Shepherd's Message - Advent 2019

December 1, 2019

The Season of Advent returns on Dec. 1, the beginning of a new liturgical year. It introduces us again to the final coming of Christ at the end of time and also focuses us on Jesus Christ’s first coming in the flesh. It allows us not only to see, but also to participate in “sacred history.”

Whenever God is involved in the world and in the affairs of human beings, that involvement always means sacred history. We have learned that from our Jewish brothers and sisters in the Old Testament.

For the Old Testament the Lord accompanies the world through Creation and His providential care for Creation; He accompanies Israel by choosing them as a special people, a people “He has made His own.” It is for these two reasons of “accompaniment” that we read and think about many passages in the Old Testament in Advent about God’s past and future comings, perhaps even a definitive Coming. Yes, we celebrate the appearance of a definitive Coming, the Conception and Nativity of His Son for our salvation, His Son who always pleased the Father, was obedient to Him, and gave Glory to God.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis wants us to be like Advent, to always accompany others and wait for Jesus with others. The Pope says we can and should communicate Jesus wherever we are. “We are to offer others an explicit witness to the Lord … who offer us his closeness.” (Evangelii Gaudium). Our behavior and our voice summon Jesus to come. That is Advent. Sacred History is being lived again, is thought about, and its ending is genuinely proclaimed.

Advent traditionally means reading the prophets like Isaiah, reading about the Second Coming in the Gospels, and then reading of Christ’s first coming in Palestine and Judea 2,000 years ago. This year, we will hear proclaimed the Gospel of Matthew on most Sundays of the year. Matthew, the tax collector, was called by Christ to be an apostle. The Gospel he wrote is very much saturated with quotes and references to the Old Testament. It is a very “Jewish” Gospel.

As Catholics, we have many distinctive customs and practices for making Advent beautiful. There are Advent wreaths and Advent Towers with the titles of Christ from the Old Testament pictured in the windows. There is St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucy Day and, above all, the days of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe. The latter Feast is especially significant in our Archdiocese, building on pro-life themes, Mary is very much with child in the image on the tilma, and justice, Mary is protectress of the humble people in Mexico. The Advent customs and practices save us from observing Christmas too early. Our culture wants instant gratification. Advent slows us down!

Let us meet and accompany Christ this year by meeting and encountering each other — in prayer, acts of kindness and real acts of justice. May we crease the world with our own sacred history of doing good.