Advent is under way

One of the Christians at the table mentioned that they were already listening to Christmas music, and Fr. Drake groaned as I admitted that I was doing the same thing. 

Welcome to article 12 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Br. Josh, MIC, a second-year seminarian at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. It is the continuation of Br. Josh's previous column, "Novice Notes." Watch for a new column every Friday.

By Br. Josh, MIC 

I sat down at a long table in the basement of the Holy Family rectory, near Fr. Drake and some candidates to enter the Catholic Church and their sponsors. Father Drake was at the head of the table, leading our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) meetings. 

I was assisting Fr. Drake. This would be my missionary activity for at least the first year of my time studying at Franciscan University. 

After Fr. Drake led us in a prayer, he said, “Now, before we start, perhaps Br. Josh would be willing to start us off with some thoughts about Advent?”

Coming of the Messiah
I explained to our Protestant brothers and sisters at the table, “Advent is about the coming of the Messiah. The entire history of the people of God in the Old Testament, thousands of years of history, was focused on the coming of Christ into the world. They were looking forward to their Messiah’s coming. Advent reminds us of how God prepared His people for their Messiah, until Jesus was born. 

“However, you’ll notice that the Bible readings at Mass also focus a lot on the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world. Advent not only is about Israel’s preparation for Jesus’ First Coming, but it also is about preparing ourselves today for His Second Coming at the end of the world. 

“A third meaning of Advent, which I’ve heard every priest talk about at Mass during Advent, is that Jesus is coming to us personally, both here and now, and also at the end of our own lifetime. We need to prepare our hearts to receive Him more intimately and personally right here and now.

“There’s a lot that could be said here about spiritual awakening or encountering God in prayer, but I’m not sure this is the right moment to plunge deep into all of that. However, that personal encounter with Christ in the life of each of us is the coming that we need to particularly be attentive to during Advent.”

Christmas music?
We have a good group of Christians coming into the Catholic Church, and they listened with interest as I explained further how Advent works in the liturgy to prepare the Church for Christmas. 

One of the Christians at the table mentioned that they were already listening to Christmas music, and Fr. Drake groaned as I admitted that I was doing the same thing. 

Advent is special, and Fr. Drake didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle of our Christmas festivities. He is right, of course, and I didn’t argue with him — but I still sometimes sneak around listening to my Christmas music in the early morning before anyone in my house is awake! 

Church authority
As our RCIA meeting got into full swing, Fr. Drake started going through various scriptures in which Jesus explained Church authority. He explained Matthew 18:15-18, which shows how God had nothing like Protestant denominationalism in mind when He established the Church. Jesus says in this scripture that if a man sins, we should rebuke him, and if he doesn’t listen, we should bring others along to convince him, but if he still doesn’t listen, we should take the matter to “the church.” 

Jesus added, “If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or tax collector.” The bite lacks teeth if the wrongdoer could easily do what is done today — just ditch that annoying, judgmental little church and go find a different one that’s more to taste. “The church” was not a church, it was “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), and it had authority.

I felt a warm surge of happiness as we pondered multiple Bible passages that influenced my own conversion to the Catholic faith. 

When we finished our meeting, I told Fr. Drake, “Hearing again these scriptures that helped me become Catholic felt like meeting old friends.”

He laughed in agreement. He was an old former Pentecostal preacher himself, and knew exactly what I meant.

Next: "The Immaculate Conception's Presence."
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