Sunday, December 7, 2014

Devout followers of Christ

2nd Sunday of Advent Year B 2014:
Last week we began the season of Advent.  I tried to focus on joy.  Advent is a season of Joy because it is a chance for us to renew our conviction that Jesus came to us 2000 years ago, but also that Jesus is coming again.  As we say after the Our Father: as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus is coming, we want to see him.  We know he will put an end to death, sickness, sin, sadness, grief, and pain.  His kingdom will have no end, come Lord Jesus.
So, while last week we renewed our Joy at the proclamation of Christ’s coming.  This week we our message is pretty clear from our first reading and from the gospel: prepare the way for the Lord.  It is not simply enough to be excited about the coming of Jesus, we have to prepare a path for him in our lives.  This is where our life of faith goes from something that lives largely in our minds or hearts to become something that actually changes the way we live, the way we act, the way we see the world.  Preparing the way for the Lord means that faith becomes more than just an idea, it becomes a way of life, an experience.
As I mentioned last week, Advent is called a joyful and devout season of expectation.  I think that word “devout” does a good job of capturing just what I’m talking about.  Being devout, I think, means more than simply holding an idea, it goes to how one lives his/her life.  We use the word “devoted” for many kinds of circumstances.  Sure, someone could be devoted to religion, but we also talk about devoted teachers, devote coaches.  We might even talk about someone being a devoted IU basketball fan.  What makes a person devoted?  I think it is all the little things.  A devoted teacher puts in extra hours preparing her lessons.  A devoted coach spends extra time with his team trying to build chemistry.  A devoted fireman puts his life in harm’s way for the good of others.  Every teacher teaches his/her subject, but the for the devoted teacher, teaching is not just a job, it’s a way of life, a vocation.  It seems to me that someone who is devoted excels in not just the big things, but in all the little things.  The concrete, daily commitment shows a person’s devotion.
Now let’s take that and apply it to our message today: prepare the way for the Lord.  I think this means that God is asking us to be devoted to him.  Being devoted to Christ means that he is important when we come here to Mass every week, but also every day of our lives.  Christ is important in the big things, but he is also important in our day to day existence.  Being a devoted follower of Christ, I think, means to be committed to him in a concrete and daily way.  Preparing the way for the Lord means that our faith changes the way we live.
Look at John the Baptist, he was out in the desert eating locusts and honey, clothed in camel hair.  We might think: wow, a little extreme there.  But what an example of devotion.  John the Baptist did not try to fit God into his life; rather, John found that with God in his life he didn’t have room for anything else.  His example might be extreme, but we too are called to be devoted, to prepare room in our lives for the Lord.
Let’s think of some concrete ways that we can prepare the way for the Lord in our own lives during this season of Advent.  First, of course, prayer.  Pray every day, ask God to show you how to make straight your paths, how to prepare room for the Lord.  Maybe during this season of Advent, make a point to experience God more often in the Mass.  Here at St. Jude we added a 6:00 PM mass on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week.  Maybe make an effort to come to Mass one extra day a week as a way of letting Christ more into your life.  Make a point to go to confession.  Advent is a wonderful season of Grace, especially as a time to see where our paths haven’t been so straight, where we need to beg God for mercy and healing.  Perhaps start a family Advent devotion.  If you don’t have an advent wreath at your house, maybe go out and get one.  Every night at dinner light the candles and pray as a family for the coming of Christ.  Maybe pick up the habit of a daily rosary, the joyful mysteries are so powerful this time of year.  Visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.  He came to us, we can come to him there in the chapel.

I know this is a busy time of year.  I find it especially difficult to prepare the way for the Lord.  Maybe that’s why the season of Advent is such a good reminder from the Church.  Especially when we are busy, we might need to try a bit harder to be people of devotion.  As we celebrate this Mass, we prepare a place in our hearts for the coming of Christ, at Christmas, at the end of time, and right here as he comes to us in this Blessed Sacrament.

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