Grumbling is anti-Advent

By | November 24, 2010

J.B. Priestly (1894-1984) was an English novelist, playwright and essayist. He was also a self-proclaimed grumbler. He records in “Delight: Taking Pleasure in the Small Things in Life” (Delray Beach, Fla.: Levenger Press, 2007) how he became a malcontent and yet, despite this ingrained temperament, he did find delight and joy in the small things in life.


Bishop Robert Morneau

In a sense, Priestly’s book is an Advent work since we have here an author who is aware of that joy that is characteristic of the Holy Spirit. God’s grace is ever breaking into our lives in small and large pleasures. Our challenge is to be attentive and responsive to the presence and actions of God that fill our days.

In his essay “Coming of the Idea,” Priestly writes: “At one moment the mind knows it not. The next moment it is there, taking full possession of the mind, which quivers in ecstatic surrender” (66). Did the prophet Isaiah experience the coming of an idea (indeed a vision) when he talks about the mountain of the Lord and how nations would one day come there to be instructed in the Lord’s ways? Apparently, Isaiah surrendered to this idea and shared his vision with the people of Judah and Jerusalem. Yes, that idea continues to be shared with us, Advent after Advent.

As a youngster, Priestly admits, with regret, of failing to bring joy to his parents for what they did for him. In writing to the Romans, St. Paul urges them to wake up and put on the armor of light. It is as if the Romans (and us?) consistently fail to respond to the nearness and love of God. Our salvation is at hand and there is urgency that we recognize the call to holiness.

The Gospel reminds us of the importance of timing. Matthew tells us that the Son of Man will come at a time we least expect. In other words, be alert, on guard, awake, attentive because truth, goodness and beauty are all around us. Priestly was traveling in Amsterdam at the age of 19 and went to see the paintings of Rembrandt. He writes: “But nothing really happened inside me. I was at least 20 years too early” (111). Sometimes on our spiritual journey, we are too young or immature to register the comings of the Lord.

During the season of Advent we are invited to take delight and joy in God’s abiding presence. Let us put all grumbling aside, stop complaining and relish the large and small graces that surround us.

Questions for reflection

1. Are you alert to the action of grace in your daily life? Give examples.

2. Why is grumbling an anti-Advent disposition?

3. At what age did you begin to appreciate God’s intervention?


Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.

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