Today begins a new liturgical year. While God is timeless, we live in time. At every moment the story of human history is being written. The season of Advent is very much about the intermingling of the eternal and the temporal. God is both the author and goal of human history. As we heard in last Sunday’s Second Reading, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.”
The Advent season calls us to look forward as much as it invites us to look back. This Sunday’s liturgy tells us to be vigilant (watchful) for the Lord is coming again. We look back to what God has spoken through the prophets, see those words fulfilled in Jesus Christ and trust in his promise to come again. He comes both as judge and savior. For the sinful, that is an event to be feared; for the faithful, it means vindication and deliverance from suffering and death. Therefore, “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Gospel)
Hope is the virtue of Advent and it should characterize our lives as Christians. This is expressed at every Mass in the embolism, the prayer following the Lord’s Prayer: “we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” This is the posture to which Saint Paul exhorts us in the Second Reading: “Strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.”
With this new liturgical year we begin cycle C of the Sunday readings for Mass. This means that the gospel readings will be taken primarily from the gospel according to Saint Luke. This gospel portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies. Luke also challenges us to be faithful disciples of Jesus each day, so that we may “look forward to his second coming.” (Eucharistic Prayer III) During this Advent-Christmas season the first two chapters of this gospel will recount for us the events of the birth of the Messiah. Listen attentively.
This year we have a short Advent season, although it is a little longer than in the past two years: three weeks and two days. Today we bless our Advent Wreath as a sign of our growing anticipation of the joy of Christmas. I hope many of you keep this custom also in your homes.
The sacrament of penance is an important part of our Advent preparation for a worthy celebration of Christmas. There will be additional opportunities for confession as Christmas approaches. The priests of the Chippewa Falls Deanery will be making the rounds of the various parishes the week of December 16 to increase the availability of this sacrament as well. Our penance service will be at St. Charles Church on Sunday afternoon, December 23, at 4:00.
This week we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the patronal feast day of the United States. It is a holy day of obligation. Masses for the holy day will be Friday, December 7, at 5:30 PM at St. Charles and 7:00 PM at St. Peter; and Saturday, December 8, at 8:30 AM at St. Charles.
As we begin a new “year of grace,” continue to pray the rosary for the needs of the Church Universal. Pray for Christ’s faithful in the Madison Diocese who lost their bishop, Bishop Robert Morlino, a week ago; and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.