It seems like Advent began only yesterday, but we have already passed through Christmas and are already focused on school or work. If you are like me, I promised at the start of Advent that I would keep Advent alive all year. After all, Advent and Christmas time are important to every one of us.
Pope Saint Leo the Great said that Christmas is not just the birth of Jesus but also the birth of every one of us. Through the birth of Jesus, we have been given hope for eternal life—which is indeed the true objective of our earthly pilgrimage. On Epiphany, the Holy family received the Magi into their make shift home showing that Jesus came for all peoples, not just the Jews.
But, how do we keep the importance of Advent alive all year? How do we keep watch? In what disposition are we to wait?
There are two ways that we can do this, promising God each day that we will be Catholic and remembering that we are the Church.
First, we need to promise God each day that we will be a Catholic that day. I know many of you are thinking, “I am a Catholic so why do I need to do this?” When we simply say we are a Catholic, it is simply a label. It’s the same as saying that we are Swedish or English. Our daily pledge must be to be actively Catholic that day. It means living out the four active, cardinal virtues.
- We must act with prudence identifying the good in all things and rejecting the evil.
- We must seek justice by which we give God and others what they deserve.
- We will practice fortitude whereby we courageously stand firm and constant in face of difficulties.
- We need to practice temperance whereby we achieve mastery over our appetites and control our emotions.
If we do these to the best of our abilities each day, we will be living an active Catholic life. At the end of each day we can give our actions that day to God as our gifts just as the magi gave their gifts to Jesus.
Second, we must remember that we are the Church. Pope Pius XII said that the laity are the Church. My favorite though is from Blessed John Henry Newman who was asked by his bishop what the clergy should think about the laity. He said, “We’d look rather foolish without them.”
At the end Mass we hear the dismissal, “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” It’s not the Church that is ended. We are called to be the Church and what it stands for wherever we go; in public and in private. Most important of all is that we make our homes domestic churches. Our homes need to be where we live the sacraments, especially the sacrament of marriage. The day of our marriage is simply the first day of the sacrament of marriage. It must be lived and celebrated every day. Our Domestic Church is where we teach our children about God and where, if we listen closely, our children will teach us about God. In the Domestic Church, we exercise charity in the giving of our time and earthly goods.
Most importantly, our Domestic Church must be where we invite God into our homes just as the Holy family invited the magi into their “home.” I know our Domestic Churches may not be perfect and we may feel it’s not good enough, but again we hear at each Mass, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
God doesn’t require our Domestic Churches to be perfect, only that we strive to grow in our love for God and neighbor.
If we can truly be active Catholics every day and invite God into our Domestic Churches, we will keep Advent alive every day of the year.