There is an old story from a monastery in the Middle Ages. The cook for the monastery was a monk who faithfully lived out his vocation of prayer, charity and humble service. One day, when he was cooking dinner for the monks and guests, some visitors asked him, “If you knew that you had only 30 more minutes on earth, what would you do?” He replied calmly, “I would continue to cook dinner. That is what Jesus wants me to do right now, and when I meet Him I want to be doing as He wishes.”
Advent, the liturgical season before Christmas, is a special time for asking how we are preparing now to receive Jesus, as Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the magi did in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. The term advent comes from the Latin phrase ad venire, which means “to come toward.” We should realize that Jesus is always coming toward us, in the Eucharist, in our neighbor, in our prayer, and as our lives progress; and we should focus on how we are prepared to receive Him. The ideal is to be as calm as that monk was, ready to meet Jesus at any time.
When there are joys, such as the Christmas luncheon and religious education pageant this Sunday, we give God thanks for these first promises of the greater kingdom. When there are struggles, we strive to recognize that Jesus Christ struggles with us. It is also important to ask what aspects of our lives we would not want to present to Jesus and to repent of them, especially taking advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation. Advent is also a time to renew our prayer lives, to make sure that we are setting aside time each day for conversation with the Almighty God and with the angels and saints whose company we wish to join. We should also advance in our understanding of the faith both for our own spiritual lives and to be able to give the world the reasons for our hope. See 1 Peter 3:15.
And, at home, in neighborhoods, at work, in all ways, we ask how we would act if we physically saw Jesus there with us. If we make definite resolutions to sense Jesus with us on our earthly journey, to repent of sins, to advance in prayer and to make our faith more present to the world, we will more and more fulfill the words of St. John the Baptist, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”