Advent is here. This is the beginning of the Church year, where we at once remember when Jesus first came to us and when He will come again at the end of the world. It is also a time to remember that, because of the great gifts Jesus gave us in His first coming, Jesus continues to come to us every day. I am speaking specifically of the sacraments.
All of you who are baptized have supernatural, transformative power that has changed your soul. All the other sacraments you have received have increased this power. What is this power? What does this power do? And what does it have to do with Advent?
First, this power is the life of God, or the sanctifying grace of God. It is the most powerful thing you have, bar none. It is the power you received from the sacraments.
Second, this power, according to Jesus, enables you to do the one thing that gives us joy and makes our lives full (John 15:11). That one thing is love. Not falling in love or feeling love, but giving love. Jesus said there is no greater love than to give our lives for one another (John 15:13). The power, the grace, we have from the sacraments enables us (if we choose) to give our lives for others by doing things for others, instead of for ourselves. This can be as simple as going to pick up milk so your spouse doesn’t have to, or as hard as giving up your dream job so your family can live close to their relatives. It is choosing a little bit of suffering, or a lot of suffering, so that someone else doesn’t have to suffer. When we cooperate with the grace of the sacraments, we call down more grace, grow closer to God, grow in wisdom and have joy.
It involves learning how to love as Jesus taught and the Church continues to teach, even when the whole world tells us we are wrong. Loving can sometimes involve telling a loved one that what they are doing is wrong, that it pushes God away. Love is to want what is best for the other, and God is the best. Love never want’s another to be apart from God.
What does all this have to do with Advent. Advent takes us back to when Jesus first came to us, which caused us to sing, “Joy to the World!” When angles told us that we would have peace if we did God’s will. It also reminds us that Jesus is coming again at the end of this world. And while we may not be alive on earth then, He will come to each of us at the end of our individual lives. Advent reminds us to prepare for that. So, when Jesus asks us what we did with the grace… the grace which He died for… we can say, “I loved as you taught us”.