This week, we enter the liturgical season of Advent. Advent has always been seen as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ, both as a baby at Christmas and more fully into our lives and hearts. In fact, Advent comes from the Latin adventus which translates into "coming." Fittingly, then, Jesus makes this point about preparation clear in this week's Gospel. In describing the Second Coming, Jesus makes it clear that it will come at a time when we are not expecting it. Therefore, we must always be prepared for this event to happen so we are not caught off guard. We must constantly be reading ourselves and our lives in anticipation of this event.
How do we prepare ourselves? The first and most important was is through prayer. Prayer should be the backbone of any Christian's life. It is through daily prayer that we are strengthened to live our lives as Christians. It is through prayer that we discern God's will for our lives. It is through prayer that we build our relationship with God: a relationship that, if given the chance, will influence us to become His witnesses in the world. By making prayer a cornerstone in our lives, we prepare our hearts and minds for our ultimate goal: spending eternity in the presence of God.
If we center ourselves in prayer, the rest of our preparations naturally follow. It is not enough to simply spend our lives consumed in prayer. To truly prepare, we must go out into the world and proclaim Christ's message that God is Love. We do this through both our words and our deeds. We are called to be missionaries to everyone and, in doing so, become ambassadors of God's love and mercy. This is something that must be practiced and must become a conscious choice which is made every moment of every day. It is easy to focus on our own lives and become self-centered. It is far harder to try to focus everything on the other as Christ did. He is our model and our example. This is what He wants us to become.
During Advent this year, find some concrete ways to prepare. Think of how you can change your own life to become more Christlike to others. Spend more time in prayer each day. Attend daily Mass. Extend an olive branch to someone you have a difficult relationship with. Go as a family to serve others in your community. There are a myriad of ways that we each can prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Make the best use of this Advent and don't let yourself be caught asleep at the wheel!