Did you know that Advent used to have a 40 day period of fasting just like Lent? I didn’t know that up until recently, but advent has always had a time of penance and preparation of your hearts for Christ. Not just several setting decorations, not just getting ready for buying presents etc. It was about preparing yourself for the second coming of Christ.
In fact, the word advent means “to come to” or “to come” because Jesus is going to come to us. He is going to come again. And I was watching Father Mike Schmitz recently and he was saying something that I’ve been saying for a long time and that is: “If you were going to die on Christmas, what if you weren’t going to wake up on Christmas, that was your death date, the date that you needed to prepare for, what would suddenly become unimportant to you? And what would become more important to you? if you were not going to wake up on Christmas to spend time with friends and family, would setting up decorations make you Holier and prepare you for Heaven? Would buying and preparing a Turkey and setting up food and doing all of that make you Holier and prepare you for Heaven?”
I’m not saying do or do not do these things, I’m just asking us to consider what is important in life, what is going to help us prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ? What is going to help us prepare to have him come into our hearts at Christmas time? What’s going to make us Holier?
You’ll notice that during this time you have a lot of readings about being out in the desert or about the flesh and how we need to have more of Jesus and less of us. So during this time, I want to really challenge you to think about ways that we can spend more time with Christ, and less time with the world, to kind of go out in the desert, so to speak.
And in fact, today, I think it was the reading of the 99 sheep who were good, and the one sheep walked away. Who was that one sheep that walked away?
The bad person. The person who perhaps hasn’t gone to Church in many years, the person who may have gone to Church but stopped. Maybe someone did something to them, or a circumstance happened that they walked away from the Church and haven’t gone back to Church. Maybe they stopped going to confession, haven’t received the sacraments. Maybe they’re struggling with addiction. Maybe they promised God they wouldn’t sin, but they keep going back to sin, and they don’t feel like they can be forgiven by God, so they keep retreating into themselves. Whatever it is, whatever the circumstances are, they are the ones who have walked away from God.
Now, notice that the Bible does not say that Jesus excoriates these people and says: “You morons, when you get your act together, come back to me and then we can talk!” Notice it does not say: “Come back to Church when you have crossed all your Ts and you have dotted all your Is. Then and only then, can you come back to me.”
No. The Bible says that Jesus goes out and searches for the lost sheep. Now, maybe this lost sheep is the person that we judge, the person who doesn’t follow God that well, and we’re like: “Oh, they’re such a bad Christian, or they’re going to burn!” Notice Jesus doesn’t take that attitude with the worst person who walked away. The only one. You have 99 sheep who are doing the right thing, and one person decides to go out of the right way and leave God. And does Jesus excoriate them? No. He chases them. He searches for them. He wants to find them, and it says, when he finds them, if they accept him, he will put them up on his shoulder and carry him back with a great joy in his heart.
And in fact, he says: “There’s more joy in Heaven over one repentant sinner than 99 who have never left.” Imagine that. 99 good saintly people. I’m sure that makes God’s heart very happy. But what God makes God’s infinitely happier, is when someone far away from the Church, or who has been away from God comes back, that makes him infinitely happy, and the whole host of Heaven rejoices over one repentant sinner, over one person who comes back to our Lord Jesus.
So literally, what does Jesus do when someone walks away? He goes after them. What does Jesus do when a whole entire civilization walks away? He, as God, becomes a man, in the person of Jesus Christ. He empties himself of his glory. He gives everything he has as God to us, by becoming a man. Then every day, every moment of every day, was spent serving people, teaching people, building relationships, bringing people to Heaven, forgiving people. Literally, every waking moment Jesus had, he gave to others. He did not take a single second for himself, except for some rest and some prayer time with the Father, so that he could go back out and do it all over again. He literally gave every ounce of himself to us in his birth and walking Earth. And then he gave every ounce of himself on the cross and he bled every ounce of his blood and gave everything he had to us. How much do you give to him in return? How much do you say thank you? Padre Pio, one said that you can tell how much you love someone just by the amount you’re willing to sacrifice for them.
So, what kind of a sacrifice can you make? It doesn’t have to be like a big Lenten sacrifice where you kill yourself, but there should be some penance. There should be some sacrifice during this time that’ll help purify our hearts and bring us closer to God.
