By Alyssa Bormes
“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)
What certain and firm words! They are from the Gospel today, the first Sunday of Advent. We are to prepare for the coming of Christ, to live a life of readiness. The words sound great, but are they attainable?
God is so good to give amazing witnesses. Today would be the 89th birthday of one of my favorite evangelists, His Excellency, Bishop Paul Dudley, of happy memory. We met on my confirmation day in the late 1970s. He was the bishop of my archdioceses in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. There was a friendship that began on that day, but it wasn’t until the late 90s that I understood its importance.
I was lost and so I sought out His Excellency. He was ready; he had lived a life of vigilance. He had strength in the face of my having none. Worldly tribulations were a way of life for me, which had a hold of my soul. There was only one real escape from them, and it was through confession. After giving absolution, he said to me, “Alyssa, imagine the rejoicing in heaven today for one sinner coming home!” And later he said to me, “Alyssa, God has forgiven you. Now, go home, and do the hard work of forgiving yourself.” These two things have seen me through many dark days—always leading to the Light.
How was Bishop Dudley so able to lead me? It was his vigilance! He was ready at any moment to meet His Maker—to stand before the Son of Man. He had the strength to withstand the tribulations the world handed him, all the while being faithful to the Church and Her teachings.
When thinking of Bishop Dudley, peace and joy flood my heart. He led me home to the Light of Christ. His Excellency’s birthday and the beginning of Advent being on the same day are a call to me to redouble my efforts. His example was always one of prayer, fasting and alms giving. The day he received my confession was a meeting with Jesus Christ.
Advent is a time to prepare to meet Christ, the Son of Man. Confession is a place to meet Him sacramentally before meeting Him at our judgement. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving focus our souls to only desire the Messiah and not the distractions of this world. For my dear Bishop Dudley, this was a way of life. Advent can be a time to become vigilant for the first time, or more deeply again, so that we may “have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”