Advent: Emotions The Season Triggers Internally for Me

Advent should be a time when you feel reawakened. It is a sign that Christmas is coming and that means Christ’s birth. It is also a sign that another calendar year is ending. Have you accomplished what you thought you would? What are your goals for next year? These are the kind of thoughts that run through my mind at this time of year. It seems as though the spirit and happiness of Advent acts as an internal trigger for me as well. It makes me think of what I could do to be a better version of myself next year.

A recent post by The Catholic Writers Guild inspired my thoughts in this post. Their post titled Advent: The Call to Awaken as Catholics and Writers sent the same sort of message out. Advent is a truly special time of year that you should take some time to appreciate.

What does Advent make you feel?

Lessons From the Bible: The Birth of Christ Can Teach Us A Lot

If you know the story of how Jesus Christ was born, you know how he was born in poverty. Mary and Joseph were traveling desperately searching for a place where she could have the Son of God.
Every single place they went, there was no room for them. They were at a loss. Where would they have this child?

That was until they knocked on the door of one inn. The man told them he had no room for them, however, they were more than welcome to use an outside area. When Jesus was born, Mary and Jesus laid him in a manger made of straw. They were overjoyed with the new baby boy God had given them.

How Jesus’ Birth Shows the Spirit of Poverty

Mary and Joseph couldn’t have been happier that blessed day Jesus was born. They didn’t need a fancy room, nice warm blankets, or any other accommodations. They had everything they needed. God provided for them.

Think about this – you are about to give birth to a child with no place to go. You must make due with whatever you have around you. It’s not perfect, but it will work. When that child is born, nothing around you matters, all that matters is you have a brand new baby boy you love tremendously.

If you’re able to imagine that, you are able to see how Mary and Joseph felt. They were poor in the things they had but they were not poor in the love they had.
So what matters more? The things you have or the people you have around you? Appreciating what you have and realizing you don’t really need anything but what God believes you need will help you understand the spirit of poverty. When you are poor, you are able to see what really matters.

How to Use this Teaching in Your Life

Think about all of the modern conveniences you have and then imagine if they were gone. Think about how different your life would be and what you would have to do to compensate for the loss of those things. However, while this exercise can be effective, it may not be possible to truly feel poverty until you are poor. It’s hard for people to appreciate things when they aren’t really gone. It’s hard for them to see what truly matters when they are clouded by all the things around them.

It’s good to know though if there was ever a time when you don’t have as much as you have now, you can have faith in God that he will provide you with whatever you need. He always knows what you need before you even ask for it. Having that faith and believing in God’s guidance will help you in troubling times. It will help you see that you don’t really need all the things around you – all you need are the people you love and basic living essentials. Take a moment now to appreciate what you have and thank God. Try to see what really matters as you reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ. With this, you can grow stronger in faith.

Learning Obedience: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

One of the many lessons we can learn from Mary, Mother of Jesus is obedience. She has taught us that Catholics need to follow the laws of the church. These laws keep us pure. They help us stay true to our faith and to God’s Word.

How Mary Shows Obedience with the Presentation of Jesus

Forty days after Mary gave birth, she took Jesus to the temple. This was for two purposes: ritual purification and redemption of the first born son.
Ritual purification was written in the Laws of Moses. After a woman gives birth, she is viewed as unclean due to the connection she had with bodily fluids. Going to the church within forty days of giving birth would purify a woman.
Redemption of the first born son was also written in the Laws of Moses. Back then, when a male was born naturally (meaning not through cesarean section), she would have to sacrifice a lamb to the church. However, since Mary and Joseph were poor people, they were able to sacrifice the alternative, which were two turtledoves or young pigeons.

How Mary Teaches Us Obedience
Mary and Joseph knew that it was right to obey the Laws of Moses. They believed that it was important to follow through with these codes of conduct.
When we see Mary do exactly as stated in the Laws of Moses, it teaches us that we need to follow the same type of rules. We shouldn’t dismiss what we have been told is important by the church. We need to abide by them just as Mary did.

