December 6, 2017

Four Gifts This Advent – Gift 1: Time to Know Your Deepest Longings

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As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?” Psalm 42:2-4


One day on a winter’s walk in the woods I came face to face with a deer. Our town had been in the midst of a stretch of very cold weather, and the stream I was walking along was mostly frozen over. I had stopped at a place where the swift current of the stream broke through to the surface and swirled around in eddies before it disappeared back under the ice.

As I sat for a while watching and listening to the gurgling water, a deer quietly appeared. We stared at one another for a few moments and, sensing I was no threat, the deer moved to the edge of the water and drank deeply.

I recalled the words, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.” I had been experiencing a kind of winter in my soul. There were few signs of life, and the Spirit of God seemed to have become frozen over within me. Somehow, I was drawn to this external image of my internal longing—flowing water finding a way to bubble up from beneath solid ice.

It was Advent and I was longing, even though I was barely aware of my discontent. Like everyone else I had been caught up in the busyness of Christmas preparations. Though we had lit the Advent candles at home and I had tried to pray, I needed more. I needed time to really allow my sense of longing to swirl up and become clear to me as it did on that winter’s walk in the woods. I knew then that I needed a closer relationship to God and that I had to stop just going through the motions of my prayer life. My longing, once acknowledged, turned out to be an invitation to live with a deeper awareness of God’s presence and care all around me.

What are you longing for? What is your heart trying to tell you? The gift God offers this first week of Advent is the invitation to explore your inner longings. The Church, through our Advent customs, and even the weather of the season itself support such inner work. During the first week of Advent, give yourself time and space to contemplate what you are truly longing for in life. Know that this is the season when your longings will lead you to the Christ Child, in whom the hopes and fears of all the years are known and responded to with generous love.

Theme: Our World Longs for God

As individuals and as a community, we are longing for the presence of God. World events shatter our complacency; family difficulties shake our resolve. How can we say God is present when so much seems to be unstable?

From Finding God by Loyola Press