Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We have begun the season of Advent.
I think sometimes with all the preparation for Christmas we do in our everyday lives – cards, shopping and decorations – that we can overlook the profound reality of Advent.
It is not only a time of preparation as we prepare for the birth of Jesus, but importantly, it is a time of preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus.
At His First Coming, Jesus was a helpless baby born of the Virgin Mary. At His Second Coming, Jesus will come in power and glory to judge the living and the dead.
What does this mean? What is it that we should be preparing for in Advent?
Advent is a powerful time to reflect upon our meeting with Jesus in our everyday lives, through His Word and in Sacrament, and in those we encounter everyday. Jesus is present in our world. Yes, He’s present in Eucharist and in the Scriptures, yet He is also present in the people we would prefer not to deal with, such as the homeless person we might see on the street.
Advent is a time to sharpen our perception of Jesus Christ in our world today.
But Advent is also a time to reflect on that encounter with Jesus that awaits each one of us at our death. It is not morbid to reflect on and pray about that reality which awaits all of us. Not one of us knows when this encounter will take place.
As we grow older we can and should pray about its approach. For younger people, it seems so far in the future that it is often not considered. However, as we so often sadly read, there remain a number of younger people who die from serious illness, accident or unforeseen events.
In my own life, I have come to appreciate my meeting with Jesus and the life to come. I have more time and opportunity to pray with a sense of joyful anticipation at coming to see Jesus clearly.
Advent is a time when the Church invites us to look at our lives, to see and discover if there is anything which blinds us to Jesus’ presence now and which causes fear in us at the thought of meeting Jesus our judge.
This special preparation for Christmas should be a time for wonder, gratitude and joy. Jesus becomes one of us in the womb of Mary. Jesus is born a helpless baby like all of us. Jesus embraces our humanity as He joins it to His divinity.
Perhaps to help us appreciate more deeply the Spirit and purpose of Advent it might be well to hold off on decorations until just before Christmas. It saddens me to see Christmas displays in stores in October. Traditionally, after Thanksgiving was the kickoff for Christmas commercial displays. Instead we could maintain observance of the Advent wreath, simple and plain with candles that invite us to move week-by-week through the season.
I pray that each of us may use this Advent season for deepening our knowledge and love for Jesus as we seek to follow Him faithfully so that we may be united with Him in eternity.
Bishop Joseph Galante