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  A Christian Faith Magazine November 2004, Volume 10, Issue 4  
Beginning of the Advent Season - November 28, 2004
Rev. Mark Connolly
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Cardinal Newman of England
Cardinal Newman

Many years ago the famous Catholic writer, Cardinal Newman of England, once said, "As long as we are on this earth, we should never forget that the most important relationship we have is our relationship with God." Our whole life should find us deepening that relationship with God. Advent is that season that reminds us of what our relationship with God is all about. The next few weeks remind us to prepare, to make ready, and to be aware of the coming of Christ on Christmas Day. No matter how busy we are, no matter how demanding our vocation might be, no matter what kind of a sickness we have, the most important relationship we can have is our relationship with Christ. When you read in the gospels how Christ tells us of all the upheavals of nature that could take place in one's life, whether it be earthquake, famine, or the serious illness of a heart or cancerous condition, the most important relationship you have is your relationship with Christ. Christ emphasizes so clearly in the gospel the importance of our personal relationship with God. Of all the upheavals in nature, the upheavals in our families and the upheavals in our personal lives, none of them should prevent us from that solid relationship with God no matter what our vocation is.

As you read this, it must sound abstract, even vague. You ask yourself, "how do I deepen my relationship with God?" The answer is a simple one. No matter what upheavals you experience, there are two ways set before us by Christ that will enable us to deepen our relationship with God.

Christ on the cross

The first is the way of sacrifice. This is the method Christ selected to teach us, by His sacrifice for us on the cross, so that we could have a close relationship with God. The spirit of sacrifice is always associated with the season of Advent, not just for the preparations that we make for the day called Christmas, but for the more important fact of deepening our relationship with God. When it is broken down and thought about, it could be said that all those who are sick or dealing with great pain in their daily living are imitating the way of sacrifice that Jesus showed us in His lifetime. This symbolism is especially intensified during this season of Advent. We must remember that we have a uniqueness, a temperament and a personality all our own and that God have given this only to us. God expects us to share, to offer help to those who are sicker than we, and to care for those who are in need of the charity that can only come from us. Christ, in His greatest pain, the pain of the Crucifixion, offered charity to us and forgiveness to a thief.

The second is the way of service. All during His time on earth, Christ reminded us that "greater love than this, no one has, than he who lays down his life for a friend." He said, "I did not come to earth to call you my servants, but my friends." People need a helping hand from you. Very often the words of encouragement and concern, and of tenderness, radiate friendship. That is the service you provide. That is the ingredient we all need.

With this spirit of sacrifice and service, you make a beautiful preparation for Advent, but more importantly, you deepen your relationship with each other and your relationship with God.

O Shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power, and come to save us.

Once again, O Lord of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
Take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
(the son of man whom you yourself made strong).

May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give new life, and we will call upon your name.

- Psalm 80

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