Do you remember Christmas? I know… seems so very long ago. Even more shocking, do you remember Advent? So much has happened since we first heard the cry of the Prophet, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
And now, here we stand on the cliff of the end of 2018. The New Year is viewed by most as the impetus to take an eraser to their past and resolve to be better people: to repair broken relationships, to restore themselves emotionally, to refresh themselves spiritually, to rebuild themselves physically… an opportunity to just get it right.
Let me tell you about something interesting I notice pretty often. Actually, I hear it at just about every single funeral at which I minister or attend. If I were a betting man, I’d bet you’ve also heard it. Shoot… you’ve probably said it. I have.
“Tell people you love them while they can still hear it.”
It’s a universal thing when people grieve, I think, that they want to help others not make the same mistakes they made and so offer suggestions like that one. Well meaning, and I think it’s beautiful, and absolutely we must do it. We must. And then I get sidetracked and time passes and I don’t do it at all. You too? We’re human, I guess, but God continues to give us opportunities to try again… to get it right.
In meditating on this thought, I was struck with the realization that we just came from such a time. We Catholics should have been yelling “Happy New Year” on the First Sunday of Advent. No, I’m not crazy (no comments!!!) … with Advent starting just 5 short weeks ago, we began a new Liturgical Year (Cycle C), with the call to “Prepare, ye, the way.”
Prepare. Did we prepare? Are you like me in the feeling of regret over all I didn’t get to in Advent… in 2018?
If you’re at all like me, you were probably more concerned about the preparations for Christmas. Gifts, cards, decorations, food, parties, planning… Advent calls us to get ready, that’s for sure. But not gifts or food or parties. I’m wondering now if my spirit was ready for Christmas. I wonder if I made the room in the inn of my heart for Jesus to be born.
Emmanuel. God, with us. As it says in today’s Gospel, “The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.”
I think I may have missed the Advent opportunity to sweep out the junk from my life so to make room for a new Bethlehem in my heart. Maybe you also feel the same sense of “whoops” that I do.
But there is good news – 2019 starts tomorrow. We have the chance to create our resolutions anew with a focus on what’s really important. And that’s not all – God gifts us with endless opportunities to come home. To get it right. To throw ourselves on the inexhaustible love and mercy of our creator. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, the daily Eucharist, Lent, Advent… every single breath… all points in time to put a step in a better direction.
To “testify to the true light” by the way we live our lives.
So, friends, what’s your first step?
Dear God of New Year’s, thank you for the gift of fresh beginnings. Grant us the grace of a broom with which we can sweep away all that keeps us from recognizing and welcoming you into our hearts and lives. And please, help us all never break our resolution to be closer to you. Amen.
Paul Puccinelli is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Rita Parish in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Retreat-Team at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center.