Making a Holy Advent: Allow Christ to Enter into Our Lives

Don’t waste Advent. It’s a wonderful season that allows us to prepare for the coming of Our Lord, as well as look forward to His coming again.

The words for Advent are: Peace, Hope, Joy, Love.

Don’t waste Advent. Live it and allow Jesus to be born again in your heart.

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O Come, O Come Emmanuel

This is my favorite Advent Hymn. I love its haunting melody and plaintive cry for our savior. It makes me think of all the lost people who are crying out for Him, even, sometimes, with their angry attacks on Christianity.

At heart, so much of this culture’s anger toward our faith is a cry of unrequited love from people who don’t know that God loves them.

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Advent in 2 Minutes

Busted Halo created this cute video about Advent. I hope it cheers you a much as it did me.

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Finding Normal

It’s still Advent.

Christmas is right around the corner.

We have to pull ourselves out of the grief cycle and find normal again. This isn’t easy. It’s never easy. But after a season of repeated tragedies layered on top of a tumultuous political campaign, it’s even harder.

Finding normal is the work in front of us.

Advent is a holy season of self-examination and repentance. Those activities seem especially fitting in this week after Sandy Hook. We need to use these days of prayer to draw closer to our God and seek His comfort and His direction.

At the same time, we have the work of preparing for Christmas. We have presents to wrap, food to buy and houses to clean. If we have little children, it is our responsibility to create Christmas for them. Remember that Christmas is more than presents and feasting. It is the birthday of our Savior.

Once more Americans have to find normal and live normal after a national tragedy has taken normal away from us. We will find normal in everyday things; in the cleaning, wrapping, praying and confessing of real life.

Healing comes from loving and living. It is in the warmth of our friendships and families; the safety of our homes. The dailiness of life will heal us, if we let it. Our resilience is in our faith and our ability to trust that even when things go wrong they are somehow also going right.

It is still Advent.

Christmas is coming.

And America is trying to find normal, once again.

Pope Benedict: Christmas is more than a party

I had just clicked on “buy” for a couple of Christmas gifts when I saw this reflection by the Holy Father.

In this buy, buy, buy society of ours, we all need reminding that, while Christmas is a time of rejoicing, feasting and fun, what we are celebrating is the coming of the Son of God.

Read the Pope’s thoughts on this below and have a blessed Sunday.

 

 

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2012 / 07:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Pope asked Catholics to prepare for Christmas amid a consumerist society by listening to the voice of John the Baptist, who teaches us to celebrate Christmas as more than a party.

“Our aim today is listening to that voice to give space and welcome to the heart of Jesus, the word that saves us,” said Pope Benedict XVI from his apartment window to pilgrims gathered below in St. Peter’s Square.

The Pope asked Catholics to “prepare to see with the eyes of faith the humble stable of Bethlehem, God’s salvation, in this time of Advent.”

“In the consumer society, in which we seek joy in things, John the Baptist teaches us to live in an essential way, so Christmas is experienced not only as an outward party outside, but as the feast of the Son of God who came to bring peace, life and true joy to people.”

“John plays a great role, but always in relation to Christ,” said the Pope on Dec. 9, following the feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.(Read more here.)

Confession: Medicine for the Soul

Confession is part of the conversion process in much the same way that taking medicine is part of the healing process.

The season of Advent requires us to examine our consciences and then to take the sins we find there to the confessional. This process of honest self-appraisal and equally honest confession results in an interior cleansing that I don’t think can happen in any other way.

I always mentally draw a line under my past misdeeds after confession and just simply forget them. They are done. Forgiven. Confession peels off the clingy guilts and scrubs away the stubborn stains of what I’ve done and turns me toward a better future.

I’ve also found that if I go to confession often and confess, as I usually do, the same sins over and over, I begin to change. Confession confers grace, including the grace of self-awareness. The desire to keep on committing these sins weakens with repeated confession and I gradually, without even noticing it, do them less and less.

It’s not an act of the will. It’s not even a conscious thing. It just happens.

I’m not a great theologian, so I can’t give you a treatise on why confession works, or even all its merits. I can only tell you that it does work. It is difficult to confess your sins. It can even be painful. But even if the priest in question is not a good confessor for you (and not all of them are good for everyone; we are, after all, individuals) the cleansing, the liberation and the grace of conversion still happen.

Confession, like all the sacraments, does not depend on the personality or even the sanctity of the individual priest. The graces of confession come from God and they are more a function of your honesty and willingness to accept what God offers you than anything else.

The Church guards the sacraments and preserves them from one generation, one historical challenge, to the next. It then makes them freely available to us. These sacraments, each of them, are an opportunity to meet God in this life in a dependable, simple, non-intellectual way. Everyone, from the youngest child to the most erudite intellectual, experiences the same taste of heaven in the sacraments.

The sacraments do not depend on our working ourselves up into an emotional state. They do not require us to understand deep theology. They don’t even require us to be good or holy. All we need to do is be honest about ourselves before God and willing to receive the gift He freely offers us through His Church.

