Advent, which starts today, is sometimes understood as a waiting period – waiting for Christmas to arrive. That’s what the prophecy in today’s First Reading calls to mind. From that point of view, this waiting period between Advent and Christmas is also supposed to make us think deeply about another waiting period. The one between now and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, who will bring history to its fulfillment, judge the living and the dead, and put a definitive end to evil. This second waiting period is what our Lord refers to in today’s Gospel passage.
But is Advent really just a waiting period?
Advent is a period of time in which the Church surrounds us with reminders of the greatest event in the whole history of the universe: the incarnation of the Son of God, who came to earth to be our Savior. The Church gives us these reminders to help us get our souls ready to receive the special graces God wants to give us as we celebrate that event this year.
And those same reminders are also meant to spark a personal examination of conscience. And if in that examination we notice any sinful or self-centered tendencies, habits, or activities, Advent is the time to get rid of them. That’s how we get ready for our Lord’s Second Coming, which will occur either at our personal death, or at the end of history, whichever happens first. These four weeks aren’t about waiting; they are about getting ready.
One reason the Catholic Church has continued to survive and thrive for the past two thousand years is precisely because being a Christian is not a passive thing; it’s an active, life-changing, world-transforming thing.
There is a story of a woman who was in the mall doing her Christmas shopping. She was tired of walking through every aisle of every store to find just the right present. She was stressed out by the mounting debt on her credit card. She was tired of fighting the crowds and standing in lines for the registers. Her hands were full and when the elevator door opened, it was full. “Great!” she muttered and the occupants of the elevator, feeling her pain, graciously tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load. As the doors closed she blurted out, “I think whoever came up with this Christmas junk ought to be found, strung up and shot!” A few others shook their heads or grunted in agreement. Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator came a single voice that said, “Don’t worry. They already crucified him.”
Unfortunately, for majority of people, Christmas is not about Christ. For many Christmas means just as much as for the woman from the story. Gifts, shopping, gifts. She was actively getting prepared for Christmas. But she had chosen wrong activities. Activities that were not a proper way to get ready for Christmas as well as for the second coming of Christ.
My friends, let me put it in a very simple way. God knows what He wants to give us this Christmas; we just have to get ready to receive it. And that means doing what the Church does, finding ways to think more frequently and deeply about God’s love and God’s plan of salvation.
In our parish we will have a Advent Reflection Evening on Monday after next Sunday. Msgr. Peter Zendzian will help us to live this season with our hearts focused on Christ. You are encouraged to come that night for Mass and for homily, for moment of meditation and for putting yourselves in the presence of Christ. Also, every third Monday of the month, we have a Mass with a special topical homily on the occasion of the Year of Faith.
Use these opportunities to increase your faith. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said – “If we believe, then we will love, because the fruit of faith is love” –said. St. John in one of his letters to first Christians wrote a beautiful statement – “God Is Love”. Love must be directed to another person. God can’t love Himself. He love us. He shares His love with us. It means that the more we believe in God, the more we love Him, the more we feel His love and the more we are ready to live by His rules and commandments, building His Kingdom on earth, bringing salvation to other people by our example of love for God.
Secondly, I also encourage all parishioners to spend more time in prayer each day, and to use Advent wreathes and Advent calendars as family devotionals.
Also, since we are getting ready for the end of history, the final judgment, we should think about turning away from our sins, repenting, and making a fresh start on the path of following Christ’s teaching and example. This is why we wear purple or midnight-blue vestments during Advent, as a penitential sign. And of course, there is simply no better way to do this than by preparing and having a good confession. The sacrament of reconciliation is the perfect method to get ready for the Second Coming. Please remember that we have confessions every day in the morning and at night. There will be also special confession times and penitential services scheduled for Advent. Use the opportunity to meet the merciful Lord, who wants to take away from you the burden of sin, weaknesses or wrongdoings and fill you with his joy and strength so we all may feel happy on our mission of proclaiming the good news of the Lord.
Advent is not just about waiting around; it’s about getting ready. So let’s get ready- starting right now, by opening wide our hearts for Jesus.