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1st Sunday of Advent - December 3, 2017

Traducir al Español

At the start of today’s liturgy we performed a ceremony repeated in churches and homes throughout the world: the lighting of a candle, the symbol of Advent.  The single small flame, burning alone in the midst of the others yet unlit, reminds us that this season is one of beginnings, of waiting and anticipation.  Slowly but surely, the light of this perfect circle grows until we celebrate the birth of Christ.

Yet we are a people who don’t like to wait.  Lines, traffic jams, buffering delays on our computer screens all make for the bane of our 21st century existence.  We want things easy and we want them fast. Often times in our Consumer minds, waiting is an affront to us.  Add Advent and Christmas into the mix – the pressures of decorating our homes and trees on Friday after Thanksgiving, getting our Christmas cards out, buying gifts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – and our already busy lives become more frantic.  When we are supposed to be preparing to celebrate the Birth of our Savior, it is so easy to lose Spiritual sight of what this preparatory Season is about. 

The season of Advent begins with a somber warning from Jesus to his disciples.  “Be watchful!  Be alert!”  In the English version of today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus telling his disciples to watch 4 times in this short passage.  Advent is also a reminder for us that the Christian life is one of hope:  not merely hope for after death, nor hope for a miraculous transformation by divine intervention from beyond the world, but hope based on the power of love to create a new reality from within.

          Our celebration of beginning reminds us first of the end that is still ahead of us, toward which we are still on our way.  The coming of the Christ even in its glorious fulfillment still remains in the future.  This season is not meant to make us feel fearful and tense.  On the contrary, it is meant to fill us with expectation and even joy – just as we pray at Mass, asking our Father, “that by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Wait   - This season of waiting is not just for Christmas; we are waiting for the fulfillment of everything that Christmas began – Jesus’ glorious return!  Rather than passively waiting, try to spend this Advent actively anticipating the Lord.  Invite him to meet you in prayer and at Mass.  Look for him in the face of a stranger – or a difficult family member. 

Pray  -  Pray daily.  We have listed in the bulletin daily reading for Mass each day during the week.  We also have “Five Minutes with the Word” literature in the gathering space to help meditate on daily reading for Mass.  That is a wonderful way to pray – to read the Sacred Scriptures.  Or read a chapter or so of Mark’s Gospel each day to prepare for Christmas.  It is the shortest Gospel; in the Gospels, we encounter Christ directly in word and ministry. Pray my favorite Advent Prayer – “Lord Jesus, come into my heart, let me see your presence and feel your love.”  Pray as you want, but pray, and Christ will be in your hearts when Christmas arrives.

Practice active love  – Active love is not the same as being busy about unimportant things!  We have many opportunities to help people in need, be it by buying gifts for the needy or through work or through visiting the sick or calling someone who is struggling with depression.  If types of active love are not obvious to you, pray that God make them so, or better yet, call the Parish Office, Catholic Charities, CAP, the Shepherd’s Table!

We can only feel the reality of what hope promises if we are already living it; and what our hope promises is love, as ground and goal of all things.  We know that what we hope is true, because it is already transforming our lives; we taste the eternity of love in the love we now share.  Those who live in love have reason of hope; they give reasons to hope; they are reason to hope.
This holy season of Advent is an opportune time for each one of us to look into our life and see how we stand with God.  The Incarnation of Christ above all reminds us of how much our Father loves us to give us his Son.  While we are in this world, God is merciful Father. He is ever ready to welcome the prodigal child home provided the prodigal returns home. Today is the day to return to God with our whole being, especially those parts of our hearts and souls most in need of Christ’s healing and merciful light and love.