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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Advent - What is it, for Christians?

As you are aware, we are now beginning the second week of Advent. Many people have a difficult time differentiating between the seasons of Advent and Lent, yet they are significantly different. During the season of Lent, our focus as Catholics is on our sins, doing penance, and preparing for Easter. Advent is also a special time to reflect deeply on our lives, but instead of focusing so much on our sins, it is a time to look at the relationships in our lives, initially with Christ, and then with others.

The readings today speak of:
• Lowering mountains
• Filling age-old depths and gorges
• And making the ground level

As well as:
• Making the winding roads straight
• And the rough roads smooth

But what does this have to do with our current lives and our relationship with others?

Well, could the mountains be the huge obstacles that we place between Christ and us:
• Our Pride
• Our Self-Centeredness
• Our greed
• Our Lust
• Our Laziness
• And Our Anger?

And the valleys.... could they be the areas of our lives where we try to hide in our:
• Addictions
• Our secretes
• Our hidden thoughts and agendas?

Yet, God does not want us to hide, nor does He want us to be “God-Like” in our unwarranted Arrogance. He wants our love of Him and of each other to increase ever more and more and for us to grow in the knowledge of every kind of perception to discern what is of value. The value in life is not what we own, or what status we possess, but rather in what kind of relationships we have established and maintained.
• Are we loved, and do we Love?
• Do we serve others, or are we expected to be served?
• Do we Love God with all of our heart, all of our mind, and with all of our strength?
• Do we love others as Christ has loved us?

Advent is a time to reflect upon these relationships in “the light of Christ,” and to initiate change in our lives where change is needed. John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And Saint Paul is confident that the One who began a good work in you will continue to complete it, until the day of Christ Jesus. Advent is a time to honor and celebrate the gift of God in sending his only son to earth to begin a relationship with us, and to prepare for the time when we will meet Him again. It is a time to put our lives back in order. It is a time to turn away from our habits, our routines, and our ways that seem to lead us away from Christ. It is a time to turn back toward Christ, to rekindle that relationship, to repair the damages, to return to that closeness, that intimacy. And not only with Christ, but also with those special people that God has placed in our lives. If there is hurt and anger in any of your relationships, it is a time for forgiveness and compassion. If there are relationships that over time have dwindles in closeness, grown cold, or maybe even Luke-warm, It is a time to rebuild them.

There are very few Men and Women in this world, if any, who would say that their marriage is just TOO intimate! Or Sons and daughters who could say that they couldn’t be any closer to their parents, or their sibling. Or anyone I know, who could say that they couldn’t be any closer in their relationship with God! We are living in a peculiar time, not only in Redding California, but also in the entire United States.

There are more and more people choosing to not participate in faith communities, especially the Catholic Church. You might ask why?

I have been told by many, that when they observe Catholics and their behaviors and actions, they don’t really see much difference than that of the “Un-Churched,” or what they do see, can often be described as hypocritical. I can remember a few wise words my father gave to me years ago.

He stated:  “It’s not our thoughts or words that truly define us, but what our actions say... that does.”

When he first mentioned this to me it really did not have much impact, I was a teenager. It was not until a few years later that I began to realize what he trying to teach me. I always knew my dad was a good man. He was liked by almost everyone, respected as a gifted teacher, and was known as a catholic. However, after one particular night, I began to see him differently. That night I had stayed out much too late, and knowing that I was going to be in trouble, I made my way to his bedroom door to tell my parents that I was now home and ready to accept my punishment. But when I quietly opened the door, there was my dad, on his knees, praying the rosary. From that night on, I began to take a closer look at my dad.  I watched and notice things about him I had never taken the time to notice before. I began to see all the things he secretly did, obscured from the sight of most.
• I noticed how he never passed by a homeless man without giving him something.
• I noticed that a negative word never seemed to come from his mouth.
• I noticed that he was always the first to forgive.
• And I now noticed, that he prayer to rosary every night, on his knees, in private.

It didn’t take long watching this quiet and humble man to realize that he was not only a good and just man, but a holy man. I often wonder what people would see if the decided to watch me as close as I watched my father... seeing the things that God sees every day. What would people see if they could see you as God sees you? None of us are perfect, that is for sure. And it takes true humility to look at ourselves and see where we have failed, faulted, and strayed, and to admit that we have, in our actions, turned away from God.

However.... the good news is! That.... is what.... Advent, is all about!

It is about looking at our lives, our relationship with Christ, our relationships with others, and changing our ways. It is about returning to Christ and becoming the best version of ourselves that we can be, especially in the light of Christ. This decision to repent, to turn back toward Christ, to put our lives back in order, is the first step in preparing the way of the Lord, initially in our hearts, then in our actions, then in our relationships, and then... in the world around us.

This is.... the Gospel of the Lord.

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