“When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation of the savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.  Bu celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.'”

-Catechism Of The Catholic Church 524

The Church’s goal is for us to journey through this season of Advent so that we might be found with Christ present in our life.  Take time to pray through each week.  Use the Prayer Guide given below to assist you, your family and friends in being ready to celebrate Christmas as true disciples Christ.

First Week: Hope

During this First week of advent our focus is on the Hope.  Hope is a virtue.  It is a gift that is given freely and is to be used and to be worn out.  It is not something that is to place on a shelf or kept in a box for safe keeping.  Hope, is the ability to stand on this side of eternity knowing that where we are going is indeed what God is preparing us for. What we are being prepared for is the weight and full glory of God Himself.  Upon the advent of the second coming of the King, we will have no more use for hope, because hope is complete in the presence of Christ.

Like the Jewish faithful who loved and served God, patiently and faithfully awaiting the Messiah’s coming, we too wait for Christ’s arrival.

How to live into the virtue of Hope:

A daily guide to receive what God is freely giving to you.

The sin of despair greatly damages our ability to receive this gift.  Despair happens when sin creeps into life.  This happens slowly, through small sins which chip away like a Lumber Jack chopping down a big tree.  Once this happens, bigger sins begin to enter the life.  This could lead to believing that the sin you have entered into is too great or too big for God to forgive and the hope in salvation and forgiveness is reduced to rubble.

The sin of presumption also greatly diminishes your capacity to know the hope that Christ is bringing.   This is when you presume upon your own capacities in saving yourself without help from God.  It’s the mentality of not recognizing or rejecting that Christ alone is the savior, the one who brings hope to those who need it.  This is also when you presume upon God’s power or mercy for your salvation.  It’s the mentality that a continual conversion to Christ is not needed.  That, when you sin you presume that God’s power or mercy will automatically cover it, and you will make it through the gates and into the Kingdom without passing by the cross, or without authentically loving God and others as He requests.

Embrace Hope

This week is for you to take an inventory of your daily life.  Set aside a time during the day to examine your conscience and determine where you have invited Christ into your words and actions and where you have failed to do so.  Once you have examined your conscience, firmly resolve to take action so that you are prepared to receive the hope that is freely giving to you.  Receive the sacrament of Confession and Eucharist.  It will turn your focus from yourself and onto Christ and the Kingdom.

Prayer

I confess to almighty God,

And to you,

My brothers and sisters,

That I have sinned through my own fault,

In my thoughts and in my words,

In what I have done,

And in what I have failed to do;

And I ask blessed Mary,

Ever virgin,

All the angels and saints,

And you,

My brothers and sisters,

To pray for me to the Lord our God.

Amen

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Second Week: Peace

Peace is not the absence of war and is not limited to the balance of powers between two enemies…  Peace is the tranquility of order.  Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity.

–Catechism of the Catholic Church 2304

It is easy for us to forget what Peace is when we do not have the Light of Christ to shine in our darkness.  Sin brings darkness into our life.  It causes us to keep secrets, to feel shame about our actions, and wills us to be unconfident in our own salvation. Every time we act in sin, it pulls our eyes away from God and onto our selves.  Like Adam and Eve in the beginning of Genesis.  Before sin they were focused on God, after sin they noticed that they were naked and became self-conscious.  Before sin they were in a state of original justice and truly felt the effects of each other’s love and God’s love.  Like Adam and Eve, after sin, we too are in need of the promise of God’s peace that he will bring upon the advent of Christ.

Most Christians today have a hijacked view of what this season is about.  People pile on more and more things to do and to buy, making their lives even more busy and poor.  This results in neglecting the true and authentic peace that is before all people.  During this week of Advent we are preparing ourselves to live in the peace that Christ brings by putting all things in our life in its correct order, and through that we will be living in justice and acting in charity.

The ruler by which we measure the importance of things is found in the Ten Commandments.  In the gospel of Mark Jesus condenses the Commandments into two actions.  “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).  All Ten Commandments are found in these two actions.  To put it in different words, God comes first, people come second, you come third and at a distant fourth, material things.  When the correct order of life gets off balance it is done so at the risk of losing true peace.  Try to place any one of these out of order and see if peace can be lasting.  If the order of peace is not maintained then there is no room for the works of justice to take place and for the effects of charity to be received.

If peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity, then to receive peace means to be in the correct worship of God: the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This does not mean that we are to attend Mass Sunday out of an obligation or out of expectations from others. Rather, correct worship of God means to Love God above all things with everything you have.  Conforming your will to His and struggling faithfully through the teachings of the Church that confront your personal beliefs.  This means that we must rid ourselves of everything that separates us from Christ and His body, the Church.  Reconciliation and fasting and regular reception of the Eucharist are what we are called to, so that we too can share in the peace that Christ brings.

The more we put everything in our life in its correct place, the more we will know and live peace in our lives.  The goal of Advent begins with the end in mind.  The end in mind is the second coming of Christ, a new advent, and the resurrection.  Be found this Advent season prepared and waiting for Christ.

