Once a penitential season similar to Lent, Advent is now observed as a season of “joyful and spiritual expectation.” (Cf. General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, Chapter I, Title II, n. 39) The joy comes first from looking back and recalling all God has done for us, the people he loves and saves. In today’s First Reading the Jerusalem of old, whose citizens had been taken into exile, is told to mourn for them no more because God has not forgotten them and he will bring them home. The Responsorial Psalm is a hymn of the exiles returned from captivity. Being back in their homeland seemed too good to be true. Cannot these words apply today to Mother Church, the New Jerusalem, who has seen so many of her children abandon the practice of their faith? May the grace of this Advent season inspire them to return home.
In today’s Gospel John the Baptist is seen “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” In this way he prepared the way of the Lord, helping people to remove the obstacles to spiritual union with God. In our day we have the Sacrament of Penance. The penance services in our parishes have been the opportunity for many each year to come back home to the Church and the sacraments. It is a time of joy for Church and penitent alike.
The joyful expectation of Advent also comes from looking forward to welcoming Christ when he comes again. Like Saint Paul in today’s Second Reading, Mother Church rejoices that the good work of salvation will continue to completion on the day of Christ Jesus; and she prays “that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
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.
The second cause besides the world missions which was not incorporated into the Diocesan Annual Appeal is the Retirement Fund for Religious. This national collection is taken up to support the retired members of religious congregations which are struggling with the costs of health care. Your gift is an act of gratitude for the ministry of the religious sisters, brothers and priests who may have served you in the past. There is an envelope in your envelope packet for this appeal, and envelopes are also available in the back of church for those who need them. Please be generous.
On Wednesday, December 12, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This feast commemorates the last of several apparitions of our Blessed Mother to Saint Juan Diego in 1531. To her is attributed the eventual conversion of the Mexican people. Today she is venerated as the Patroness of the Americas.
I have purchased a subscription to FORMED for our parishes. It is an online resource of Catholic information and entertainment. An article later in the bulletin tells how to access it and register. There is no cost for you to use it. Sign up today!
Continue to pray the rosary this week for peace and for the needs of our nation. Pray also for those who may have abandoned the practice of the faith, that they may respond to God’s grace, come to the sacrament of penance and return to the regular celebration of the Eucharist.
May God bless his people with peace.