"The time to awake is now."
St. Paul wrote this nearly two thousand years ago, but his message is just as urgent now, to us, as it was to his original readers, the Christians living in Rome.
Jesus warned of something similar in the Gospel reading yesterday from Luke: "Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy." And what is it that makes us so? Jesus says "drunkenness and carousing" (and Paul echoes Him in Rom 13:12-14, the second reading at Mass today), but He also adds, "the anxieties of daily life."
We can lose sight of the urgency of spiritual realities through self-indulgence on the one hand or even focusing too much on our responsibilities. This life--either our attachments and enjoyments or our worries and personal goals--can render us blind to spiritual concerns.
Souls are being lost.
Whenever the Second Coming may occur, the final days of individuals are here now--every day. They need our prayers and sacrifices.
I know this intellectually, but it hasn't been making enough of an impression on my heart nor enough of an impact on my daily life. Not like Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia of Portugal a century ago. When God woke them up, they began giving away their lunches every day to poor children--though they themselves were all under 10 years old. They would postpone drinking water on a sultry day in order to have something to offer up. They would look for ways to make sacrifices for souls.
Lord, wake me up. Help me to imitate them. May the eternal destiny of souls weigh on my heart much more heavily, and may I feel that much more intensely and urgently than my appetites or petty concerns or self-indulgence of any kind. Give me a heart eager to help others, eager to imitate You who suffered so much more than I ever have or am likely to suffer, in order to save souls. Let me seek ways to cooperate with You in Your work of salvation.
Advent is not a time to start celebrating Christmas early so that we're tired of it by the time it arrives. Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. It is a time to wake up and remember the spiritual truths we believe and deepen our efforts to live accordingly.
For centuries Christians prepared for seasons of feasting with fasting--not only Lent before Easter, but Advent before Christmas as well. Don't wait until New Year's Day to make resolutions. Make them now. Make a plan to live Advent well.
The best birthday gift you can give Jesus is a clean heart, dedicated to Him, imitating Him in acts of mercy to others.