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For the tired, worried, and stretched very thin: The Advent message you need


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Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ - published on 12/16/19

10 Reasons for a holy stubbornness during this season

Is it good or bad to be stubborn? An honest answer could very well be, “It depends.”

If you’re an honest man taking a stand on a matter of principle, as depicted by Jimmy Steward in the classic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, being stubborn could be seen as praiseworthy.

If you’re an exhausted parent trying to “reason” with a screaming toddler who won’t go down for his nap, then stubbornness might be seen as the bane of your existence.

But what if you’re a faithful Catholic trying not to lose your mind or soul in a culture that is not only increasingly anti-Catholic, but also anti-moral and even anti-rational? Then stubbornness might actually be indispensable.

And what do these musings on stubbornness have to do with the Season of Advent?

Consider this—many friends across the country are looking forward to Christmas Day itself, because, as they say (in summary): “For at least one day I can just forget about everything.” These are good people who are tired, worried, and stretched very thin. Devotion to family, career, ministry, or just simply paying the bills from one day to the next has worn them down. It’s understandable, then, if these admirable and weary people are looking forward to just one day to forget about life for a while.

For all those good folks out there who are worked up and worn out and ready to collapse I say (while looking in the mirror): “It’s time to get stubborn!” It’s time to grasp more tightly and insist upon these truths:

  1. God is holy and good and cannot fail;
  2. God is just and merciful;
  3. God calls us to himself;
  4. Because we are sinners, we cannot see the face of God and live;
  5. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the only-begotten Son, became the son of the Virgin Mary;
  6. That incarnation of the Christ of God gave human flesh an unimaginable dignity, and human life a boundless hope for perfection and infinite love;
  7. Jesus Christ offered his life on the cross in order to defeat sin and death;
  8. His sacrifice was vindicated by Divine Father through the resurrection;
  9. The Risen Christ founded one Church, equipping her with Revelation and Sacraments in order to make disciples of all nations;
  10. The trials that we endure, as individuals, as communities great and small, and as the Church, can purify us and prepare us for Heaven, our only true home.

We have to shout these truths in our hearts—especially when we are in pain or tempted. We must teach these truths to our children. We must use these truths to ground our families and all of our institutions. We must make every effort to win others over to these truths. And we must so order our lives to ensure that these truths are passed on—intact—to the next generation.

A tall order, isn’t it? Even on a good day, it’s a tall order! And who has been having lots of good days lately? No one I know. Yet these are the truths that we are bound to, even as they set us free from the lies, illusions, addictions and seductions of this passing world. God’s grace—which is always available for those who ask for it—can enable us to be good stewards of these truths. Want proof?

Here’s just one saint who can serve as a role model for holy stubbornness: St. Joan of Arc. About her, the crusty old skeptic Mark Twain wrote:

She was truthful when lying was the common speech of men; she was honest when honest was become a lost virtue; she was a keeper of promises when the keeping of a promise was expected of no one; … she was full of pity when a merciless cruelty was the rule; she was steadfast when stability was unknown, and honorable in an age which had forgotten what honor was; she was a rock of convictions in a time when men believed in nothing and scoffed at all things; she was unfailingly true in an age that was false to the core; … she was of a dauntless courage when hope and courage had perished in the hearts of her nation…”

We need more people like that these days, don’t we? Dare we ask for the grace of holy stubbornness, as exemplified by St. Joan? Do we have the heart to use the Season of Advent as the time to renew our grip on the promises of God? Do we at least wish to replace the desire to “get away” with the longing to go deeper into truth of Christ? 

When I write next, I will offer some reflections on Christmas. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.

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