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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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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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