FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Advent is the start of a new liturgical season, a preview of what lies ahead to see, time and again from a different angle huge windows of opportunities in which to anchor our lives. With its dark purple motif, it calls us to refresh our weary hearts and souls and start anew, set simple and manageable goals, make priorities straight, dream big again, and leave behind the past, awful or not, while remaining ebullient in our efforts to be faithful to Christ. As we look forward to Christmas with every intention to make it memorable to those whom you love and don’t, perhaps, many of us may have already been preoccupied with the same good-old thing associated with the holidays: parties to go, monies to spend, food to eat, drinks to consume, perfect presents to buy, gifts to wrap, clothes to wear, stuff to décor, among others.
If you have a smartphone and the type of person who never want to be left behind in an age of constant load of information even at non-waking hours, I bet you must have set up multiple alerts to remind you about anything that interests you. Advent, too wishes to send us unexpected notifications beginning with a delightful invitation and encouraging remark from Isaiah to ascend to the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, to meet our ancestors in faith, to give us instructions in righteous living, not simply to escape damnation but to eagerly hear his message in a place where our shared unprocessed thoughts will be drawn into a unified whole.
Paul, with a piercing advice and a thrilling exhortation, summons us all (nominal, fallen-away, inactive, unconcerned, unfaithful, and the so-called, nones), but particularly the over- a- million Catholics attending Mass on a given Sunday and believers in general, with a high level of urgency, to wake up (after a long nap, hopefully not) from a mere sense of obligation to a free and joyful spirit of enthusiasm, cast out the dark side of our souls, avoid any encroachment of the devil, check our moral compass, and behave like a believer. The 24th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew reminds us of the impending second coming of Christ at the end of times (Parousia), a major religious question in the early church but nowadays, seldom brought up in the church, much less in the pulpit. Possibly, we stopped looking forward to it as we are mainly concerned with the here and now, with matters in the present time mostly, profane things. However, whether we are aware or not, our weekly drive- thru to the church for Sunday gathering sharing similar vision is a rehearsal for final judgment.
As complex as witnessing might be, we can eat the elephant by starting small yet, yielding phenomenal impact. Out of your overbooked days and busy schedule, spend 15- minute a day in silence and solitude, a timeless spiritual discipline. Commit yourself and bring this vision into a reality. Beginning Dec. 2, Friday, our parish will now have a 24-hour Eucharistic adoration. Our souls are like plants. In order to stay alive and attractive, they need water. Learn the habit of listening especially to people whose views you do not share. Be a welcoming presence to others. Refrain from talking about yourself. Invite and bring a friend, a family member, a relative to church and let them see, in the dead of winter, the mysterious light (the desert oasis) that fills, illuminates and makes you come to church on Sunday. Amen.