November 29, 2019

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Find joy and hope in life’s trials through Jesus during Advent

Sean GallagherSometimes, I think I’m becoming a bit of a humbug.

When I was younger, there was always an excitement that built up within me as the days of Advent led up to Christmas.

As I’ve grown older, however, the daily weight of the responsibility of being a husband and father and the sadness of loss among my family and friends have often been the focus of my heart and mind.

The heavy thoughts and emotions that these aspects of adult life bring can at times crowd the joy of Advent and Christmas out of my heart.

Our Catholic faith, however, can give those who bear heavy burdens in life a perspective on our troubles that can lead to a happiness that keeps a humbug attitude at bay.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (before he was elected pope and chose the name Benedict XVI) once reflected on the connection between love and suffering:

“Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because love always demands self-sacrifice.”

This is a profound truth at the heart of the human condition and of our faith.

We can make it a more meaningful part of our daily lives during Advent.

The Church invites us in the days leading up to Christmas to focus our hearts and minds on Christ’s first coming as a child in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, and his glorious second coming, which we should prepare ourselves for as if it will happen soon.

Consider how almighty God—the creator of the universe, of all that is, was or will be—sacrificed himself out of love for humanity to take on flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a helpless child, opening himself to the suffering that is unavoidable in our broken world.

And it will be God’s love for humanity that will lead him to return in glory to bring all suffering to an end in the new Jerusalem where our Lord will “wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain” (Rev 21:4).

Until that blessed moment, though, it is our lot to live in a world marred by the ongoing effects of original sin, where suffering is unavoidable.

Despair in the face of inevitable suffering is not unavoidable. Christ fully embraced suffering and conquered it in his passion, death and resurrection.

The fact that he did this is wondrous enough. But that he did it out of his love for us gives us tremendous hope.

This life-changing reality can lighten our hearts when life’s burdens weigh us down. It can also help parents with the daily call to self-sacrificial love for their children and spouses.

Every day, they’re called to put aside their own desires to care for the needs and wishes of others in their families. This can be hard when their desires are put aside so often and when the demands from other family members increase.

Knowing what Jesus went through for love of us, and realizing that he is so close to us because of his suffering, can strengthen parents when giving of themselves to their family becomes so difficult.

Jesus, then, comes to us in Advent and then Christmas to help us find joy and hope in his love in the middle of the trials of life. †

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