If you feel like Advent is running on overdrive, you are not alone. With only three weeks this year to try to absorb the spirit and the meaning of Advent—and trying to do it while everywhere we hear Christmas carols and advertisements that constantly want to entice us to buy more gifts—we have a real difficulty staying focused on this time of waiting. I offer the following paragraphs taken from an article entitled “Advent: Living in a Time of Uncertainty” by Joyce Rupp, OSM in St. Anthony Messenger, December 2017, pp. 20-23.
“Everyone lives with some ambiguity—none of us knows for certain how long we will live, when illness might develop, or if a valued relationship will endure. Parents are never certain how their children will mature, and many families and businesses face regular questions about financial stability. Usually we try to tuck these unknowns away and pay as little attention to them as possible.
“This current era, however, will not let us ignore life’s uncertainties. Significant change occurs more rapidly now. Globalization progressively influences our lives and reminds us that our good fortune could easily be upended. We see this possibility as the division between wealth and poverty grows wider, and world economies remain wobbly. Additional concerns arise as weather patterns topple previous norms, and less effective antibiotics indicate that not all disease can be alleviated. The proliferation of nuclear warheads and the growth of terrorism indicate a lack of safety no matter where we are. On the family front, diligent parents remain unsure of how children will grow amid the whirl of social media. Unpredictability also appears in the world of science, where discoveries elicit troubling questions regarding basic tenets of religious faith previously accepted as permanent beliefs.
“These and countless other uncertainties tend to clog hope and repress love. Fear wraps a cloak of worry around past openness, squeezing the heart and withholding hospitality. The excess of unknowns creates a tendency to establish clear demarcations that expand into a ‘them or us’ mentality; hostility erupts and violence results.
“This cultural milieu requires an ever-sturdier trust in the Holy One to enable our peace of mind and heart. During Advent, we are invited to regain our spiritual composure through the examination of the season’s biblical figures who provide models of hope to help us do this. When we meet these spiritual ancestors in their context and as metaphors for our lives, they can inspire and encourage us to choose differently from what an insecure society suggests.
“The Advent readings reveal an amazing amount of information about unpredictability and the power of a strong faith. This liturgical season’s biblical characters face their own situations of uncertainty. They are taken aback by the unknown, concerned about their wellbeing and how the future will unfold. In spite of these hesitations and fears, they move through them by drawing strength from a deep well of trust. These faith-filled persons remind us to lean on God to believe that we can also be wisely guided on the steepest of hills and the darkest of valleys into an unclear future.”
SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Perhaps you can recall making preparations for a big event, a wedding or anniversary. There were invitations to send, menus to prepare, decorations to make, and party clothes to purchase. Today’s readings are about preparing for an even bigger event, the coming of God’s Chosen One. The Gospel begins with a proclamation of the “good news” of (or about) Jesus Christ. Mark apparently believes that his community already received a “Save the Date” notice for this celebration in the words of the prophet Isaiah, words which are also part of our First Reading.
The historical content for Isaiah’s oracle is the Babylonian Exile, a time of great sadness for the Jewish people. But the prophet’s message is one of tenderness and consolation. A straight path is being prepared for God’s coming. God’s glory (the Hebrew word kavod, meaning “splendor” or “honor”) will again be revealed to the people, and Jerusalem can shout from the mountaintop, “Here is our God!”
But Mark goes a step further by identifying John the Baptist as the one called to deliver the invitation for the great event of God’s coming. He even dresses John for the occasion, making him look like the prophet Elijah. The baptism (literally “dunking”) that John proclaims is not Christian Baptism, but rather a commitment to a change of heart that makes it possible for us to receive God’s coming Kingdom.
The Second Reading, from a letter attributed to Peter, continues this theme of preparing for the coming of God’s Kingdom. We are reminded that cultivating a disposition that leads to good action is another important way to prepare for this party.
We hear in this Second Reading of the “new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells” and that we await. Lumen gentium notes that the Church awaits that time with her people. The Second Vatican Council document states: “However, until there shall be new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church in her sacraments and institutions, which pertain to the present time, has the appearance of this world which is passing and she herself dwells among creatures who groan and travail in pain until now and await the revelation of the sons of God” (#48).
The filling in of valleys and the lowering of mountains and hillsides that Isaiah envisions is in preparation for the Kingdom of God. To ready the earth for the Lord, efforts will be made to bring justice to all. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church explains that such efforts are continual. It states: “The Church’s social doctrine is presented as a ‘work site’ where the work is always in progress, where perennial truth penetrates and permeates new circumstances, indicating paths of justice and peace” (#86).
