By Father Andrew Dutko | Catholic News Service
Jesus loves you. And he wants you to triumph; he won’t let you fail. He gives you all the tools you need to be with him for eternity in paradise.
We are halfway through the Advent season, the preparation for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. But in no way is this preparation passive or short-term. It is not something where we should be satisfied by purely waiting.
Advent is active. We are called every moment of our lives to persevere and overcome tests and struggles; we are called to triumph and make ourselves ready for him. Advent is ever-present and always, in the sense that it points to Christ’s second coming.
We are called to prepare … always. We are called to repent … always. We are called to proclaim … always. We are called to triumph.
This is alluded to in Hebrews 12:26-27: Christ “has promised, ‘I will once more shake not only earth but heaven.’ That phrase ‘once more,’ points to the removal of shaken, created things, so that what is unshaken may remain.”
This testing and these struggles, which we endure every day, attack us and test us because there are the parts of us that are weak and flawed and need to be cast aside for us to be ready … always.
The verses from Hebrews talk about getting rid of that part of us that is the weakest or the sickest. The stuff we don’t need, as Scripture tells us, the part that can be shaken.
And Jesus will show us the way. He will be with us as we do this, because, in these struggles, we will stumble, we will sin and it will hurt. But remember that Christ is the form God’s love takes in the presence of sin. Jesus is the Father’s response to sin. He wants us to triumph; he will not let us fail. He loves us.
The fruit of our Advent preparation is a relationship with God, and repentance repairs any damage that we may have caused through sin. Repentance means staying in relationship.
The only reason we are ever sorry for anything is that we realize it hurt our relationship with God or neighbor or ourselves, and it crushes us. But Jesus is drawn to our wounds, and he loves us.
Advent is our time to draw ourselves closer to him. We can do this directly through prayer, through minimizing distractions in our heart, and through service to the Church.
We can also do this indirectly through recognizing Jesus in those around us, through desiring only positive things for ourselves and others, through upholding the human dignity of the person standing before us. All of these things only serve to better our relationship with him.
A wise deacon once said to me, think of the last sin you committed. At that moment, you either thought you were everything or you thought you were nothing. Everything, in the sense that — “I’m amazing. I don’t have to follow God’s will.” Nothing, in the sense that — “I’m worthless. I’ll never be able to follow his will, so why bother?”
Both stem from being isolated, both stem from losing sight of our relationship with Jesus, both stem from not understanding repentance. Hold on to your relationship with Jesus Christ. It is all that matters. It is all that will ever matter.
It is my prayer that in these anticipatory weeks of Advent, leading up to the celebration of the birth of Our Lord, we may embrace our spiritual struggles as the gift that they are. May we let these struggles cast aside those things that can be shaken so that the things that cannot be shaken remain.
Father Andrew Dutko, a priest for the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, is chaplain and theology teacher at DePaul Catholic High School in Wayne, New Jersey.
Advent of Accompaniment
This Advent season, the Diocese of Syracuse is inviting faithful to join in an Advent of Accompaniment. Throughout the season, resources and reflections will help us all consider how we might walk with our brothers and sisters on the journey of faith. Here, a reflection from Father John Canorro, pastor of Christ the Good Shepherd Parish in Oswego, adapted from his original video reflection with Syracuse Catholic Television; watch it at youtube.com/syrdio.
s we are in the season of Advent, we hear about how the Church accompanies us through this wonderful season of preparation for Christmas. But the Church really accompanies us throughout our life. Think about all our sacraments that journey with us, from the beginning to the end: Baptism, First Reconciliation, and First Communion; then Confirmation and Holy Orders or Marriage; and Anointing of the Sick. And then those last Funeral Rites we have for each of us. The Church is always there for us, throughout our life.
In Advent we get a special glimpse of that, trying to help us truly prepare to receive Christ throughout our life, whether it be at the celebration of Christmas or just throughout regular day-to-day life…. The Church is there kind of “poking us in the shoulder,” trying to remind us to look for Christ each day. In Advent, we take that opportunity to point that out, to really say to one another that it’s time to follow Christ, time to look for Him in our life, time to prepare for His coming so that when we get to Christmas it’s not just a celebration of Jesus’ birth, but a realization of Christ with us.
Throughout our life Christ will be with us — all we have to do is look for Him. The Church reminds us to look for him each day — but particularly in Advent.