Advent is a time of hope, a time when we already look forward to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent mentions the names of Pontius Pilate, Annas and Caiaphas, and John the Baptist, all names associated with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
At the start of each liturgical year, we have greater reason to hope in Jesus and His saving power, because the Western world seems to be rapidly losing faith in God.
In a recent book entitled “The Benedict Option,” author Rod Dreher writes, “We Christians in the West are facing our own thousand-year flood — or if you believe Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a fifteen-hundred-year flood: in 2012, the then-pontiff said that the spiritual crisis overtaking the West is the most serious since the fall of the Roman Empire near the end of the fifth century. The light of Christianity is flickering out all over the West.”
This should put a new meaning into the celebration of Advent, a season of hope. John the Baptist’s voice should sound loudly and clearly, not only in our hearts but above all in our deeds: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.”
How urgently are we “preparing the way of the Lord?” Is our life business as usual? Do we make an effort to attend Mass every Sunday and go to confession frequently? Are our children going to Mass every Sunday, and if they aren’t, do we ever encourage them or pray for them? Do we feel they will be automatically saved just because they were once baptized?
What is our daily spiritual life like? Do we pray the Rosary daily, or is that just a relic of the faith we once professed? What do we do with the time we once used to pray the Rosary? Do we use that to open the floodgates of consumerism and trash that comes to us through TV? How much time do we spend doing some spiritual reading every day?
Instead of using TV to kill time and fill our inner being with the darkness of the world, carve out one-half hour every day to silently meditate on the words of Scripture. “The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”
Many of you have made at least one weekend retreat with one or more of the renewal movements: Cursillo, Christ Renews His Parish, ACTS, or a Life in the Spirit Seminar. These were probably great blessings at the time. However, ask yourself: “What am I doing each day to keep this flame of renewal alive in the daily life? Does what I learned there flow into my daily devotional life, or was it simply a one-time spiritual experience?”
In the second reading, Paul tells the Philippians: “And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in the knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”
Here Paul is filled with hope that the Philippians are really living the faith he shared with them. As we pray for our children and grandchildren, are we too filled with hope, knowing that God hears our prayers, and hoping that our children and grandchildren can pick up on the graces God is offering them in response to our prayers?
Finally, by ourselves, we can’t stem the tide of secularism and godlessness that inundates our country. However, we are called to have hope in God’s intervention. That is what Baruch tells us in the first reading: “Up, Jerusalem! Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.”
Even though we seem to witness the darkness increasing, I, for one, believe that God will surprise the darkness with His light. Remember, while the Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of a savior, none of them predicted the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Jesus conquered sin and Satan by His death and resurrection. Let us not forget that His resurrection is alive in us.
That means that every day we have the power to put to death the sin that is within us. We also have the power to tell the Evil one to leave us. If we do these two things, what power do sin and Satan have over us? If we renew our lives each day with devotions, including the reading of God’s word, of what are we afraid?
We are called each day to live the victory of Jesus in our lives. If we do that, we will be with Him, especially if He should call us to give up our lives for the faith. He has told us over and over again: “Do not be afraid.” In other words, we want to give Him everything everyday.