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Living the Truth in Love - The Shortest Season of Advent

Bishop Barbarito column

The Third Sunday of Advent is referred to as Gaudete Sunday, which is a Latin phrase that translates as Rejoice Sunday. The liturgical color for the day can be rose, representing a mixture of purple, and white, a combination of the Advent and Christmas colors. There is a sense of anticipation as we draw near it to the celebration of Christmas, and its accompanying joy is expressed on this Sunday.

However, this year we are much closer to the celebration of Christmas than in past years, since the Fourth Sunday of Advent, next week, will bring the Advent season to a close. The final week of Advent will literally have less than 12 hours before Christmas Eve arrives. It is simply a matter of how the calendar falls. Perhaps the brevity of Advent this year points more directly to the importance of the season in our preparation for Christmas. With all the busyness surrounding our preparation for Christmas, it is well for us to concentrate on the meaning of Advent during what is realistically its final week this year.

Advent is a time of anticipation. We are looking forward to celebrating the birth of the Lord. We are also looking forward to the Lord’s coming into our lives each day and ultimately to the coming of His Kingdom. Anticipation is based on the virtue of hope. We need to believe that tomorrow will always be better than today and that something greater is going to happen to us. The joy of looking forward to Christmas is a good and holy anticipation. Christ’s birth brings us a joy as it reminds us of God’s infinite love and mercy for us as individuals. Christ’s birth celebrates that He became one of us and that He dwells among us now — not only when He came to this earth and not only when we are with Him in heaven — but now at each and every moment. Christ’s birth awakens in us a desire to be with Him in this life and to look forward to the fullness of life when He comes again. Looking forward each day during the season of Advent to the celebration of the Lord’s birth instills in us a hope that should be with us all during the year. No material possession or Christmas party can replace that joyful hope.

Advent reminds us that we must be constantly searching in hope to find the treasures which the Lord gives us each day. So many times we are afraid to search and to seek new avenues in our lives. We become complacent with the everyday expectations that others place upon us, and we no longer search for meaning and purpose beyond that. We become too preoccupied with what is before us and are afraid to look beyond it. Our lives can have a sense of unfulfillment, and we do not know the reason why. To find the treasure which the Lord opens for us, we must not be afraid to look for Him. That may mean change in our lives in the way that we do things. It may mean sacrifice and self-denial. Searching will always bring a treasure of the grace that leads to another. To remain where we are and not to go beyond that is to lose the graces God wants us to have not only during Advent but every day of our lives. Jesus reminds us that we must be in search of the treasure which He gives to us, and when we find it, we have such joy that we are willing to risk anything (cf. Mt 13:44-50).

Advent helps us to understand better that each day brings us a new gift in Christ. Indeed, every day in itself is a new gift. While we have hope for the future and while we are not afraid to search for the treasure of grace, it is in the present moment that we find the presence of God. As we become so preoccupied with other matters, we can often overlook the gift of the present moment. This is especially true during the hectic time of preparation for Christmas. The words of Jesus remind us of this reality during this season of Advent: “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce ‘Look, here it is’ or ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among us” (Lk 17:20-21). Our anticipation and our searching cannot lead us away from the present in which we live and find God. It cannot lead us away from the people before us in whom we find God. Each day is a new gift and brings a new gift.

            Finally, Advent brings with it the anticipation of the Lord’s birth. The season is meant to help us appreciate the fundamental beauty of Christmas. It matters little whether we send any cards or give any gifts if we have lost the reason as to why we do so. The best greeting and the best gift we can give to anyone, as well as to ourselves, is for us to find the meaning of the Lord’s birth and to share it with our very lives. This is what Advent is all about.

Advent begins a new liturgical year in the life of the Church. It truly is a new year for us. May the remaining days of Advent be a time for us to reflect upon the treasure of the Lord’s birth and the good news of His mercy, which He brings to us each and every day of our lives. While we truly wish to celebrate the joy of the Christmas season and to be involved in all of the many activities of this time, they will only tire us and cause frustration unless the meaning of Advent enlightens us. Pope Francis beautifully stated in regard to the season of Advent, “Just as in each of our lives we always need to begin again, to get up again, to rediscover the meaning of the goal of our lives, so also for the great human family it is always necessary to discover the common horizon toward which we are journeying. The horizon of hope! This is the horizon that makes for a good journey. The season of Advent ... restores all this horizon of hope, a hope which does not disappoint for it is founded on God’s Word. A hope which does not disappoint, simply because the Lord never disappoints! He is faithful! He does not disappoint! Let us think about and feel this beauty.”

May the remaining days of this short Advent season be filled with many blessings!

Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito

December 15, 2023