Advent Pastoral Letter—December 2015

Posted by on Dec 1, 2015 in Updates

bishopDear brother and sisters, cure

PAX!

The way I see it, order each season of the year teaches us something about life. Winter teaches us about hope. Spring teaches us about rebirth. Summer teaches us about strength, and fall, which lays down a carpet of leaves for our path, points out to us the many things in our world which fade away despite their beauty. But what we discover is not something that simply ends, but rather something which is knocking at our door to allow us a new beginning. With this Advent which we begin today, we inaugurate a new Christian calendar, and we encounter the Gospel again, as if for the first time. As we do so, we find that our hearts are not resigned to the fatalism of current events, to poverty, misery, terrorism, or announcements of war. We recognize that we have the right to rebel against things that should not be, and that despite the trouble and grief in our lives, we have the confidence to dream once again.

As we enter Advent, we as Christians find ourselves in a spiritual “cease fire” amidst the struggles which surround and embroil us. From the trenches of those conflicts, we dare to lift up our heads and to lift up the flag of our dreams in a world so different from the one established by the kingdom of God.

The new life which we celebrate year after year is Jesus Christ. And we believe in that new life, who became one of us and pitched His tent, a tent of encounter, in the midst of the struggles and snares which surround us. The warning which we heard in the Gospel; that there will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars; is not some ominous prophesy intended to terrify us. Rather, it is a call to be attentive, so that when He manifests His grace we may recognize it. A call to lift up our heads and to be vigilant for the time of His coming. He who lives distracted is one who remains a prisoner of his past or impeded from his future. In either case, he is incapable of embracing a presently occurring wonder. In order not to live distracted, in order to embrace that radical phenomenon, we must lift up our heads as the Gospel tells us (Luke 21: 25-36)

Mankind does not know how not to wait. But it is not just any kind of waiting to which we are called. Our vigilance is not passive. We must live our lives awake, because salvation is nearer to us than when we might believe. In our vigilance, we must take off the masks that hide and disfigure the beauty of our lives, in order to put on that Light which makes more apparent the radiant beauty of He who made us and redeemed us. We must heed the cry of our heart. We must unceasingly claim the miracle of that which never ends. We must recognize that Someone, who like none before or after, has taken seriously that cry, who has embraced the plea of our human heart, allowing it from that time forward to know renewed hope and happiness.

The words which encapsulate the message of the Word of God this First Sunday of Advent are wait and vigilance. A wait that brings us closer to the event which we are certain will happen, though at a time unknown, and a vigilance that will keep us awake and attentive to the signs of the times so that we will not be asleep or unawares at its arrival.

How was it were those people who faced for the very first time what we call today Advent? There was a great cry coming from their mouths—that they needed something new, Someone new. Truly, they needed to embrace that new path, that new faith, that new shepherd, so they might be led out of their corrupt and debased lifestyle, their dead ends, their unsolved dramas, their snares and traps, their hatred and sadness, and their errors and horrors. Someone new who would truly be the suitable answer to their longings and desires. That was the first Advent, the anticipation and waiting for Someone who would embody their hopes, free them from their captivity, and bring them to joy.

In our Christian Advent we remember Him who has already come, while at the same time, we welcome His unceasing presence among us, and finally prepare ourselves for the final liberation which He has promised, (Luke 21: 22). This is the paradox of our faith: to remember He who came: from the welcome of He who has never left, in order to prepare us to receive He who will return. The subject of that paradox is just one person, who is Jesus Christ. This is the time that prepares us for the celebration of the true Christmas. We embrace the marvel that is timeless and without timeframe, of the One who has been among us, is yet in our midst, and who will someday return. This is the good news that we can offer without deceit as the Advent winds fill us with hope, gladdening our hearts and our cities.

And this is what happened at the dawn of Christianity, in a world filled with sadness, where despair haunted the streets and the months of the calendar were marked with misery. It was then, Luke tells us, that the city was filled with joy. Something happened in their lives, Someone happened in their midst. It was not an illusion, not a dream or a hope, but a reality which changed the lives of the people and transformed the darkness of their society. That profound change was not the fruit of calculation or strategy, but of something far greater, which is the healing grace which proceeds from the Provident mercy of God.

Advent is a time of revival of our faith, revival of our hope, revival of our charity. It is a time to revive our personal relationship with Jesus and gaze toward the future as a redeemed people, awaiting our final liberation, the encounter and the eternal embrace of God.

Brothers and sisters, the history of this Liturgical season speaks of three Advents; of turning our eyes toward the Lord who came once some 2,000 years ago, as we prepare to receive Him when He comes again at the end of times, while welcoming He who unceasingly comes to our hearts in this present day and age. There we have it, the conjugation of the verbs of life: past, present and future, which focus on the recognition of He who came, who is to come and who is always by our side. The Lord who comes and the man who waits with a vigilant attitude. This is the Christian Advent, the one we begin again without ever tiring.

May God bless you during this glorious Advent season.

bishopsignature

The Rt. Rev. J. Alberto Morales, OSB
Quincy IX

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