Advent is a season of preparation for what is to come (Latin advenio, to come to). What is to come is the nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so in advent, we prepare for His coming. The preparation period begins with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November), and entails four consecutive Sundays.
Advent is also the beginning of the Liturgical Year for Western churches. During this time we are to prepare ourselves to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love, thus to make our souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and thereby to make ourselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.
First Sunday of Advent (December 2, 2018)
Advent is the time to let the light of the world shine in. It is a time of hope, of expectation as we watch the Christmas story unfold. During Advent we're introduced to a Woman, Mary, and to the Angel Gabriel who greets her with the words: "Hail, full of Grace! The Lord is with you." And Mary replied at the end of Angel Gabriel's message "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your Word." Mary was humble and obedient to God's Will.
As we experience with great hope the First Sunday of Advent and listen to the Gospel, we find that the focus is on the Second Coming of Jesus. The Gospel commands us to be vigilant because no one knows when the Second Coming will take place except God. This is like our death—death comes as a thief in the night. So we hope for the coming of Christ, we hope to spend eternity with God and we should use Advent to prepare. While it is true that the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) is only required if a mortal sin has been committed, the Sacrament has an immense spiritual value. It is a vast source of grace and since we don't know when death comes, let us always be in the state of grace. The Blessed Virgin Mary at Medjugorje recommends that we go to confession once a month. During Advent it is certainly recommended to go to Confession as a suitable preparation for the Birth of Christ.
A daily or weekly examination of conscience will lead to a more meaningful reconciliation experience when one could identify trends in our life and behavior which can stand improvement. Then, also try to attend daily Holy Mass during this time of preparation and maybe try to make that a permanent part of your morning.
Do something meaningful for your family to remind them of the Advent season. Acquire an Advent wreath with four candles and light one each Sunday morning. Have a member of the family read a little prayer as the candle is being lit. Pray for the integrity of your family, for health, for anything that needs prayer. The old adage "Families who pray together, stay together," is true. Make prayer a regular occurrence in your family with your children (single people can join a prayer group or pray alone.) Prayer is a conversation with God!
In Advent frequently pray the Rosary asking Mary our Mother to ask Jesus, her Son, to bless you and your family and to prepare you for the coming of the Lord, the Messiah. As Advent turns into Christmas, you'll want to take your family to Midnight Mass and watch the drama unfold in the Readings and Gospel that are read, and in your heart as you take it all in. We wish you a very special and blessed Advent season.
Second Sunday of Advent (December 9, 2018)
The celebration of Advent goes back as far as the Fourth Century. Preparation for the coming of Jesus has, therefore, always been a part of Church History. Even though many are thinking of Christmas presents and decorating a tree, preparing for the coming of Jesus is much more important. John the Baptist's message during this time of Advent is to "Prepare the way of the Lord." John is a prophet, he does not mince words and gets right to the point. He warns those (in his time) that salvation is not hereditary but that it requires active participation and conscious decisions on our part.
Our worth as a person of God cannot be purchased in a store. How prepared are we for God's coming, will He find faith among us? Are we starting the journey to that little town of Bethlehem, as Mary and Joseph so many years centuries ago, not a physical going to Bethlehem, but a growing desire in our souls to be with Jesus now and always? Let us take this time to cleanse ourselves from the burdens of sin, and with firm amendment come back to the Sacraments with renewed vigor, as we come closer to the coming of the Lord.
Third Sunday of Advent (December 16, 2018)
Today, amid preparations for Christmas, we light a white or pink candle. Everywhere we go, we’re told it is the Christmas Season. But yet, it is still advent. But we celebrate anyway because today is Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday when we’re getting closer to His birth. Gaudete means, “Rejoice!” We are invited to live a Godly life. We are urged to share what we have.
When we accept the Gospel, the Word of Jesus Christ, we might review the words in Luke 3:10-16. When the crowds asked Jesus, "What then should we do?" He replied, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He answered them, "Stop collecting more than what is prescribed." Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?" He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages."
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire."
This Sunday we are rejoicing at the coming of Jesus Christ, again in two ways. He will come to us as we celebrate his nativity at the Solemnity of Christmas, and we are preparing for his Second Coming. In that sense, His replies found in Luke, Chapter 3, are as valid now as they were in His time on earth.
Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 23, 2018)
Today, we celebrate the actions of Mary, a simple Jewish girl, who "arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
"During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." (Lk 1:39-45)
Let us always obey God as Mary did that day. Mary presents to us a delightful example of a simple country girl who is totally obedient to the wish of God, brought to her by the Angel. The news brought to her must have been a little unsettling at first, but Mary doesn't show any signs of this, she is immediately ready to submit to God's wish, as we should be if we were asked to obey God this day. And we are being asked to repent and sin no more. This message is being brought to us by the Church, in numerous requests that we celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation more often. So like Mary, let us make ourselves ready to obey God, come clean, promise to atone, and sin no more.
Tomorrow, it will be Christmas!. I wish we could have a white Christmas to emphasize Christmas in general, but that just doesn't happen in Florida. The Christmas that is being emphasized in the world is too material. Christmas gifts are nice, but not when so many people are unemployed or broke, and on the verge of going homeless. Let's pitch in, if you can, and reach out to someone. The spirit of Christmas is about giving, just as Jesus gave himself to us to spend some time with us in his humanity. Let us celebrate this with love and charity.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
rev. 2012, 2018
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Officers as of 1/10/2016
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS