We begin the new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent, and these next two Sundays we focus on reflections from the Gospel of St. Mark. It’s fascinating that none of the traditional elements of the Christmas story have their origins in Mark’s Gospel. There are no angels, shepherds or kings. There is no mention of a star in the sky, Mary and Joseph, or even the baby Jesus. For St. Mark, the real issue is the radical breakthrough to the world of the Good News, which Jesus would later describe as the kingdom of God. Mark makes it clear that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God.
People are drawn from far and wide to John the Baptist to hear his fascinating and momentous news. John lived what he preached. By his lifestyle, his dress and his eating habits, he showed that the meaning of life is not to be found in the abundance of material possessions but in relationship with God. Simplicity of life and detachment from unnecessary cares and worries free the heart for a personal relationship with God.
In this season of Advent, the Church extends to us the call of John the Baptist to repent and confess our sins in preparation for the One who is to come. It’s an opportunity to rediscover our hope and trust in God and to let go of false hopes and securities. It’s a time for revisiting our relationships, our priorities and life plans. Everything that follows from the opening sentence of the Gospel – the whole adventure of Jesus among us – marks a new beginning, the beginning of the “Good News.”
The practical steps on the path to holiness applicable to all the Christian faithful involve following a basic plan of life. Some of these steps require daily application, such as praying a Morning Offering at the beginning of the day, the Angelus at Noon and 6:00 pm, grace before meals, an examination of conscience, an act of contrition and a prayer of thanksgiving at bedtime. Praying the Rosary, doing acts of penance, giving to charity and reading the Bible and other spiritual books should be done on a regular basis, if not daily. Aside from our Bishop’s lifting of the obligation, during the Covid pandemic, everyone should participate in Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist at least once a week on Sunday, in order to be nourished in the faith and strengthened in the bonds of communion with the Body of Christ. Despite the exemption, many people attend Mass every day, especially during Advent, in order to obtain the graces needed for support of daily life. In my opinion, going to the Sacrament of Penance to confess and be absolved of our sins is something that we should do at least monthly, to be reconciled with God and with His Church. The path to holiness doesn’t stop with specific religious and spiritual activities but extends into our daily lives at home, at school and at work. While the “universal call the holiness” was highlighted at the Second Vatican Council, St. Francis de Sales wrote almost 400 years ago, in his classic spiritual masterpiece, The Introduction to the Devout Life, that holiness is possible in all walks of life, under any circumstance and at all times. Whatever the tasks are that we have to perform in the world, we are all called to be saints. Holiness is not just the prerogative of monks, nuns and priests, but of all. All are called to live a life of holiness. Every human being is called to enter into living, loving and vibrant relationship with God, each according to his or her status in life. So, why not try a little harder to live in the spirit of Advent – preparing for, and awaiting the coming of God, because one day He will come.
To help you get into the spirit of the Advent season, why not bring the family to our annual presentation of “AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS” on Sunday, December 13th at 2:30 in our church? I know you’ll enjoy the presentation!