The Introduction to the Rite of Penance references today’s Gospel in its first paragraph as it tells of the mystery of reconciliation in the history of salvation: “This invitation to repentance, which had often been sounded by the prophets, prepared people’s hearts for the coming of the kingdom of God through the voice of John the Baptist, who came ‘preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’” (#1). The introduction continues to explain that Jesus not only encouraged people to turn away from sin but, in welcoming sinners, reconciled individuals to God.
For Your Reflection: How can Advent help you to be holier as you prepare for the coming of the Lord? How does our faith community provide ways for members to work for peace and justice? Is participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation among your plans for preparing for Christmas?
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
On Tuesday of this week we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. It celebrates the appearance of the Blessed Virgin to now St. Juan Diego, who was asked to go to the bishop and ask that a church be built where she had appeared. When the bishop asked for proof or a sign, Our Lady told Juan Diego to pick some roses from the spot where ordinarily none would have been in blossom at that time of the year. When Juan Diego opened his cloak before the bishop, the roses fell out, but on the cloak was now a beautiful image of the Lady, which we have come to know as Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The main celebration of the feast will take place at the 1:15 Mass. That Mass will be bi-lingual (Spanish and English). Fr. Juan Carlos , Fr. Tom Ess,, and Fr. Ed Shea have been planning the Mass and will lead the prayer. There will be special music selected for this Mass. Afterwards people are invited downstairs for refreshments and fellowship. We hope many people will be able to come and celebrate with us for the feast.
ADVENT COMMUNAL PENANCE SERVICE
You are invited to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation with us on Thursday, December 14, at 12:15. This will be our Advent Communal Penance Service as a lead-up to Christmas and will take the place of the regular 12:15 Mass on that day. The service will consist of hymns, Scripture, homily, intercessions, an examination of conscience, then face-to-face confession with c. 12 confessors available. Depending on the number of penitents, the service will probably last approximately forty-five minutes. Celebrating the sacrament in this fashion emphasizes that we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and allows us to pray for one another as each confesses his/her sins. We hope you will be able to join us Thursday at 12:15.
A Reminder: There will be additional confessors throughout the day beginning on Monday, December 18, and continuing through December 23. Please do not wait until the last minute to make your pre-Christmas confession and perhaps then find there is no time. Take advantage of these extra confession opportunities so that you will be totally prepared to celebrate the Feast of Christmas spiritually once again this year.
THE ANNUAL POSADA
St. Peter’s will once again host the final stage of the annual Loop Posada on Friday, December 15. The group march will begin at 7:00 A.M. and will arrive here c. 8:45, when they will knock on the front door and ask for food and shelter, something they were refused along the way. We will welcome them as they express their gratitude for our hospitality and then proceed down to the lower level where there will be food, drink, singing and prayer. The march always reminds us of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem, but it also these days reminds us of the plight of so many immigrants who are fleeing war-torn areas for a place of refuge and hope. Let us remember them all as various posadas are celebrated around the city and open our hearts to their suffering and their need for a safe place for themselves and their families.
A LETTER FROM CARDINAL CUPICH
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
On this Second Sunday of Advent, parishes throughout the Archdiocese will participate in the annual collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious, benefiting more than 32,000 elderly Catholic sisters, brothers and religious Order priests throughout the United States.
Our senior religious are a treasure. Their dedication and hard work laid the foundation for Catholic schools, hospitals, and numerous social service organizations. Many continue in volunteer ministry today. Their ongoing prayer and witness enrich our faith in countless ways. Personally, I am grateful for the service of religious, past and present. Perhaps you also recall a sister or brother who made a positive difference in your life.
Most elder religious worked for years for small stipends, leaving a substantial gap in retirement savings. Rising health-care costs and decreased income compound the challenge to meet such day-to-day needs as medications and nursing assistance. The Retirement Fund for Religious offers financial support that helps religious communities provide loving care for older members while ensuring younger members can continue the good work of their elders.
In the past, the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago have led the nation in their generous response to this appeal. Though I understand you are asked to support many worthy causes, I invite you to contribute what you can at Masses the weekend of December 9-10. Most importantly, please pray for God’s continued blessing on all our women and men religious. Rest assured they are praying for you.
I wish you every blessing during this Holy Season of Advent. With kind regards, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blase J. 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 701/2 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 be made by December 31, 2017.
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 $10,000.
AN ADVENT CHUCKLE
A 106-year-old cowboy in Texas recently passed away. He was asked on his last birthday earlier this year his secret to longevity.
He told them that for the past 50 years he had sprinkled a little gunpowder on his cereal every morning.
He left behind 8 children, 21 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren, and a 15-foot hole in the crematorium.