As I was preparing for the letter this week, I came across an article for a fall checklist for the upcoming winter season. Although this was an article about getting our lawn mowers and summer equipment ready for an extended time of storage or looking at the needs for getting our winter equipment prepared for what we know soon will come, I thought of this in another light. Personally, am I prepared for the upcoming year? The end of our liturgical year is fast approaching, with Advent not that far away. School is back in session, and for the most part, summer get-aways are a thing of the past. So the question for us to ask is: am I prepared? How can I prepare?
First, we need to plan. If we fail to plan, life will simply overtake us. Advent will be over before we even know it has arrived; Christmas becomes nothing more than a hectic time of celebrations, shopping and office parties that lead into New Year’s Day and mid-winter blues settling in. Planning puts us in charge of our schedule. There are times we need to say no, but without a plan things that come up can take on an importance of their own, and we can find ourselves agreeing to more things than we can do justice to, and we find the business of the season driving us. Planning today takes the burden of tomorrow and puts it into perspective.
Another way to plan is to take advantage of an opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. There will be opportunities to receive this sacrament during Advent, but we have regular times in each parish as well. Many times I am asked ‘how often should I receive this sacrament?’There is no hard and fast rule, but I often suggest that we tie these into the seasons. Living in Wisconsin, with the four seasons being so drastically different from one another, is certainly a blessing. Time itself is both linear and cyclical, and the seasons reflect this in nature. This is also reflected in our lives, which unfold before us in these ways as well, with anniversaries and birthdays celebrated each year, but never two alike (except for one of my sisters-in-law, I think she is on her 23rd 29th birthday this year). However, in order to take advantage of the blessings and graces God desires to offer us, we need to have a clear path. Just as we need to have the sidewalks and roads plowed in order to get to our destinations in the middle of winter, our spirit needs a clear path as well. The sacrament of reconciliation is similar to a snow plow; clearing sin from our lives opens channels of grace so we can receive the good things God desires to give us. It is also similar to an oil change, allowing our souls to operate in grace, which is another way to say efficiently. When this is the state of our soul, the graces of Marriage, Holy Communion, Holy Orders or any other sacrament we celebrate continue to flow in our lives, and become more powerful, more effective and bring more healing.
As we enter into this beautiful fall season, let it be a time of spiritual beauty for each of our families.
God bless Fr Jim