GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER

by Sister Mary Lucy Astuto

How to Prepare for Christmas!

During this Advent Season we are called to prepare our hearts in a special way for the Birthday of Our Lord, Jesus. If we have lived any length of time (in a state of conscientiousness)... most especially in a state of spiritual conscientiousness, we find that every year we must TRY again. The story of our lives is one of repeated "falling" and "rising." Isn't it marvelous that our good God gives us so many chances. (He gave the angels only one chance!) And isn't it wonderful that God does not expect us to be perfect. He simply wants us to try every day... to make choices for Him every day... to keep making efforts to say "Yes!" to Him every day. Therein, however, comes the sacrifice.

We all admire the martyrs, those who laid down their lives for their faith in God. I have sometimes wondered, and I hope God does not find me brash in this thought, if having one's head cut off, like St. Paul or St. Thomas More, or being shot, like Fr. Pro wasn't a lot easier than the daily martyrdom that being faithful to God every day takes from us.

Our Lady of Fatima touched on this in 1917 when she indicated that doing our every day duties is a "sacrifice" that God asks of us.

Let's face it! Most of us are not going to be Mother Teresas. We are not going to be a Joan of Arc who leads an army into battle. We are not going to be a King Solomon who was given tremendous wisdom in the governing of his kingdom. (Most of us don't even have a kingdom, unless we call our cluttered houses or wild families such. Where's the wisdom when we need it?) Most of us are the simple ordinary folk who sometimes ask ourselves: "Does God even know I exist? Does He care about how I'm getting beat up in this life? Who turned out the lights?"

Yes, the God of Heaven and earth does know each one of His children, and He does care about each one as though that one were the "one and only." Didn't He say: "The very hairs of your head are all numbered!"? Even we ourselves don't know that number!

The truth of the matter is that NO ONE lives this life without troubles... without the cross... without suffering. We forget that suffering not only has meaning, it is necessary for our formation. (I do have a problem, however, with people who think they have a right to inflict suffering on others and think they are justified in doing so!)

From the moment Our Lord was born, He had something to suffer! The cave was cold, and if there were a few animals therein (and mostly likely there were), it had to have a stench! Immediately, even as a Baby, Our Savior was teaching us some very important things. He was saying: I am your Savior. I am Who should be the most important in your life! Things should never be your God! Things should never master you! I come for you! I come to do the Will of My Father, and in so doing, I am teaching you how to live... I have come to teach you what is important...and what should be USED but not AB-USED.

Our Lord had a lot to suffer all of His Holy Life. He was rejected, misunderstood, lied about, blasphemed. Isn't it interesting that those who crucified Our Lord thought they were doing the right thing?

Our Lord told Sr. Faustina that if we meditate on His Passion, we would rise above the scorn of men. How true! There was nothing that we suffer that He did not suffer...except, of course, sin.

In Our Lady's November 25, 1996 message to the world, she again invites us to "pray, so that through prayer, fasting and small sacrifices you may prepare yourselves for the coming of Jesus. May this time, little children, be a time of grace for you. Use every moment and do good, for only in this way will you feel the Birth of Jesus in your hearts. If with your life you give an example and become a sign of God's Love, Joy will prevail in the hearts of men..."

Little sacrifices, our sufferings of every day offered to God with love and even praise are ways of preparing for Christmas. We're going to suffer anyhow, folks! "Unless you deny yourselves, take up your cross every day," Our Lord says in the Scriptures, "you cannot be My disciple."

Since we are going to suffer anyhow, we might as well offer these sacrifices to God, so that our glory will be increased in Heaven - so that others may be saved (not to mention our own souls), and that our hearts will be prepared for the celebration of the greatest birthday ever... HIS!

Here's wishing you a very holy and grace-filled preparation for Christmas and the Happiest celebration of His Birthday ever!

God loves you! Don't forget to go to confession! God's Blessings!