Letter From the Pastor December 8

Let’s Take the “Ad” out of Advent

There is an interesting paradox in the Advent season in a university community.  For most of our parishioners, Advent does not feel like a beginning, it is very much the an ending; specifically an ending of the Fall semester.  While the Church calls us to be in “beginning mode” – beginning of a new liturgical year, beginning of the Natal season, beginning of our annual rehearsal of the drama of salvation – our students are very much focused on ending well the semester at hand.

This paradox illustrates the very real dichotomy that all of experience during the Advent season, especially because we live in a commercial world that has been celebrating the “Christmas season” since the day after Halloween. If we are not careful, we can be lulled into believing that Advent is nothing more than the number of shopping days until Christmas.  (This, of course, is not helped by the ubiquitous “Advent calendars” counting down the days until Christmas).

Advent, especially early Advent, really is not about Christmas at all, and I did not really understand Advent (for Advent’s sake) until I was able to divorce it from Christmas. Pay attention to the readings at Sunday Mass in the first 3 weeks of Advent: Apocalypse, coming of the kingdom, revelation of God, second coming of Jesus. At this moment, university life  is a much better sign of the season than the stuffed newspapers, flashy commercials, and shopping. Students are more focused on their final papers, final exams, final projects, and final grades than anything else  right now. The Christmas season will begin for them when that final project, exam, or paper is turned in to their professor and they can head home for the holidays. Students are (perhaps unwittingly) reminding all of us the focus of the Advent season: FINAL JUDGMENT!  In this season, we, like students who have been learning in a course, are called to examine our hearts to see what we have truly learned and how we put it into practice in our daily lives. We’re called to demonstrate our proficiency and to be prepared to make an accounting to the one who is responsible for our training.

The Advent season shifts focus on December 17 to prepare our hearts and minds for this year’s celebration of the first coming of Jesus. In the meantime, there is a much more important focus for us – Jesus’s continual coming in the world – we are called to be instruments of his coming in the lives of all we meet, so that in us, all can encounter Jesus.  And yes, this will be on the FINAL EXAM. 🙂

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