive the Eucharist.

Pope Francis attributes “the crisis of faith” in societies to “the eclipse of desire for God”, which he said is related to “a kind of slumbering of the spirit, to the habit of being content to live from day to day, without ever asking what God really wants from us.”

Pause and Refocus

As we pause this Advent, to reflect on the events surrounding the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is useful to identify how they might inform how we approach our spirituality, how we reignite our faith in 2023.

Both the Covid pandemic and the Synod for Synodality are clamouring for us to, like the wise men, take another route. A route in which we become more conscious of how we interact with and build relationships with God and God’s creation (the environment and our fellowman).

The reality is that it is impossible to love God and demonstrate disdain for our neighbour and the environment. Our spiritual growth is tied to the cross – our vertical relationship with God the Creator and our horizontal relationship with God’s creation. So, what might that new route look like?

Discovering a new route

Well, it could begin with an examination of

  • What do we give most attention to, our relationship with God or our relationship with others? Matthew 22:37, He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
  • Now that we know that our relationship with God is symbiotically linked with our relationship with others and the environment, what might we need to do differently?
  • How do we create the space and time to listen to, to hear what God is asking of us? Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”; Matthew 6:10, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.
  • How do we create the space and time to listen to hear how God is speaking to us through others – those who rub us the wrong way, those who we currently marginalise and through nature? 1 John 4:20: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen”.
  • How do we intentionally demonstrate care and compassion for others and the environment? Luke 6:36–38: “Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful. “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
  • What are the addictions and self-centred behaviours that we may need to release to allow love to flow freely from ourselves to the environment, to others, to God?

1 Thessalonians 3:12, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.”

As we reflect and become more self-aware of what we are called to be, may we be gifted with the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22–23).

May we awake from our slumber and experience a conversion that leads us to truly and intentionally build community, be inclusive and engage in dialogue, aiding our Archdiocese in this journey to becoming an increasingly synodal Church.