By Ana Maria Shambaugh
For The Catholic Messenger
“May your life not be a sterile life. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and your love.” This thought of St. José María Escrivá has always resonated in my heart, in my mind and in my daily life. St. Jose Maria always spoke of sanctification in ordinary life.
Pope Francis also encourages us to live our faith in these times by saying: “Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or your wife, as Christ did with the Church. Are you a worker? Be holy by doing your job with honor and honesty to the service of others. Are you a father, a mother, grandmother or grandfather? Be holy by patiently teaching children to follow Jesus. Do you have authority? Be holy by fighting for the common good and renouncing your personal interests.”
Advent presents us with many ways in which we can practice our faith today. As our Savior did, we strengthen our faith by serving others, nurturing it with the Scripture and sharing our belief with others.
In this preparation for the coming of Jesus, our faith can be expressed with details of love. Advent prepares us for Christmas, inviting us to place Jesus at the center of the celebration.
Advent is the opportunity to think about the shepherds, the wise men and all those who were in the humble stable, where our Lord Jesus Christ was born. The best gift that we can have at this time is to participate in the holy Mass, to experience the joy of Salvation that comes in the tender smile of a child, born in the small town of Bethlehem.
Another opportunity that Advent offers us is to contemplate the face of Jesus in our brothers and sisters. At an early age we learn the works of mercy and it is important that we constantly remember them. See the face of Jesus in the sick, the hungry, the thirsty; in those who have no home or clothing; in the prisoners; in those who seek more knowledge; in those who need advice; in those who live in the dark; in those whom I forgive with all my heart; in those who are sad; in those who need consolation, and for the living and the dead to whom I offer my daily prayer.
Another beautiful way to prepare for Christmas is inviting Jesus to be the center of our homes, inviting him to our table, to our prayer through the Advent wreath, the Christmas novena, the holy rosary and through forgiveness. Sometimes we have resentments with relatives, with friends and it is time to forgive them, opening our hearts to that wonderful encounter with Jesus … It will be a tremendous gift!
Living our faith in these times of hope is a gift from God. He asks us to light the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ, whom we carry in our hearts. And you, how do you live your faith in this season?
(Ana Maria Shambaugh is a receptionist and administrative assistant in the multicultural office at the Diocese of Davenport.)