I will be the first to admit that the quiet and reflection I try to do during Advent is mostly about me. How I need to change; how I need to seek God in my neighbor and seek to notice God's work in the world around me; how I want to deepen my spiritual self and grow my soul.

(And of course, as I have been saying, I find it very hard to "do" Advent and make time for quiet to begin with.)

But this week I am really thinking about other people, a lot. Often we have a number of deaths in our parish after the holidays, but this year those deaths have started much earlier. Parishioners or parents and friends of parishioners are slipping away.

And other pastoral concerns have come to the fore, and not just in my parish but among friends and family, too. There's a lot of grief out there, a lot of sadness and fear. Things that are just going to have to be borne, somehow.

This is when community is so important. I've never been one to believe the saying that "God never gives us more than we can bear." For one thing, I don't believe that God takes away our parents or our children or our friends thinking that we can bear it. I don't believe that God takes them away to begin with. God grieves with us. This isn't a test of our ability to "handle things."

But I do believe that God wants us to be in community for this very reason. The community helps us bear the unbearable by just being with us. Perhaps bringing food, perhaps just sitting silently with us. Friends tell about their own losses, their own struggles, and the troubled person realizes that he or she is not alone. This is how we bear one another's burdens - not by taking them over or by trying to fix things but just by offering a shoulder, a hand, a touch, a knowing nod.

And so, today, cast your gaze outward and your prayers, too. Pray for the dying, for the bereaved, for the sad, for the frustrated, for the fearful, for the ones who are at their wits' end.