This blog post begins my Advent series, but is also from a homily for the First Sunday of Advent.
Before I entered the priesthood, I was a bus driver for Mississauga Transit. Each year, we would have a little ceremony where drivers who had an accident-free year were given a little award. I remember one year, one of the veterans who had an impeccable record for good driving [it was like a 20-year award] was asked what his secret was to being a great driver. Without missing a beat, he said “I kept my eyes on the road!” Of course we all laughed, but there’s a truth about that I’ve never forgotten because when I think of the Christian journey and especially our readings today that begin our Advent part of that journey – I think it’s good advice for us all to be mindful of as we begin again and re-dedicate ourselves as Catholic Christians. “Keep your eyes on the road”. We can all become distracted by other things. We can all lose focus from time to time. We can all fall into sloppy or unhelpful habits that make us feel more comfortable for a short time, but don’t help us where we are going. This happens when we are in the car – or bus as the case may be. It also happens in our Christian spiritual lives too. We see many accounts of it with the Apostles and other disciples in the Gospels, and I’m sure that most of us can see it in our personal lives as well. Here we are in Advent, four weeks of it before Christmas. We have time to prepare for the greatest gift of our faith: the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus. God loves us so much He came into the world to get us back to where He wanted us to be. That’s all of us! Keeping our eyes on the road in our faith helps us see Jesus really is with us, always: sacramentally, through His Word, in and through others and heaven lies ahead. Advent is a joyful time and we intently and intentionally prepare ourselves for Christmas – not only with shopping for gifts and food (although these things are important for bringing us closer to one another) we need to stop for a moment each day along the way and be mindful of why we do those things: food, family, presents: we do it because we are thankful. We do it because we see life, the Christian life we have been given as a gift. What does God tell us about love? If we love Him, the gift we offer the Lord in the way we love Him is to love others. We have four weeks to prepare for His greatest gift of love and all we have to be thankful for in that, to of course be thankful for the coming of the Lord but also to be thankful for what we have as well. Our faith and our personal lives need to meet each other in a deeper and more attentive way in Advent. In this way, we have the “big picture” and are keeping our “eyes on the road” so to speak.
When we keep our eyes on the road, just as when we drive we also can anticipate troubles and problems that lie ahead and how we can respond rather than react to them. If we see brake lights ahead of us, we are able to be prepared and slow down or stop slowly and cautiously. But if we are moving along not aware of what’s ahead, we slam on the brakes and quite possibly whatever’s in front of us and then we need to deal with the setbacks. Often we’re not able to handle the situation we face. Part of our Advent preparation is to look ahead. We hear readings about Our Lady and St. Joseph and how they handled tough decisions, impossible decisions even – with a trusting faith in God. We hear of Anna’s prophesy that Mary would experience a sword that would pierce her heart. Her bundle of joy would be a source of pain and sorrow for her. But we see she turned to her faith, she trusted the Lord and while this doesn’t take it away she realizes this can’t take away from the joy of the moment, and when the sad or heart-piercing moments of her life come (as they will) she is as ready as she is to embrace the moment she lives in now. The Holy Family will teach us that we too must draw strength from our faith, praying for a deeper trust in the Lord and thus a deeper faith. None of us want to spend our lives reacting to things (because we live in anger, frustration, bitterness) when we do. We want to be able to respond even to the challenges and hardships we face with love all around us. When we are thankful for all we have our problems seem less significant.
My friends, let us spend this Advent season with our hearts, minds and souls focused on all we have to be thankful for in our lives, on the source of the strength and courage we have been given in faith and let us “keep our eyes on the road” so to speak trying our best not to be distracted from focusing on faith, love and family once again. May this be a most Blessed Advent season for each of you. And may God bless us all!