A Shepherd's Message - Dec. 12, 2017

December 12, 2017

A new Liturgical year happens more quietly than the opening of the civil year. The Church opens her yearly celebrations of the mystery of Christ with the season of Advent, a few weeks of preparation for Christmas and also for the coming of Christ in glory at the end of time. Advent does not ask us to “play act” the historical coming of Jesus as though we were unaware of his conception and birth 2000+ years ago. It does not ask to fear his Second Coming. Advent invites. Advent persuades. Against the noise and frantic pace of what we may daily live or endure, Advent requests some time of quiet, genuine moments of slowing down to listen, a space of silence, however brief. The prayers and Scriptures Readings, the music and practices of Advent are a slow motion experience of joy.

We know that Christ came among us and is among us. We know Him. But we also do not know Him. He is always in advance of us coming to meet us anew. As our friend, Savior and Lord there is never a time when we cannot deepen His friendship, His saving power in us and the power of His Kingdom still coming in the world. Pope Francis keeps insisting on our encounter with Jesus which produces a knowledge and vigor that sends us out to meet others. Knowledge of Jesus in the heart sends us out as missionaries. Jesus is always Someone “new,” who always allows us to see another person as new.

Advent is the yearly season of the Church year for newness. This is why we can read the Old Testament writings of the Prophet Isaiah, the well-known preaching of John the Baptist, and the astounding attentiveness to the Lord of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the initial chapters of the Gospel of St. Luke, the Annunciation, the Visitation and the Nativity, and read them as new discoveries! These Readings may seem old, repetitive, but Advent adds freshness to habit. The reading is not mechanical, but vital.

Even at the time of John the Baptist, Israel was waiting and waiting in hope, waiting for something it already possessed in an angled way. The Baptist, the One who runs in advance, makes specific that Israel is waiting for God, for the person of the Messiah. This is Good News for the poor: the poor are central to the various themes of Advent. Some are poor materially, some are not destitute but are impoverished in heart, mind and spirit. Jesus announces the good news even in the poverty of His birth, in His humility of spirit, in his total dedication to the Father. So intense is this sense of poverty that the season of Advent/Christmas has left its mark on being generous, of sharing our resources and our very selves with those who are poor or in need in a variety of ways. An Advent not marked by notice of the poor, outreach to the poor, attentiveness to those spiritually poor is an incomplete Advent, a torso without a head. The head gives direction! As members of the Body of Christ we respond to the Lord in Advent with great generosity, with greetings cards and gifts for others. In such encounters we gain a great increase in the knowledge and intimate friendship with Jesus. Remember the poor.

Take advantage of our own spiritual poverty by being reconciled this Advent in the Sacrament of Reconciliation by repairing wounded relationships and friendships, by treasuring the beauty of the earth, by a silent watchfulness and waiting for the Lord Jesus. Let the cloak, the tilma of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe warm you and take you anew to hear the message of the Advent Scriptures. The Lord is coming and will not delay. He stands at the door and knocks. If any of us listen to his voice and opens the door for him, he will come to us and sit down to supper with us and we with him.

A Blessed Advent. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!