Advent is that special time of year when we realize there is so much to do, yet so little time to get it done. We race in Advent toward that which we already possess. As the Collect on the Second Sunday of Advent notes, “in haste” we go to meet Jesus Christ as we seek the love God has for us in the Second Person of the Trinity. Advent is the time to become a child again, admitting that God is still among us, surprising us into delight and wonder. The race, however, is not so gentle as a child in a mother’s arms or as a carefree toddler racing to her father. This chase that we enter into is also a race toward justice, hope, and community. The race to the finish line becomes the journey to our true home, living truth, and resting in the security of God-with-us.
Christians proceed in haste as they seek to cultivate an authentic desire for God. Quiet prayer will focus our footrace that leads to the manger and then to the cross and tomb of our Savior. Prayer stirs up a desire for Christ, so time in silence is especially important during this season. The journey on which this desire for Christ takes us will be a witness to others. All who observe the journey will see that we can imagine the footprints of those who have gone before us in haste to see Jesus.
Our haste is to meet the Incarnate Jesus. As Advent begins, we start the story all over again. Why do we begin again? We do so because we know well that we are different than we were last year. New insights, surprising experiences, and perhaps, unprocessed grief have become more a part of our lives this year. A diagnosis of cancer, a birth of another child, a loss of a parent, or any number of events have brought joy or sadness to our lives. Our perspectives have changed as violence has marred cities, storms and fires have destroyed landscapes, and people have grown fearful. In other words, some pieces of our hearts have yet to step into the haste, into the profound race toward justice, fidelity, forgiveness, hopefulness, and integrity. With all that has changed in us, we need to attune ourselves again to the fact that Jesus is at the core of every aspect of our lives, every aspect of the human condition.
So we set out in haste to discover Jesus in every moment and facet of our earthly existence. No earthly power nor notion of prestige has the ability to stand in our way on this journey. No detour or roadblock will cause us to bypass our Advent pilgrimage. We cannot let the artificial things that are present at this time of year dissuade our pursuit of God. No matter the circumstances of our lives, Advent remains an important journey, and no earthly undertaking will hinder our sojourn that begins in our weakness, pain, and poverty.
During this beautiful season, we take people by the hand and lead them to love. We break open not only God’s word but God’s fidelity toward the fragile and the weary. We listen to the depths of regret and loss when people feel God’s absence. We hope in the crib of Jesus because we have lived his cross. We let go of our resistance to love, because we encounter the bodies of our beloved ones who ache for healing and the manifestation of hope in Christ Jesus. In our Advent worship, the Eucharist proclaims the love we hasten toward, the heavenly wisdom we call our own. In Advent, we shall find our “admittance to his company” here on earth, making haste toward the love we already possess.
As we begin this wonderful season, let’s try to make it special by either trying to come to daily Mass at least several times a week or, if that is not possible, to read the Advent Scriptures daily in a reflective way in order to make the seasonal journey a productive one this year. We cannot necessarily block out all the harried moments of Christmas preparation all the time, but we can try to orient our days in such a way that we have these special Scripture times that keep us focused on what the season is truly all about.
FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
As we enter a new liturgical year, we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. We learn again how God comes into our world and into our individual lives to set us free.
Our readings call us to embrace God’s transforming presence in our lives. The First Reading comes from a popular song the Israelites sang in captivity. It lifted their spirits as they reflected on God’s promises to lead them back to their homeland. This song tells of a new age when God will reveal himself so that not only the Israelites but “all nations shall stream toward” the house of the Lord, the Temple in Jerusalem where God will bring peace among all humanity: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares.”
St. Paul in the Second Reading continues this theme of transformation by reminding us that our salvation is closer now than when we first believed! Our minds and actions need to embrace the necessary changes. True transformation can occur only through the power of Christ’s grace: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Like a new set of clothes, Christ embraces us totally and transforms the essence of our being.
The Gospel reiterates the urgency to stay awake and prepare for the Lord’s coming at the end of our lives or at the end of the world. We do not approach this encounter in fear and trepidation but, in the spirit of our first two readings, with a joyous expectation of God’s fulfillment of the longings in our hearts for true happiness, peace, and rest, as St. Augustine addressed God. “For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
In the reading from Romans, we hear that as Jesus’ coming approaches, we are to “put on the armor of light” and “conduct ourselves properly.” Our preparations for Christmas anticipate readying ourselves for when Christ comes again. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that “by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their desire for his second coming” (#524).
The Gospel tells us to “stay awake! For you do not know on which day the Lord will come.” The readings during Advent implore us to stay alert and to examine how we live, for Christ could come at any time. During this season, we await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time, described as “eschatological,” which can happen at any moment.
