Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Though calendars are abundantly available and I look at mine repeatedly throughout the day, the season of Advent always seems to sneak up on me. Maybe it’s because I’ve had the chance the last two years to visit my parents, brother, and future sister-in-law for Thanksgiving, which means a few days away from the parish. Maybe it is simply that a November start date, though it is completely normal, for whatever reason always feels too early. Whatever the reason, Advent seems to arrive unexpectedly. In a certain way, that’s kind of the point.
The Gospel for this first Sunday of Advent tells us to be prepared, for at an hour we do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Indeed, the arrival of Jesus on the scene comes about in the most unexpected of ways. The King of Kings is coming, the Savior of the World is to be born – surely this requires grandeur, majesty, and publicity. No Vegas bookie would have given favorable odds to a cave in Bethlehem as the location of the birth of the Messiah. And yet, in this unexpected way and in an unexpected place, He comes into our human history. In this first week of Advent the Gospel invites us to both preparation and willingness to be surprised. Preparation for the coming of the Lord so that that great day does not catch us off-guard. Willingness to be surprised, that we might cultivate in our hearts the openness that allows God to show up in places we do not expect, in ways we did not anticipate.
Those dispositions are important for us to cultivate during the Advent season. Sometimes our anticipation of Christmas is so strong, that we forget to prepare and overlook the unexpected ways God makes us aware of His presence. Part of our preparation requires slowing down, which flies in the face of the hustle and bustle of the season. To prepare for the coming of the Lord, we need to hit pause at least daily and take stock: where is my heart? Have I acknowledged God today? Another aspect of that preparation related to that introspection is a deeper examination of conscience that leads us to seek God’s mercy especially in the sacrament of Confession. There is no better way to prepare for Christmas and wrap up the calendar year than with the mercy of God that comes to us through this healing sacrament! As we take this time to pray, to slow down, and to receive mercy, we will find our minds and hearts more open to surprise. God wants us to know of His presence with us. That’s the whole story of the Bible! But that desire is not limited to biblical texts; rather, the desire of God for us overflows even into our own time. Both in the sacraments of the Church and in the ordinary moments of our lives, God desires to be present to us and to offer us divine blessings and graces. While the coming of the Son of Man may happen at an hour we do not expect, we are invited to allow God to surprise us, to become accustomed to the presence of the Divine, and so prepare the way for the Lord to come into our lives.
As an aid to this openness and preparation, St. Pius X is happy to offer some Advent resources, which you will find at the doors of the Church. One is a daily companion from Magnificat, which points you to the Scripture readings for Mass and offers reflections for each day of Advent. The other resource is a prayer journal with reflections by Sr. Miriam James Heidland. In these powerful meditations and their accompanying questions, you will be invited into deep healing, as you prepare that special place in your heart and life for the coming of the Messiah. Even though this season can sneak up on us, that very fact is a reminder of the ways God wants to surprise us with grace and blessings. With these resources, I pray you will discover new ways of encountering the Lord in your life and be surprised by the generosity and mercy of our Savior!