November 21, 2016 // Uncategorized
Run, don’t walk, during Advent!
We are about to begin the holy season of Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year. Advent is a time of preparation for Christ’s coming, the joyful celebration of His first coming at Christmas and the anticipation of His second coming at the end of time. At the same time, we acknowledge Christ’s presence among us even now.
Advent is a season of joyful hope in the Lord who comes to save us. The Scripture readings of Advent teach us to be vigilant for the coming of the Lord. In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus says to the disciples: “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” Jesus is speaking about His second coming. We are to be alert as we await the coming of the Lord, ready to meet Him who is our Savior and our Judge.
Indeed, Advent is a season of waiting, but it is not a passive waiting. We are called to actively await the coming of the Lord. This means being prepared through conversion and the active practice of our faith. We are to be alert and not asleep in our lives of faith, not complacent in our spiritual lives. As Saint Peter writes: “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith.” If we are too complacent in our spiritual lives, we more easily fall into sin.
Advent is a time when the Church calls us to wake up. In fact, the Church tells us not only to walk toward Christ, but to run towards Him. This is what we pray in the Collect (Opening Prayer) of Mass on the First Sunday of Advent: “Grant your faithful, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at His coming…”. What a prayer! We are asking God to grant us the resolve not just to walk, but to run to meet His Anointed One (Christ). This is a great prayer for Advent when we do a lot of running around: shopping, decorating, going to parties, etc. But Advent should be primarily about running to meet the Lord!
We should not just wait to meet the Lord. We should run to meet the Lord! This should be our firm resolve during Advent: to run forth to meet Christ, as the Collect says, “with righteous deeds at His coming.” It is good for us to think about what righteous deeds we will do this Advent. Perhaps a visit to someone who is lonely, a special gift for the poor at Christmas, a word of forgiveness to someone who has offended us, or an act of kindness to a family member we may take for granted.
With the commercialization of Christmas in our culture, it can be difficult to keep focus on the true meaning of this season. One way to do so is to run more often toward Christ and less often to the shopping mall. One can run forth to meet Christ by attending Mass on a weekday during Advent or stopping in church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. One can run forth to meet Christ by approaching His mother in the prayer of the rosary and contemplating the joyful mysteries of her Son’s coming.
Advent is also a time of conversion, to rise up like the prodigal son to return to the father, our heavenly Father. The prodigal son, who had left home and squandered his inheritance, returned with humility and contrition to ask his father’s pardon. He hastened to see his father with hope that his father would be merciful to him. The father, indeed rich in mercy, not only waited for his son, he ran out to embrace him when he saw him. Like that father, the heavenly Father looks for us to return to Him. He waits for us and runs to embrace us when we go to confession. I can think of no better way to prepare for the Lord’s coming than going to confession during Advent. I encourage all to hasten home to the Church, like the prodigal son, to receive the Father’s merciful embrace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Lord comes to us. Let us not only wait for His coming during this Advent, let’s run to Him. Let us hasten to meet Him in prayer, in the sacraments, and in righteous deeds. Several times in his letters, Saint Paul uses the idea of running a race as an image for our journey of faith. I leave you with one of these passages from Saint Paul for your meditation as we begin the Advent season:
“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
May we run to meet our Savior during this blessed season of His coming!
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