Isaiah provides a vision of peace in which swords are turned into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Such a time comes about, Isaiah notes, after people have been instructed in God’s ways and have walked in his path. They will have gained knowledge, a gift of the Holy Spirit. Through that gift comes the fruit of peace. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that peace is God’s gift, the fruit of the Holy Spirit and charity, the foundation of the common good (##1828-1832).
For Your Reflection: In what ways do you use Advent to prepare for the Lord? How does a person who has “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” act? What images come to mind when you imagine peace?
FEAST OF ST. NICHOLAS
Friday, December 6, 2019
The absence of the “hard facts” of history is not necessarily an obstacle to the popularity of saints, as the devotion to Saint Nicholas shows. Both the Eastern and Western Churches honor him, and it is claimed that after the Blessed Virgin, he is the saint most pictured by Christian artists. And yet historically, we can pinpoint only the fact that Nicholas was the fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.
As with many of the saints, however, we are able to capture the relationship which Nicholas had with God through the admiration which Christians have had for him, an admiration expressed in the colorful stories which have been told and retold through the centuries.
Perhaps the best known story about Nicholas concerns his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters of marriageable age. Rather than see them forced into prostitution, Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man’s window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married. Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the saint’s feast. In the English-speaking countries, Saint Nicholas became, by a twist of the tongue, Santa Claus—further expanding the example of generosity portrayed by this holy bishop.
The critical eye of modern history makes us take a deeper look at the legends surrounding Saint Nicholas. But perhaps we can utilize the lesson taught by his legendary charity, look deeper at our approach to material goods in the Christmas season, and seek ways to extend our sharing to those in real need.
A LETTER FROM CARDINAL CUPICH
Second Collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
During the weekend of December 7-8, 2019, our parishes will hold the Retirement Fund for Religious collection, an annual appeal that benefits some 30,000 senior sisters, brothers and religious order priests.
As Christians, we are called to “serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps. 100:2). Our elderly religious offer a shining example of what it means to answer this call. During their days of active ministry, they worked tirelessly to build Catholic schools and hospitals, promote social justice, and embrace the neediest among us. In retirement, many continue in volunteer ministry, and all pray for the needs of our Church and world. Inspired by love, their service—past and present—is marked by joy and a deep desire to do the will of God.
As you may know, many religious communities find it increasingly difficult to provide for aging members. Most older religious worked for little or no pay. Today, their communities do not have enough retirement savings. At the same time, health-care costs continue to rise, and fewer members are able to serve in compensated ministry.
Your gift to the Retirement Fund for Religious provides vital funding for medications, nursing care, and more. It also helps religious congregations plan for future retirement needs, even as they continue to serve the People of God.
For the almost forty years during which this collection has been taken, the Archdiocese of Chicago has been one of the most generous donors for this cause. I understand you are asked to support many worthy causes. I invite you only to give what you can. Most importantly, please pray for God’s continued blessing on all our women and men religious. Rest assured, they are praying for you.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Blasé Cardinal Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
IRA CHARITABLE ROLLOVER
Don’t miss this opportunity to make a difference with a tax-free gift from your IRA to St. Peter’s Church by year’s end. If you are 70 1/2 or older, you can contribute up to $100,000 directly from your IRA to St. Peter’s, without including the amount in gross income. For your gift to qualify this year, the gift needs to come directly from whoever holds your IRA and must arrive by December 31, 2019.
For stocks held more than one year that have increased in value, you will avoid capital-gains taxes by gifting all or a portion of the stock to St. Peter’s. If you would like to get more information about a stock transfer, please contact either your tax professional or Mr. Peter Wells at St. Peter’s regarding the tax savings.
We would appreciate you thinking of either of these possibilities as the end of the year approaches. We are dependent upon this kind of charitable remembrance as well as a mention of St. Peter’s in your will or estate since it costs c. $25,000 a week to keep our doors open, yet our regular weekly contributions seldom reach even $10,000.
RETROUVAILLE MARRIAGE RETREATS
If your marriage has become troubled or stressed, unloving or uncaring, if your relationship has grown cold or distant, if you re thinking of separation or divorce, or if you are already separated or divorced, but you want to try again—then Retrouvaille is the program that can help you. The next Chicagoland Retreat is scheduled for January 24-26, 2020, in Portage, Indiana. For more information, contact Victor Vallejo at [email protected] or visit retrouvaille.org.
A CHUCKLE FOR ADVENT
One day, the pilot of a Cherokee 180 was told by the tower to hold short of the active runway until a DC-8 landed. The DC-8 landed, rolled out, turned around, and taxied back past the Cherokee.
Some quick-witted comedian in the DC-8 crew got on the radio and said, “What a cute plane you have. Did you make it all by yourself?”
The Cherokee pilot, not about to let the insult go by, came back with a real zinger: “I made it completely out of DC-8 parts. Another landing like yours, and I’ll have enough parts for a second one!”