My family spent the Thanksgiving holidays in the Virgin Islands, on the remote island of St. John. We hiked, snorkeled, sailed, basked in the 90 degree weather – pretty much explored the entire plot of land, and I was sure that a Catholic Church did not exist.
After dinner one night, we finally spotted it. A quaint church snuggled between a winding road and a restaurant. We attended Saturday night Mass and were blessed enough to have the bishop of the Virgin Islands in attendance. Suddenly I was reminded about the universality of the Catholic Church – one of the most beautiful things we have to offer. No matter where I travel, I can find depend on the Lord to bring me the same readings, the same Tradition, the same Eucharist as that of St. John’s here in Oxford, even if I have to squint to see the church.
Culturally, the church was very different. The congregation totaled 30 (and that’s a gracious amount), but it sounded as if it totaled 400 (which I’m sure the beating of bongos helped this cause). The bishop delivered an impressive homily on Advent and how we should prepare. Even if I caught myself focusing more on the catchy accent characteristic of the islands, I still managed to deduct his three main points. In order to have a spiritually successful Advent, we must:
1. Go to Confession
What better way to enter into the holy season than with a clean soul? In the bishop’s words, “Pretend your soul is the inn that Mary, Jesus, and Joseph tried to stay in, but the rooms were completely full. All of the rooms in your soul are taken up by sloth, envy, pride, and lust, and there is no room for the Holy Family. Tell the devil to get the heck out because Jesus needs a room.”
If there is any grudge you are holding or any hurt you are feeling because of someone else, try to let it go. The bishop elaborated on the phrase “to forgive and forget,” saying that it is sometimes very difficult to forget the hurt someone has caused, but we can begin by forgiving.
3. Be open to a renewal of love
With friends, spouses, significant others, and parents – love them regardless of faults, failings, and annoying idiosyncrasies. Only Christ has the ability to truly love unconditionally, but even we (in all of our sin) can come pretty close. Plus no one likes a Scrooge during the Holidays.