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.
FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
On this First Sunday of Advent, the reading from Jeremiah provides a prophecy of restoration and healing for Judah and the promise of a salvific king from the line of David. This prophecy also notes that Jerusalem will be called by a new name, “the Lord of Justice.” The Hebrew phrase is a play on the name Zedekiah, a “puppet” king of Judah who, against the warnings of Jeremiah, revolted against the Babylonians and brought about the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC. Zedekiah is remembered as the last king of the Davidic line.
For Christians, Zedekiah is not the last king of Judah. In today’s Gospel, we hear of the glorious Son of Man, the Risen Christ, whose return will be announced with cosmological signs and who will come in power so great that it will shake the heavens. Those who wait for him need not cower in fear. Instead, they should stand tall because it is the dawn of redemption for those who practice faithful endurance. Yes, the faithful will suffer difficulties, but soon they will experience the justice, mercy, and compassion of God in the presence of the Son of Man.
In the Second Reading, Paul echoes these thoughts about the coming of the Son of Man and adds an admonition for how we should live in the meantime. Perhaps not surprisingly, he says love is the rule. We are called to grow in love for everyone and thereby have the ability to stand blameless before God when Christ returns.
In today’s Gospel, we hear of signs in the sun, moon, and stars and the coming of the Son of Man. The reading points the faithful to take care with their spiritual lives, not carousing or even becoming wrapped up in the “anxieties of daily life.” The introduction to the Lectionary for Mass, #93, notes the themes for the Gospel accounts each week of Advent. “Each Gospel reading for Advent has a distinctive theme: the Lord’s coming at the end of time (First Sunday of Advent), John the Baptist (Second and Third Sundays), and the events that prepared immediately for the Lord’s birth (Fourth Sunday).”
While preaching during Advent, St. Cyril of Jerusalem focused his listeners on the Second Coming, which he said would surpass the first. He said, “We do not only preach that Christ comes once, but also a second time as well, even more glorious than the first. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, will come from heaven at the end of the world, in glory on the last day. For there will be an end to this world of ours, and the created world will all be made new” (Catechetical Homily for Advent).
For Your Reflection: How can you regard Advent as a time of looking to God to guide and teach? What can you do this Advent to grow in love for others as you prepare for the Second Coming of Christ? During this Advent, what effect can being “vigilant at all times” have on your spiritual life?
THE FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
This year the Feast of the Immaculate Conception falls on Saturday, December 8th. It is one of the holydays that is always considered a holyday of obligation, no matter what day it falls on, primarily because it is the patronal feast of the Church in the United States. Ordinarily on an obligatory holyday we at St. Peter’s offer twelve Masses on the day itself and the vigil the night before. However, since the majority of those who would come to a holyday Mass will not be downtown on Saturday, your home parishes will have to provide the necessary Masses in order for you to fulfill the obligation.
Here at St. Peter’s on Friday evening, December 7, we will offer two vigil Masses that will fulfill your obligation: one at 4:30 and a second at 5:15 P.M. On Saturday, December 8, we will celebrate our usual Saturday noon Mass for the feast. These will be the only Masses for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Saturday evening Mass must be celebrated for the Second Sunday of Advent.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the subject of many misconceptions. Perhaps the most common one, held even by many Catholics, is that it celebrates the conception of Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That the feast occurs only 17 days before Christmas should make that error obvious. We celebrate another feast—the Annunciation of the Lord—on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas. It was at the Annunciation, when the Blessed Mother humbly accepted the honor bestowed on her by God and announced by the angel Gabriel, that the conception of Christ took place.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in its oldest form, goes back to the seventh century, when churches in the East began celebrating the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary. In other words, this feast celebrates the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of St. Anne. However, that original feast does not have the same understanding of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception has in the Catholic Church today. The feast arrived in the West probably no earlier than the 11th century, and at that time it began to be tied with a developing theological controversy: both the Eastern and the Western Church maintained that Mary was free from sin throughout her life, but there were different understandings of what this meant.
Because of the doctrine of Original Sin, some in the West began to believe that Mary could not have been sinless unless she had been saved from Original Sin at the moment of her conception, thus making her conception immaculate. Others, including St. Thomas Aquinas, argued that Mary could not have been redeemed if she had not been subject to sin, at least to Original Sin. The answer to St. Thomas Aquinas’ objection, as Blessed John Duns Scotus showed, was that God had sanctified Mary at the moment of her conception in His foreknowledge that the Blessed Virgin would consent to bear Christ. In other words, she too had been redeemed; her redemption had simply been accomplished at the moment of her conception rather than, as with all other Christians, in Baptism.
On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX officially declared the Immaculate Conception a dogma of the Church, which means that all Catholics are bound to accept it as true. As the Pope wrote in the Apostolic Constitution, “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
In order to keep everything at St. Peter’s in good working order, we need many people to assist us in a variety of ways. One of the most pressing needs is to assure that we always have trained servers, readers and Communion ministers to assist at the altar for our weekend and weekday Masses. We are so thankful for the many individuals who have come forward—some for many years—to be present in those capacities up until now, but we are still in need of more volunteers so that we are covered for all seven of the weekday and all five of the weekend Masses each week.
Therefore I am inviting you, even if you have never done this before, to respond to this urgent invitation to step forward at this time to join the ranks of personnel who assist us in the sanctuary. We are most willing to accommodate to your desires and your schedule as far as time of day and number of times you might be scheduled during a given month. I promise you that by doing so you will gain an even greater appreciation of the gift of the Eucharist and of your relationship with Jesus Christ. Sometimes people say they would love to do this but that they think themselves unworthy. Our spiritual lives are about being honest before the Lord, yet opening ourselves ever more to His invitation and welcome.
If you would like to volunteer or to get more information of what it would entail, you may contact James Kapellas at 312-853-2418, Phil Bujnowski at 312-628-1254, or Fr. Kurt at 312-853-2417. Why not let this be your Christmas gift to yourself and to the Lord this year?
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, 2018.
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.
RETIREMENT FUND FOR RELIGIOUS COLLECTION
A number of years ago the Bishops of the United States realized that, as the age of religious men and women began to increase and the costs of retirement likewise, religious would need some financial assistance since many communities of both women and men had not put monies aside for their retirement needs. All this led up to establishing an annual national second collection for this purpose during the month of December. Throughout these years Catholics have been most generous in responding to this appeal.
Last year the collection raised a total of $26,091,385 which along with other donations and money from investments netted a grand total of $33,298,449. People in the Archdiocese of Chicago were most generous, donating just over one million dollars to the Retirement Fund Collection. Our own Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart received $256,405.00 from the National Office to help us meet the retirement needs of our friars. Therefore I am asking you next weekend to please be generous again this year so that needy communities of both women and men religious might be assisted.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE BASKETBALL SEASON
After a recent college basketball game, the coach spotted a cell phone lying on the floor. He picked it up and handed it to one of the referees saying, “Here’s your phone.”
“What makes you think it’s mine?” the ref asked.
“Easy,” the coach replied. “It says you missed 13 calls!”