We begin another liturgical year with the weeks that prepare us for the coming baby Jesus at Christmas. Rather than remembering an unusual birth from past millennia, this Advent season should help us to be prepared for our personal encounter with Christ that will take place on the day of our death or the day of His second coming (whichever happens first!).
It is a time of reflection and penance, not as strong as Lent, but we are also invited to take stock of our life of connection with God, to ask forgiveness for the failures, to offer some kind of sacrifice in reparation and to make the firm purpose of improve, at least a little bit. Intensify our struggle against the “old man” within us by embracing the salvation Jesus already deserved for each one of us, doing our part, putting our hands on it, and faithfully fulfilling our purpose of being a better person that seek to love more and better serve those around us.
For those with children (or grandchildren), this is a privileged time to cultivate faith in their hearts. They need to know and also to experience in practice, that they are part of a larger family, the Church, they are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Attending the Christmas novena with friends and neighbors, setting up the crib at home, praying the Advent wreath by lighting a candle each Sunday, setting up the Tree of Jesse, doing a concrete act of charity for a needy family, in short, there are many means that the Church provides to live intensely this time.
For older children, it is important to stress the importance of preparing the heart to receive Jesus at Christmas through a good confession. Maybe attend some more Mass during the week or pray the rosary more often as a way of preparing a spiritual gift for the birthday boy, with the stimulus of knowing that the whole Christian family is preparing for this great moment all over the world.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2006 Urbi et Orbi message, speaks of this reality of the Mystical Body of Christ: “In Bethlehem Christian people was born, Christ´s mystical body, in which each member is closely joined to the others in total solidarity. Our Savior was born for all. We must proclaim this not only with words, but by our entire live, giving the world a witness of united, open communities where fraternity and forgiveness reign, along with acceptance and mutual service, truth, justice and love."
We need to know and our children also need to know that every act of love, every prayer, every sacrifice I make, even if no one sees, is good for the whole Church, for the whole Body of Christ. Then we should not waste time! Our goal is Heaven! And to get there one day, we need to live well our today, our now.