On this First Sunday of Advent, Jesus calls us to “Stay Awake!” (Matthew) St. Paul uses similar language when reminding us that this is the “Hour to wake from your sleep; our salvation is near at hand.” (Romans)
Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of the Lord. A time to prepare for the celebration of his historical birth in time. A time to remember his earthly life and ministry, his passion, death, and resurrection. A time to prepare for his second coming in glory.
Matthew’s Gospel recalls many earthly realities such as eating and drinking; marrying and giving in marriage; working in the field and grinding grain. Jesus recalls these realities, not condemning them, but calling us to be wise in our understanding that they are worldly realities that will yield to the greater, the primary and final reality of God.
Advent is a time to assess our life through this proper understanding that our life exists within a broader and eternal reality. This season invites us to see where we are called to live more fully in the Light of Jesus Christ. Where have our habits become a bit disordered, loving the things of this life too much? Where and when have these disordered loves of our life created a ‘darkness’ that needs the Light of Christ once again?
We have just celebrated a national feast of Thanksgiving. We have more than likely done our share of eating and drinking in the past few days. Hopefully, not to indulgence, but can we see how such a celebration can cause us to focus too much on worldly pleasures, too much on self, and not on God’s Kingdom?
Advent is a call to conversion; away from the things of this world and more to God’s Kingdom. This conversion requires a willingness to honestly admit where I am more focused on my needs than those of others; more interested in my will than the Divine Will for my life.
St. Catherine of Siena had a beautiful analogy for how she lived, for how we are to live. Simply it is that as a fish is in the sea, so we are in Christ. The fish sees all things only through the water in which it lives, it experiences all things only through this reality of water that surrounds it. So, too, we are to live fully in Christ. We are to live every reality of our life through our relationship with Christ. Thus, we only love others through our love for Christ. We always see others and all life experience through our relationship with Christ. This is a good starting point for Advent, to live in the Light (Christ); to turn away from darkness and sin, our disordered worldly attachments.
Confession is a necessary part of this journey with Christ, this journey of conversion. Once we allow the Holy Spirit to reveal our sins and disordered loves, we are to bring them to Christ for forgiveness and healing. The Sacrament of Reconciliation then heals our hearts and grants us the grace we need to grow in virtue and holiness; to stand strong in the face of temptation and to leave behind the vices that have been a part of our worldly way of behaving.
A week ago at the National Catholic Youth Conference, it was so beautiful to see so many people going to confession. A large room was set up where 40 priests heard confessions several hours each day. Even across the street from the Convention Center at St. John’s Catholic Church, I would be praying and have people sit down next to me and ask me to hear their confession. What a marvelous experience to see God’s mercy experienced by so many! Let’s get back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Advent!
Conversion is also a call to grow in virtue. This season calls us to be alert to those interior promptings to small acts of love and to act upon them immediately, for such moments are singular in opportunity. It can be as simple as making that next round of coffee for those waking up after you, or pouring another cup of coffee for someone else when pouring your own. It can be washing dishes, washing clothes, helping with the house cleaning or taking time to sit and listen to someone tell you about their life journey.
The home, the family, is where we are called to learn how to love, so that our love can expand to the broader society. The New Evangelization calls us to a greater exercise of love that reaches those on the margins; those most in need of knowing that are loved.
Conversion is a call to an increased reception of the Sacraments. Try to make a daily Mass each week of Advent. The Sacraments are Christ’s great gift to us. When we regularly receive Christ, we are allowing Him to work more fully and intimately within us. We become more fully alive IN Christ, that all we do may done THROUGH him and WITH him.
Let’s make this Advent journey together; together IN, WITH and THROUGH Christ!