December 1, 2013
With the celebration of the first Sunday of Advent, we Catholics celebrate the beginning of our new year of grace and favor from the Lord—and we do so by spending the first four weeks doing two things. These two things are meant to help us refocus our lives of faith on just one thing: our eternal destiny.
The first thing we do in the Advent season is to better prepare ourselves for eternity, which we do with the help of sacred Scripture and the selected Mass prayers. We are reminded in so many beautiful ways of what Almighty God has already done for us—but also what He has promised to do for us in the future. Advent reminds us of how the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity possess and lift us up to Him if we will only let them.
The second thing we do in the Advent season, again with the help of sacred Scripture and the selected Mass prayers, is to relive those wonderfully thrilling days in the lives of the saints of Advent when the good and most high God revealed His plan of salvation to our Blessed Lady and Saint Joseph, to Saint Elizabeth and Saint Zechariah. As we relive these mysteries, hopefully we are renewed in our faith and hope. The great and joyful awe and reverence experienced by Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah should be ours!
I know that there are many other nice things to do during these weeks before we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus, but please do not allow them to overshadow your Advent season of spiritual and temporal preparation for His birth. Please make an effort to pray each day of Advent. If you can, go to Mass more often during the week, set aside some of the money you intend to spend on other things and donate it to the poor of your parish and community, and make a good and complete confession of sins. This will unite the two things we Catholics do during Advent as I noted above.
Spending our Advent in this way will prepare us to hear with greater clarity the announcement of the angels, the news of great joy. Like the shepherds and the Magi, we must go to Him without delay and with haste. We must gaze upon Him and lay the gift of our lives before Him. Christmas, the birth of our Lord, not only completes our Advent but immediately points us to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. As the saying goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” However, He is not only the reason for the season, He is our Savior. His swaddling clothes and His wooden manger remind us of the wood of His Cross, His shroud, and the stable reminds us of His tomb.
May each of you have a most blessed Advent and Christmas. Know that I will offer my Mass on Christmas Day for all in the Diocese of Bismarck. May our infant Lord give you every grace to live His life with a firm faith, a fervent hope and a lively charity!