Like so many at this time of year, I have recently found my waking hours increasingly compressed with more meetings, visits and obligations " and all the while, the holidays draw near. It seems that our pace quickens, but do we know where we are going? This seasonal busyness so often causes us to loose focus on our destination. As such, the trappings of the season can potentially eclipse what we as Catholics believe to be the very purpose of Advent.
How heartening, then, that with characteristic candor and timeliness, our recent liturgical readings have reminded us of that ultimate horizon toward which we journey: the very purpose of our lives.
Jesus tells us in the Gospel reading for the approaching first Sunday of Advent, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad” (Mk 13:34). Indeed, our readings of late " if we have listened carefully " have been a wake-up call to stir us from whatever it is that might be causing or tempting us to lose focus.
“May He not come suddenly and find you sleeping" Watch!” (Mk 13:36-37).
Ever watchful, ever vigilant, our Church sets before us in Advent a time to wake up, focus, and mature as disciples. Will we take this opportunity " at the close of the “Year of the Eucharist” and at the outset of a new liturgical year " to find our Lord and Savior anew? If so, how?
Allow me to offer three of many possible suggestions.
First of all, give thanks. Take time " starting this Thanksgiving holiday " to reflect on the innumerable blessings, gifts and opportunities our Lord has bestowed upon you, your family, our country, our universal and diocesan Church. As Pope Benedict XVI recently said in his homily for World Mission Sunday, “With the closing of the Year of the Eucharist, how can we not give thanks to God for the many gifts granted to the Church during this time? And how can we not take up once again the invitation of our beloved Pope John Paul II to 'start afresh from Christ'?” Gratitude can give us a fresh start and prepare our hearts to welcome Him anew.
Welcome Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation
A second suggestion to consider stems from the very core of the Advent season. Advent calls us to be renewed in mind and heart. A heart prepared for Advent is a heart that knows forgiveness. Therefore, let us approach the sacrament of forgiveness this Advent as well as make a conscious effort to forgive those who have wronged us. If we do this, He will find us ready.
Find Him in the Eucharist
Finally, seek Him in the Eucharist " in eucharistic adoration, in loving and reverent participation in the holy Mass. Our Holy Father reminded us just recently that “Eucharistic spirituality must be the interior motor of every activity” (World Mission Sunday homily). Are we bringing the real presence of Christ into our daily lives? Can those around us see the fruit of the Eucharist in our love for them, our concern for and assistance to the poor and the most vulnerable in our midst?
Our destination in Advent is the welcoming of Jesus Christ ever more into our lives. The road leading there is " especially in our consumerist society " congested, lined with malls, full schedules and myriad distractions. Let us with singleness of heart focus on our destination in the coming weeks. If we do, then the surpassing beauty of God " soon to be made evident in the coming of His Son " will so capture our attention that this Christmas will find us faithful, focused and ready.