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Bible Reflections View Comments

Advent Is too Important to Miss
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 1, 2013
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“The night is advanced; the day is at hand”—a paradoxical thought at the beginning of Advent, coming as it does in the winter of the year when the days are ever shorter, the nights longer, darker, colder. This very discrepancy jolts us into awareness. It is easy to be wrapped up in our own comfort at this time of year. In our attempts to escape the threat of snow and the starkness of black tree branches against cold skies, we build fires in the fireplace or turn up the furnace. We have festive meals. We shop and decorate and bake for Christmas celebrations.

But Advent calls us to an awareness of something beyond the comfort and cheer of Christmas traditions, calls us into the winter of the year to see the beauty of waiting—darkness waiting for light, emptiness waiting for fullness, cold waiting for warmth, hearts waiting for love.

Our Gospel today warns us not to be lulled to sleep by daily routines and the flurry of holiday activity. Jesus condemns the people of Noah’s time not for their activities, but for their indifference to the realities of life in their midst. Too often we like to pretend there’s nothing beyond the next festivity.

Advent is a time to prepare ourselves not for a whirl of Christmas parties but for the Lord, who is continually breaking into our lives.

We might shake our heads at the obvious truth in Jesus’s statement: “If the owner knew when the thief was coming, he would not let him break into the house.” In these days of elaborate security alarms and neighborhood watch programs, we seem to have decided that the best response is to be always vigilant against threats known and unknown. But have we prepared as well for the coming of the Lord into our lives? How aware are we of the Lord trying to break open our hearts?

Advent calls us to transform our lives because of God’s promise to dwell in our midst. As the liturgical seasons and scriptures cycle around each year, we might begin by asking, “Where was I when this was proclaimed last, and where will I be when it’s proclaimed this year? How has my life changed?”

Advent comes into the darkness of our everyday lives with a promise of love and light, a challenge of conversion, a sense of discovery. Advent is a time to rediscover our faith, to explore who we are and whom we follow. The prophets call us to believe in God’s promise—to take risks, to make difficult choices, to give of ourselves.

Christmas celebrates the first risk Jesus took: being born into our world. Every day we’re called to take the risk of living in that world and transforming it through our belief in God’s promise fulfilled in Jesus the Christ. Grounded in our faith, we discover that taking risks can awaken within us a sense of promise and anticipation, not dread and fear and remorse.

Once when I was a child, the northern lights were making a particularly dazzling display in the skies over our house. My parents tried to wake me for it but said I just wouldn’t wake up enough to go outside. I’ve always regretted missing that experience. Paul tells the Romans: “You know the time; it is the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” And Jesus tells his disciples, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” They’re not saying this to frighten us, but to make sure we don’t miss the wonder that is Emmanuel.



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John Vianney: A man with vision overcomes obstacles and performs deeds that seem impossible. John Vianney was a man with vision: He wanted to become a priest. But he had to overcome his meager formal schooling, which inadequately prepared him for seminary studies. 
<p>His failure to comprehend Latin lectures forced him to discontinue. But his vision of being a priest urged him to seek private tutoring. After a lengthy battle with the books, John was ordained. </p><p>Situations calling for “impossible” deeds followed him everywhere. As pastor of the parish at Ars, John encountered people who were indifferent and quite comfortable with their style of living. His vision led him through severe fasts and short nights of sleep. (Some devils can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.) </p><p>With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls. Only a man of vision could have such trust that God would provide for the spiritual and material needs of all those who came to make La Providence their home. </p><p>His work as a confessor is John Vianney’s most remarkable accomplishment. In the winter months he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God. In the summer months this time was increased to 16 hours. Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day. </p><p>Many people look forward to retirement and taking it easy, doing the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. But John Vianney had no thoughts of retirement. As his fame spread, more hours were consumed in serving God’s people. Even the few hours he would allow himself for sleep were disturbed frequently by the devil. </p><p>Who, but a man with vision, could keep going with ever-increasing strength? In 1929, Pope Pius XI named him the patron of parish priests worldwide.</p> American Catholic Blog The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold on to. –Pope Francis

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