Every year we have the extraordinary opportunity to welcome the Lord Jesus into our hearts with the Season of Advent which culminates on Christmas Day—the Birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Actually, the Church invites us to meditate upon the three comings of the Lord Jesus. Indeed, this could be a most fruitful meditation. What then are the three comings of the Lord Jesus?
1. His First Arrival
The Lord Jesus came, born in the Flesh about 2000 years ago of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the stable of Bethlehem. Saint John, in the Prologue, reminds us in these words: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14)
2. His Second Coming
Jesus will come again, and it will be at the end of time. Neither the day, the hour, the moment, and the circumstances are not known to us. The Will of God, the Father, will determine those times. Jesus constantly reminds us: “Stay awake and be vigilant because we know neither the day nor the hour. He will come like a thief in the night.” (Mt. 25:13)
3. His Ongoing Presence
The third coming of the Lord Jesus is actually now, tomorrow, and constantly, in a very different but very real way. Jesus comes through grace. God is so loving and generous that He comes through grace in many ways and with different intensity. The following are Jesus’ comings through grace: in prayer, through works of charity and almsgiving (Read Mt. 25: 31-46), through penances and sacrifices made to God for the conversion of sinners. Furthermore, and in a much more powerful way, grace is communicated through the worthy reception of the Sacraments. A Sacrament is an exterior sign instituted by Christ to confer grace. Most especially, grace pours forth in abundance through the frequent and fervent reception of the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist.
Five Ways to Prepare Your Heart
Aware now of the three different manners in which Jesus has come and will until the end of the ages, let us strive to prepare our hearts so that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem on Christmas Day. However, it is our most ardent desire that Jesus be born in the very depths of our own soul this Christmas. The word Bethlehem means House of Bread. May our soul be a true Bethlehem—House of Bread—where Jesus can be born.
We will offer five simple but efficacious practices to dispose our hearts to welcome Emmanuel—God with us!
Let us all have recourse to the Sacrament of Confession in the Holy Season of Advent. Let us clean our own interior Cave of the dirt, the cobwebs, the spider-webs, the foul smell—not of animals—but of sin. In the words of Saint Paul, may we be the fragrance of Christ!
2. God’s Word
Saint Jerome stated poignantly: “Ignorance of Sacred Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Find some quiet place and good time of the day, with a ton of good will, to encounter the Lord in His Word. Live out the Our Father: “Give us this day our Daily Bread!” This daily Bread is the Word of God. Jesus stated this very clearly by rebuffing the temptation of the devil: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4:4)
3. Pray More
Here is the Advent question for you: what do these words mean? A.S.A.P.? Why not baptize the more secular interpretation surfacing in your mind — as soon as possible, always say a prayer! This indeed is a Season in which we must make a concerted effort to pray more and sin less!
Actually, a life of sin and a life of deep prayer are diametrically opposed, like trying to mix oil with vinegar, or mix fire with a fire hose, or combine light with darkness. The more frequently and fervently we pray, the more we distance ourselves from the reality of sin.
4. Fasting, Especially from the Tongue
There are many ways that we can practice fasting, and variety is the spice of life. Eating less or even depriving ourselves of food can be very beneficial. Jesus said: “Some devils can be cast out only by prayer and fasting or penance.” (Mt. 17:21) However, we must add to the physical form of abstaining from food, the verbal abstaining from sinning with our tongue.
How often do we sin with our tongue and offend God and offend our neighbor, most frequently our family members? Vulgar words, off-the-cuff expressions, bitter sarcasm and irony, white lies, vociferous explosions, and it must be said: gossip, gossip, and again, gossip!
Why not enter into Advent by reading James 3—the famous chapter on the Sins of the Tongue! Better yet, read it individually, but also as a family. Make this commitment, following the advice of Saint Bernard, we should open our mouths on three occasions:
- 1) To Praise God,
- 2) To accuse ourselves of our own faults, and
- 3) To edify our neighbor!
If this is lived out in the family, how many blessings will abound!!!
5. Maria cogita, Maria invoca
One of the most salient characteristics of the physiognomy of the Congregation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary (the author of this article belongs to this Congregation) is a tender and confident love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Next essential in the charism of the Oblates is the saying: Nunc Coepi—Begin Again!—meaning, I will start again after I fall into sin, even if it be a thousand times a day!
However, the Oblate lives in the spiritual atmosphere or milieu of Mary—inhaling and exhaling Maria cogita, Maria invoca—meaning: Think about Mary, Invoke Mary. Being faithful to the spirit of the Season of Advent, we accompany Mary, who with great joy and expectation longs for the birth of Jesus her Son, Jesus our Elder Brother, Jesus the Savior of the world!
The success of the Feast is in direct proportion to the preparation prior to the Feast. Equally true is this concept related to the celebration of Easter or Christmas. The more generous our souls are in giving ourselves to God before the Feast of Christmas, the more joyful and exultant will be the very day of the Feast. May God’s love and generosity towards us spur us on to great generosity starting right now!