Today is the first Sunday of Advent; it begins a new part of the Church’s year. So Jesus says, “Keep awake; pay attention; watch.” [To see the words of today’s gospel, click here.] There is one author who says our spiritual life depends on those words–see, look, pay attention. Why? We need to see where God is working in our lives, how the Lord is touching us. Sometimes we have to look very carefully to see how Jesus is working, where do we find Him. Pay attention to what? How much we accomplish in life? No. How much money we earn? No. Pay attention to our relationships. One very important relationship is our relationship with God, how is it? Do we need a more trusting relationship with God, more prayerful relationship with God? Are all of us perfectly holy? I am not. Maybe you are. We need to have a more deep relationship with God.
We have a deeper relationship with God when we see the Lord is always with us, touching us, guiding us, influencing us, caring for us. In all that happens to us, God the Lord is with us. In happy times, in sad times, in warm wonderful times, in challenging times, the Lord is with us. When we succeed, we fail, no matter, the Lord is with us. But you and I have to notice, pay attention, see that the Lord is with us, wants to do good in us.
We can see the Lord acting in us in two ways. First, the Lord comes challenging us, wants us to become better persons. You who are mothers and fathers, you want your children to be good, successful, happy people, right? You encourage them, sometimes you warn them, sometimes you punish them, why? Because you hate your children? No. Your goal is always the same to help them become better persons. God is a kind Father, wants us to become better persons, better children of God, more holy sons and daughters, so God can look down and say, “You are truly my daughter, my son. Your work? You show my love to the world’s people.”
The Lord reminds us that he is coming to judge us, to see how we use his gifts to us. Do we do good or not? God does not judge us; he accepts our decision. I decide I want to be good. God will accept my decision. But sometimes people will decide, “I want to do bad, the wrong things in life.” God says, “Okay, your decision, I accept it.” God is going to look at us and see are we doing good. In our relationships with other people are we more kind, more forgiving, more warmly accepting, more patient with other people? Is it always easy? Not always easy; sometimes it is a great challenge. But the Lord always encourages us to do better. And the Lord will always help us to do better and help us to become more holy people.
If God comes to judge us, he also comes to save us, why? Look at the first reading today, see the name of God “Savior.” [To see the words of the first reading, click here.] It means God wants all of us to be happy. God wants us to be the best persons we can be. God wants us to have full, happy lives. God is always looking down to find what is wrong? No. God wants us to be better, more content, more comfortable, more happy.
So, pay attention, look: two things the Lord wants to do for us to benefit us. First, He challenges us to become better persons. And second, God wants the best for us, wants us to be happy, wants us to have full lives right now.
Changing our lives is not always easy. But the Lord God is always willing to help us become better persons. But we have to make the effort to change; we must work to become the best person God wants us to be.
Let me end with a story about a man, a husband. His relationship with his wife was not very good. The man decided, “I am going to change myself; I want a better relationship with my wife.” The husband and wife went on vacation together. During the two weeks of their vacation the man was kind, warm, paid attention to his wife, talked very nicely with her, listened to her. Everything was fine, wonderful, happy for the two weeks. Near the end the man looked at his wife; she was crying. He wondered, “What is wrong?” The wife said, “You have been so nice to me; is something wrong? I visited the doctor three weeks ago. Did he find something? Am I sick? Do I have cancer? Will I die soon? Is that why you are so nice?” The husband said, “No, no. I need to be a better husband; our relationship needs to improve. I am trying to make our relationship better. Nothing is wrong. After these two weeks I feel so much better. I am not so selfish, not so worried about myself. I need to focus on you more, why? Because I love you.”
This time of Advent reminds us to look, to see. See the Lord working in our lives, guiding us. See ourselves honestly, know where we need to become better persons.