by Parish Staff
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May the Peace of the Lord be with you!
When a couple gets the exciting 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 preparation 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 trip 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. Today is the first Sunday of Advent as well as the first Sunday of the Liturgical Year.
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) birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire `He must increase, but I must decrease.’”
For the next twenty-three 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 in fact telling us that we should be doing the same. 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. It is also a time for us to work at having a more compassionate heart. Pope Francis is constantly reminding us to be more active in caring for the poor and the homeless among us. There is no better way to prepare for the birthday of the Lord than to actively share in His ministry and concern for the poor. Advent is truly a time to repent, to turn from our old ways and put Christ at the center of our lives, so that when the Lord comes a second time at our death, we will be ready.
A lot of Catholics can find time to spend hours in the stores looking for that perfect gift for someone, but cannot give of their time to participate in Mass every Sunday or to read the Scripture readings in preparation for Mass or to visit Jesus ever present in the Blessed Sacrament or to visit Jesus who lives in our lonely neighbors or to study His Word in the Bible. What ever happened to our obligation to give a tithe (10%) of our time back to the Lord? Then there are those “good Catholics” who spend hundreds of dollars on Christmas gifts for others and for themselves, but who give a dollar or two in the Sunday collection or throw a few coins into the red kettle of the Salvation Army. What about our obligation to give God a tithe (10%) from the very top of all the money we earn? Then, again, there are those Catholics who spend hours decorating their homes, but who cannot find time to share their talents in preparing the church for Advent and/or Christmas or preparing Christmas baskets for the poor. What about our obligation to give a tithe (10%) of our talent to God?
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. Remember that Advent is a time to repent and put Jesus back at the center of lives so that when the Lord comes a second time at our death, we will be ready.
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.
Please pray for me and my brother priests and seminarians of our diocese.
I love you,