“I am confident of this,
that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it
until the day of Christ Jesus.”
The day of Christ Jesus is, in its most common sense, Jesus’s return in glory, when all things are made new. The End. That is, an eternal beginning. As I have written before, it is also the day each of us will walk through the doorway of death to our eternal destiny, when our personal life on earth has ended. There is another sense in which the day of Christ Jesus is today: no sense in putting off love. Jesus comes here and now. There is a fourth sense, in this Season of Advent, in which we are preparing for Christmas. The day of Christ Jesus can be that for which we are preparing. Namely, the celebration of Jesus’s birth in just a few weeks.
God, who began the good work in you, will continue to complete it in each of these senses. As the community of the people of God, the Church, God’s good work continues to be completed in us as Christ’s body, from generation to generation, until his return. In the long view of our lives, which may be shorter than we can imagine, his work continues until the day we die. Of course, Jesus also comes today. Are we ready for the opportunities today brings to grow in love and holiness? Don’t miss it. It is the last sense, however, that I’d like to focus on. What is the good work God is doing in you during Advent this year? You see, the first sense helps us to see our place in the wider (and longer) community, that we have a part to play beyond our own lives. The second helps us to understand our growth in Christian maturity and love over the course of our lives, the gift of repentance and renewal. The third develops within us the urgency of making today count. The fourth sense, that of preparing for a coming day, allows us to think about short term goals and what steps we will take to reach those goals.
This is not, necessarily, the way most of us think about our spiritual lives. Most of us may reflect on the overall course of our lives (like the life of Mary, from the Immaculate Conception to the Assumption) or about the urgency of today (like John the Baptist). Sometimes, we may recognize that we are part of a longer timeline and bigger community to give of ourselves for a result we will not get to see (like Moses). Less common are concrete goals and action steps we will take for a specific time period. I have to admit, these need to be more limited in scope and it’s harder, when we know we are meant for more, to focus on small steps and goals. For example, because I know I need to be more patient or perfectly patient, it’s harder for me to make a goal of being patient at traffic lights because it doesn’t seem significant enough. Or, because I should forgive everyone, it’s hard to make the goal to forgive just one person. Or, because I should pray continuously, it’s hard to make the goal to pray for two minutes every morning. This is, however, the gift of a season like Advent. It fills in the gap between the urgency of today and the trajectory of our lives. It is the bite sized opportunity to grow.
So, what are one or two specific and concise goals you have for the remainder of Advent? What are the steps you will take to get there? Write them down and begin. I am confident that the one who has begun this good work in you will bring it to completion by Christmas.