By Father Sean Kilcawley, director, Family Life Office
As the second Sunday of Advent approaches, we would all be served well to reflect on the reason for the season.
The Catechism reminds us that, “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’” (CCC 524).
Each year we remember—we make present—the ancient expectancy of the Messiah. We prepare ourselves to receive him just as the people of God were prepared to receive him throughout the Old Testament.
This reflection and preparation also must take place in our families. Since each family is a “domestic church,” it is the gift and responsibility of each family to prepare to welcome Jesus into its home, by reflecting on the first coming of Jesus into our lives—into our hearts—and into our families.
For those of us who are cradle Catholics, this means reflecting on our baptism. For parents, this means reflecting on your children’s baptism. That day when you brought your child to the Church, water was poured over their heads, and the Holy Spirit entered into their hearts. This was indeed the first coming of Christ into our lives, and it too involved some preparation.
That preparation was expressed liturgically when our parents and godparents spoke, on our behalf, the baptismal promises. These promises signified a time of preparation that involves for all Christians the rejection of evil and sin, and an entrustment of our lives to the person of Jesus. “Do you reject Satan?” “And all his works” “and all his empty show?” When we say “I do” to these questions we say no to all sin, we say no to all resentment, we say no to the lies that he sows in the world. We are then free to say yes to God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son, and the Holy Spirit. We say “no” in order to say “yes.” This dynamic is all the more evident when an adult is baptized and they are fully conscious of the parts of their past life that they are saying no to, in order to freely receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and the person of Jesus Christ.
Saying “no” to temptation, sin, and the occasion of sin are therefore an integral part of preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ at the end of time and in our daily lives. As I wrote last week, it is a way of preparing room in the Inn of our hearts. Yet, many of us can be forgetful of this promise to say no, and find it difficult when we are constantly bombarded with new information and ideas.
This can be particularly difficult for our young people who are growing up in a time of unprecedented distraction, especially as technological advances offer bottomless options for entertainment through the devices that, while intended to make our lives better, often present temptations to isolate ourselves. Even worse, they have becomes occasions of sin due to increased accessibility to inappropriate online content.
In his book "John Paul the great: his five loves," Jason Evert quotes our late Holy Father as saying, “The abuse of sexuality is the main obstacle to spirituality” (p. 104). This is even more significant today as the average age of exposure to hard-core pornography has dropped to 8 years old. This means that we have high school seniors who have regularly been viewing pornography for 10 years by the time they graduate. There is surely an obstacle to spirituality here, and an obstacle to saying “yes” and welcoming Jesus into the inn of their hearts. Many young people who have grown up in our modern culture admit that they “wish their parents would have done more to limit access.”
This Advent Season is an opportune time to take the steps necessary to safeguard the hearts of our children. Last week I encouraged all to set up filtering on your home Wi-Fi networks using a service like OpenDNS (instructional video available here). This week’s step is to say “no” to Satan, his works, and his empty promises, by making sure that parental controls are set on all internet-capable devices in your home. Nearly all tablets, iPods, smartphones and video game systems have the capacity to browse the internet today. They also come with parental controls that allow you to once again say “no” to evil on your child’s behalf. Sometimes parents feel that if they set parental controls they are somehow not trusting their children. I would answer that not setting parental controls is placing too much trust in the internet. Most first exposure to internet pornography is “accidental.” Although no solution is perfect, setting all parental controls is necessary to minimize the chance of accidental exposure. Taking this step now also provides the opportunity to ensure that all devices are safe before they are unwrapped this Christmas season.
Another tool, I highly recommend is called a Kitchen Safe which you can find on Amazon.com. It is basically a container with a timer lock. Devices can be a distraction in general from family communication. Placing all devices in the kitchen safe and setting the timer for an hour, or two, or five is a great way to set aside distraction and open up space for your family to be present to one another—and to Christ.
For more information and step by step videos in setting parental controls visit the Tools for parents page on the diocesan website. Go to Family Life, Internet Protection, and then click Tools for Parents. I pray that this Advent season will truly be a time of renewal, vigilance, and joy as we prepare ourselves to receive Christ, into our own lives, into our families, and into the world when he comes again!