Advent. In the last week or so most of you receive copies of our Bishop’s (Most Rev. Paul Loverde) pastoral letter on the New Evangelization: “Go Forth with Hearts on Fire.” This couldn’t come at a more opportune time as today we begin the Season of Advent, 4 weeks preparing for the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. A time of preparing to celebrate the introduction of Christ to the world, the beginning of the proclamation of the Good News of our salvation. So Christmas is, in part, the celebration of the Original Evangelizing. So as we take the next 4 weeks to prepare for Christmas we must see these weeks in the context of evangelization—of sharing the Good News of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with all around us.
I often lament how the world around us has turned the days from Thanksgiving to December 25 into a time of nonstop Christmas-sales, shopping, specials on cable, songs on radio, and, of course, Christmas-parties. All this can tend to turn the Advent season of preparation into a pre-mature Christmas celebration, virtually making superfluous the actual season of Christmas that begins on December 25 and runs for 3 weeks after that.
We have to be careful of getting caught up in that secular celebration, especially to the extent it omits Christ himself from the celebration. Advent must remain for us, first and foremost, a season of preparation to celebration. And by that I meant we need to spend time thinking and praying about the reason we celebrate Christmas with such joy: that we are sinners, but that God has not left us in our sins. That in spite of all the bad and stupid things we do to offend God and our neighbor, God so loves us that He entered the world as a tiny baby so he could truly be one of us, and communicate that love so dramatically: person to person, offering each of us a personal relationship with Him. So that the preparation of Advent must be a time of remembering our sins, and opening ourselves and our whole lives to the love of Christ. It is only with this sort of preparation that we can begin to understand and experience the true joy of this most magnificent gift.
But note, this joy should build in us throughout our preparation—as we become more prepared, we become more joyful. So that there is nothing wrong if even in the midst of the penance and prayer of Advent we also increasingly partake of the joy of Advent. But we must not confuse the Advent joy of Christ with the sentimental feelings of the secular “yuletide” season. Rather, we should transform the secular fun by our Advent Christian joy. And in this context we can share the true meaning of Advent and Christmas with everyone around us: sharing the good news of the Original Evangelization with the world, the New Evangelization. So that while we go about our shopping and partying and caroling we never lose sight of either our sins or the one who so lovingly forgives them. And we never waste the opportunity to share this “Good News of Great Joy” with those around us who clearly are so desperately in need of it.
As your spiritual father, I beg you, don’t waste this Advent! Remember, before you share true Advent joy you must first [re]discover it yourself through preparation. Here are some suggestions for how to do this:
–Christians always prepare for Holy Days by doing penance. In Advent this shouldn’t take on anything near the severity of Lent, but we should do some small penance every day to remind us that nothing is more important than Christ, and that everything we do is for Him.
–Add extra prayers to your daily routine. The Rosary is an excellent addition to our prayers, especially meditating on the Joyful Mysteries, or at least praying one decade every day, meditating on one of the Joyful Mysteries.
–Reading Scripture is an excellent way to renew your faith in Christ. Perhaps challenge yourself to choose one of the Gospels and read at least one chapter a day throughout Advent.
–Of course, charitable giving is a great way to prepare for the gift of the Baby Jesus. While it is a fine practice to give presents to people we love, it is an even better practice to give to those who do not know us and cannot give anything back to us. So make sure you make generous charitable gifts—either directly to those in need or to worthy charitable projects/institutions. The parish Giving Tree is one good way to do this, as are some of the special collections.
–Receiving the grace of the sacraments is one of the most important things you can do in Advent. Consider coming to Mass and Adoration during the week, and make sure you go to Confession. Once again, we will have confessions every weekday evening during Advent.
–Most importantly, live the life that Christ came to give us: make every day about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Remember, Jesus said, “if you love me you will keep my commandments,” so follow the 10 Commandments and live out the Beatitudes. Forgive others, and be kind, patient, generous, and encouraging.
–Also: take part in the many special events and liturgies scheduled in the parish this Advent. Please find the insert of the Schedule of “Advent & Christmas 2013 Events” in this bulletin, look it over carefully and keep in somewhere central in your house (on the fridge door?).
Two parish “special events” I’d like to call your attention to in particular are:
—Lessons and Carols. Next Sunday, December 8, I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir at 6:30pm for a program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings, called “Lessons and Carols.” Weaving together prophetic readings from the Old Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels, the readers lay out God’s breathtaking plan for the birth of His Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in popular hymns and stretching their vocal wings in a few more complicated choral pieces. Don’t miss this truly special event.
—Advent Series. How can we have the personal relationship Christ wants to have with us if we don’t talk and listen to Him? So I invite you all to attend my Advent Series on the 3 Thursday evenings of Advent: “Prayer: In Conversation with God” The first session this Thursday will look at the basics of prayer: the why, how, when and where of prayer. This will be a good refresher for experienced pray-ers and a good introduction for those just beginning. Please see the bulletin insert for further info.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles