By FATHER JOHN P. SCHMOLL, OBLATE Cam
Pastor, Saint Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Los Banos
The season of Advent has already arrived. The new Year of Grace, 2023, has already arrived. Catholics and other Christians do not wait for January 1 to begin the new year.
January 1 begins the secular year. The Year of Grace, the Christian Year, begins on the First Sunday of Advent which, this year, was Nov. 27.
Advent is “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” It is also the first season of the Liturgical Year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays. For us, the notable person is Jesus Christ. While we certainly look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus at Christmas we as Catholics spend the bulk of Advent preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
In our tradition, from the First Sunday of Advent until December 16, the readings from Scripture at Mass and the prayers of the Church help us prepare for the Second Coming.
The secular world does not help us do this. The secular world does a much better job—although an overly commercialized one—at helping us prepare for his First Coming (Christmas). Of course, to take our cue from the secular world would make us all think that Christmas is the most important Christian holiday when, in fact, it is Easter.
Advent invites us to prepare. For the Second Coming and the First Coming. We must always be prepared. The Boy Scouts have this as their central motto, “Be Prepared.”
We should not only be prepared for earthquakes, floods, flat tires, medical emergencies and the like. We must always be prepared to die, too. That is not a morbid thought during a festive season. It is a reality no matter what the season, and Advent helps us to do that.
There are many Gospel stories of not knowing the day, nor the hour, of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. According to Scripture, He will come at an hour we least expect Him (Luke 12:40).
Once I read a book because the title caught my eye, “The Art of Dying Well.” Of course, the book had almost nothing to do with dying, but rather with living. If we want to die well, we must also live well.
May this Advent help us to prepare for life and death. May Our Lady of Guadalupe (whom we celebrate on Dec. 12), Patroness of the Americas and Co-Patroness of the Unborn, always prepare us to meet her Son at Christmas and, more importantly, at the hour of our death. Amen!