First Sunday of Advent 2020

“Lord, make us turn to You; let us see Your face and we shall be saved.”

As we begin this holy season of Advent, this year is a bit different because we are more formally focusing our attention on our Discipleship Pathway. This is a perfectly acceptable approach to the season;  as the Glossary of the Catechism points out, the purpose of this season is “devoted to preparation for the coming of Christ.” What better way is there to prepare for His coming than to focus on deepening our own conversion? This conversion always includes the key factor of discipleship, as Pope St. John Paul the Great illustrates:  “Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple.” (Redemptoris Missio, #46). The English translation of the title of that encyclical is “the Mission of the Redeemer.” One could summarize that mission as bringing us all to conversion. But we don’t simply give our lives to the Lord Jesus and then it’s a done deal. All our lives are spent deepening our own conversion by growing in what it means to be His disciple. This is accomplished in us as we cooperate with the ever-present actions of the Holy Spirit.

Our parish approach to discipleship has four dimensions:  worship, encounter, grow, serve. Appropriately, the first is worship. This is appropriate because, as that Glossary defines it, “Worship [is] Adoration and honor given to God, which is the first act of the virtue of religion.” Our first act as followers of the King of Kings is to worship Him;  this includes giving Him adoration and honor.

The primary place we do this is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass itself. It is the ultimate act of worship in the Church. It is not meant to be our only worship, but it is the “source and summit” of our worship life with Him. But what does that mean for us? What are we actually supposed to do? How do we worship at Mass? One way is to engage in “full, active, and conscious” participation. To put our hearts and our minds into the responses that we make is key, not just cruising on auto-pilot but continuing to exercise the self-discipline necessary to remain focused on what we are doing, especially what we are saying.

When we have the opportunity to utilize the charismatic gifts when we worship, it is very important to do so. When we read I Corinthians, we recognize that as St. Paul is speaking about using the gifts, one place using them is crucial is when the liturgical assembly of the people is gathered together. There is a way that our praying in tongues during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass deepens our ability to truly enter into the Mystery that is the heart of our life with Jesus. So especially to use the gift of tongues with its ability to edify us, to raise our hearts and minds even more to the Triune God, is something we should aim for during Mass. If we have not yet experienced the gift of tongues, it would be great to take advantage of those opportunities to receive it, so that all of the graces received in our Confirmation would truly be unleashed, especially as we worship the King of Kings. Opportunities for this include the Life in the Spirit Seminar, Alpha, just attending Upper Room and asking people for prayer, etc., etc.

It is also important to prepare our hearts for the worship we are going to enter into at Mass especially by making sure that we are spending quality time in prayer every day. Sunday is meant to be the high point of our prayer life, not the only point. We also have the opportunity to enter into other forms of worship. To take some time every week, if possible, to come before the Eucharistic Lord in Adoration, to just be in His Presence, loving Him and being loved by Him—this is a wonderful opportunity for worship. As mentioned, participating in Upper Room gives us an opportunity for the more extended periods of charismatic praise and worship that are essential for our ongoing growth in the Spirit, especially enabling us to grow in the gifts that we don’t typically use at Mass.

He calls us to worship Him. Let us heed the Psalm and turn to Him! — Fr. Ed Fride