Today begins a new liturgical year. Although God is timeless, we live in time. 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. 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.
The Advent season calls us to look forward as much as it invites us to look back. Three times in today’s Gospel Jesus tells us to “Watch,” to be vigilant. 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. In today’s Second Reading Saint Paul describes the posture of the Church as “wait[ing] for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He says that, if we live in grace, we will be “irreproachable” on the day of his coming. Yet Isaiah in the First Reading confesses on our behalf that “we are sinful.” The only remedy is for us to turn our wills and our lives over to God, so that he may refashion us into people pleasing in his sight, as a potter makes something beautiful out of clay. The refrain of our Responsorial Psalm expresses the impatience that comes from the awareness of our weakness and our need for conversion: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” God, however, does not take over our liberty; we must freely turn to him and renounce our sins. He calls; he has revealed his will; he has given us the means to live lives pleasing to him and worthy of the name of Christian: faith, prayer and penance. This is the goal of life, “as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Embolism after the Lord’s Prayer) In the meantime: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” (Gospel)
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. Our second-graders will be making their first confession this Saturday morning, December 9, at 9:00. The priests of the Chippewa Falls Deanery will be making the rounds of the various parishes the week of December 10 to increase the availability of this sacrament as well. Our penance service will be at St. Charles Church on Monday evening, December 11, at 7:00.
This Friday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It is the patronal feast day of the United States and a holy day of obligation. The schedule of Masses on Thursday evening and Friday is elsewhere in the bulletin.
Coming soon! The La Crosse Diocese, along with the Green Bay Diocese, was founded by Blessed Pope Pius IX on March 3, 1868. We will be marking this anniversary throughout the diocese next year. Locally Bishop Callahan will be visiting the Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire Deaneries in August. A sesquicentennial book will soon be available for purchase at $33.00 per copy. It is a marvelous book that contains a history of the diocese and of all our bishops, and photographs and brief histories of all our parishes. The book is full of many inserts that also make it special. It is a coffee-table type book that will also make a great gift. You will be very impressed once you see it.
As we begin a new “year of grace,” continue to pray the rosary for peace and for the needs of the Church Universal. Pray also for peace and for the needs of our nation. Pray for people who 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.