First Sunday of Advent
Advent. Today we begin the Season of Advent, 4 weeks preparing for the celebration of
the Birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. Sadly, the culture around us has turned the days
from Thanksgiving to December 25 into a time of nonstop sales, shopping, television
specials, radio carols, and, of course, “Christmas parties.” All this can tend to transform
the religious Advent season into a pre-mature and secularized Christmas celebration.
But We have to be careful of getting so caught up in that secular celebration that
we wind up omitting Christ Himself from the celebration. Rather, Advent must remain
for us, first and foremost, a season of preparation to celebration. And by that I mean we
need to spend time thinking and praying about the reason we celebrate Christmas with
such joy: that we are sinners, but that God has not left us in our sins. That God so loves
us that He entered the world as a tiny baby, so He could truly be one of us, and
communicate that love person to person, and eventually go to the Cross to die for our
sins. So Advent must be a time of remembering our sins, and opening our whole lives to
the love of Christ. It is only with this sort of preparation that we can begin to understand
and experience the true joy of this most magnificent gift.
But note, this joy should build in us throughout our preparation—as we become more
prepared, we become more and more joyful. So there is nothing wrong if even in the
midst of the penance and prayer of Advent, we also increasingly partake of the joy of
Advent. But we must not confuse the Advent joy of Christ with the merely sentimental
feelings of the secular “yuletide” season. Rather, we should transform the secular fun by
our Advent Christian joy.
So how do we prepare? Remember:
–Do some small penance every day to remind us that nothing is more important
than Christ, and that everything we do is for Him;
–Add extra prayers to your daily routine, for example, the Rosary, especially
meditating on the Joyful Mysteries;
–Read Scripture especially the Gospels;
–Give, making generous gifts either directly to those in need or to worthy
charitable projects/institutions (e.g., the parish Giving Tree and the special collection for
–Receiving the grace of the sacraments is one of the most important things you
can do in Advent. Go to Mass and Adoration, and go to Confession;
–Live the life that Christ came to give us: make every day about loving God and
your neighbor as yourself, beginning with keeping the Commandments.
Two Special Advent Events. I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir next
Sunday, December 9 th at 7pm for “Lessons & Carols.” Every year more and more folks
come to this, and LOVE IT! The “Lessons” refer to the reading of prophetic texts from
the Old Testament and Gospels, laying out God’s incredible plan for the birth of His
Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in
popular hymns and spreading their vocal wings in leading us in carols and a few more
complicated choral pieces—they are AMAZING. Afterwards, we’ll have some time for
Advent fellowship at a short reception, with delicious seasonal refreshments. Trust me,
this is a really wonderful evening—you’ll have a great time. Please join us.
I also ask you to attend my three-part Advent Series: “Looking at the Nativity: Mary,
Jesus and the Holy Night,” on the first 3 Thursdays in Advent. Last Advent we
discussed the life of St. Joseph, so this year I thought I’d continue to consider the
“characters” and the story of the Nativity. This coming Thursday, at 7:30, we begin with:
“Mary: What do we believe?” Last year about 200 people came, and they seemed to
enjoy themselves. So please join us this year. See today’s bulletin insert for further info.
Bishops’ Scandal. This last week brought more confusion regarding the Bishops’
Scandal. First we heard that Pope Francis had appointed Cardinal Blase Cupich of
Chicago as one of the coordinators of the meeting of Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences
in Rome this coming February to address the scandal. This was confusing in that Cardinal
Cupich has a very controversial record on the scandal. For example, former Papal Nuncio
Archbishop Vigano has pointed him out as a protégé of former cardinal McCarrick.
Moreover, he is a frequent defender of the pro-gay subculture in the hierarchy, and
strongly denies the link between that subculture and the molestation of adolescent boys
by priests. Finally, speaking about scandal last September he stated: "The Pope has a
bigger agenda. He's got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and
protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We're not going to go down a
rabbit hole on this."
I was also confused by news of the death of Bishop Robert Morlino, of Madison,
WI, last week, of a heart attack at the age of 71. “Confused,” in that I don’t understand
why God would take such a good bishop from us right when we seemed to need him
most. Bishop Morlino was one of the most forthright and courageous bishops I ever met.
For example, when the sickening news about former cardinal McCarrick came out last
summer, Morlino wrote a strong letter to his diocese, stating in part:
“I am tired of this. I am tired of people being hurt, gravely hurt! I am tired of the
obfuscation of truth. I am tired of sin.…I am tired of the regular violation of sacred duties
by those entrusted with immense responsibility from the Lord for the care of His
people….[Regarding] the allegations of former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s …sexual
sins, predation, and abuse of power. The well-documented details of this case are
disgraceful and seriously scandalous, as is any covering up of such appalling actions by
other Church leaders who knew about it based on solid evidence. …It is time to admit
that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is
wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord…”
If I am often mystified by God’s choices, I am often bewildered by Pope Francis’
choices. In the end, I simply trust in the all-wise and loving God, and pray for the Pope,
and for clarity and true reform.
Immaculate Conception. This Saturday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the
Immaculate Conception (“IC”), a Holy Day of obligation (all Catholics must attend
Mass, and it is a mortal sin not to). Please note that you must attend 2 Masses this
weekend, one for IC and one for Sunday. [FYI: Technically, you can attend the Saturday
Vigil Mass (which will have the prayers of Sunday in Advent) and count that for your
“IC” obligation, if you also attend a second Mass on Sunday itself to count for your
Sunday obligation]. See the Mass times below.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles