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12/1/19 First Sunday of Advent - Fr. Reggie

Another Advent is upon us.

Why? Why does the Church lead us along the same path every year, repeating the same seasons, even the same readings?

Is it for lack of creativity and imagination? No, the Church is always young, and never runs out of creativity. In every generation she gives the world new saints, new religious orders, new artists. The Church is ever ancient, and yet ever new.

Is it out of condescension? Does the Church think we are too unintelligent to understand it the first time around? No, the Church is a wiseloving mother who knows her children well, sincerely respects them, and is always leading them forward, never backward.

Is it out of malice? Does the Church want to bore us to death? No, it is certainly not out of malice. The Church may often be demanding, but when she is, it is for our benefit, not our destruction.

So, what is the reason for another Advent?

The word "advent" comes from the Latin "ad-venire", meaning to come to, to come towards.

This season spotlights the three comings of Christ: the first, 2000 years ago; the last, sometime in the future; and the ongoing - Christ's constant coming into our lives through his grace, his providence, and his sacraments.

We live in the final age of human history, the age which will end in Christ's second coming, the destruction of the cosmos as we know it, and the creation of a new heavens and earth - the full establishment of Christ's Kingdom, as today's Readings described.

We are already citizens of that Kingdom, because we are members of his Church. 

The Church gives us the season of Advent in order to remind us of this, and to give us a chance to check up on the quality of our citizenship.

One of the reasons we sometimes find it difficult to live deeply the liturgical seasons is because we are so used to life in an artificial world. We are surrounded by machines. And machines don't follow the natural rhythms of life. We are so surrounded by machines, that sometimes we start expecting our own lives to function like machines. We turn on the lights, and we get light. We turn the ignition, and the car starts. So, we start expecting the spiritual life to work like that too. I kneel to pray, and I should feel God's presence immediately. I receive Holy Communion, and I should feel strength surging through my veins.

But we are not machines. The spiritual life is LIFE. It grows and changes with the seasons. Trees experience the same seasons year after year, and they don't get boredthey grow. Each year a tree is a little different. Each year it has more leaves to gather sunlight in summertime, more roots to drink up nutrients in springtime, more branches to bear fruit in autumn.

This is an image of life. God is not finished with us yet. The seasons of the liturgical year are one of his ways of making us grow. The seasons don't change, the truths of our faith don't change, but WE change, and so the seasons should affect us differently each year.

Our spiritual life is fed, strengthened, and maintained like our physical life. We don't eat completely different food every day. We always need bread, water, vegetables, protein. Our physical life needs the same nutrients day after day, year after year. Our spiritual lives do too. And the liturgical seasons provide us with them.

God has something to say to each one of us this Advent, but in order to hear it, we must listen: we must tune in.

God has something he wants to do in each one of our lives this Advent, but for him to do it, we must be willing to let him work: we must work with him.

None of us is a perfect follower of Christ. We are not perfect listeners - we tend to let ourselves be distracted or seduced by other voices, more self-indulgent voices. We are not perfect co-workers of Christ - we tend to prefer the easier way, the pleasant contours of our comfort zones.

Unless we make a fresh effort to hear Christ and to heed Christ, the special graces he has in store for us this Advent may never even get in the door.

The best way to refresh that effort is to let the Holy Spirit cleanse, strengthen, and renew our minds and hearts in the sacrament of confession. One of the reasons we use purple vestments during the season of Advent is because purple is the color that symbolizes repentance, and Advent is a time when we all need to repent, to make a fresh start.

Christmas is a time of joy - because Christ's coming (all three of those comings, in fact) is the ultimate reason for Christian joy.

This Advent, let's make room in our souls for that joy, let's take a shower of grace, let's make good use of the gift of confession.



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