So, I’d recommend doing something and giving up something. And just so you know, if you say, I could never give up something, that is probably an idol in your life. And the Bible says: “Idolaters can’t get to Heaven.” So Idolatry is serious, extremely serious. Jesus gave up everything for us. Can we not give up anything and everything for him if he asks us to?
I’m not saying to do this, and I’m not saying he’s asking you to do this, but just for example, if Jesus says: “Give up coffee.” Could you say: “I could never live without coffee?” Well, if you can’t live without coffee, and you can’t give up coffee for Christ, Coffee is an idol in your life.
Some people might say: “I’m much more Christian on coffee.” No, that’s an addiction. And you’re much more Christian when you follow Christ more closely and you’re not an addict. And again, this is just an example, but what is one little thing? Maybe if you drink two cups of coffee, you could do one a day, etc.
I would recommend doing something even more. Coffee might not even make you Holy. What is going to make you Holy is prayer. If you don’t pray every day, you have to. That’s non-negotiable. If you already pray, add something: A novena, a rosary, a chaplet, daily reading of Scripture, something to your prayer time that will bring you closer to Christ. If you pray every day but are kind of going through the motions, make your prayer time deeper. Focus on that for the rest of advent. Making good, solid love-based relationship prayer time, not just saying prayers and babbling away. Those would be great additions.
I would highly recommend, and this is almost a non-negotiable, that you take some silent time with God before the end of advent. In fact, I would recommend taking silent time every single day. So, let’s say you use your phone a lot during the day. Try not to check it unless you need to. So, in other words, don’t pick up your phone just to check Facebook to see if someone liked your post. Don’t pick up your phone just to check your emails five minutes later to see if someone messaged you. Don’t check your text to see if someone messaged you two minutes later. Leave your phone alone. If you want to take three times a day where you check your phone and you use social media, that’s fine. Cut down on the time you are connected to your phone..
Do you know why people go into the desert? Do you know why we talk about it during advent time, why John the Baptist goes into the desert? Why Jesus went into the desert? Why almost every Holy person ever goes into the desert at some point? It’s because it’s calling us to recalibrate our life, to remind us of what is superfluous and what is important and necessary.
When we go in the desert, we focus more on Christ, we take more time in silence, we give up our idols and our addictions, and we prepare ourselves and our hearts for Christ, so that he has room to move in when he actually comes again. This will make us Holy. It will bring us back to Christ and will teach us what’s important and what’s not.
You cannot see clearly if you are always on your phone or on your computer, if you are always watching TV, if you are always working and you’re always busy. You can’t physically actually take time for quiet time and this is a spiritual danger. Warning. You are in spiritual danger! If you can’t take quiet time sometime during the day, just to be with God, or just sit in silence and learn to cultivate silence, that is a huge problem, and that’s maybe something you want to learn to work on during this advent season.
What is going to help you? If you don’t wake up on Christmas day. What is actually important? Are decorations going to make you Holier? Are they going to help you to prepare for Jesus and prepare your heart and mind and come closer to him? Maybe they will. Use them. I’m not saying don’t use them, but let’s prioritize those things which are going to make us Holy.
I mean, so many people set up their decorations a month early and break them down right after. No. Christmas is for like a month after. You could keep your decorations up all the way up to February 2nd, because that is the Christmas season and that is what we are celebrating.
Gaudete Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent, and that is the joyous week of Advent where we celebrate the joy of Christ coming and our anticipation of his coming. But for the rest of it, it’s a time to look, to go into the desert and to think about and to analyze our lives.
We are so addicted as a culture to everything except prayer, except what’s important and what’s going to get us to Heaven.
The Bible always talks about the war between the flesh and the Spirit. Notice how often throughout the day, you think about spiritual things, and then think about how often you think about earthly things. Paul says, I believe in the Book of Colossians, to set your mind on the things of Heaven and don’t think about the things of Earth.
Set your mind on the things of Heaven. How often do we do that? That’s your spiritual challenge, to think more about spiritual things and less about Earthly things.
I know for myself, I have added a chaplet into my daily routine for advent, and I’m going to continue it hopefully after advent. I’m also trying to watch a spiritual video every day that’ll convict me and help me to grow in holiness and give me food for thought every single day. So maybe I can find one thing I can learn from that video that’ll help me realize that I need to work on something.
Those are just two of the things that I’m trying to do during advent, in addition, to reducing the amount of entertainment and have more quiet time in my day.
What can you do in your life? Please, before you go to bed tonight, take some time with God and pray about it. What can you do, so that there is more of Him and less of you?