Confession follows self-examination. It is the second step in the three-step dance of conversion. First, we look at ourselves honestly. Then, we ask forgiveness for our sins.

Through the gift of confession, we have the privilege of saying our sins out loud in front of another person. We are given the gift of hearing that we are absolved. And, finally, we can know without doubt that these things we have done are behind us. They are finished, over and through.

We can draw a line under our sins after confession and forget them, safe in the knowledge that God has forgiven us and these sad little sins are no more.

Christian Persecution: Christian Nigeria’s Witness for Jesus in the Face of Boko Haram’s Terrorists

Nigerian Christians are withstanding violent persecution at the hands of Islamic terrorists called Boko Haram. Their witness for Christ humbles me today, as if has for quite a long time. I will never forget the voice of a Nigerian Anglican Bishop’s wife as she told me “Those who persist in following Christ until the end will have eternal life.”

Eternal life in Christ was real to her. It sustained her and gave her not only a peace which passes understanding, but courage which passes understanding, as well.

When people are faced with the horror of repeated terrorist attacks as Christians in Nigeria are, and they respond with prayer and fasting as Christians in Nigeria do, I know that I am witnessing the courage that comes only from the grace of a loving God.

One of the many sins that we need to repent of in this Advent season is our indifference in the face of such magnificent courage and faith in Our Savior by our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world, especially in Nigeria.

The excerpted CNA article below describes one such act of courage among the many in Nigeria today.

Msgr. Obiora F. Ike walks in front of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Enugu, Nigeria. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need, www.kirche-in-not.ch.

Lagos, Nigeria, Nov 13, 2012 / 12:17 am (CNA).- After his parish in southern Nigeria was desecrated on Nov. 4, Monsignor Obiora F. Ike called on his parishioners to observe a week of prayer and penance.

“Msgr. Ike has called for seven days of prayer, fasting, penance and reparation for the Christian faithfuls and for the conversion of these perpetrators,” according to a statement on his website.

Around 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 4, attackers entered St. Leo the Great parish in Enugu, vandalizing the building and destroying infrastructure and sacred items.

Everything in the church was destroyed: the altar, sacred vessels, musical equipment, seats, the pulpit, statues, religious images, and the entire microphone system.

The destruction included “the Blessed Sacrament that was desecrated,” according to Msgr. Ike’s statement.

By 4:00 a.m. security agents arrived at the parish and assessed the damage. According to Msgr. Ike, the damage done totals around $63,500.

Sunday Mass at the parish was held outside “under the heavy sunshine.” Msgr. Ike’s sermon that day encouraged the congregation to “remain steadfast in their faith despite all the persecution, religious intolerance and fanaticism.” He also urged them to remain dedicated in prayer and forgive the perpetrators.(Read more here.)

Who Me? Are You Serious Lord?

Who me?

I’ve been a feminist for a long time.

The driving force to my feminism is violence against women in all its forms.

I was one of the six original founders of the YWCA Rape Crisis Center here in Oklahoma back in the early 1970s. Violence against women in its many forms led me into a hot-headed pro choice advocacy and ultimately to the position of NARAL Director for Oklahoma.

I’ve passed law after law trying to stop violence against women. I passed the original protective order here in Oklahoma, back in the day when the whole idea was considered radical. I even had opponents of the bill go on television and denounce me as being a Communist for passing it, something which amused me no end.

Year after year, decade after decade, I have worked to end violence against women. I’ve done everything I can. And you know what? It’s worse than ever. Women are sexualized and degraded for comic relief on mainstream television. They are pornified and reduced to objects on other channels. Movie after movie presents us with titillating scenes of women being beaten, raped, sodomized and murdered — all for our entertainment.

Type the word “rape” into your google search engine, and you’ll get page after page of hits on pornographic sites showing women being raped, tortured and murdered for fun.

The major thing that drove me away from any church and straight into my anti-God period was the indifference I saw to violence against women in the churches. I’ve seen horrific things in this regard and they drove me away from both church and God.

I don’t know of course, but I think that perhaps the reason God gave me such a knock-you-flat conversion experience is that I needed it to be able to see Him for Who He was. He poured such love on me, and by doing so, shared His real self with me in a way that wiped away all confusion as to His nature.

Even after all that, I was still so painfully hurt by all that had gone before that I actually prayed and asked God if He hated women. This prayer wasn’t a challenge. It wasn’t an attempt to argue with the Lord. It was an honest question, based on my own life experience.

God doesn’t often answer me directly, but He answered me then. It was one of those full understanding answers where He sort of downloaded a total vision of what women are to Him and how He truly feels about the abuse of women that is misogyny.

That answer was one of the most generous things He’s ever done for me. It was also life-altering. It has informed my walk with Christ and my understanding of what it means to be a Christian feminist, ever since.

Six years ago, when I was in Fatima, Portugal, God gave me another of those downloads. This time, it wasn’t an understanding. It was a commission of sorts, a commission I’ve hemmed and hawed about, that I’ve delayed acting on, ever since.