 

Prayer:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…

From the desire of being extolled …

From the desire of being honored …

From the desire of being praised …

From the desire of being preferred to others…

From the desire of being consulted …

From the desire of being approved …

From the fear of being humiliated …

From the fear of being despised…

From the fear of suffering rebukes …

From the fear of being calumniated …

From the fear of being forgotten …

From the fear of being ridiculed …

From the fear of being wronged …

From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …

That, in the opinion of the world,

others may increase and I may decrease …

That others may be chosen and I set aside …

That others may be praised and I unnoticed …

That others may be preferred to me in everything…

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” –St. Augustine

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“When a man loves, his heart overflows.  He would like to share his joy with others.  He gets this from his creator.  Although God is a mystery, we can still think about him in a human way and say:  Out of the “surplus” of his love he created us.  He wanted to share his endless joy with us, who are creatures of his love.”

-You Cat #2.

The third week of Advent calls us to focus on Joy.  If you went to mass this past Sunday you would notice that the pink candle was lit and the feeling of Christmas day was that much closer because there is now only one unlit candle on the wreath next to the alter.  Joy is something that is often misunderstood.  Its meaning gets tangled up with other words such as happiness, fun and pleasure.  Although all those things are good in themselves, joy is much deeper.  True authentic joy is not a gift that is given freely from God like faith or love.  Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.  In other words it is the effect of a life style centered on Christ.

For us to know Christ and have our life centered on him requires that the Holy Spirit guides us first.  The Holy Spirit is the person and action between the Father and the Son.  The Holy Spirit is the person that seeks us first and enables us with the grace to turn to Christ with everything we have.  Jesus speaks to us saying, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete” (John 15:9-11).

It is easy to see that joy can come from many places.  There is not a single person on earth that cannot find joy from a basket full of puppies.  If you were to see a basket full of puppies, the universal response would be, “awwwww, puppies!”  Joy can also be found in relationships with other people and the possession material of things.  Not all joy is the same.  If your joy comes from things that have a beginning, then that source will have an end.  Authentic joy has no beginning and no end.  Its source is God who has no beginning and no end.  Joy received from God is complete and perfect through Christ.

As Christians our joy is tangible.  It does not come about by accident or without putting forth any effort.  Joy requires conforming your will, actions and life to the will of God.  In the letter to the Galatians St. Paul writes a warning for us to not live in the flesh but rather by the Spirit.  When we give into the desires of our flesh our joy can be stolen.  Sin brings shame, secrets and despair. Joy cannot be found in anything that brings about shame, secrets and despair.  “Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore, it says: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph 5:11-14).  We have every reason to be joyful in this season of Advent.  Christ is coming and when he arrives we will know joy that will extend beyond anything we can experience here on earth.

Be found waiting and prepared for Christ.

 

Reflection

Reflect on one or both of the verses below.  Begin in prayer asking God to reveal where Christ is in your life.  Where he is, your joy will be too.

Advent calls us to be reminded of Christ’s incarnation and his return.  We read in scripture about the joy that Christ brings to whom he comes into contact with, even before he was out of Mary’s womb.  In the gospel of Luke, Mary is found traveling while she was pregnant with Jesus and she visits her cousin Elizabeth.

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” –Luke 1:41-45

The incarnation of Christ in your life might come in unexpected ways.  The shepherds in this verse tending their flock did not expect to see what they saw.  Try to put yourself on the hill with the shepherds in the middle of the night.  What did they see?  What did they feel?

“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angle of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” –Luke 2:8-14

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Have gone to the store and bought something with a twenty dollar bill?  When you handed it to the clerk did that clerk check to see if the bill was counterfeit by swiping it with a marker?   It is strange how something that you think is authentic can be faked.  The Federal Reserve goes to great lengths to make it impossible for people to copy and use.  But, yet there are people who produce counterfeit money and try to pass it off as if it was real.   Counterfeit money has no value compared to real money.  In fact, people who justify the use of counterfeit money eventually get caught and thrown into jail.  If you look at the subject of money close enough it becomes obvious that money has something so powerfully in common with Love that either one cannot function correctly without this being in place.  The word is authenticity.

During the past few weeks of Advent, we the Church have been traveling together preparing ourselves not only for the incarnation of Christ but for his second coming.  This week we focus our hearts on Love.  In just a few days we will be celebrating the birth of Christ.  It is a celebration of a birth that the world has been waiting for since the beginning of time.  The incarnation of Christ is a big deal for four reasons: first, so that we are reconciled to the Father; second, so that we have a model for holiness; third, so that we can be brought into the divine life of God; fourth, so that we can know God’s love for us and authentically return it.  The fourth reason is what ties everything together.  Authentic love is what this season is about.  Better yet, authentic love is what following Christ is all about.  In Paul’s letter John we read, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).  Like the clerk at the store, we need to make sure that we are not working with a counterfeit version.  In a lot of ways the counterfeit versions of love come close to being passed off as the real thing.  We desire authentic love.  We were created because of it and we were created for it.  Now is the time for us to see the love that has been given to us from God and other people.  Now is the time for us to return the love back to God and others.

Be found prepared and waiting for Christ.

Reflection

Read: 1 Corinthians 13

What relationships in your life produce counterfeit love?

Is your love for God a counterfeit?

Is God’s love for you counterfeit?

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