Sunday, November 25, 2012

Preparations During Advent...Again.

I always wondered about the repeated traditions of preparing for Christmas during Advent each year.  We go to confession once at the very least, read scripture that leads us to His birthday, take special care in choosing certain gifts for certain people and decorate our homes to reflect this season that is fast coming upon us. I took all the steps necessary to prepare yet I never really found a place in my heart for the message of Advent.

I read somewhere that the years just prior to our Lord's coming there was a great sense of anticipation in Israel for the promised messiah. So much so that Jewish maidens would ask themselves if they were the ones who were to be chosen to bring him into the world. Throughout the years leading up to the birth of Jesus, God was preparing His people for His coming into the world and when He finally showed up only a handful recognized Jesus for who He really was: God.

I finally realized and came to the conclusion that our preparations for Advent are not only to remember and celebrate Christmas, a day that started it all 2000 years ago, but all the Advent preparations and celebrations of Christmas we have been going through all of our lives are really practice drills for a reality that will come for all of us at some point or another.

Though there are many layers of understanding in what Advent means  for each one of us as individuals, what we do share in common is that Advent prepares us for His coming and I'm not just talking about Christmas each year. In all of our Advents during our lifetime, we have been practicing for the time when we meet Him face to face. We will all die at some point and meet our creator and for some of us it will be sooner than later and at some final point in the world's history, those of us who are left on earth will witness Jesus' second coming.

We all sense an anticipation not unlike 2000 years ago when Mary was being prepared to bring God to us. We live in a chaotic world where things seem topsy turvy as if all hell has broken loose upon the earth and nothing seems anchored in absolute truth. It would be easy to lose hope if that is all we see when we look at the world around us. Israel was also surrounded by a godless society, yet in that little pocket of the backwash village of Nazareth, hope and faith had endured and changed the world.

Those of us faithful Catholics who feel abandoned and alone in a society determined to extinguish faith and hope in God should take heart. In our own little backwash villages of our souls there is still a flame, dim though it may be for some, ready for the bellows of heaven to inflame it. A true Advent preparation has to begin in our souls and not in a tree or other decorations. What happens in our homes during Advent should reflect the conversion that is occurring within us. The darker our world becomes the brighter this flame will be visible to those around us.

The Church has given us the season of Advent to prepare for Christmas, but that is only the official recognition of an advent that should be occurring in each of us all year long. Let me put it this way so that it may be easier to understand. If December 25, 2012 was to be YOUR last day in this world, what would Advent be like for you as you prepare for the few weeks leading up to that day? If this year's Christmas is to be your last day on earth, would you be concerned with baking cookies, scurrying around finding that perfect gift and getting the best price on a tree? Would you venture out on Black Friday, a day that is a contradiction of the Gospel message, just to jostle others around you as you lunge for that item you just have to have in your possession? What would all of the above do to prepare us for our final day?

Do not misunderstand. Decorating our homes, taking time to find a gift to those we love and finally, going to Mass to celebrate the birth of our Messiah are important as part of the preparations we make during Advent, but we have a tendency to go overboard. When Advent begins this year, remember this. His coming for you as an individual may occur at any point and day, whether it is on the first Sunday of Advent, the second, at Christmas or 40 years down the road. We just don't know.

Winter reflects my own timeline in life and its bleakness the world in which I find myself. I sorely need a true Advent in my life. I've just gone through another birthday and I have been told that I have many years left. Maybe so but I really hope not for I long for that Christmas Day when Jesus comes again, this time for me and takes me home where I belong. And when I do go home, I want to present one gift to my Father; a soul that is pleasing to him. My hope this Advent is to prepare that gift. It is all I have to give that is worth giving and I want to be ready to present it to Him..

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No Time For Despair

It's easy to despair after waking up and seeing the election results, but curiously I am not in despair. Yes, I've seen the results that declare Obama the winner, but I know in my heart of hearts I did my best in trying to achieve a different outcome. It makes one wonder though, as a Catholic, how many of my fellow pewsitters actually went out to vote and voted their (rightly formed) consciences. I've not seen the final results of how many Catholics voted for Obama this time and if they were actually part of the tipping point for his victory. This morning though, it no longer matters for what is done is done. What does matter is what do we do now.

Catholics cannot allow themselves to fall prey to the myth that our happiness and joy depends on who occupies the White House.  Presidents or any other world leader are not the objects of Christian joy. Presidents come and go but God remains always. So for a Catholic, our faith should remain steadfast as we continue to practice our faith and worship God who was and will always be. But we live in the world and what the world does affects our lives. 

