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Practice, Practice, Practice

Happy Thanksgiving!

I apologize to those who had Beta at MQOA this week, for not completing this reflection in time for your Beta groups this week. This is in part because, frankly, this Gospel reading (Mt 24:37-44 this week, and most readings during Advent) appeared initially difficult to write about. But this morning I was reflecting on what to prepare for Christmas, and thinking about Thanksgiving football, and realized what I needed to say about Sunday's reading.

Christ said, "You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."

What would this have to do with serving our neighbors?

I think it has to do, in part, with being prepared to say "Yes" to God when it really matters. And that takes practice. A lot of it. But it also requires taking a first step.

The spiritual life has many parallels in our physical life - but I'll use music and sports to illustrate my point.

Every musician has had to learn how to perform. For a difficult passage in a piece of music, you have to do it once correctly, even if very slowly. To lose the jitters of performing in front of people, you have to do it once. Then you build from there with lots of practice. All great performances started somewhere, with skills that grew with practice.

Now, if you are a Patriots fan, you might remember them winning Super Bowl 49 (or "XLIX" for the Roman numeral-inclined). The win was sealed (or a loss was prevented!) by a goal-line interception by Malcolm Butler. ( What you might not know was that the Patriots defense practiced defending that very play run by the Seattle Seahawks. (Hear all the Patriots' coaches talk about it here:

In our spiritual life, helping our neighbor is one way to take a first step to be more prepared. I tend to think it may be one of the easier steps to take, since there is a lot of need in our community and everyone is looking for volunteers. It helps to approach this step not as a way to "give back" or "make a difference", but as a way to love. I suggest finding an activity where you can interact with someone who is less fortunate, and make sure you do one thing: learn and remember their name. After that first step, we can do it again, this time knowing and using the person's name, building a relationship with them.

And for what are we being prepared? What will it mean to say "Yes" to God when it really matters? What is the final goal-line stand (or the big comeback win)? More about that on Christmas.

So here are challenge questions for this week, and this Thanksgiving:

What is a first step you can take, today?

Whose name will you remember?

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