Monday, November 30, 2020

Welcome to Advent: Spiritual Tools Required

A number of my good friends love the holy season of Advent. Truly, it is a beautiful time in the Church. Perhaps the darkness outside makes the light of candles inside shine brighter. It is hard not to find simple joy in the timeless elegance of the Advent wreath and the blue vestments of the priest. When I hear "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" I feel connected to the past—one that has not always been easy or joyful—much like today. And yet, as much as I want to laud this time of preparation, I am slightly conflicted. We are waiting.... waiting...and that is something some of us do better than others. I take the reminders Jesus gave in the Gospel to heart: “Be watchful! Be alert!" It's not a time to rest easy. Indeed, we are called to ready our hearts and our homes for the coming of Christ. This isn't without some effort or frustration.
Sam Grewe, senior track and field athlete and U.S. Paralympian—who I have profiled before—knows a thing or two about frustration. His prosthetic leg requires care and regular maintenance. He has no choice but to "be watchful" and pay attention to its upkeep; this is an important perspective for me to hear.

Sports and Spirituality is always happy to hear when a sporting venue is named as a sacred space. I was thrilled that he identified Loftus Sports Center and intrigued that an equipment room in particular was where he took us—anyone who signs up for the post on Notre Dame's Daily Advent Journey. 

Grewe said, “This is a place that I go to access tools and support staff to repair my prosthetic leg during practices and competitions … When I use the equipment room to repair my leg, I feel frustrated at first because other competitors don’t have to deal with these problems. But that feeling quickly turns to gratitude. Gratitude for access to the resources that I need and for the support of the community around me.” 
I can only imagine the frustration he must feel. I appreciate his honesty, self awareness and his realization. And, I have to believe those difficult spaces are portals for God's grace. I suppose that is true for the season of Advent too—there is beauty and there is waiting, anticipation and expectation.

As Sam spoke, I was struck by the sight of a crucifix on the wall. I wouldn't expect a reminder of Jesus' sacrifice to hang in such a simple, common space. 
 Truly it is a reminder to be grateful for His gift. No wonder Grewe's frustration turns to gratitude. 

Grewe added, "This space is sacred to me because it reminds me that our conditions of body and spirit are always in motion. Whatever brokenness we encounter in our lives does not ultimately define us. Instead, what defines us is how we respond to these challenges. There have been times in my life when challenges could not be fixed with a set of physical tools and I think this is the case for all of us."
"And so when I go the Loftus equipment room and I feel the satisfaction of fixing my leg, I'm able to reflect back on a long journey of gathering the spiritual tools I've needed to overcome cancer and thrive—as a person and a competitor with a prosthetic leg."

This Advent, let us ask: What tools does this season offer us to feel a greater sense of wholeness in our lives with one another and with God? 

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