As we arrive at this final Sunday of Advent, my prayer is that those who await the prince of peace might have it already, in abundance in their life. That’s what this is all about, after all, you know. In Jesus, through the incarnation, God brings peace to the human heart. Not anxiety, not fear, not guilt or shame, but peace and comfort, and calm. That’s how you know Emmanuel–God is with us.
When we lived in Salinas I taught a couple of students, Spencer and Trevor Seeley, and then lo and behold, their family ended up moving in just a house over from us, and we became very good friends–and we are still friends. They came to visit with us yesterday. They drove two hours through some incredibly thick fog and arrived at around ten o’clock in the morning. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do all day, but time flew by and before we knew it it was time to leave and time for bed. What a wonderful visit with friends–no drama, no gossip, no arguing, just laughing and visiting and loving…Emmanuel–God is with us.
You must have those people in your life don’t you? Those people who bring life and love and joy to your heart? We need to cultivate these kinds of friendships; would that all our friendships be so life giving. It requires a commitment, however, a choice to remove from our life negative, unhealthy relationships that bring guilt and shame and sorrow. We need to clear out the unhealthy in order to make room for the life-giving relationships that nourish our soul.
And so it is with God. If we want God to fill our life. If we want a meaningful and life-changing relationship with God, we need to clear out of our lives what St. Paul calls “the works of the flesh.” They are, “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.” He warns them, “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (GAL 5:20) These are those earthly vices that prevent us from reaching our destiny, eternal glory with God.
Therefore we must strive eagerly to put off the works of the flesh, be reconciled to God, unite ourselves to Him, and be saved–time and time again. This is what it means to be saved. Often non catholic missionaries will knock on the door and ask if we are saved, and often times we’re not quite sure what to say; here it is, “I’ve been saved, I’m being saved, and I will be saved.” We’ve been saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross. We’re being saved at this very moment and at every moment when we say yes to God and no to the things of this world. And we will be saved so long as we persevere in making God first place in our life and so long as we cling to him to our very last breath. In other words, we have work to do…we have a part to play. We must strive.
It was through the Holy Spirit “that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins,” that’s what the angel told Joseph. Jesus will save us from our sins…if we let him. Salvation means giving our yes to the Lord daily–if not every minute of every day. It means removing obstacles from our life all that are unGodly. It means attending reconciliation monthly–and at the very least during Lent and Advent.
It means we must stay alert and be prepared. Next week we celebrate Christmas–Emmanuel–God with us, but we must prepare. No anxiety, no fear, no guilt or shame, just peace, and comfort and calm. No drama, no gossip, no arguing, just laughing and visiting and loving…Emmanuel –God is with us. What a beautiful gift, but we must prepare. Remove the sin, attend Reconciliation, and embrace a life of holiness. God is with us.