"It is I who say to you, "Fear not, I will help you.” – Is. 41:13

December is one of the busiest season for me and many other people. 'Tis the season of gift-giving, mistletoes, attending holiday parties, planning parties, Christmas show productions, and getting some work done before put my "out of office" email.

During the season of Advent, the Church encourages us to prepare our hearts for Christmas. I've heard priests say that Advent is like a "mini Lent." I am sad to say that it has not necessarily been the reality of my Advent. The culture may persuade us that this is the time for glitter, glitz, glamour and the most amazing holiday pictures. When I look at my agenda, rest and healthy detachment from these festivities seem almost impossible.

Today we celebrate St. John of the Cross, a man known for his silent contemplation, literary works, solidarity, and humility. Born in 1542, he's far removed from our social media and current methods of communication. He may not know anything about Pinterest or Snapchat but he sure lived his life loving God and others in freedom. He understood what's important and essential. He built monasteries in Spain with St. Teresa Avila. He wrote some of the greatest literary works when he was living in a prison cell. His ability to love freely showed itself in action.

While I'm inspired by St. John of the Cross, I am tempted to feel inadequate in my spiritual life. I struggle to make the time for contemplation. In my free time, I keep giving in to my phone and social media. Instead of carving out some time for silence, I binge watch TV shows on Netflix.  Today's readings remind me that I do not need to fear. I am not walking this journey of faith alone. God himself will help me.

contemporary Jesuit author, Fr. James Martin, observed that "instead of seeing the spiritual life as one that can exist only if it is enclosed by the walls of a monastery, we can see the world as our monastery." t. John of the Cross and St. Teresa Avila collaborated and built monasteries together.

Today, am I viewing the world I live in as my monastery? Am I up to the challenge of walking in genuine love? I believe that when we walk in genuine love, we create more "monasteries" in this world. We create living sacred spaces in our relationships.

Perhaps the true light of Christmas is not found in the glitz, glamour or the best eggnog. Perhaps it is found in the simplicity of a star, a manger, and a newborn called Jesus.

Gabriella Karina