I was sitting in the cathedral there at Fatima. I wasn’t praying, exactly. I wasn’t not praying, either. I was just drifting in that Presence that saturates the whole grounds. I do that sometimes. It’s kind of like the Holy Spirit is a river, and I’m floating in it, just letting the current take me.

As I was floating in the soft waters of the Spirit, just drifting along, I understood that my life was going to change and I would be doing something different.

I won’t go into the whole of it now because I don’t think it’s time. But I will say that part of it involved writing three books; three books, that for one thing, share with the world that understanding of what women mean to God that He gave me so long ago. There’s more, but that’s enough for me to talk about now.

I’ve been so intimidated by the whole thing that I’ve delayed and put it off for six years.

There have been several times during those six years when the Lord has re-visited me about it. Each time He told me to stop waiting and begin. I’ve joked to friends that I don’t want to die and go stand before the Lord and have Him ask me “What part of ‘Write a book’ don’t you understand?”

But the truth is, I don’t want to die and stand before the Lord and have Him ask me “What part of ‘write a book’ don’t you understand?”

I’m not a kid anymore, and the Lord has given me work that I need to do before I die. So, I guess I’d better do it.

Tomorrow, I have surgery on my foot again.

It’s Advent.

How do those things connect, except by the calendar?

Well, post surgery is a great time for prayer. Thanks to the pain meds, it’s also a great time for falling asleep in the middle of prayer. But I have a number of precious little sins I need to give up. One of them is procrastination about the work that God has charged me with. I’ve been like Moses without Moses’ sanctity, complaining that I don’t have the ability to speak and besides nobody will listen to me and shouldn’t He ask somebody better????

All that over the writing part of what He told me to do. I won’t even go into my total inability to do the rest of it.

I need to repent of doubting Him. I need to repent of not doing what He told me to do. I need to stop listening to the doubting devil and start doing what I’m told.

The reason I’m telling you about this is to ask for your prayers. I need this Advent as a sweeping out, clearing away and facing forward time. I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life when I’ve needed a penitential season as much as I need this one.

As I said, I’m asking for your prayers. As Leah Lebresco would say, Ora pro me

 

 

Someone’s Coming, and We Need to Get Ready

Today is the first day of Advent. A time when we prepare to meet Our Lord.

I’ve read in books and seen on television a number of first person stories from people who were faced with imminent death. Many of them relate how, when the gun is pointed at their heads or the bear was chomping at their skulls, they asked God to forgive their sins and receive their souls. Then, almost invariably, they say they thought about their families.

Not once in any of these tales of survival in the face of death have I heard anyone say that they were worried about missing a meeting at their office or whether or not they would get their next promotion. Preparing to meet the Lord strips away all the little things that take up our days and leaves us with the stark reality of who we are in light of His justice and who we love in this world. When we are face to face with eternity, eternal things — love and the state of our souls in relation to God — are what matters.

One striking element of these narratives is that these people are, even in the face of their great peril, hopeful. They don’t just bemoan the ugliness of their sins as they compare to God’s justice, they ask, with certainty of His love, for forgiveness. They ask, with expectation that it will happen, for Him to receive their souls. They even ask Him to take care of the people they are going to leave behind.

The reason they have this confidence in God’s love, this hope of His forgiveness and that He will take them home when they die is that God become human in the form of a helpless little baby. That is what we are awaiting in Advent: The hope and the promise of the only One who can save us, the beginning of the end of death.

Advent is a door opening on our eternal salvation. It is the pathway that leads us to eternal life.

Someone’s coming. And we need to get ready.

Like everyone who knows that someone’s coming to their house, we need to sweep up the dust, straighten the pillows and stock the fridge with goodies. Only in this case, the house He is coming to is the real and eternal us: Our souls. Instead of a vacuum cleaner, we need confession.

All this is somewhat symbolic, of course. Jesus is already born. He has already suffered, died, been buried and rose again. The promise of Advent is reality for us already. But at the same time, this promise is also coming and on its way. We are battered, buffeted, chip, stained and pitted by the battles of our daily lives. We are embittered by our losses, defeated by our failures and enthralled with our victories.

We are, in short, too much of this world to be ready to receive our King. We need to pause and take stock of ourselves and we need to do it now. To paraphrase a soft drink commercial, we need that pause of humility and honest self-examination that refreshes. We must, if we are to be any use to Him at all, acknowledge our sins, look honestly at our failings and turn to Him for forgiveness and conversion of heart.

We are His instruments in this world. But before an instrument can be used, it must be cleaned, tuned and brought into good working order. After this election season and its many evils, after the struggles of our lives these past few months, we need this cleaning and tuning up.

We must prepare our eternal houses, our souls, to receive our Lord once again. That is what Advent is all about. If you would be His servant in this world, it is imperative that you not miss it.

I’m Going to Buy This Advent CD

Take a look at this beautiful YouTube video and enjoy. I am going to buy a copy of this CD for myself this Advent.

Have a blessed Sunday.

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