Saturday, November 29, 2014

Preparing for Christmas: 1st Sunday of Advent

(Listen to this homily here).          

            A blessed Advent to you and your families.
            I think we’d all agree that over the past fifty or sixty years our society has become increasingly more distant from Christianity.  There is now a gaping chasm between what we believe as Catholics and what society offers.
            I would argue this gulf is most apparent during Advent.  There is no other time during the year when our faith and society are more distant.  First, consider the calendar of upcoming events.  For society, the “holiday season” begins on black Friday and ends after all the gifts are opened Christmas morning (or even Christmas Eve).  For us, Advent begins today and ends on Christmas Eve.  Christmas lasts eight days (through January 1st) and the Christmas season ends this year on January 11th.  I love telling people “Merry Christmas” in early January—they often haven’t a clue it is still Christmas!
            What is meant to be a season of quiet, stillness and waiting has become a bombardment of advertisements, sales and chaos. 
            “Merry Christmas” has turned into “Happy holidays”.
This is a season to sacrifice.  Yet we constantly hear why we need buy this, shop for that and spoil ourselves and children.
Children are often more excited about Santa Clause than Jesus Christ. 
            Most everyone will put a Christmas tree in their house, while neglecting to ever hang a crucifix—the very reason for which Christ was born. 
            This morning, consider the preparations you will make to prep for family traditions.  You will probably spend time hanging up the lights, putting up a tree and decorations, baking, cooking and cleaning to host loved ones.  These are good traditions, but think for a moment—will you spend as much time preparing your soul for the coming of Jesus as you do preparing your home for guests?  Will you spend as much time preparing your soul as preparing your home?
            I love the Advent season—it is probably my favorite Church season of the year.  Like Lent, it is a time I need to look in the mirror and discern what my life needs to be rid of, and what must be added.  Unlike Lent, it is only three and a half weeks!  (Do you ever feel like Lent goes on for six months?)  It is a quick season, short enough to make realistic goals and achieve them.  Interestingly enough, psychologists say that it takes twenty days to build a habit.  What habits will you build this Advent?
            I challenge you to do three things to prepare for Christmas.  First, give something up—chocolate, alcohol, television, complaining.  Pretend it’s Lent in this regard!
            Second, spend ten minutes a day in quiet prayer.  Ten minutes—the time of two sets of commercials in a TV show.  I promise that if you spend ten minutes a day for the next three and a half weeks, your life will be better.  Plus you will be more engaged in the quiet and stillness this season entails.
            Third, come to our mission this week.  We deliberately scheduled our mission at the beginning of Advent to help us open our hearts to Jesus Christ.  This will be a powerful week of fellowship, prayer, adoration, confession and, please God, conversion.  We will be giving you books and cds to help you grow in your faith.  Please come and bring your family and friends, especially those who have been away from Church for a while.
            I have been listening to some cds by Matthew Kelly.  His basic message is that we should become the best version of ourselves.  We do this by assessing where we’re at and setting realistic goals to become better.  This is what Advent is all about.  I guarantee that if you give something up, pray ten minutes a day and enter into our mission, you will be a better person in twenty-five days.  And there is no better gift we can give you our family, spouse, parish, workplace or God than the best version of ourselves.

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