HAPPY New Year! You heard me right. Happy New Year! Today is the first day of our new liturgical calendar year. As you probably noticed by the purple cloth on the tabernacle, our purple vestments, and the Advent wreath, today we mark the first season of the liturgical year, Advent. Advent is a special time of joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
LET me ask you, when you receive guests at home, do you spend time cleaning and putting your house in order? How do you prepare for the visit? A pleasant visit does not happen by accident, right?. It takes organizing and preparation.
ADVENT is a time for getting our spiritual home in order to receive the Lord. Just like the homes we live in, our spiritual lives sometimes get unorganized and filled with clutter. Advent and the new liturgical year allow us to look around our spiritual home and notice what needs to be cleared out and ready our soul to welcome God. All of us, regardless of the state of our spirituality, have the opportunity to do that. How? Through acts of reflection and repentance. We can find examples of these acts in the readings we heard today. For instance, in the First Reading, we hear the Israelites say to God: “Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our deeds are like polluted rags.” Their words show that they took the time to reflect on the purity of their souls. In the responsorial psalm, we hear about repentance: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” Advent is an excellent occasion to experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is God’s gift of healing and restoration. I realize that for some, Confession may not be an easy thing to do. I get it. If you are in that place, I pray that God shows you the light to guide you closer to Him. He wants to purify our cluttered hearts, but we must do our part. During Advent, can you set aside time to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation? To reflect on the purity of your soul? Is it clean or filled with cluttered? Is it ready to welcome God?
AS essential as organizing one’s soul is, any good host knows that hosting is more than cleaning; it requires preparation. And so it is as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In today’s second reading, St. Paul gives us a hint on how to prepare. He told the Corinthians: “the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul is encouraging us to prepare for the coming of Jesus by cultivating the gifts of the Holy Spirit. What are the gifts? Understanding, Knowledge, Wisdom, Fear of the Lord, Good Counsel, Piety, and Fortitude. Perhaps this Advent Season, you could focus on cultivating one gift in preparation to receive God’s revelation. Maybe you can prepare for Advent by developing the gift of Fortitude. Fortitude enables us to stand firm when faced with suffering. The last nine months have been difficult. It could be easy to develop a pessimistic view of the world and a hopeless image of God. The gift of Fortitude may help us create a more resilient attitude toward life and a more faithful outlook of God. It is a gift that could help us to organize and prepare our hearts to receive God.
ADVENT is a time to be watchful. When I served in the United States Army, I performed guard duty. One of my routines before performing my guard duty was to recite the three general orders that governed it. Among them was this order: “I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.” That order was like an anchor that held me from drifting away from my responsibility to guard my post.
BY way of our baptism, we are all on spiritual guard duty. We are on the lookout for the unexpected encounter with Jesus, who tells us today: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” As guards in His kingdom here on earth, we too have general orders: the commandments. The next four weeks are an opportunity to live them, meditate on them, memorize them. I encourage you to choose one commandment and to focus on it throughout Advent. For example, the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God, you shall not have any strange gods before me.” Are there any gods in your life preventing you from being watchful? Social media? Sports? Materialism? Take time this Advent to reflect on that.
ADVENT is a journey meant to be filled with joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Take it, enjoy it, own it. Also, persevere. There are times when a journey can be costly, lonely, and challenging. The good news is that you are not alone. Jesus is here for you, in the Eucharist. Receive the Eucharist to nourish your soul. The Eucharist will help you organize your soul, prepare youself, and give you the strength to remain watchful this Advent. I wish you a happy Advent.
LET us pray:
“Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we rejoice in the hope of the Savior’s coming and look forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts. Remove any sadness, doubt, or anxiety that may hinder us from feeling the joy and hope which Jesus’ presence will bestow, for he is Lord forever and ever.” Amen.
St. Michael the Archangel, first champion of the Kingship of Christ, pray for us.