A special thank you this week to our friends from St. John de La Salle Women’s Guild, Chicago in the congregation.

First Sunday of Advent

I’ve always enjoyed placing my hand upon the head of a child too young to receive Holy Communion. This small child is either carried up in the arms of the parents or walks up on his or her own. I always place my right hand upon their head to give them a simple blessing.

Many years ago when I was a young priest at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Schaumburg, I would do the very same thing. Every child coming forward received a blessing. One day after mass, a little six-year-old boy asked his mother, “Mom, every time I go up with you for Holy Communion, why does Father Greg measure me?” In my mind I’m giving the child a blessing. In his mind, I’m measuring him like a ride at Great America. Too small to go on the ride.

How do I measure Advent’s real meaning without missing Advent’s purpose? Do I risk missing Advent this year because my to-do list is a mile long? Today’s gospel proclaims: be watchful, be alert. Alert and watchful for what? Maybe alert and watchful against letting our life slip away without doing those things which reflect Christ’s presence in our world through us. Advent’s real meaning and purpose.

In their book The Conway Twitty Story, the author tells how the country music star felt a bit envious when other singers shot up ahead of him on the record charts. Then one day, someone told Conway a story that took away his envy. A missionary had spent his entire life in China and a singer had spent two weeks in China, retuned home on the same boat back to the United States. Thousands met the singer, but nobody met the missionary.

“Lord,” said the missionary, “I gave my life, and he gave only 14 days yet thousands welcome him and nobody welcome me.” The Lord replied, “My son, you’re not home yet.” That story dramatizes Jesus’ message his first Sunday of Advent. Jesus urges us to start living, or to keep living.

Advent means more than preparing for the birth of the child in the world. Advent means instead, the coming of the real Christ into our lives. Take time as Advent, because people don’t care how much you know, but they want to know how much you care.