Guest Columnists

Finding Focus Amid Seasonal Distractions

by Father Eugene F. Hemrick

AFTER EXPERIENCING Christmas for so many years, it’s easy for it to become “just another” Christmas.

It makes me think of a quote by A.J. Conyers in his book, “The Listening Heart: Vocation and the Crisis of Modern Culture.”

Conyers says the following: “To be modern is to exist increasingly in a state of distraction. Our attention is drawn away from those things that have been placed in our care, away from the center of our apparent concern to something abstractly related to that concern, and thus away from God himself who is the center of all things.”

What exactly is Conyers’ point?

He tells the story of his wife’s father, a skilled cabinet maker, taking him to his shop to see a desk he completed. Its unvarnished wood is beautiful white oak, and its drawers are made to perfection: “no steel tracks or ball bearings; no gimmicks; they fit perfectly in place.”

In contrast to this proud cabinet maker is a furniture factory not far from his father-in-law’s shop. Its main object, however, is bottom-line profit. Unlike his father-in-law, whose eyes are focused on perfection and beauty, it is focused on making money, which, in turn, distracts it from the time needed to produce perfection.

It’s no exaggeration to say Christmas is filled with distractions that encourage us to focus on everything but what it truly means. Sales abound; the latest and best products are touted; and there is the devilish marketing ploy, “Your loved ones deserve the best!”

Christmas is anything but this. It is a time to celebrate God loving us so dearly that God came to live with us. It is a special opportunity to show our gratefulness and let joy fill our hearts.

In the book, “Advent and Christmas Wisdom From St. Augustine,” author Agnes Cunningham has a meditation for each day of Advent leading up to Christmas.

On the first day, she quotes St. Augustine, who invites us to reflect on our body and how God endowed it with senses, coordinated its limbs and gave it a beautiful form.

At the end of the meditation is an Advent action: “Take time today, in gratitude for the gift of life and the grace of life in Christ, to pray for your parents and for the priest who baptized you.”

These thoughts are what Christmas is about, a time in which we don’t allow anything to distract us from its true meaning.

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