Sunday, December 2, 2012

A New Year - A Simple Gift

It is the dawning of a new year and you are probably thinking right now this guy obviously can't read a calendar, however it is not a calendar year that I am talking about but the liturgical year.  The first Sunday of Advent marks the new year and a new period, a time of reflection and preparation as the Church looks forward to the birth of the Incarnate Lord.
Blessed John Paul II tells us in his Angelus message of Dec 2nd 2001;
"Dearest Brothers and Sisters: With today's first Sunday of Advent, a new liturgical year begins.  The Church takes up her journey again, and invites us to reflect more intensely on the mystery of Christ, a mystery that is always new and that time cannot exhaust.  Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  Thanks to him, the history of humanity proceeds as a pilgrimage toward the fulfillment of the Kingdom which he inaugurated with his Incarnation and victory over sin and death."

And so we as the Church gather and begin a pilgrimage as the Magi did to meet Jesus in the manger.  To worship and offer gifts to the King of kings.  What do we offer to Jesus this Advent season, are we taking the time to properly prepare not only our minds but our hearts.  During this Year of Faith we are being called by the Holy Father to grow in a deeper understanding of our faith by delving deeper into the Catechism and the teachings of the Church; but this realizes itself most fully in seeking to come into closer intimacy with Jesus Christ.  Looking forward in hope and reaching out to Christ to draw ourselves closer to Him.

"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope...It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope." Pope Benedict XVI - Seek That Which Is Above

And so as Adam and Eve were originally tasked with tending the Garden, we are tasked with tending the garden of hearts and minds.  To trim and cut away those things that keep us from God and to grow the vine of virtue that brings us closer to God.  This advent God calls us to radical transformation, a "metanoia", that is both interior and exterior.  "Faith without works is like a song you can't sing, its about as useless as a screen door on a submarine" (from the song "Screen Door" by Rich Mullins)

So we reflect on the garden of our hearts and minds and look to what needs tending this Advent.  Our journey is one full of hope and the expecting joy of the coming of the King.  Where is your heart?  Where is your mind?  There is so much hustle and bustle during the Advent season that we forget sometimes to look to what matters most, the tending of our souls in the garden of life.  Will you be ready?  Will your gift be one that is acceptable?  Will you be like the wise virgins in Matthew 25 who brought oil and were prepared for the bridegroom when he came and were admitted to the wedding feast or will you be like the foolish ones who did not and were left outside when the door was locked?

So let us prepare for the encounter with Jesus, to adore the babe in the manger who humbled himself to become man, but humbled himself further by coming as a baby, defenseless in the world, dependent on others for everything.  So let us humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord and let Him lift us up to Him.

Let us pray:
Loving God source of my longing, you have reached out to your people through the gift of your incarnate Son.  Today in a special way I start anew my spiritual journey toward the stable where I seek to encounter the babe of Bethlehem.  Be with me, guide me, teach me, strengthen me, and inspire me during this journey.  Draw me into closer union with you as I put forth my best effort to prepare for the coming of Christ so that I may truly present him with a gift worth giving on Christmas day.
Mary, Mother of God - Pray for us

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