LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Catholics must be “on the lookout” for God, said Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez in a homily Nov. 29, the First Sunday of Advent.
“He is all around us! He is with us. If we watch for him, if we stay alert — we will see his love everywhere around us,” the archbishop said during Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
The Mass was livestreamed online and aired on television for the millions of Catholics in the archdiocese to join remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My brothers and sisters, Advent is about getting ready for our Lord to come. But it is also a reminder that he has already come. He has already entered into the reality of our human existence and he is still with us,” the archbishop said. “Advent reminds us that Jesus is always arriving. In the people he sends into our lives. In the challenges we face every day. In the burdens we carry. Even in our sufferings.”
Advent reminds Catholics “that God is faithful! His love for us is true. Let us never doubt it. This is why he sent his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, into the world in the first place. To share our sufferings, to walk with us and strengthen us,” he added.
It is easy “to turn away from God, to push him into the background,” and give “many other things priority before him,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“And of course, we can understand how that happens. We have so many anxieties, so many daily responsibilities,” he said. “And it is getting even harder now, with all the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.”
But Advent is the time to ask whether we are being “mindful” of God, whether we are ” doing what is right” and “serving God in everything we do,” as the first reading from the prophet Isaiah pointed up, the archbishop said. “Is that how we are living? Are we really aware of God’s presence? Do we see him working in the world? Do we feel his love and mercy in our lives?”
In the day’s Gospel, Jesus told the faithful to “watch and you will be surprised at what you see! You will see things you’ve never noticed before, Archbishop Gomez explained. “Watch and you will see! All the hidden beauty. All the little acts of kindness. All the tender mercies that God is sending our way at every moment in every day.
“Be alert! and we will become aware of all the hidden ways that God is still working in the world. Watch! And we will see — all the beautiful ways that He is working out his plan of love in our lives.”
Advent “reminds us that Jesus is always arriving. In the people he sends into our lives, in the challenges we face every day. In the burdens we carry. Even in our sufferings,” said Archbishop Gomez, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He said there are some practical ways for Catholics “to open our hearts to his Word,” by asking for “the grace to renew our commitment to find time to pray and to do it more personally .. the grace to talk to Jesus all the time” Also Catholics should find time to read and reflect on the Word of God, he said. “The church gives us readings for every day of the year.”
Doing these things every day “helps us to be alert to God’s hidden presence everywhere in our lives,” Archbishop Gomez added.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has established an Advent webpage, lacatholics.org/advent2020, to provide prayers, music, videos and other resources for Catholics to celebrate the season of Advent safely at home and online during the pandemic.
The archdiocese is also calling on Catholics to pledge to put time aside for prayer, together as a family, and share how they are preparing spiritually this advent season by using the hashtag #ItStartsAtHome.
Across the country, in Michigan, the Adrian Dominican sisters have invited all Catholics and their families to join them in virtual celebrations of Advent, Christmas and New Year’s via livestream from the Weber Retreat and Conference Center and St. Catherine Chapel in Adrian. The link is at http://adriandominicans.org/Live-Stream.
The first Monday morning Advent prayer was celebrated around the Advent wreath from the Weber Center Nov. 30 — the next Monday Advent prayers are Dec. 7, 14 and 21 at 9 a.m. EST.
The Christmas Eve liturgy will be celebrated at 7 p.m. EST Dec. 24, beginning with a prelude at 6:30 p.m. The Christmas Day liturgy Dec. 25 begins with a prelude at 10:15 a.m. followed by Mass at 10:30 a.m. EST. Both Masses are livestreamed from St. Catherine Chapel.
The end of 2020 and beginning of the New Year will be marked with Taize prayer at 6:30 p.m. EST from St. Catherine Chapel. Taize prayer services typically involve a series of repetitive chants of psalms or other Scripture passages, “evoking a quiet, meditative atmosphere.”