End times

by Adam Burns

I'm wary about using Facebook's "On this day" feature, which shows you all the things you posted to Facebook on the present date throughout the years. Many times it shows cherished memories, many times (for me, at least) it also shows cringe-worthy memories. Recently, my Facebook memories have reminded me of a transition I made several years ago. I had just finished my time with a youth ministry organisation (NET Ministries), having spent four years volunteering and working there, and was about to transition into my present work with Vocation Brisbane. Looking back, it was a transition between life stages. And kudos to younger Adam, because somehow I was aware enough to do something to mark that transition.

I had decided to travel to the Philippines to spend some time with my family. I left the day I finished with NET Ministries, headed straight to the airport and hopped onto a plane to Manila. I travelled alone for the first time in months, without a schedule besides my departure and arrival times. It was during my overnight stopover in Manila before travelling to the northern provinces where my family lives that I realised the significance of the transition I was in.

Many people will be in the midst of a similar transition right now. We're at that time of year, where we're quickly approaching the end of the school year, the end of exams, the end of the work year. For many this will also mean the end of primary or high school, the end of a degree, the end of a job. Really, the end of an era.

It strikes me that as we're recovering from deadlines, exams and due dates that the Church actually begins gearing up. In the Church calendar we're less than two weeks away from the beginning of Advent, a time of preparation for the new beginning of Christmas. In the midst of all these end of the year closings and moving ons, the Church actually celebrates a beginning.

I think there's an inherent wisdom in this. We hear that every ending is a new beginning, yet we wait until the New Year to mark those new beginnings with resolutions. But when we think about the world "resolution" we see it actually comes from the word "resolve", which strikingly is simultaneously backwards and forwards looking: we "resolve", as in lay to rest things from the past; but we also "resolve", as in make a firm decision about how we will move forward in the future.

Herein lies the wisdom of the timing of Advent and Christmas. As we move towards the natural endings that come at this time of year, the Church leads us into a beginning. Advent is not just a time of preparation, its a time of resolution: to resolve (as in lay to rest) the past and to become resolute about new beginnings. It's a process I had accidentally engineered during my overnight stay in Manila a few years ago. I became aware that I was straddling the gap between two life stages, and that for me to make the transition I had to both resolve and become resolute.

That transition is important. See, I'm not the same person I was as the start of this year. For starters, I got married, I graduated, I began a new degree, I started another job. I've had too many experiences and learned too many things to be the same as I was at the start of the year. And yet, in a few weeks time, when all the fireworks have gone off and the New Year has officially begun, my resolutions will focus on what I want to become, my focus already moved on from the growth of this year.

I think we wait too long to make our resolutions. Whether our transition is into a new life stage, or just into a new calendar year, we can gleam something from the Advent season we will soon enter into: resolutions begin now. As we resolve all that we have done, said, thought, experienced this past year during this time of ending; we in fact resolve to do, say, think, experience in the next beginning. In doing so we connect where we want to be to where we have been. And in that we might detect some sense of our calling, as our experiences prompt our becoming (i.e. how our experiences - and importantly, what we learn from them - shapes who we are and who we will be). 

God is reality. Which means that as well as encountering God in prayer, in Word and in Sacrament; we encounter God immanent: in our reality, in our who we are and who we are becoming. Vocation happens when our faith and our becoming inspire one another, when we resolve our past and resolve to be.