Advent is the season of “remembering” and “waiting” for the King. Christ, the Light of the World, has already come, but we are still waiting for Him to come again. Advent is a type of “bridge” connecting the first and second comings of Jesus Christ. Like the season of Advent, the holy Mass is also a bridge between the two comings of Christ — but it is a more perfect connection. This form of Catholic worship was not invented by the Catholic Church. The Eucharist was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper, ratified by His death and resurrection, and extends His real, true, substantial presence until the end of time when He will return in glory. History and the writings of the early Church Fathers confirm that the Mass was the way the earliest Christians worshipped God. Although the form, gestures, and some externals have developed over the centuries, the essentials of the Mass have remained the same. St. Justin Martyr, writing in the second century, attests that a “proclamation of the word” and a “breaking of the bread” were present in the earliest Eucharistic liturgies.
‘Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rm 13:11).
For us Catholics, the new Liturgical Year commences with the first Sunday of Advent. In this new liturgical year, the Church not only wishes to indicate the beginning of a period, but the beginning of a renewed commitment to the faith by all those who follow Christ, the Lord. This time of prayer and path of penance that is so powerful, rich and intense, endeavors to give us a renewed impetus to truly welcome the message of the One who was incarnated for us. In fact, the entire Liturgy of the Advent Season, will spur us to an awakening in our Christian life and will put us in a ‘vigilant’ disposition, to wait for Our Lord Jesus who is coming.
Most of us who grew up in this country were taught in American History that what made the United States of America great was that this country was founded on freedom and democracy. We have a Bill of Rights and a Constitution that guarantee certain rights that cannot be taken away. And our leaders are elected by us, the people. We are not governed by the monarchs of Europe. However, today’s feast is a reminder that ultimately we are not citizens of this world but adopted children in the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is our King. But what does this mean?
Proclaiming Christ as King does not make us any less patriotic but rather asserts His supreme sovereignty over our lives while we are in this world. Of course, we must always choose the values of our faith over partisan politics, but the real meaning of this feast has very little to do with politics. A question to ask ourselves today is: Who or what is ruling my life? Now it can be easy to think that everything is going fine . . . “I go to church, so that’s something good at least.” Yes, attending Mass is a good thing to do, but our Lord tells us that at the Final Judgment, we will be judged by our attitudes and actions toward the “least of the brethren” (Mt 25:31-46). We also must remember that the King has an Enemy, and we must understand how this enemy operates. Satan beguiles us — deceives us — as he tempts us in subtle ways to overthrow the reign of God in our lives. And how does he do this? He often perverts good things in our lives in order that our lives will be ruled by these creatures instead of by the Creator Himself.
During the month of November, many Sunday and daily readings of the holy Mass direct us to think about the “end times” and the fact that our lives are short. The gospel reading for this Sunday (Mt 25:14-30) is the “Parable of the Talents.” Many preachers tend to prepare a homily about “how we use our talents for Christ”— which is fine — but the message is particularly about the gift of faith. When God gives us the gift of faith, He is not expecting anything ordinary. Faith must be invested. It must be nurtured and shared in ways that help it grow and spread. We cannot simply wait around, avoid evil, and imagine all will be fine. True faith entails taking risks, exiting our comfort zones, and following the will of God even in the face of our human fear of failure. At the end of our lives, we will be judged by our faith in Christ and how this faith was expressed in deeds of love. If we buried our faith and it bore no fruit in our lives, then Jesus tells us we can expect a very harsh judgment (Mt 25:26-30).
Bishop Joseph Strickland will open the Diocese of Tyler’s observance of the Year of Consecrated Life with solemn vespers and benediction on Friday, November 21 at 6 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler.
Before the opening liturgy, clergy and religious from the diocese will attend a workshop focused on preparing for the Year and planning diocesan events.
Pope Francis proclaimed 2015 a Year of Consecrated Life, starting on the First Sunday of Advent, the weekend of November 29, 2014, and ending on February 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated life. The year also marks the 50th anniversary of Perfectae Caritatis, a decree on religious life, and Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the Church. Its purpose, as stated by the Vatican is to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past” while embracing “the future with hope.”