Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! Click here to view the Thanksgiving message from Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito, in which he expresses his deep gratitude for the local Catholic faithful.

Advent is arriving. The word Advent actually means arrival, reminding us that God Himself has literally arrived in our lives in the person of Jesus Christ, by becoming one of us in the flesh. At his audience at St. Peter’s Square on the first Sunday of Advent last year, Pope Francis emphasized that, “Advent is the season for remembering the closeness of God who came down to dwell in our midst.” He stressed that Advent is a time of “God’s closeness and our watchfulness.”

We know how preparations for the celebration of Christmas can distract us from the true spiritual preparation for Christmas. While our time during Advent is so much taken up with happy, but time-consuming preparations such as shopping, sending cards, decorating, and attending events, using the season to concentrate on the spiritual preparation is the only way by which we can avoid the frustrations and anxiety that such a time-consuming preparation can bring. In his words last year, Pope Francis wisely advised, “One of the great mistakes in life is to get absorbed in a thousand things and not to notice God. St. Augustine said: “I fear that Jesus will pass by me unnoticed! Drawn by our own interests … and distracted by so many vain things, we risk losing sight of what is essential.”

Advent is a season of anticipation. We need to reflect upon the positive nature of anticipation. We are looking forward to celebrating the Birth of the Lord. We are also looking forward to the Lord’s coming into our lives each day and ultimately to the coming of His kingdom. Anticipation is based on the virtue of hope. We need to believe that tomorrow will always be better than today and that something greater is going to happen to us. The joy of looking forward to Christmas is a good and holy anticipation. Christ’s Birth brings us joy, as it reminds us of God’s infinite love and mercy for us as individuals. Christ’s Birth celebrates that He became one of us and He dwells among us now - not only when He came to this earth and not only when we are with Him in heaven – but now at each and every moment. Christ’s Birth awakens in us a desire to be with Him in this life and to look forward to the fullness of life when He comes again.  Looking forward each day during the Season of Advent to the celebration of the Lord’s Birth instills in us a hope that should be with us all during the year. 

We need to be constantly searching in hope to find the treasures which the Lord gives us each day. So many times, we are afraid to seek new avenues in our lives. We become complacent with the everyday expectations that others place upon us and we no longer search for meaning and purpose beyond that. We become too preoccupied with what is before us and are afraid to look beyond it. Our lives can have a sense of unfulfillment, and we do not know the reason why. To find the treasure which the Lord opens for us, we must not be afraid to look for Him. That may mean changing our lives and the way that we do things. It may mean sacrifice and self-denial. Searching will always bring a treasure of the grace that leads to another. To remain where we are and not to go beyond this, is to lose the graces God wants us to have, not only during the Advent Season, but every day of our lives. Jesus reminds us that we must be in search of the treasure which He gives to us and when we find it, we will have such joy that we are willing to risk anything. 

Each day brings a new gift in Christ. Indeed, every day is a new gift. While we have hope for the future and while we are not afraid to search for the treasure of grace, it is in the present moment that we find the presence of God. As we become so preoccupied with other matters, we can often overlook the gift of the present moment. This is especially true during the hectic time of preparation for Christmas. The words of Jesus remind us of this reality during this season of Advent: “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce ‘look, here it is ‘or ‘there it is,’ for behold, the kingdom of God is among us” (Lk 17:20-21). Our anticipation and our searching cannot lead us away from the present in which we live and find God. It cannot lead us away from the people before us in whom we find God. Each day is a new gift and brings a new gift.

Advent is a season that is meant to help us appreciate the fundamental beauty of Christmas. It matters little whether we send any cards or give any gifts if we have lost the reason as to why we do so. The best greeting and the best gift we can give to anyone, as well as to ourselves, is for us to find the meaning of the Lord’s Birth and share it with our very lives. This is what Advent is all about.

Advent begins a new liturgical year in the life of the Church. It truly is a new year for us. May the season before us be a time for us to reflect upon the treasure of the Lord's Birth and the Good News of His mercy, which He brings to us each day of our lives. While we truly wish to celebrate the joy of the Christmas Season and to be involved in all the many happy activities of this time, they will only tire us and cause frustration, unless the meaning of Advent enlightens us.

Pope Francis advises us to make the traditional Advent prayer our own: “’Come Lord Jesus.’ We can say it at the beginning of each day and repeat it often, before our meetings, our studies, in our work, before making decisions, and every important or difficult moment of our lives: ‘Come Lord Jesus.’”

A Blessed and Happy Advent! 

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