Emmitsburg Council of Churches

"The Virgin Mary did not rush into Christmas-why should we?"

Father John J. Lombardi

Advent, from the Latin word, means "to come to". It is a sacred season to bring us to Christmas-spiritually and materially. Just as the Virgin spent nine months in preparation for Jesus' birth, so we should spend GENEROUS time (lots of it!), LOVING time (with our hearts and souls) and HOLY time (praying, fasting, serving) preparing for Him before Christmas.

The character of Advent is twofold: Catholics are to prepare for Christ's Second Coming (Final Judgment) and to commemorate His First Coming- His birth. Though we think more about His Nativity, let us also embrace the wisdom of the Church regarding His Second Coming, and be ready-whenever He comes again-for a just and merciful judgment.

Thus, ask yourself: Am I living a holy, Christ-centered lifestyle, worthy of the Lord? Am I using resources for God's glory and other's benefits rather than becoming materialistic? Have I committed any mortal sins that I have not confessed-ones which destroy God's Life in my soul? Am I avoiding the Sacrament of Reconciliation and God's merciful forgiveness? Do I really love God as I should-and show it in my daily life and lifestyle? Have I really appreciated and participated with all God's graces to me?

Advent, then, is a time to slow down, to meditate and pray more, to turn spiritually within (not selfishly) and consider the life of the soul-- both its graces and faults. Though "the world" wants us to spend money, live frantically and "think horizontally," the Bible and our Faith encourage us otherwise: to embrace spiritual poverty (where God is our true treasure); to settle down and quietly "wait on the Lord " in prayer; and to think vertically/spiritually: ask yourself, Is a given situation or person helping me to become holy? Often in our culture, especially this time of year, we forget we are supernatural creatures, destined for Heaven and that we need God's divine help to pilgrimage thru this world.

Pope John Paul reminds us of the dangers of the unexamined life and the possibility of man becoming "concerned only with 'doing,' and using all kinds of technology, busying himself with programming, controlling and dominating birth and death." Advent is a time of year to wake us up: we need first to receive God's grace and nurture it within as did the Virgin Mary, to enmesh our beings with God's, and then, transformed in God's love, enter into the world graced by God-with-us (the precise meaning of the word "Emmanuel").

The Saints and the Virgin Mary took generous time to know the sacredness of life, the beauty of God's love and the need for relying on him-in a sense they "practiced Advent" year-round. This Advent, really, spiritually prepare:

  • FAMILIES: Decorate your house in a way to show you are awaiting Jesus: Put out and light an Advent candle, or some Bible verses on the kitchen table; make or buy a spiritual calendar for Advent…Try to pray a Rosary together a couple times a week, or at least begin with one, prayerful decade. Read a brief Bible story about Jesus' birth, or one about a saint…Begin and end meals with a prayer.
  • INDIVIDUALS: attend and participate Mass more during Advent; make a trusting confession before Christmas…Spend ten minutes each morning in prayer by yourself "waiting on the Lord"…Try to read the Bible or a spiritual book ten minutes a day. Give service to a poor, sick or dying person.
  • VIRGINAL LOVE: Throughout each day, meditatively think and imagine: Where, now, "spiritually," is the Blessed Mother (and St. Joseph) as they "walk" to Bethlehem? How can I, in this "spiritual scene" be one with them and thus love them more for all they did?

If you think "the world" is too frantic, materialistic and secular this time of year, what are you going to do about it? Remember, world peace, true saintliness and conversion begin in each one of our hearts!

QUOTE of THE WEEK: "Our silence is a joyful and God-centered silence; it demands of us a constant self-denial and plunges us into the deep silence of God where aloneness with God becomes a reality." Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Read other Sermons by Father John J. Lombardi