Our Church has existed in a pagan society before and by the looks of it, it will have to again. The religion of secularism was victorious last night and its goal is to supplant what is left of Christianity in American society with the godless. It had already made significant inroads to that end in the last four years but I fear what we are about to see is a judgement on a nation who's heart has grown cold. Whether one believes it or not, this nation was a gift to humanity from God and we have trampled this gift underfoot in little more than two hundred years. 

Again, whether one believes it or not, America is a driving influence on this world, good or bad, and what happens here will be felt all over. We are or were one of the last bastions of faith in our world and though it is  not completely lost, it will be severely crippled. At the same time, how we as Catholics conduct ourselves during this period of tribulation will be watched by Catholics the world over. The Church has a history of living in societies that are hostile to it whether it was two thousand years ago or now, in the Middle East, Africa or China. Though the West is not as physically brutal as some other cultures are toward Christians, they have made it apparent that Christianity is not welcomed in the modern world. Now America has joined forces with the enemies of the Church, and with Obama, he  no longer has to answer to the electorate which will now allow him to attack us and persecute us at will. 

Knowing this then, why am I not in despair? Because I know our history and history tells us that in the worst of times the Church flourished despite its humble beginnings in the Colosseum, the fall of the Roman Empire and its survival through what we call the Dark Ages. We now find ourselves in the dark ages again and what we do will determine what history will think of the Church of our time. The first four years of this presidency gave us a taste of what is coming for Catholics and Christians in general alike in America. The first four years of the presidency also exposed to America and the world who is truly a faithful Catholic and who is not. We've had an apostasy in our Church in the making for years and it came to fruition last night. As with our nation, the Church in America is split down the middle.

Are we being judged as a nation by our Creator? I think so yes, but not in a manner where we cannot come back with greater and stronger faith than before. I believe this road of our own making is being permitted by God to wake us up as Catholics and get back to our roots of faith. We as American Catholics have become lukewarm to the point where Christ himself would spit us out of his mouth:

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."    Revelation 3:15-16

Adversity has always been a a time where great champions of the faith have arisen and this time will be no different. Make no mistake: We are in for some very hard times as Catholics in this country. Our mission to save souls and help the poor will be greatly hampered by the government as the Church is regulated to the private sector under pain of prosecution. The HHS mandate of last year was just the beginning. It was a foretaste of what is to come. Some bishops when confronted with the mandate last year declared that civil disobedience may be in order if the Church is forced to go against its conscience. Perhaps the Book of Tobit is a prophecy for our time that may come true yet:

Chapter One
18 But after a long time Salmanasar the king being dead, when Sennacherib his son, who reigned in his place, had a hatred for the children of Israel: 19 Tobias daily went out among all his kindred, and comforted them, and distributed to every one as he as able, out of his goods: 20 He fed the hungry, and gave clothes to the naked, and was careful to bury the dead, and they that were slain. 21 And when king Sennacherib was come back, fleeing from Judea by reason of the slaughter that God had made about him for his blasphemy, and being angry slew many of the children of Israel, Tobias buried their bodies. 22 But when it was told the king, he commanded him to be slain, and took away all his substance. 

It should not go unnoticed that this world will come under a terrible persecution from the godless unlike that which has never been seen since the beginning as written in scripture. Whether those times are here or  not is not for me to say. What is coming however will not be good. I will predict a few things however and hope to God that I am wrong. 

I believe we will see Church leaders prosecuted for defying laws that prohibit the Church from accomplishing its mission. Penalties or prison? Both I believe. I see, as others have, two churches in America: The Catholic Church who's authority comes from Rome and a state run church that takes it's marching orders from the Washington D.C. much like the state run church in China. This faux Church will be made up of dissidents and malcontents who will align themselves with secular society and it will be this church that the government will see as the rightful authority to speak as the Catholic Church.

I see laws coming that will prevent the Church from speaking out in the public square or lose their right to vote or worse. Rumblings of this has already been heard when Obama speaks of the Right to Worship instead of Freedom of Religion. We, as faithful Catholics will be delegated to practice our faith in the privacy of our homes and church with threats of prosecutions should we dare to speak our faith in public. We would have no choice but to defy such a law as we are commanded to "teach all nations" by Christ. 

Losing our Freedom of Religion will also have to mean our losing our Freedom of Speech and to evangelize to those around us. Should we dare speak against abortion, SSM, euthanasia, state sanctioned suicides and contraceptives, we will again be threatened with fines, penalties or prison. And this is just the beginning.

I've not even touched upon what will happen to our economy, foreign policies et al in the next four years and possibly beyond. My concern is my faith and my soul and the threats to them that, I believe will be coming in the near future. Stand fast in your faith. It hasn't even been tested yet.