Prepare the way for the Lord. Get ready. The Lord is coming.

That’s the message of Advent. The word itself comes from a Latin root, which means reach out, prepare, get ready. And this liturgical season of Advent has given birth so many customs in our Catholic Christian way of life, practices and piety. Which can all help to inform a way a pattern of living a culture which builds a framework for us to live as Christians in the midst of a world waiting to be born again.

However, all of this depends upon us, in a certain sense, and the choices we make. Advent is a special time of grace. The word grace means gift, and what we are invited to receive is Jesus himself. So get ready.

We’re exhorted and encouraged by the church as a good mother and teacher, to clean our room, to get the house of our heart ready, to repent of our sin, to renounce our wrong choices, and to turn away from disordered passions and bad appetites. To empty ourselves of ourselves, so that Jesus can come in and live within us, within his church which is his body of which you and I are all members.

Through the advent cycle of readings and prayers, devotions and piety, and through our willing and free participation in them, we make the choice to rid our lives of daily idolatry, to renounce the self-love that squeezes God’s grace out of our spirits.

You know the Lord Jesus wants us to be free to live in an ongoing encounter with him. He does not place impediments in the way of our experience of His grace. We do and it’s time to get rid of them.

The word liturgy is an Anglicized rendering of a Greek word, and it means the public work of worship.

During Advent and of during all the liturgical seasons of the church year, we walk through the great events of Christian history for a reason. We’re not some form of vain repetition. But this walking through helps us to make them our own; to discover the mysteries of the Christian faith and to live them for others.

We’re invited to build a pattern of Christian living, complete with all the customs and practices and celebrations. Which promote an ongoing encounter with the risen Lord Jesus, and bear witness to him. We’re to consciously become a part of the work of the church, building a Christian culture that can reach out to others and bring them into a relationship with God and His loving plan for their lives as well.

During Advent, the Church, as a good mother, calls us to clean our rooms, clean the house within, and sets aside special times for increased prayer and worship.

Why do we do this? So we’ll be ready for his coming, by having the clarity of living faith so we can recognize Him.

And as a teacher, the Church instructs us in the meaning of the Christian life and vocation and mission. The text from the Bible that we were here at Holy Mass are filled with great figures like John the Baptizer and Mary the Mother of the Lord – examples for you and me. They both embody the call we have to say yes to the Lord and to take our place in preparing the way for all who are alive now, between his first coming and his final coming.

Passages from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, they’re inspired readings in the liturgy the hours. Expand upon the meaning of His coming and invite us to enter in more fully.

When we do, we receive the graces that are offered in the full smorgasbord, of Sacramental and Liturgical services at the heart of being a Catholic. But you know in a real way, it comes down to each person and each family accepting the invitation.

God is inviting. Will you respond?

When I was a young man, I read a newspaper article written by a priest. And he called Catholicism “Christianity for the long haul.” I loved it, and you know as the years have passed, I have come to see the wisdom of his insights.

Oh, I know that some other Christians, our brothers, and sisters, see practices that we Catholics engage in, such as Advent, as empty ritual, and perhaps for some, that’s what they can become. But not for me and not for you.

As I’ve grown older, these practices are treasure, and I discover them afresh every year. They’re a continuing invitation from Jesus Himself to begin again.

Celebrating Advent calls us to living faith in repentance, to a new relationship with Jesus, and over the four weeks preceding the celebration of Christmas, the Nativity of the Lord, we’re called to get ready, to prepare, to make a place for him in our lives, in our homes and our families. And we’re reminded that we should live as though he has come, he is coming, and he will come again.

The Catholic way of life provides a form into which the freshness of the Holy Spirit can be poured again and again and again. These seasons of the Church year are a gift to be opened. And Advent is a gift – receive it, open it up, enter in. It’s not some mere external extra.

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