Advent, like Lent, is a special time of preparation. We are now preparing ourselves for the Solemnity of the Incarnation. This is the greatest event in human history, when God, the Creator of the Universe, broke into our world and into our time, so that we could accomplish the purpose for which He created us. God wants us to share, for all eternity, in His indescribably wonderful communion of love, life, beauty, goodness and truth. In simple words, God want us to share in his happiness to the fullness of our capacity. We must take the eternal life very seriously.
Advent is a time when we want to deepen in our spirituality. Spirituality means closeness to God. We want to know God better, to experience Him in our lives, to feel his presence, to take delight in his love and friendship.
Our hearts, minds and souls were designed for God. They are naturally attracted to Him. We will find our completion, our hopes fulfilled, only in Him.
Advent is such a special time for us because it focuses upon God’s direct involvement in our lives. He wants to be involved with us, with our friends and family, with all the circles of people with whom we interact. God will come closer to us this Advent than ever before. But he wants us to cooperate with him. Friendship and love is a 2-way street. Both parties must contribute to it. Both parties make the gift of their persons, of their very selves, to it.
There are many ways in which we deepen in our spirituality. I will deal with only four. To have a friend, to nurture a friendship, requires that we come to know more and more about our friend. Now, God wants us to know Him better. He has provided us with the means for knowing Him better. He has revealed Himself, and His Plan for us, to his prophets and to all the inspired authors of the books in the Bible. Here we find the Word of God, divine revelation, God revealing his mysterious plans to us, things that we could never know just by observing the world we live in.
In the first reading, from Isaiah 2, we heard: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” (Is 2:3).
One perfect tool for Advent preparation is to read the Word of God every day. Read a chapter, or two, of the Bible early in the morning. Reflect upon it. Be open to what God wants to communicate to you. These inspired words, the Word of God, are inexhaustible. They have an application to every generation, to every culture. Reading and reflecting upon the Word of God is a conversation, a dialog, with God. That is what friends do. When we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, when we pray the Rosary, we are in conversation with God.
A second tool for our Advent preparation is doing our daily duties. When we have talked with, communicated with, God, then we are focused for the day. Divine Wisdom will guide us in our daily tasks and duties. We will know how to deal with our problems, how to guide those who look to us for encouragement. We will see others as Jesus sees them, and we will treat them as Jesus would. Advent is a time for us to face those problems, those challenges, we have been ignoring. Now is the time to address the important issues in our lives. If we are close to Jesus, He will show us the way to cope with these problems.
A third tool for our Advent preparation is an openness to the Holy Spirit. When we deepen in our spirituality, we open ourselves to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. God has a plan for us. He has specific tasks and projects for us. There are many people in our lives who look to us for a little help, a little encouragement. There are many worthy groups and organizations, both civic and of the Church, that serve others, and they need more volunteers. What is God calling us to do? Where can we put our talents to their best use? Advent is the perfect time to reflect upon how well we are using the time and talents God gave us. A vibrant monastery, or parish, or neighborhood, or civic organization, depend upon many talented and generous volunteers. Our spirituality, our openness to God and to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, will lead us to the groups where we can lend our help.
A fourth tool for our Advent preparation is learning how to make the gift of self, the gift of our person to others. Our model for this is Jesus. Jesus gave himself totally for us. He came into our world to help us become the person we were always meant to be, a person who could love God with all we have and are, with hearts, minds, bodies and souls. A person who could love our neighbor as we do ourselves. In Jesus we see great generosity, a willingness to do whatever the Father asked for, on our behalf. In making the gift of himself, Jesus held nothing back. He accepted his bitter passion and death, because He knew that this was what was required for our release from sin and death.
Jesus loves us, when we are not very loveable, when we carry the flaws of vices and selfishness. Jesus can see the natural goodness in us, buried under our flaws, and He wants us to recognize that goodness, and then to honor it by the way we live. St. Paul admonishes us: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14).
The various saints were those men and women who succeeded in responding to God’s love with the gift of themselves. They served God and the needs of their neighbors with great generosity. Throughout their lives they continued to grow in the ability to give of themselves to God and to their contemporaries.
May this Advent season be a time for us to allow God to draw us closer to Him, closer than ever before. And may we experience more and more of the joy that He has prepared for us.