By Archbishop JOSÉ H. GOMEZ of Los Angeles

The coming of Jesus Christ changes everything.
The first Christians spoke of his coming with great joy — as a new creation, as a bright morning star rising in their hearts. “Behold,” said Jesus, “I make all things new!”

God is not far removed from our lives or from our world!

This is the good news of the Gospel. He is close to each one of us in his mercy and love. No matter where we go, we are always in his loving presence. We just need eyes to see, and light to scatter some of the darkness. We need to awaken our sleeping hearts.

One of the earliest Christian hymns is found in the Letter to the Ephesians:

Awake, O sleeper!

And arise from the dead!

And Christ shall give you light!

This is what the joy of Advent is all about.

Advent is a season of joy and hope because the God of all creation comes to share his divine life with us. Jesus Christ comes to enlighten our hearts and awaken us to God’s beautiful presence in our lives.

Every Advent is a new invitation to walk by the light of faith that Jesus brings us. Every Advent, then, should be for us a season for new possibilities and new beginnings.

This year in this holy season, let us really try to awaken our hearts to all the many ways that God is with us. Let us really try to grow in our gratitude for all the gifts of his grace in our lives.

The coming of Jesus Christ really does change everything.

Because of his coming, everyday reality is filled with divine meaning.

We can live now in our Father’s presence as his beloved sons and daughters, children of God. We can encounter Jesus in the people we meet and in the events of our daily lives. Because of his coming, the love we show for other becomes the love we show for him. We can do everything for the love of God and for the service of our brothers and sisters.

We can never get any closer to Jesus Christ on this earth than in the Eucharist, where he comes to us in his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

So as we begin praying the new translation of our prayers for the Holy Mass during this Advent, we need to ask for the grace to grow in our love for this great gift of his presence with us in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

With our new prayers for the Mass, let us ask also for the grace to be more responsive to the presence of Christ in others, especially the poorest and most vulnerable of our brethren.

During this Advent, let us commit ourselves in a direct way to serving the hungry and thirsty, the sick and homeless, the immigrant and the prisoner. In serving them, we serve Jesus.

We always have to remember: God calls each one of us by name. Each of us is a child of his love, created for a reason, called to play a part in the mission of his Catholic Church and in the history of salvation.

So Advent is a special time for us to try to make ourselves even more worthy to serve his plan of love, his mission of the new evangelization.

With that in mind, each of us should try to make a good examination of conscience and confession of our sins during Advent. In the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation we have an intimate encounter with God’s merciful presence and his promise of forgiveness and grace.

Advent is also a time of action. It is a great season for starting good habits and making sure we have our priorities right. This is the moment to spend more time in prayer and to pay more attention to our relationships, especially in our families.

Perhaps this Advent, we can concentrate especially on having more care for others, more patience and compassion. Let us try always to be people of forgiveness, who are healers and peacemakers in our homes and society.

My sisters and brothers, let us pray for one another this Advent! That we live with all the joy of this holy season and that we use our time to grow in our Christian lives!

And let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to make this Advent a true season of renewal, in which we walk by the light of Christ and awaken to God’s presence in our lives. VN

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