it’s Advent season — a period of preparation for two “comings”! 

First, we’re preparing for the coming of Christmas, the celebration of God becoming incarnate in His Son, Jesus Christ. Second, we’re preparing for Jesus Christ’s Second Coming, not the end of the world, but the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom on earth.

In this sublime twofold celebration, the Church is inviting us to enter into a deeper communion with God who wants us to be drawn to Him. In God’s most humble and generous act, He let His Son, Jesus, to be in our midst and to establish the Church that would continually be a Sacrament of God’s presence in the world. 

How would we come into deeper communion with God during this heightened period of expectation? Our Scripture readings this First Sunday suggest some ways. 

The Book of Jeremiah (Jer 33:14-16) urges us to trust in God’s promises of protection and justice and to acknowledge His power and presence in our lives. From the lips of Jeremiah came this oracle: “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: ’the Lord our justice.’” 

Amidst our fears and insecurities about the state of affairs of this world and our personal lives, isn’t communion with God about entrusting our preoccupations to Him and resting in His presence in quiet prayer? Isn’t it about total surrender to him who in the end will bring justice,  especially to those who are wronged?  

The Book of Psalms (25:4-5) tells us that to be united to God means to follow his paths. Although they are not easy to follow, they are the sure way of attaining peace in ourselves and the world. God invites us then to search our hearts and see where we are along His paths. Every day our prayer should be: ”Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day.” 

A communion with God should transform human relationships in order to be genuine. It should make us increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading (1 Thes 3:12-4:2). And so, one cannot profess his love for God if he does not have love and respect for his or her fellow human beings. 

Hence, as the Gospel (Lk 3:12-4:2) says, our communion with God requires vigilance. This means that we need to be aware of our overindulgence in the things and pleasures of the world to the detriment of our spiritual health and the loss of our souls. The words of John the Baptist apply to us: ”Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life.”

This is the same Advent message of Pope Francis for us on Nov. 27 in St. Peter’s Square. He said that Advent is an invitation “to sobriety, to not be dominated by the things of this world, to material reality, but rather to govern them. If on the contrary, we are conditioned and overpowered by them, it is not possible to perceive that which is much more important: our final encounter with the Lord: and this is important. That, that encounter.” (Source: Catholic News Agency) 

Let’s allow the spirit of Advent to draw us closer to God. Let it be an opportunity to come to a more profound knowledge of God and His ways!

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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