Monday, December 23, 2019

The Words of Advent: Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Emmanuel, God with us. In the craziness of last minute Christmas preparations, stop for a moment and remember Who came into the world on Christmas.

Emmanuel, God with us. As you rush to finish everything before the big day arrives, take a breath and remember Who has arrived.

Emmanuel, God with us. As you wrap the final packages and label all the gifts, sit back and remember Who is the greatest gift of all.

Emmanuel, God with us. When you feel exhausted and stressed, relax and remember Who is the real meaning of Christmas.

Emmanuel, God with us, come and fill our hearts. Calm our worries. Clear our minds. Cleanse our souls. Free us from our sins. Draw us near to You. Wrap us in Your arms. Surround us with Your love.

Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Words of Advent: Joy

Yesterday we celebrated Gaudete Sunday, and the Church implored us to rejoice. That's what gaudete means. It's the infinitive, the command form, of the Latin verb gaudeo, “to rejoice.”

We hear over and over in Scripture that we must rejoice. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus,” says Paul to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 5:16-18). “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice,” the same saint calls to Philemon (Phil 4:4). “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer,” he urges the Romans (Rom 12:12). “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad,” the psalmist sings out (Psalm 118:24).

The saints echo the Bible's invitation to joy. “Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love; joy is a net of love by which we catch souls,” explains St. Teresa of Calcutta. You will never be happy if your happiness depends on getting solely what you want. Change the focus. Get a new center. Will what God wills, and your joy no man shall take from you,” Venerable Fulton Sheen instructs.

Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When our heart is pure and united to God, we feel within ourselves a joy, a sweetness that inebriates, a light that dazzles us. In this intimate union God and the soul are like two pieces of wax melted together; they cannot be separated. This union of God with His little creature is a most beautiful thing. It is a happiness that we cannot understand...God, in His goodness, has permitted us to speak to Him. Our prayer is an incense which He receives with extreme pleasure,” writes St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney.

The Divine Heart is an ocean full of all good things, wherein poor souls can cast all their needs; it is an ocean full of joy to drown all our sadness, an ocean of humility to drown our folly, an ocean of mercy to those in distress, an ocean of love in which to submerge our poverty,” St. Margaret Mary declares.

There is a joy which is not given to the ungodly, but to those who love Thee for Thine own sake, whose joy Thou Thyself art. And this is the happy life, to rejoice to Thee, of Thee, for Thee; this it is, and there is no other,” asserts St. Augustine.

Joy, then, is far more than an emotion. It is an experience deep within our hearts and souls that comes through an encounter with God. We experience joy when we are touched by truth, beauty, and goodness, when we are touched by God, sometimes directly, sometimes through earthly things that point to Him. When the Church tells us to rejoice, she is inviting us to come close to Christ, to recognize Him in all His glory, and to let Him fill us with joy.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Words of Advent: Wait

We live in an on-demand culture. Much of what we think we need or want is at the tips of our fingers, and we've lost the ability to wait for anything. We become irritable and impatient when any delay prevents us from getting exactly what we want when we want it.

But during Advent, God says, “Wait!” And the Church obeys. That's why we don't see Christmas decorations at Church until Christmas Eve. That's why we don't sing Christmas music but rather songs of anticipation. That's why we light the candles in the Advent wreath, marking the weeks as we wait to celebrate the coming of our Savior.

As we wait, God teaches us about the value of waiting. Waiting guides us toward humility. We must give up control. We must surrender ourselves and our desires to God and His timing. Waiting provides an opportunity to pray and spend time with God, to read His Word, to reflect on His plans, to place Him at the center of our lives as we take a step back from the action and immerse ourselves in Him.

That's why God tells us to wait during Advent, for as we wait for Him, we can grow closer to Him if we allow ourselves to slow down and rest in His embrace.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Words of Advent: Come

The word “Advent” derives from the Latin verb advenio, to come to, to reach, to arrive at. During Advent, we should reflect deeply on Who is to come, on when He comes, and on how we must come in response.

So Who is to come? Jesus, our Lord and our God, comes to us. And with Him come God the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Trinity, three Persons, one God Who loves us more than we can ever imagine.

When does Jesus come? He came in the past when He became incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was born on Christmas Day. This coming we anticipate anew during Advent as we remember that God became a little Child for our sake. But Jesus also comes to us now. He comes into our hearts by His grace. He comes to us when we pray and read His Word in the Scriptures. He comes to us in a special way, an extremely intimate way, when we receive Him in the Eucharist, when He gives us His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Jesus will come to us again at some unknown future time. He will come to us at the moment of our death when we will see Him face to face, and one day, at the end of time, He will come back, glorious and triumphant, to usher in a new Heaven and a new earth.

How must we come in response? We must come to Jesus with our whole hearts and minds and souls and with all our strength. We must come to Him with all we have and all we are. We must come to Him constantly at every moment. We must come to Him with all the love we have and, indeed, with the love He pours into us.

Come, Lord Jesus.