Waiting with Hope
December 7, 2010
I am writing this column right at the beginning of Advent. These past two weeks have been busy with the meeting of the Bishops of the United States in Baltimore, the Consistory in Rome where 24 new Cardinals each received a “red hat,” and the installation of the new Archbishop of San Antonio, the Most Reverend Gustavo Garcia-Siller, who had been the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
I want to express our congratulations and prayers to Archbishop Gustavo, a priest of great humility and unbounded enthusiasm for the Lord. I know he will lead San Antonio with great love and energy. I further want to congratulate Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and a classmate of mine from Rome, on his election as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. His intelligence and humor will serve him well in that position. Finally, I want to express congratulations to the two new American Cardinals who were recently elevated to the College of Cardinals, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and Raymond Cardinal Burke, former Archbishop of Saint Louis and now Prefect of the Apostolic Segnatura, a kind of “Court of Appeals” in Rome. Cardinal Wuerl was my bishop in Pittsburgh for many years and his knowledge and wisdom are highly respected by all. He was unfailingly kind to me when I was named a bishop in Iowa and continues to be a model of clarity in teaching and civility in his approach to issues in the public square. Cardinal Burke and I were classmates both in Washington and in Rome. He is a superb and very well-trained canon lawyer and is being recognized for his excellent jurisprudence in interpreting the foundations of Canon Law in the Church. May the Lord bless all these bishops and give them His help and strength.
It is Advent. The last page of Holy Scriptures in the Book of Revelation calls out: “Come, Lord Jesus.” The Eternal Word emptied Himself and became man; took on our flesh and blood. His first coming was one of humility. By His Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension He freed us from the wound of sin and opened to us the Kingdom of Light, a Kingdom truly established and lived in His Church but a Kingdom still to be fully realized when the Risen Jesus Christ “will come again in His glory to judge the living and the dead.”
We are “already” in Christ Jesus and He in us, but there remains a “not yet!” There are still obscurities, in our lives, in the life of the Church, and in the world. Our vision of faith still waits for the fullness of Christ’s light to shine on all created reality, beginning with ourselves. The time of Advent is not play acting. We have a genuine dimension of the truth that we wait for the fullness of Christ’s coming to us and our world. The very beautiful readings from Scripture in Advent each year – from Isaiah the Prophet and the letters of Saint Paul, to the Gospel proclamations of the work of John the Baptist and the joyful acceptance and readiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary in saying “yes” to the message of the Angel Gabriel and in becoming the Mother of God – all these scriptural lessons beckon us to a more serious examination and living of our need for, our desire for, the coming of Christ to us personally and as members of the Church.
The times of the promises are past. Jesus Christ has come! He lives and moves in us through the Sacraments, prayer and in our “bearing fruit in holiness” in our moral agency in the world. We still need to be soaked more completely in His Word, His power, His humility, yes in the grace He gives us so generously. The world at large loves Christmas for the joy it announces and, unfortunately, for the economic boom it can give to the retailers. The frenetic pace that many people endure during December should serve as a foil for the more genuine kind of preparation for Christmas to which the Church invites us.
I pray that the four weeks ahead in Advent will allow you some moments of more quiet prayer, a participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance, and a generous outreach to those who, like Joseph and Mary, find themselves as pilgrims and homeless and in need of our very specific helping hand of welcome. God bless you all