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There's Something Fishy About Advent

Pardon my whimsicality, but here's a story that might help prepare you for Advent.

The wife of Dr. Seuss wrote this book about a boy who fed his fish too much. He was carefully warned by the shop owner to feed it only so much and no more or something would happen. If anything goes wrong, the expert says, call me, and he gives the boy his business card. Curiosity got the better of the boy and he fed the fish what it wanted‑‑which was, of course, too much. And the fish began to grow, at first filling its little bowl, then a larger pan from the kitchen, and then the bath tub. Matters continued out of control and the boy was desperate, so he called the fire department and they picked up the now immense fish and delivered it to a public pool. The city cheered that the problem had gone away, but the fish kept growing! The boy suddenly remembered the shop owner's advice: call if anything goes wrong. The owner came right away, dived in to the pool with a tool chest, and soon the immense gold fish was back to natural size.

Especially in a consumerist-driven society like ours, and particularly during one's preparation for Christmas, a person's desires and needs which never stop gnawing can become monstrous during the holidays. We were made to be filled by the Infinite, but often our lusts and cravings of many sorts are satisfied only by pigging out with what fallen nature claims it needs. I have never known a case when it was not necessary to call in the expert to have one’s appetites and habits readjusted. That expert is Jesus, and Advent is His calling card.

Here's how the "fishy" part works through grace and free will, whether you're struggling against the seven deadly sins or trying to adopt the beatitudes that crush them. Someone will theoretically confess, "I no longer want to forgive my mother. I’m tired of her gossip." Or, "I can’t seem to break my habit of using God’s name in vain What do I do?" St. Augustine's insight is to ask the question: do you really want to give up this sin? Do you really want to forgive, to stop falling into temptation, to stop eating at night...whatever the struggle? Usually, what's the first honest response? Often the answer is often no, I’m not ready. Then ask, do you “want” to want to give up this sin? The person will stop and think. Yes, I “want” to want to stop this sin, adopt that virtue, become this person. Continue: can you see yourself “wanting” to want to stop sins of impurity? Wanting to want to stop slander, backbiting, impatience, outbursts of anger? Wanting to want to be more courageous and courteous and kind? With a bit of thinking, the answer is a resounding yes! That, Augustine would say is merely a baby step away from wanting. When you can move from wanting to want, to simply wanting, which is well within the power of free will, there is little that can hold you back from investing yourself wholly in combating your particular sin or taking on the power of angelic virtue.

With the power of Jesus the Lord, may your Advent be blessed!

"He is the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible, thrones, ruling forces, sovereignties, powers -- all things were created through him and for him. He exists before all things and in him all things hold together, and he is the Head of the Body, that is, the Church. He is the Beginning, the first-born from the dead, so that he should be supreme in every way; because God wanted all fullness to be found in him and through him to reconcile all things to him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, by making peace through his death on the cross. You were once estranged and of hostile intent through your evil behaviour; now he has reconciled you, by his death and in that mortal body, to bring you before himself holy, faultless and irreproachable - as long as you persevere and stand firm on the solid base of the faith, never letting yourselves drift away from the hope promised by the gospel." (1 Col. 1:15-23)

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