How Catholics Can Be Obedient According to the Teachings of the Church

Catholics continue to follow the teachings of the church as closely as possible. The unfortunate thing is that many Catholics don’t know all of the laws and thus don’t follow them due to this ignorance.

Attending Mass to listen to the gospel and homily given by the priest is a great way to remind yourself of what you as a Catholic should do daily to follow the teachings of the church. It’s also important to read the Bible. As the bible gives us a lot of the rules that Christians should follow in their life.

Finally, if you are ever unsure of what to do in life, you can always seek guidance from your priest. A priest is a counselor and coach. He can help you come to understand what is expected of you as a Christian. He can help you understand why life has turned one way instead of another way. He can also answer your questions about what you should do in difficult situations and still be in accordance with God’s Word.

So, follow Mary’s example. Understand the rules of the church by going to Mass and read the Bible. Whenever you have questions seek counsel from your priest and always turn to prayer when you just need comfort from God. This all God wants of you, to acknowledge Him and to follow Him – just as Mary did.

Practicing Catholic in a Fractured World

As  a practicing Catholic, you live in a world that is fractured in so many ways. It’s difficult to remain devoted to Christ and remain “on track” when we face so many diversions, distractions and demons.

Yes, the 21st Century is a challenging time for a practicing Catholic.
But the world was also a very challenging place two thousand years ago.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 12:49-53), Jesus tells his disciples “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” and then follows up that doozy with another “…do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”

Ummm, hold the phone… did He say “setting the earth on fire” and “division”?
I thought Jesus was all about “love one another”?

The “take-away” from this message is: look, buddy, if you want to be a “practicing Catholic” and follow Jesus, be prepared to face some resistance, and some division.  We live in a fractured, splintered world.

Be Prepared: Practing Catholic

Image Courtesy Disney

Not everyone will be accepting of your beliefs. Which should also drive another message to you: a practicing Catholic may face a bumpy road along the way to heaven. Will you worry more about pleasing others around you?  Will you be prepared for dealing with your own personal demons?  What about facing your own distractions and the tests of temptations, and letting  “life” getting in the way for a practicing Catholic?

Yes, Jesus came to walk among us, in an effort to change the world.  And to a certain extent, He succeeded.  The Christian population, and ultimately the Catholic Church emerged from this time.  But was Jesus just crash-landing here to start a new church?

Hardly. He created a “division” that exists to this day for a practicing Catholic.  Not an evil kind of division, but an alternative.  Think about what the world Jesus parachuted into: two thousand years ago, following the words of Jesus was an alternative to the many gods all the different tribes and families idolized.  And He provided an alternative to the “an eye for an eye” approach, by suggesting, hey, maybe we should try to love another instead.  You know, treat your neighbor as you wan to be treated.

And here we are, two thousand years later: idolatry, giving false prophets attention and demons (like the love of money) curse the world to this day.  A practicing Catholic fifteen hundred years ago, one thousand years ago, five years ago lives among others who simply do not see things as we do.  While it is important not to judge others, it is crucial to bear in mind a practicing Catholic faces division, resistance and constant challenges.

In the same passage, Jesus states, “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” Certainly He is not referring to a dip in the water kind of baptism, but the human pain of death and the painful human process that death, crucifixion, entailed.  But that was done to show a practicing Catholic  that we should not fear death, but rather, look forward to the day we are all together in heaven.

So, like the tune from “The Lion King” we should all “be prepared!”  Be prepared, as a practicing Catholic, to face a constant test: perhaps from loved ones, from others, from temptations and distractions.  The road to heaven will not be smooth nor safe.

But extremely rewarding.

I was initially surprised to read and hear these words this morning at mass.  But it made sense to me after reflection.
What are your thoughts hearing Jesus talking about coming to “set the world on fire” and “how I wish it were already blazing”?