The fact that self-sacrifice is regarded by less than half of all adults in this country as a positive moral virtue tells us far more about the current state of American religious belief than do all the polls indicating that more than 90 percent of the American public still believes in God. It tells us that the Trinitarian Godhead which is within itself a communion of self-giving love is no longer the God in whom the American public believes. It tells us that Christ, the source of the sacred or sacramental ordering of our lives, who becomes Head of the Church and source of that order by virtue of his sacrifice for the sake of the Church, no longer informs American religious sensibilities.
This is important to reflect on as we enter Advent. Our secular culture will drive us to material gluttony during the next few weeks. It is wise to spiritually prepare to resist this onslaught. The next four weeks are a time of repentance, anticipation, and preparation. Begin with the Sacrament of Penance. What better way to get ready for the coming of Christ than to cleanse our souls with the grace of the sacrament? Then practice the virtue of self-sacrifice. That does not mean we shouldn’t enjoy Advent and Christmas. Make the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy the focus of your Advent. Feel free to buy Aunt Sally that new sweater, but don’t forget to pray a decade of the Rosary for her as well. Bake Christmas cookies to your heart’s delight, but don’t forget to give food and financial assistance to the food bank. Anticipate the smiles of your children as you pick out their gifts, but include some infant items for the local crisis pregnancy center on your shopping list.
Self-sacrifice is not gloomy. It is a celebration of the countless gifts and blessings that we are given by God. During this Advent season, reflect on the greatest gift of all: Jesus. If you meditate on His perfect self-sacrifice, it becomes easy to make the next few weeks a time of joyous self-giving.