Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!

It’s been a tough few years for our family.  In spring of 2018 we lost my father-in-law, in the summer of 2018 I lost a close friend from graduate school and just last month we lost my husband’s aunt and a baby that we had hoped and prayed for and couldn’t wait to meet in person.  In a recent conversation with my mother-in-law, she said something that has really stuck with me. “Since Steve died,” (her husband of over 40 years) “I’m not afraid anymore. Death seems different to me.”

Marcia’s perspective is not only true, but also the promise of this O Antiphon.  Christ came to open the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom, and because of him we can know that death truly isn’t the end.  I’ve always loved the scene at the end of The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis when the world of Narnia is ending, and the next world is beginning.  As more and more characters arrive, the command is to go “Further in and further up!”  There is always more room. God truly desires for all of us to be free from darkness and to enter into his glorious light.

Traditionally, the first two weeks of Advent are spent focusing on Jesus’s return at the end of time, and the last two weeks focus on Jesus’s coming at Christmas.  This O Antiphon reminds me of those first two weeks and the promise of a glorious Messiah who will return as he promised. It reminds us that the promise of eternal life is just that: a promise.  And our God is faithful to all generations- if he has promised it, he will do it.

Dealing with loss is incredibly difficult no matter how or when it happens, but trying to keep a good face on the matter can be even harder. Sometimes sharing your grief with students can help both you and the students. After our miscarriage, I was really struggling at work. I had missed several days and the students felt hurt and abandoned because they didn’t know the full story. As I told my canned version for a third time, that we had a loss in our family followed by a stomach bug, my group of 8th graders did something I never would have expected. One student raised his hand and asked, “You don’t have to, but if you can, would you tell us the name of the person you lost, so we can pray for them?” Starting to cry, I told them a very abbreviated version of the story- we had been expecting a baby and now we weren’t. To their credit, the students have kept this story to themselves, knowing that I wasn’t ready to share with the full school community. Their kindness and compassion surprised me in a time of grief.

For today: How have you been surprised by joy in a time of grief? What is your perspective on death? Do you see death as an end, or a glorious beginning, or maybe something else entirely? How do your faith and your views of eternal life relate to one another? If you have time, think of an act of compassion you can do for someone dealing with grief.

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