Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent in the Year of Faith

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

This Sunday we begin a special Advent — Advent in the Year of Faith. This whole year should be a time for asking about the quality and strength of our faith.

We live in a society that has lost its concept of human nature. People no longer live with a sense that there is one answer to the questions of where we come from and what we are here for.

We are encouraged in many ways to “compartmentalize” our lives. We are encouraged to define our personalities in different ways — according to the products we buy; the shows we watch; the teams we root for; our political parties; our ethnic heritage; or many other life-styles and “identities.”

Our faith in Jesus Christ can never be just one “compartment” of our lives. Faith is not a life-style “accessory,” something we “put on” on Sundays and then put back in the closet for the rest of the week.

Our faith in Jesus Christ must be the light that fills our whole lives — all our hearts and minds and strength. Our faith should be transforming. It should be lived with a sense of gratitude — because faith is a gift from God. It should be lived in relationships of love — love for God and love for others. And our faith in Jesus Christ should involve us deeply in his church — the family of God that he is building in history and in society.

The foundation of our faith is the realization that we belong to God’s family — that we are sons and daughters of God who is our Father. This is the summary and the essence of the “good news” that Jesus Christ revealed to us. St. John said it beautifully. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God. And so we are!” (1 John 3:1).

So we are! This is our true identity. We are children of God.

Advent is a season of waiting. But what are we waiting for? We are waiting for a child. We are waiting for the Son of God.

Our whole religion can be understood in this filial and family “key.” As Christians, we are a people who believe that a certain moment in history, the living God sent us his only begotten and beloved Son.

His Son was conceived and born in a mother’s womb and raised in a human family. And Jesus came to proclaim among us the good news of our own divine filiation — the good news that God is our Father.

When Jesus was baptized, God spoke these words: “This is my beloved Son!” And we believe that when we were baptized God said the exact same thing about us. In this Year of Faith, we need to make Advent a time to deepen our sense of our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God. So we are!

We need to make this Advent a time for a new conversion. Conversion is first of all a conversion to Jesus Christ. In him we see the perfection of human nature. We see what a true child of God looks like. Conversion means accepting the gifts of grace that God gives us in his Word and in the sacraments and striving every day to be more like Jesus.

Here is one practical suggestion for deepening our sense of divine filiation during this Advent. Try to meditate often on the Christmas scenes in the Gospels. Ask our heavenly Father to help you to really see and experience Jesus as a Child of God.

Try to really put yourself into the Gospel scenes. Imagine that you are one of those who have come down to the manger to see the child with his Mother Mary and St. Joseph. Imagine the whole scene in Bethlehem.

Feel yourself picking up the baby Jesus and holding him in your arms. See yourself looking down at his tiny face and smiling at him and talking to him with love. Tell the child everything that is in your heart.

Let’s keep one another in prayer this Advent. Let’s try to really pray for one another as sisters and brothers in one family of God. How beautiful it would be if every day each one of us would try to pray for the person in our archdiocesan family who needs God’s help the most.

And let’s talk to Mary as our true mother. Let’s ask her to help us see more clearly the face of her Son during this Advent, so that we might see our own true identity as children of God.

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

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