Dear Parishioners: I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends. Does it seem to you, as it does to me, that Thanksgiving snuck up on us this year, taking us by surprise? And here we are now with leftover turkey and cranberry and it’s the First Sunday of Advent already! The change to the color purple and the addition of the Advent wreath and candles in Church and our homes remind us that we’ve entered a new season on the church calendar. A season for preparing to ready the way for Jesus to enter our hearts.
So, as we enter the season of Advent this weekend and with Christmas and a new year just around the corner we need to heed the Advent cry: Come, Lord Jesus! When we need him most and least expect Him: Jesus is coming into our hearts. Not just at Christmas, not just in Advent, not just in December, but every minute of every hour of every day! Many of us, especially the children, are looking forward to Christmas with great and joyful anticipation. For others this is a difficult time that can be overwrought with worry, anxiety, loneliness and grief.
Today a season begins by inviting all our hearts to open up and prepare a way for the Lord to enter. As Jeremiah reminds us: “the days are coming when the Lord will fulfill his promise to keep us safe and secure.” As St. Paul tell us, the Lord’s desire is “to strengthen our hearts in love, to help us lead lives pleasing to God.” Advent is a season to keep vigil for signs of Jesus’ coming, not so much in the sun, the moon and the stars, but in our hearts in the midst of all our troubles and joys. Advent is a season meant to prepare us to welcome with joy the Lord more fully into our hearts and lives. The so-called “holiday season” is all around us, the “commercial season” taps our bank accounts, and the “social season” of decorations, cookies, gifts and parties distracts us. None of these are particularly beneficial in helping us welcome Jesus into our hearts or our lives.
What is helpful for us is to find some quiet time in Advent to sit with the Lord in prayer and reflection. We are blessed to have a Church that is open all day long. So stop by before or after work or school and spend just a few minutes away from the noisy and hectic pace of the season around us to be with the Lord. What is helpful for us is to prepare ourselves by seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness in Confession. Take some time this season to prepare yourself for Christmas through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Come to Confession on a Monday night at 6pm or Saturday afternoon at 3pm. Receive Gods’ mercy and forgiveness this season. What’s helpful is not buying, consuming and filling up on everything but rather emptying ourselves out to make room, for Jesus to come in to our hearts and make Himself at home there. That’s what the great feast we anticipate, Christmas is truly all about: Jesus coming to make His home among us and within us.
What’s helpful is doing whatever we can to avoid extravagance and over-indulgence in giving to those who already have so much and perhaps even too much, but rather doing whatever we can to reach out to those who have so little and need so much. Will we welcome in the season of Advent? Will we prepare to welcome the presence of Jesus within us? Will we try to spend at least part of the next four weeks focusing not so much on things whose shelf-life is so short but on those realities that can and do last forever?
The greatest Christmas gift ever given or received is God’s gift of love to us in giving us His Only Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. It is the gift found in His Gospel, in His passion, death and resurrection, and in the Eucharist that we celebrate. As we enter into this time of joyful anticipation and prayerful preparation may it change our hearts to welcome Christ who comes to bring us healing, forgiveness, hope, peace, joy and love!
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman says of Advent: “They watch for Christ who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind, who are awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in honoring Him, who look for Him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if they found that He was coming at once. This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in what is unseen; to live in the thought of Christ as He came once, and as He will come again; to desire His second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of His first.”
So celebrate Advent! Pray and prepare the way of the Lord. Be well. Do good. God Bless. Go Pats!