BishopCallahanI can barely set down the drumstick and the cranberry sauce before I have to pull out the Advent wreath. Yes, it is that time of the year. Are you ready? That may be the most significant question you will hear – over and over again for the next few weeks.

Are you ready for Advent? It is a season of expectation and anticipation. Are you ready? It is a season of preparation and eager longing. Are you ready? It is the season when we look forward. Well, actually we start looking forward by seriously looking backward, but, are you ready? We look backward to celebrate the birth of the Son of God in history – in our human history. We look forward to see him again when he comes in glory at the end of time. Are you ready?

Advent does all that? Why, certainly! It is my most favorite time of the liturgical year because Advent embodies all of the others and makes our longing for Jesus so specific. Advent specifies our desire to see Jesus again. It clarifies our belief that he will, in fact, come again. Advent takes all of our prayers and all of our longing for heaven and rolls them up into a single season when it is clearly our desire and our prayer to tell the Lord to hurry up – we’re waiting.… But, ARE WE READY?!

Now, that will take some thought and effort on our part. To be “ready” to acknowledge and receive Jesus is not just a matter of being prepared for the second coming. We must be ready every day. So, yes, it is a trick question. I have a feeling that many of you knew where I was going with all this anyway.

Being ready is the state of life for the Christian. Our Blessed Lord told us quite emphatically: “Stay awake, you know neither the day nor the hour.” On Sunday morning as I drove to the cathedral for the radio Mass, I heard a report on Relevant Radio about a man who is establishing a campaign called the “sainthood project” among Americans. From the sound of it, he is enlisting a thousand Americans to take the plunge and try to practically live saintly and holy lives. I presume that he means living simply according to the teachings and traditions of the church and in compliance with the Scriptures.

Sounds fairly easy, and basically what we have been taught for years in our faith. Well, even though it may be basic, it still takes work and, obviously, when people really try to take it seriously, it makes news!

We, here in the archdiocese, along with our friends at Catholic Knights, are going back to some creative and, we think, inspiring stories and reports through the Living Our Faith television shows. We’re starting this Saturday, Nov. 28, and running through the following Saturdays until Dec. 26. The time for the broadcast is 11 a.m. on WISN TV 12 and on Time Warner Cable Wisconsin on Demand Channel 411. On Sunday, Dec. 6, the broadcast will air at 12:30 p.m. and will have a very special “guest star.”

What else? Well, Advent is not a penitential season in the same way as Lent. Even though both seasons don the purple color, the sense of penance is not the same. Advent purple reminds us that we are people who wait – seriously expecting the Lord’s return anytime and sad to be apart from him. This eagerness and longing for Christ does call for some serious thought and reform in our lives. Penance and discipline form a basic structure in our lives that hold our attention to the purpose of living a good and  holy life everyday. The penitential aspect of Advent brings this to our consciousness in a specific way.

In Lent we clearly focus our lives on the sufferings and death of our Blessed Lord. Our intentions center on his love for us and the gift of redemption for our sins. Our sacrifices unite in a special way with his sufferings during Lent and we take time to slow down and consider the measure of our lives next to so great a gift as the Passion of the Lord.

In so many ways the church tries to assist us in living our faith in the ordinary aspects of daily life. The liturgical calendar of the church begins in Advent and the cycle of the new year begins afresh. If you follow the Scripture readings in the Mass each day (in addition to Sunday) you will discover some of the most incredibly beautiful and moving insights into our Catholic faith. Of course, the best way to do that is to attend daily Mass. While that may not always be possible, the daily readings are offered on the USCCB Web site and you can keep up online.

Whatever you do to “get ready,” please take some time to do it. Have some fun, keep up your prayers and I’ll see you at Mass!