The end is indeed coming, and it is coming in a few weeks. No, not the end of the world (sorry, I don’t know the date of that), but rather the end of another liturgical year. The first day of Advent is, indeed, the beginning of a new year, and it brings with it the message of repentance. Strange way to start off a year, huh? Most of us associate “New Year” celebrations with champagne, parties, and joyful cheers. The Church, however, points to a different reality: this life is not all that we are living for.
Our life is a great gift from God, and we are meant to enjoy the goods He has so generously given to us. If God wanted us to be miserable, He could have very easily done so by not creating beauty, for instance. Instead, He made the world “good”, as we learn from Genesis 1. All things were good, even man. Then came the fall, and disobedience entered into the world (remember: sin is the only thing man has ever been able to create “from nothing”). Even though man turned away from God, the Lord did not pack up His “toys” and leave. Rather, like a loving Father, he gave us consequences, but left good things available to us. Just think of a gorgeous sunset, or the view from a summit—are you not filled with awe at the beauty before you? Does it not raise your mind and heart to God, even if just for a moment?
At the beginning of the Church year, we have the words of St. John the Baptist—repent! Strange to think of the end at a time of new beginning. And yet, it focuses our attention to the true goal of our lives—holiness. Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta often said that holiness is not a privilege of the few; It is a duty you and for me. Holiness, in fact, is the perfection of charity. God is love, and the more we participate in this love, the more pure and holy we become. I recently shocked a group of elementary aged-students by telling them that they have to become saints. A few of the children looked nervously towards a solid statue, and had a puzzled look on their faces. This opened my eyes to see that these children, as good as they were, feared holiness, because it was not tangible to them.
At the beginning of the new liturgical year, I am setting a goal—I want to help those around me understand what Vatican II meant by the “universal call to holiness” (see Lumen Gentium). We MUST become saints. Period. There is no other option for the baptized. Through baptism we have been marked for Christ. If we fail to reach out for holiness each day, we will fall short of our vocation. If we don’t follow the aroma of heaven already on earth, it will be unfamiliar to us in the next life. Many men and women, boys and girls, have lived this path before us, therefore REJOICE! It is possible!
Repent. The word itself, when considered from its Greek roots (metanoia), means to turn around completely. This is not just some sissy quarter-spin towards sanctity; it is a conversion of one’s whole life. The hardest thing, I believe, is the sacrifice required. In our day and age, we are so used to being always content and always comfortable. As a culture, we tend to live in a state of placidity—calm serenity and an avoidance of any pain, suffering, or sacrifice. But this is not what we are called to . We are called to move mountains and set the world on fire. I have realized that, oftentimes, we as Catholics are afraid to share our faith. A few months ago, for instance, I asked a lady to take a Catholic pamphlet to a protestant who followed a “Scripture alone” theology. She looked at me with fear. I asked her why she was anxious. She told me that, if this protestant asked her a question, she would not know how to answer. I looked her dead in the eyes, and I said, “do not be anxious how or what you are to answer or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12). She could not argue, and so she went. The conversation made me wonder, if a time of persecution did come, who would stand? Would some fall away because they were afraid of how to respond? Would others flee simply because they trusted themselves more than God? I have been in those situations, and I am sure I will be in many more. The point is, if God allows it, I need to grow from it.
Advent is fast-approaching. The call to repentance is sounding. Choose to follow the way of holiness this Advent, and for the rest of your life. Heaven, Purgatory and Hell all exist, and there is only one judgement. No second chances after your last breath, folks! Repent, for you neither know the day nor the hour. Repent, for the Lord gives us today to run towards Him. Repent, for today you may be welcomed into eternal life. Lastly, repent, because your neighbor might need to see your sacrificial love of God in action in order to inspire him/her to do the same.
Lord, grant me the graces I need to see your light through trials, and to follow it, despite my own fears, anxieties and worries. Let me be the person you created me to be, so that I may one day merit to be a saint in heaven, interceding for those still on the pilgrim way. Amen.