May Our Hearts Yearn for Christ’s Return
Editor: Bishop, Christmas will be here soon. What are some things that we can do during Advent to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ?
Bishop Vásquez: The season of Advent, which is relatively short, often goes by so quickly because it is a very busy time. We tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle around us and lose focus on the true meaning of the season. Advent is a time of preparation to celebrate Christmas and to look forward to the day Christ will come again.
These weeks before Christmas are time for us to deepen our relationship with the Lord Jesus. We can prepare ourselves internally and externally for our Savior’s coming. Internally, we can examine our hearts and evaluate how our personal relationship with the Lord is going. How am I spending time with God? How is my prayer life? Can I spend more time with the Blessed Sacrament? Am I loving the Lord with my whole heart?
Externally, we can examine our relationships with others. What's my relationship with my family — my wife, my husband, my children, my siblings? How am I encountering the Lord daily through others? Can I see Christ present in my coworkers? Can I see him present in my fellow students at school? Can I see him in my fellow parishioners? Another question we can ask is can others see Christ in me in the way I act and speak and treat others?
Editor: During Advent and the Christmas season, we also celebrate our Blessed Mother, correct?
Bishop Vásquez: Yes! As a church, we celebrated the feast of the Annunciation on March 25, which is precisely nine months before Christmas. On that feast, we remember how Mary, who was just a young girl, had this great encounter with God. The angel Gabriel is sent to her; she is asked to be the mother of God; she says yes; and she conceives through the power of the Holy Spirit. Then nine months later, we celebrate the feast of the Nativity of Christ.
Through our Blessed Mother, Jesus takes on flesh, he takes on our nature, our humanity, so that he is able to enter our time and history and save us. Mary is the one who gives Christ his humanity. We are saved because Mary said yes to the will of God. Let us ask ourselves: Can I, like Mary, say yes to God’s will, even though I may not completely understand what his plan may be?
Editor: The Christmas season ends with the feast of the Epiphany and the baptism of Christ. What is the significance of these feasts?
Bishop Vásquez: The feast of the Epiphany is the recognition that Christ is not only the savior of a particular group, but he is the savior of all. The Magi, as they present their gifts to Jesus, represent all of humanity coming to recognize Christ as our savior. Then they return to their own country by a different route, which means they are changed forever. They go back to share the good news and to become evangelizers of Christ to all the nations.
With the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, his public ministry begins, and he unites himself even closer to us. We know Jesus had no reason to be baptized because he had no sin. During his baptism, the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove, and he is revealed as the Son of God as the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:17) So, too, at our own baptism, we are made beloved sons and daughters of God.
Editor: What is your prayer, as we celebrate the feast of the Nativity?
Bishop Vásquez: As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, I pray that our hearts will be filled with the joy Mary experienced when she gave birth to the Son of God. Jesus, as the ultimate gift from God, unites us, and I pray that we may all yearn for his return. As the New Year begins, may we continue to share the good news of Christ with others. Amen.