My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May the Peace of the Lord be with you.
When a couple gets the news that a baby is on the way, their hearts are filled with joy. For nine months, the mother must take special care of her body for whatever she eats or drink will have an effect on the baby. There is also a lot of time spent on making the physical preparations for the new arrival. As the birth date gets nearer, the excitement grows. It was the same for Mary and Joseph when Mary was pregnant with Jesus. But in the last days of her pregnancy, she had to make a long journey in order for the census to be taken. In spite of the pain and suffering that she must have endured, she too was filled with joy and excitement as the day approached for Jesus to be born.
The season of Advent is a similar time for us as we prepare for the second coming of the Lord Jesus by reflecting on his first coming when he was born in Bethlehem. As Christmas gets closer, the expectancy of celebrating the birth of the Christ Child intensifies and knowing that His birth gives us hope for eternal life should fill us with joy.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of Advent: (#524) “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s (John the Baptist) births and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire `He must increase, but I must decrease.’”
For the next twenty-two days, you and I should do some soul searching in order to discover what it is that keeps us from becoming one with the Lord Jesus. When John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” he was indeed speaking to you and me. Our love for Jesus must grow each day. Each one of us should be a little more Christ-like with each passing day. We need to rid ourselves of all that prevents Jesus from increasing in us, namely sin. Advent is a time to repent so that when the Lord comes a second time at our death, we will be ready.
If we follow John the Baptist’s advice as we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s first coming, we will indeed be preparing ourselves for His second coming. If we take to heart the message of the scripture reading of our Advent Masses, Christmas will be more meaningful for us. So as we make our material preparations for Christmas, let us also prepare ourselves spiritually so that we will be able to celebrate Christmas with great joy.
The First Sunday of Advent is also the beginning of a new liturgical year. As each of us reflects on our own spiritual journey of this past year, some of us will discover that we have made great strides while others of us are stuck in the muck of worry and problems of this world and have not allowed the light of the Lord Jesus to shine in our lives.
It is not easy living the life that was given to us on the day we were baptized. As we get older and the burdens of life weigh on our shoulders, we have the tendency to depend more on our own power and resources and forget that there is a God who created us and who wants to walk with us hand in hand. There is a little voice in our world that keeps telling us “you can do it on your own if you work a little harder.” This voice does not speak the truth! The voice we should be listening to is that of the Lord who says: “Come to me all you who find life burdensome and I will take the yoke from your shoulder.” This is the voice of the true God who reminds us over and over that He will give us everything that we need in this life. Remember, the truth is that there is nothing that you and I have that has not been given to us by the Lord. Nothing!
Some of you, like me, may find yourself walking alone on the path that the Lord has set out before us. We have allowed our problems to overwhelm us. As a result, you also have spent less time in prayer with the Lord and more time feeling sorry for ourselves. We have simply forgotten to reach up and take the hand of the Lord.
Like you, I am grateful that the Lord has put a few people in my life through which He speaks. It is not always easy to listen, but if we take the time, we will hear the Lord Jesus speaking to us. He chooses many instruments as He communicates with us.
There is no better way to get rid of the “poor me” syndrome than to give of one’s time and talent to reach out to another. We should never forget that we are called upon by the Lord Himself to serve Him by sharing what He has given to us with those around us, especially those in need. Just as the Lord God asks us to tithe of our treasure –10% of our income, He also asks us to tithe of our time and talent.
As we begin this new liturgical year let us recommit ourselves to living the life that the Lord gave us at Baptism. Jesus will indeed take excellent care of us if we but let Him and live a life of faith. Remember Jesus came to serve and not to be served – to wash feet. May we too be good servants and give back to Him a tithe of time and talent by reaching out to brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, and to give a tithe (10%) of our treasure to the Church so the work of the Lord can continue. If you have not yet returned your commitment card as part of the parish’s Stewardship drive, please do so. At the end of our life God will ask us were good stewards of what He gave us in this life.
Both as individuals and as a community, we should feel the excitement of preparing for the birthday celebration of the Child Jesus. Our hearts should be so filled with an ever-increasing love of Jesus that it overflows into everything that we do.
May it be said of us on Christmas Day that the Christ Child found a manger in each of our hearts. As He grows in us, may His love truly flow through us to each person with whom we come into contact.I love you