My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
So we start the new year in the liturgy of the Church.
Advent is about getting ready for the coming of Jesus. This is a time of renewal — a time to renew our relationship with Jesus. A time to be watchful, to be alert. It is a new opportunity for all of us to, as I said before, to start anew in our spiritual life, in our looking for Jesus in our daily life.
But today is also the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life that has been declared by Pope Francis. He’s asking, the Pope is asking, the whole Christian people to be increasingly aware of the gift which is the presence of our many consecrated men and women.
So today and starting today for the whole year, we want to pray for all our religious sisters and brothers serving in the Archdiocese and we want to ask God to bring many more men and women to follow this vocation, this special discipleship.
And for all of us, we pray for our renewed love of consecrated life. It is a very interesting time in the life of the Church as we started this liturgical year so pray especially for our brothers and sisters in consecrated life.
Advent is a time of expectation for the coming of Jesus. We all are so busy in our lives that we need this time of grace every year to help us to reflect on how we can be more aware of Jesus’ presence in our lives.
You know that Thanksgiving weekend is supposed to be a family weekend and we’re just coming out of it but it seems that every year it becomes more and more busy! We have all kinds of, I guess, offers to go shopping with Black Friday and Cyber Monday and on and on and on.
Besides that we have our own personal commitments to family, work, and different things. So it’s important for stop as we start this new year and try to begin again and center our lives in what is going to happen on Christmas day: the celebration of Jesus coming to Earth.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that our lives are part of something bigger — something even more beautiful. And that’s what Advent is for.
In the Gospel passage for this first Sunday of Advent, Jesus tells us:
Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come. …
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
My dear brothers and sisters, we do not want to be found sleeping throughout our lives! We want to make sure that we are seeing all the signs of God’s presence in the world. We want to make sure that we are paying attention to what God is asking from us in our daily lives.
Because everything starts with God! That’s what the Prophet Isaiah is telling us in the first reading of today’s Mass.
The Prophet Isaiah tells us two important things about God. First, he tells us that God is our Father. We heard those beautiful, simple words: You, Lord, are our Father.
Now the second thing the Prophet tells us today is that God made us with a purpose in mind. Just like an artist makes a painting or a sculpture.
The Prophet Isaiah says:
O Lord … we are the clay and you the potter;
we are all the work of your hands.
What a beautiful image of our lives, right? We are God’s handiwork, God’s project. Each one of us is like God’s own work of art.
It’s beautiful when we think about it.
So the point today is this simple, powerful truth. We matter to God. Each one of us is “somebody special” to God. God wants each one of us to be happy. He wants us to know his love, to have a tender loving relationship with him.
And just as you are “somebody special” to God, God wants us to spread this truth to others. God wants us to “be somebody to somebody” — as Blessed Mother Theresa used to say — o that people around us will feel God’s love and mercy; so that they will feel that they really are God’s work of art.
What a beautiful mission we have, to help others discover that they are so special to God.
There is a story that I wanted to share with you that I recently read about one of our local saints — the Venerable Mother Luisita. As you probably know, she came from Mexico to Los Angeles in the 1920s and founded the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart, who are still very active in the Archdiocese.
Mother Luisita grew up in Mexico — in Jalisco, Mexico. Her family owned a big ranch and her father would take Luisita out to oversee the work that was being done on the ranch.
Her father was a good man. He treated the people who worked for him with respect and kindness. But the young Luisita would never even look at the people that we working for her father or talk to them.
One day, her father had enough and he said to her: “My little daughter,” in a colloquial way he said to her, “will your tongue wear out if you simply greet these people?”2 Like saying, “what’s wrong with you? Will you please talk to these people?”
It was a moment that changed Luisiata’s life — a moment that taught her about human dignity and about compassion and love. She never forgot her father’s words. Very simple, kind of inconsequential moment in her life, but it was a moment of grace. I’m sure that her father didn’t know that day that he was helping her to become a saint!
I like this story, as simple as it is, because it teaches us how important our little actions can be. Just saying a friendly word, just paying attention to someone. These little acts of kindness can show people that they matter to God, that they are “somebody special” to God.
So my dear brothers and sisters, during this first week of Advent, let us try to reflect on the fact that God is our Father and that we are his work of art.
We have to have, during this time of Advent, that urgency to improve in our spiritual lives. Advent is a good time to take note of the things that separate us from God. Advent is a good time to increase our desire to do God’s will and to do better, spiritually, in our relationship with God.
But Advent is also a very special time to make life better for others. Let us try to go out of our way to make other people — especially our families — to feel God’s love and mercy with those small acts of service. What a different world, what a better world it will be if we all try to do this every day.
So let us ask Mary our Blessed Mother for her intercession. Let’s ask her to help us to live more and more as children of God — making a difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters as during this Advent Season we joyful accompany Mary and Joseph to the celebration of Christmas, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Readings (First Sunday of Advent, Year B):ISa. 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7; Ps. 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; Marl 13:33-37.
2. Helenita Colbert, To Love Me in Truth (Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, 1987), 13-14.