Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

O Emmanuel, of King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!

Emmanuel is probably one of my favorite names of Jesus. As soon as I hear this name, I picture Advent and a particular mass memory. My sophomore or junior year in high school, our choir was supposed to sing at a fancy event in New York City. Before the event we stood in the very back rows of a beautiful church for a mass celebrated by a Cardinal, which was a first for me. I don’t remember much from that night, but I remember hearing the hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel” echoing through the beautiful dark church and the way the sounds and harmonies swelled on the words: “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”

Many people know that Emmanuel means “God with us,” but I think many if us forget the power of that promise in our day to day lives. God is with us in all that we do. Sometimes I find this helpful to remember when I am feeling overwhelmed by piles of laundry, stacks of grading and a sick two year old. But even these things can be a chance to bring God into the reality of life as a teaching mom. As I fold the laundry, I pray for my husband and son. As I grade each paper I pray for the student who wrote it. I try to remember to pray for all the students who are struggling and couldn’t turn in something for me to add to the stack. Every moment, Emmanuel. God with us.

Of course this sounds lovely and zen and beautiful in a blog post, and the reality is much messier. While I would love to have you think of me serenely folding socks and praying for my cherubic child, it doesn’t work like that all the time. But Emmanuel is God WITH us. Even in the mess. Even in the hours of cleaning the hourse only to have it look like a tornado hit it as soon as nap time is over. Even in the procrastinating grading the giant essay. Even in the staff meetings that go on and on and on. Emmanuel, God is with us.

One of our campus ministers at Rutgers University, Father Peter, once told me that every morning, before he gets out of bed, he tells God, “Today I choose to live with an awareness of your presence.” I love this way of setting the intention for the day. He went on to say that he would try to make sure that the rest of the day he would consciously look for God’s presence in everything. At the end of the day he would make a Examen, then start over the next day. God is always with us, but sometimes we have to make a conscious effort to be aware.

For today: Start the day with Fr. Peter’s prayer: “Today I choose to live with an awareness of your presence.” At the end of the day make a list of all the ways that God was present to you. Use the small tasks of the day- folding laundry, grading papers, straightening a classroom- to become prayers for all the people affected by those actions.

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