"Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved."
(Psalm 80:4 NAB)
As the Fourth Sunday of Advent arrives this weekend, on the eve of Christmas Eve, we share with you a petition in the Psalm that will be read at Masses: "Restore us, O Lord..."
We won't hear that phrase in the Responsorial Psalm because our liturgy skips that verse. Meanwhile, our response to the verses that are included will be: "Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved."That's certainly a timely request as the celebration of our Savior's birth nears. But I think the plea "Restore us, O Lord," has the advantage of being a lot more specific.
In the Lead Like Jesus movement, we speak of the need to "recalibrate" ourselves on a regular, if not a constant basis. As Jesus told us, the most important commandment is: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Mat 22:37 NAB). But as human consciousness makes clear, it is very difficult not to put the self first -- especially in times of difficulty.
That might not seem like a huge problem for a God of great mercy, except that when Jesus give us "the first commandment," he adds: "The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mat 22:39). We've been consistently having trouble with that since Cain dispatched his brother Abel.
If we were looking for a motto to sum up all of human history since then, it should probably be: "Me first!"
In the leadership role of parent, it is not all that difficult to put the welfare of our followers first. Most parents would gladly lay down their lives for their children. But in all our other leadership roles, loving one's neighbor as much as oneself seems a nearly impossible task.
In fact, in a lot of leadership roles it may seem that love has no place at all. The task is only about getting productivity or more of it, about hitting key numbers, about meeting deadlines, about getting people to do what they may seem disinclined to do at the moment. It can be about concluding that one's self-interest comes down to putting the interests of one's employer ahead of all else -- even a sane personal life. Not infrequently, supervisors give us that message very explicitly.
Whatever our current difficulties and dilemmas, it's a good thing on the eve of Christmas Eve to raise our voices to heaven and plead:"Restore us, O Lord."
I'm betting most of us feel the need for more energy, more focus, more assurance, more support, more balance and more perspective as Christmas Day and a whole New Year of fresh and persistent old challenges approach. It's not unusual at this time of the year, when all the preparations for the season pile up on top of the usual demands of life, that we feel like we are running on empty.
That's why this is an especially good time to ask the Lord to make you his very own special restoration project -- right now!
Of course, that may seem like you are putting yourself first. So search your heart regarding the reasons you are making your request.
- Is it for the sake of greater self-aggrandizement? Is it to build up your bank account or to leap ahead of the Joneses next door or down the street? Is it so others hold you in awe and kowtow to your every whim?
- Or is to help you become more able to do, as Jesus did, the will of your Father, to serve Him better and more fully, to glorify Him and help build His kingdom -- and to love your neighbor as yourself?
When you ask those questions, you are engaging in the very recalibration we recommend that you do regularly. When you begin the process by inviting the Lord to restore you to the very best self He has equipped you to be, you are fostering a sacred relationship and doing a holy thing.
Not bad preparation to receive your Savior on a holy night.
Best wishes for a blessed and joyful Christmas ... and a God-centered New Year.
Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute