During Advent, we await the coming of Jesus. We chant, “O come, O come Emmanuel.” We have special readings at Mass. We light candles in our home.
At this season, we not only look back at the first coming of Christ, but we also look forward to His second coming. During this time of expectation when we await the advent of Christ, we not only reaffirm that Christ was born, but we remember that He promised to return.
Traditionally, Advent begins four Sundays prior to Christmas. This year, that was Dec. 1. For me, Advent began in September. That is when I had a total right knee replacement requiring 10 weeks of home confinement, intense physical therapy and general miserableness.
Being incapacitated like that gives one time to think about things that sometimes get swept aside in the busy course of our everyday lives. In my case, I contemplated frequently on my connection to God and to my Catholic faith.
Much like Advent – when we reflect on our relationship with God and prepare for the Incarnation of Christ – I spent much of my recuperation time considering whether or not I recognize that “God is with us,” the meaning of the Hebrew name, Emmanuel.
Sadly, I came to the conclusion that I do not. I have not done a very good job of recognizing that Jesus is very much a part of my life and that He manifests His great love for me in a million different ways. I do not always appreciate “God is with us.”
What prompted this reflection? Receiving Holy Communion that first Sunday I was released from the hospital.
The Eucharistic minister came to my home, and after a reading of the Gospel and offering a few prayers, he lifted the Sacred Host before me and said, “Behold the Lamb of God…” My response, of course, was, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
That is when it hit me. I am not worthy and yet the Lord did enter under my roof. This response – which I say every week at Mass – was not a prayer recited in church, but in my home. Jesus – whose body, blood, soul and divinity is truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament – came to me in my living room as I sat with an elevated knee packed in ice.
So moving was this very real and physical manifestation of something that I pray all the time, that it prompted me to start thinking about other ways that my Lord has come to me. I started to wonder why I could see Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, but could not see Him other places. That was the start of my own personal Advent.
Once I started thinking and looking for the ways that “God is with us,” the more convinced I became that He truly is.
I saw God with me in the skilled surgeon and terrific nurses who took care of me in the hospital. I saw God with me in the neighbors who were kind enough to bring meals that I could not cook for myself. I saw God with me in those who stopped by to visit and dispel the isolation that I sometimes felt. I saw God with me in the friends who drove me to doctor’s appointments and physical therapy sessions and who ran to the grocery store for me. I saw God with me in those who came to walk my dog for me. And I saw God with me in the members of the synagogue next to my home who put me on their prayer list for a speedy recovery.
It is appropriate to say that I saw the light.
Advent is rightly celebrated with lights, whether they be the candles of the Advent wreath, or the lights with which we decorate our homes. These lights recall that a prophecy made thousands and thousands of years ago has come true. The great prophet Isaiah saw that “the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. To them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.” (Isaiah 9:2)
In these days of Advent, the Church calls us to examine our lives, and amend and correct those faults that separate us from God and that hinder us from receiving Him with pure hearts. I began to do that with my own Advent and I continue to do that with the Advent I celebrate with the Church.
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