Everyone is on a journey

By Puleng Matsaneng

The Season of Advent offers us inspiring words: hope, love, joy and peace. These words lead us to Christmas. South Africa – and some of our neighbouring countries – are built on a migrant system. Many people in our country make journeys at this time of the year to visit their relatives. Many refer to their visits as going back to what they call their “real home”. Places like Johannesburg Station, Noord Street and Baragwanath taxi ranks will be over-populated by those making these journeys in the days before Christmas.

I love this season. It takes me back to my journeys with my grandparents when we used to visit their farm.

People who are going to visit their families, and those who remain behind, buy all sorts of gifts. These could be food items, clothes, toys and so on. All this shopping is only possible through all year round savings which they built up. People feel some accomplishment by being able to buy the different items they or their loved ones need. This, however, can leave the Christian buyer disorientated from their faith and consumed by adverts and buying.

The journey of Advent, on the other hand, helps us reflect on the coming of the Lord Jesus.

We all have hopes. When hope is realised, it draws us further into love. This is a unique love, the love that St Paul shares with us, “As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love awakens authenticity in us, it calls us out of shallowness. This love, when fully achieved, leads us to joy. We stop holding back. We realise that we can enjoy life and we have a sense of peace.

The Magi in the Scriptures teach us more. They took their faith seriously. The star they followed was filled with hope. It led them to the Holy Family and a deep sense of joy and peace. Consumerism can cloud our minds and leave us feeling lost. We no longer seem to have helpful stars to follow.

We may judge one another, especially those who are destitute, asylum seekers, refugees, homeless and many others who find themselves in difficult circumstances at the moment. Matthew’s Gospel offers us a gift by telling us about a family which was vulnerable, who had no space to give birth. They seemed rejected by everyone. The arrival of the Magi changed their situation.

The Magi were people of mature faith. They were good listeners and open to growth. The gifts they gave the Child Jesus are gifts that we continue to use and value today. They were not gifts that dissuaded or negated faith. They teach us about growth and maturity.

Maybe we need to ask ourselves how we can change, grow and mature being evermore available to God’s greatness if we too learn how to follow the true Star this Advent.

Ms Puleng Matsaneng

Puleng works in Spirituality and researches Ignatian Spirituality in an African context. Her area of speciality is in exploring how African themes and practices of spirituality dialogue with the Western traditions, and how that is understood in relation to Ignatian Spirituality. She has looked at how Ignatian Spirituality can be integrated into the African worldview. Most especially, how the use of song and storytelling can be part of the prayer process. She is currently managing retreats in daily life and training prayer guides. Puleng is also involved in ongoing Spiritual Direction, giving 8-day and 30-day retreats. Her latest venture is a pilot programme of healing workshops that use the principles of Ignatian Spirituality.

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