Advent is here once again. That holy season of reflection, anticipation, joy, and hope. From the Latin “ad venire,” meaning “to come to,” we receive an invitation from the Church. An invitation to come to Him.
She invites us to come to this season and renew our desire for Him through prayer and penance, as we aspire to greater holiness and prepare for that day when we shall see Him face to face.
The promise is rich, yet the Church tells us not to waste time preoccupied with predictions and speculations. She instructs us to be alert, make ready, and not allow the distractions of the world to dominate our thoughts.
As we begin Advent together this year, let’s contemplate God's promise and His instructions to us.
The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.
In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: “The LORD our justice.”
- Jeremiah 33: 14-16
God will raise up a just shoot from the royal line of David. This one just King will save all of Judah, and secure Jerusalem. God intends our security to be in Christ and the promises of eternity.
In these difficult times, is my security grounded in what is temporal, or am I able to see spiritual goods as a part of God’s promises to me?
In what specific ways can I better entrust my security in this life to Christ? What cares can I give to the Lord that I might be holding back out of inability to let them go?
She Will Be Called
The City of Jerusalem shall be called the Lord Our Justice. When Christ comes, His Bride, the Church, will be united to Him so inseparably that we will be partakers in His divine nature. How can a city be called "Our Justice?" That's the Lord's own title. That is also how deeply God wants to unite us to Himself.
Scripture tells us that His name will be written on our hearts, that we will come to be like Him, and that we shall see Him as He is. When He comes, Our Salvation, Our Justice, will share His very nature with us.
St. Athanasius said that God became man so that we might become gods. He does not only want to dwell within us, but to be one with us.
Like any intimate relationship, my relationship with God must be nurtured, cared for, and prioritized.
Am I praying as often as I can or should? Am I receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently?
What can I do to unite myself more closely to God in this season and show Him my desire for that union?
Signs of the Times
Jesus said to his disciples, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
and then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.
Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man."
- Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Jesus tells us that signs will herald His second coming. Some people will die of fright. Why, we wonder?
There is an insidious and disordered presence rooted in my heart and yours. It is sin. We don't hear a thing about sin in the world anymore. The world has become numb to sin as everyone lives their own truth and becomes their own Magisterium. Christ comes to redeem us and root out sin in those whom He has set apart.
But we must aspire to holiness, making constant and deliberate efforts to overcome evil with good. By purposeful practice of virtue and penances that strengthen our wills, we begin to uproot the weeds of sin in our hearts. Through prayer and continued penance, we invite His grace, creating room for it to flourish as it uproots sin.
With what root sins do I struggle?
What specific actions can I take this Advent to uproot at least one sin that has taken root in my heart?
Our lives are stressful. We are pulled in many directions when we are responsible to and for others. It can be hard to detach from the cares of this world. Advent is meant to help us pause, but all too often we are swept up in the additional stress and responsibilities it entails.
It’s hard to shut out the noise and retreat from the world. We don’t perceive that we have the time, or we don't believe we can still our hearts and minds, so we don't even try.
Yet somehow we spend the time we believe we don't have, detaching from worries in ways that are not productive. That “peace” is fleeting, and distracts us from Christ, who is the Prince of Peace.
Blankly zoning out on our cell phones, we disengage from God and others. We go in search of other material or temporal pleasures that don’t encourage intimacy with God or those we love.
Do I often look for worldly ways to disengage from my life or distract me from my cares? What are they?
Can I replace some of that time this season with a rosary, spiritual reading of Advent Reflections, Adoration, Mass, time on the phone with a loved one, or an act of charity?
Think of the virgins in biblical times who awaited the bridegroom, their lanterns softly lit in the still of night. They kept vigil with anticipation, ready to celebrate him as he drew near. Remember the shepherds who were keeping vigil over their sheep, when the heavens opened in majesty as the Angels announced the birth of Christ.
This time is our vigil.
All of it.
Not just Advent.
Jesus tells us that the day should not catch us by surprise. As Catholics, we have been hearing about it as long as we have been listening to Sacred Scripture, celebrating the liturgical seasons, and learning and growing in our Faith. As we grow from being spiritually juvenile to becoming spiritually mature, we grow in hope and anticipation of His coming. We should be keeping our own personal vigil, Christ tells us.
Do I keep the coming of His kingdom in the forefront of my mind? What distracts me?
What is one concrete thing I can do that will help me be more vigilant and grow in hopeful expectation of God?
Sweet Season of Love
St. Paul calls down a blessing on the Thessalonians, that they abound in love for one another and for all (1 Thessalonians 3:12). In any season, charity is a special way to unite ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.
Loving our neighbor nourishes and strengthens us individually and collectively. It is a sacrificial way to grow in union with Him, and grow His kingdom on earth. This Advent, let's abound in love for one another. Let's demonstrate our love by sharing and giving.
In every community, especially in this sacred season, there are many ways to share what we have. At this critical time in our world, many are in need. There is so much division and animosity among us. Many are isolated and alone in their sufferings. Charity heals wounds. It heals souls and the collective Church. It binds us together as members of the Body of Christ.
How can I grow in charity this Advent season? To what cause or activity can I give of my time and resources for the good of others?
Are there ways I can involve my family members or friends to work for the good of His kingdom together during Advent and Christmas?
As we await the Light of the World at Christmas, let’s lift our souls together to the One who wants to rename us, share His identity in union with us, and redeem us.
Let’s remain focused on His promise, and vigilant in keeping His instructions to us.
Let's bring His love to others and do all we can to heal divisions within the Body of Christ.
Nourished by daily prayer, penance, and charity, let’s empty our hearts that he may fill us - this God who became man so we might become like him in all things.
May the Infant King of Glory bless you this Advent season and always.