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1st Sunday of Advent: Wake Up! Happy Priest on Preparing for Christmas

By Fr. James Farfaglia
November 28th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Most of the world did not notice Jesus' first coming.  We need to stay awake and notice how he comes to us each day.  What about those special graces that come to us each day?  What about those amazing opportunities that he gives us each day to love him more and more.  When we are inattentive, when we are lazy, when we are indifferent, we miss out on so much.  Advent is a time to wake up and to leave aside our laziness and tepidity. "Therefore, stay awake!  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come" (Matthew 24: 42). 

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year.  It is interesting to note how the liturgical year ends with the theme of the Second Coming, while at the same time, the new liturgical year also focuses on the same theme. Since we are about to celebrate Christmas, we would suppose that the new liturgical year would begin chronologically with a reflection on the Incarnation.  However, that is not the case. The reason why the liturgical year ends and begins with the same theme is clear: if we have already embraced Jesus in his first coming, we will have no fear of his second coming. 

It is also interesting to note that the new liturgical year begins with a penitential season; i.e. the season of Advent.  The priest and deacon now use purple colored vestments.  As the world around us prepares for Christmas with an ever increasing emphasis on material things, the Church directs our gaze toward the spiritual.  The liturgical calendar begins differently from the secular calendar precisely because the Church, while in the world, is not of the world.  Advent is a penitential season because Christmas is about our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not about external celebrations.  In this Sunday's reading St. Paul exhorts us to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ".  The external celebrations should be seen as a visible manifestation of our joy of being disciples of Jesus Christ. 

Advent, as a penitential season, prepares us to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's first coming as the incarnate God of love.  As a penitential time, Advent helps us to examine the condition of our soul which is an abode of the Lord's presence through sanctifying grace.  Advent helps us prepare for the Lord's second coming as judge which takes place first at death and then again at the end of the world.  If we are already living out our discipleship with Jesus, we will be ready for his second coming.

"Therefore, stay awake!  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.  So too, you also must be prepared for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come" (Matthew 24: 42-44).

As disciples of the Lord we have so many ways to become distracted and lose our focus. The commercialization of Christmas can become a terrible distraction for those who really desire to celebrate Christmas correctly.  We can become distracted by putting off the Sacrament of Confession. We can lose focus by not committing ourselves to a life of prayer. We can give in to the temptations of materialism.  We can lose the intensity of our spiritual life. We can become spiritually lazy by being satisfied with being "good people" rather than striving for sanctity. We can end up rationalizing our own sloth and laziness.  We can even live with a dull conscience.

Advent is a time to wake up.  "You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.  For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand" (Romans 13: 11-12).

Most of the world did not notice Jesus' first coming.  We need to stay awake and notice how he comes to us each day.  What about those special graces that come to us each day?  What about those amazing opportunities that he gives us each day to love him more and more.  When we are inattentive, when we are lazy, when we are indifferent, we miss out on so much.  Advent is a time to wake up and to leave aside our laziness and tepidity.  "Therefore, stay awake!  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come" (Matthew 24: 42). 

Once upon a time, there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn't a scrooge. He was a kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he did not believe in the mystery of the Incarnation.

"I am truly sorry to distress you," he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. "But I simply cannot understand this claim that God became man. It doesn't make any sense to me." On Christmas Eve, his wife and children went to church. He declined to accompany them. "I'd feel like a hypocrite," he explained. "I'd rather stay at home. But I will wait up for you."

Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. "If we must have Christmas," he thought, "It's nice to have a white one." He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another. He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his living room window.
When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm, and in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his window.

"I cannot let these poor creatures lie there and freeze," he thought. "But how can I help them?" Then he remembered the barn where the children's pony was stabled.  It would provide a warm shelter. He put on his coat and boots, and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light. But the birds did not come in. "Food will bring them in," he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn.

To his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shoeing them in the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction--except into the warm, lighted barn. "They find me a strange and terrifying creature," he said to himself. "And I can not seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety..."

Just at that moment, the church bells began to ring. He stood silently for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. "Now I do understand," he whispered. "Now I know why you had to do it."

"Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh" (Romans 13: 12-14).

In order to persevere through the difficult moments of life we must nourish our faith with the Scriptures, the Eucharist, the Rosary and the frequent reception of the Sacrament of Confession.  A daily encounter with the power of God will give us the ability to conqueror the challenges of life.  If we struggle, we will persevere.  If we persevere, the victory will be ours.

"Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths" (Isaiah 2: 3).

We can easily tire of the struggle.  Personally, I believe it is far better to drag an exhausted body and spirit through the difficulties of life, rather than to give in to the promptings of the flesh which make us yearn for an easier life. Rather than to give in to the sirens of comfort, I prefer to hear these words from my Lord at the moment of death: "I know too that you have perseverance, and have suffered for my name without growing tired"  (Revelation 2: 3).

The Advent season gives us a fresh opportunity to look at our lives and deepen our relationship with the Lord Jesus who has come already in humility and will come again in glory.

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Father James Farfaglia, the Happy Priest, is the pastor of Saint Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Father has a hard hitting blog called Illegitimi non carborundum.  He has also published a book called Man to Man: A Real Priest Speaks to Real Men about Marriage, Sexuality and Family Life.  You can contact Father at fjficthus@gmail.comYou can click here for the audio podcast of this Sunday homily.

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