Today I would like to offer an Advent reflection from our Pope Emeritus Benedict:
Just like a great joy, so too illness and suffering can be a very personal Advent of one’s owna visit by the God who enters my life and wants to encounter me personally. Even when it is difficult for us, we should at least try to understand the days of our illness in this way: The Lord has interrupted my activity for a time in order to let me be still.
In my daily living, I have little time for him and little time for myself. I am completely involved from morning to evening in all the things I have to do, and I even succeed in eluding my own grasp because I do not know how to be alone with myself. My job possesses me; the society in which I live possesses me; entertainment of various kinds possesses me; but I do not possess myself. And this means that I gradually go to seed like an overgrown garden, first in my external activities and, then, in my inner life, too. I am propelled along by my activities, for I am merely a cog in their great machinery.
But now God has drawn me out of all this. I am obliged to be still. I am obliged to wait. I am obliged to reflect on myself; I am obliged to bear being alone. I am obliged to bear pain, and I am obliged to accept the burden of my own self. All this is hard.
But may it not be the case that God is waiting for me in this stillness? May it not be the case that he is doing here what Jesus says in the parable of the vine: “Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (Jn 15:2)?
If I learn to accept myself in these days of stillness, if I accept the pain, because the Lord is using it to purify me does this not make me richer than if I had earned a lot of money? Has not something happened me that is more durable and fruitful than all those things that can be counter and calculated?
A visit by the Lordperhaps illness can present itself in a new light when we see it as part of Advent. For when we revel against it, this is not only because it is painful or because it is hard to be still and alone: we revel against it because there are so many important things we ought to be doing and because illness seems meaningless. But it is not meaningless! In the structure of human life a s a whole, it is profoundly meaningful. It can be a moment in our life that belongs to God, a time when we are open to him and thus learn to rediscover our own selves. (The Blessing of Christmas, pgs 19-21)