Catholics were reminded to reflect on the past two weeks and what Advent has meant for them so far. And to rejoice as they continue to anticipate the coming of the Lord.
Father Anselm Russell said the true meaning of Christmas can only be had if people carefully prepare their hearts and minds to receive the baby in the manger at Bethlehem into their lives.
“This reception makes a difference by recognizing him in all we need in our lives, for it is he who we must preach,” said Russell during Mass on Sunday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Shirley Street.
“Like John the Baptist, we must be the voice of one crying in the desert, preparing ourselves and indeed our families and nation for Christ’s advent,” said the priest.
“John is the voice but the Lord is the word. John is the voice that lasts for a time. From the beginning, Christ is the word who lives forever. Where is John’s baptism today? It served its purpose – and it went away. Our rejoicing today is that voice but the words we must speak is Christ – the eternal word. Knowing this, believing this, living this, our joy is complete and we look forward to Christmas Day with eager longing and great expectation.”
Russell said on Sunday, people rejoiced as they were at the midpoint of Advent. The Mass he said set the tone of joyful expectation for the Lord’s birth and second coming, and priests donned rose vestments to indicate heightened expectation as Christmas is drawing closer.
He told parishoners that as they continue to prepare for the advent of the Lord that there is much to be thankful for in their lives and that they should rejoice as this time is to make way for the son of God in their lives.
And he said they should rejoice in the first instance because the season of Advent is a time of preparation and a time of waiting for Jesus Christ.
“Advent is a time of active watching and waiting,” said Russell. He said in a very real way, the season of waiting on the Lord describes three advents – the first advent spoken of by the prophets which refers to the coming of the Lord which most people think of during this time of year – the son of man coming into the world as a human being.
And that advent is for the Lord to renew His people – to mold them and heal them for greater service in the church and the world. He said, therefore, people look for the answer in the stable at Bethlehem.
“Philippians provides us with the second advent of our Lord. Far away from the stable at Bethlehem, an historical event that we celebrate each year, our Lord is present among us even now. Rejoice in the Lord, always. Rejoice, your kindness should be known to all.”
The priest said the second advent is so often forgotten because Jesus comes to them every day of their lives.
“Jesus comes to us in every person and every experience and every place. The challenge for us is that we not become so distracted by the events of this time of year, that we forget the graces that are bestowed upon us and we bestow upon others because of this advent of Christ in our lives. Part of renewing our commitment to Jesus Christ and being molded and healed is to give thanks each day for the blessings we receive.”
The third advent he said will take place at the end of time when Christ will take unto himself his own chosen ones.
“Now, we don’t know the day or the hour when this will happen but we lean towards how we will prepare our hearts and minds. This gospel reminds us, through the words of John the Baptist, that we should be ready and watching for the Lord’s return.
“Jesus is like a householder on a journey, and we are the servants left behind with our own task. So, how do we stay awake and complete our task? By always recognizing that the master will return and going about doing the things we wish to do. We must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison. We must heal and mold and serve, just as we allow ourselves to be molded and healed by Jesus Christ.”
Russell said the season of Advent calls people to move quickly toward the realization of the kingdom of heaven as they prepare to commemorate the birth of the Messiah.
“As we recognize his presence among us, in word and sacrament, and indeed in the tasks that we undertake – healing, molding and service – as we await his return in glory.”
On Sunday past, he told worshippers as they reflected on the past two weeks and what Advent has meant for them so far, to rejoice as they continue to anticipate the Lord’s coming.
“John had to remind those sent by the Jews that he was not the Christ but simply a voice. True rejoicing must always be in Christ for if it is not, it so easily can replace Christ.”