Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Advent: A Good Time to Examine Priorities

This week is the first Sunday of Advent. Our modern culture tells us the Christmas season kicks into high gear on Thanksgiving afternoon. We are encouraged to go overboard — overboard decorating our homes, overboard eating and drinking, and overboard shopping until we drop.  

The Church takes a slightly different approach. First, on the official Church calendar, the Christmas season doesn’t even begin until sunset on Christmas Eve. Then it continues for the following 12 days until the feast of Epiphany on January 6th.The real Christmas season is still over four weeks away. So relax. Stay away from the mall. Order a few gifts online so you’re not accused of being a total Grinch, and then take a nap.
Starting this Sunday we are officially in the season of Advent. The theme of Advent is anticipation. (Cue the Carly Simon song.) We wait expectantly for the coming of the Lord. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming” (CCC section 524).

The main message of Advent is fairly basic: get ready, get serious, get excited!

If God is truly God, then the one thing we as believers never should be is complacent. Think about it: the Almighty Creator of the Universe loved us so much He sent His only Son to save us from sin and death and make it possible that we can live in heavenly joy for all eternity.

And how do we often react to this phenomenal reality? With a yawn and a glance at our watches, as we mutter, “When is this Mass gonna be over? Doesn’t Fr. McGuillicuddy know the football pre-game show is about to begin?”

When you stop to think about it, if we really believe God is God, then this type of behavior borders on insanity.
My favorite living Christian writer is Dr. Peter Kreeft, who teaches philosophy at Boston College. In his book, Jesus-Shock, Kreeft discusses sloth, one of the Seven Deadly Sins. He explains sloth “does not necessarily imply any physical laziness.” Instead, sloth “means the passivity…of the will…even in the presence of the true good.”

In other words, sloth can exist even among people who go to church every week and do all the churchy things they’re supposed to do. If they do all these religious activities with an apathetic, half-hearted attitude, then they are guilty of sloth.

During Advent, we should take a personal spiritual inventory. What exactly do we love with all our hearts and souls and minds and strength? Is it football on TV? Is it our new car and our fancy wardrobes? Is it the 50-megawatt Christmas light display adorning our house and yard that can be seen from outer space? Is it getting drunk at office parties? Is it shopping trips to the mall?

We’re not going to be perfect in this life, but maybe during Advent we can pause and evaluate our priorities. Maybe we can redirect some of our enthusiasm, excitement, and dedication toward the God who created us and who loves us. Maybe if we take the time to think about it and pray about it, we will draw into closer communion with the Lord and be better prepared for His second coming, whenever it occurs.

And maybe this year will be a little bit different than previous years. Maybe we'll fill our hearts with joy rather than emptying our bank accounts of money. Maybe we'll fill our souls with peace rather than be consumed with anxiety and stress, which are so prevalent this time of year. Now, wouldn't that be a nice new holiday tradition? 

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