On behalf of the Fathers and seminarians of the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary, I wish all in advance a Holy and Blessed Christmas and a Christ-filled 2018.
It is that time of the year again where many would probably be pondering and evaluating how the year had been for them: how close or how far away are they from the resolutions they had made since the beginning of the year, checking off on their checklist what they have or have not accomplished during the year and setting new goals for the new year ahead.
So I too took this time to ponder and evaluate the year that is coming to an end and one of the many discoveries for me this year was to look at how I was allocating my time in the different areas of formation – our four pillars of formation are Spiritual, Human, Intellectual and Pastoral. One of my greatest struggles since entering the Seminary last year was in the area of intellectual formation and I was aware beforehand that this was going to be my biggest challenge in my formation. It would be foolish of me to think that I could simply pull through the eight years of formation by not dealing with this or by sweeping this under the carpet and just focusing on being formed in the other areas. So as the year went by, I realized that I should and could have put in more time in this area which apparently I was not doing so. I would procrastinate on revising what was taught during class and would wait till the very last minute before I would actually begin my revision which was usually already too late.
Upon this discovery, I decided that I would have to make changes to how I was using my time in formation. I had to cut back on a number of things which were ‘eating up’ my time to study. It was constantly at the back of my mind how I wanted to maximize whatever time I had for my studies. Of course, I was not always successful in this area; I would still be distracted with things that took up my time to study. Nonetheless, I was making good progress with these small changes and was happy with what I was sacrificing. It made me feel good whenever I was able to choose to use my time wisely rather than to waste it away on my distractions.
However, just when I thought I was heading in the right direction, this desire to use my time wisely during formation soon crept in to affect my prayer life. I was finding it difficult to meditate on the daily scriptures during my quiet time with Jesus. My mind would start to drift to thoughts of how I was going to use my time later after meditation rather than spending it with Jesus, conversing and listening to Him. I noticed that I would often be telling Jesus that, “Look, you invited me to remove my distractions and to learn to use my time more wisely. I am trying to learn to do that but see how it is affecting my quiet time with you now.” It was getting rather frustrating for me at this point in time.
By the end of the semester, I was still not able to get rid of this frustration but I told myself that during this time of vacation for us seminarians, this time of Advent, this time of preparation for the birth of Jesus, I would want to welcome Christ again in my life, in my heart, in my journey as well as in my struggles. If there was one thing I learnt from this whole experience, it was that it is so important to still be in a relationship with Christ, the need to always come back to Him, to learn to trust in Him and not be too overwhelmed by my struggles, challenges or even tasks ahead of me.
Any family preparing for the arrival of a newborn child would need to make space in their homes; they would need to make adjustments to their lifestyles to welcome the new addition to their family. I hope that this would also inspire you to ponder on your relationship with Christ. How near or how far have you drifted away from Him? Where or how in this season of Advent are you being invited to make space or to make whatever necessary adjustments in your life to welcome Jesus once again into your life, into your heart? There was no place in Bethlehem except a manger for Jesus to be born; is there a place in your life, in your heart for Him to be born this Christmas?
By Br Dexter Chua