Sunday we start a new liturgical year. The First Sunday of Advent is always the beginning of our church year. It may seem a bit odd, however, after nearly 40 years as a Catholic, you get used to it!
With the start of a new year, it is time for us to start taking stock of our lives. It is time for us to look at the things we are proud of and the things we are not so proud of. In my life, I have almost equal portions of both.
Advent, while not truly penitential, it is a time for internal reflection. Advent guides us to Christmas morn and the Christ Child in the manger. Much like the migrants of today, the Christ Child, inside his mother, traveled many miles to find that they were not welcome.
They traveled to the hometown of Joseph for the registration required by the census. Once they arrived, they found that all the rooms were rented and they were left on the streets. Eventually, they finally found one generous innkeeper who was willing to let them stay in the stable/cave with the animals.
It was filthy, smelly and the animals were likely noisy. Nonetheless, it was somewhere out of the weather and a place Jesus could be born in private. I am certain Mary and Joseph were exhausted. And no more was the Christ Child born, then came the shepherds to visit him. No rest for the weary!
All this excitement brings me back to what condition my soul is in when I meet the Christ Child. Have I loved my neighbor as myself? Was I kind to those around me, even those I disagree with? Did I welcome the stranger and the homeless? Do I give food, shelter and clothing to those in need?
And do I place God as first in my life? Or do I allow the noise, devices, apps, phones, TV’s, and other such things to crowd God out? Do I take time to visit with God at church, to fellowship with my brothers and sisters of faith? Or do I spend my time on the golf course, watching TV, playing video games or something else?
In the Feast of the Holy Innocence that follows Christmas, we remember the children two and under who Herod killed in his search for Jesus. It is also a reminder to use that life is way too short. It should remind us to never take anything for granted. Not our families, not our churches, not our friends, not our own lives. Instead be thankful for them all.
In conclusion, this Sunday, I hope you will consider joining us at Saint Francis and finding the path toward the Christ Child. Together we can learn to appreciate all the great gifts God has given us.
And we can start a new year practicing a new way to be Catholic!