I don’t think there is anyone who is not looking forward to turning the page on 2020. It’s been a tumultuous year in so many ways and I’m not going to further burden you by recalling what we’ve been through. When I read this weekend’s passage from Isaiah however, it seemed like an indictment against the citizens of the United States, including Catholics. “Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” Never in my life have I seen our country and our Catholic Church so divided. Getting caught up in the blame game that defines American politics has torn us apart, and in many cases seems to have, as Isaiah says, “hardened our hearts” to the point of subordinating our allegiance to Jesus to that of our political alliances. Isaiah continues: “We are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.” But there is hope because: “You, LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer you are named forever.”
Today marks the first of four Sundays of Advent and the start of a new liturgical year. It is a season that recalls the three comings of Jesus: His first coming in Bethlehem; his present coming in the Mass, sacraments, prayers, as well as in the daily events of our lives, and his future coming at the end of the world. Unlike Lent, a somber, penitential season, Advent is a season of joyful expectation that nonetheless comes with loving words of advice from the Lord: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming!” He knew and saw for himself the results of division and preached to his followers: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand” (Matt: 12:25).
My friends, while it’s important to learn from the past, it doesn’t do much good to live in it! Instead, as we begin this new liturgical year, I encourage everyone to recall what we as Catholics profess to believe - i.e., that we are: “…, one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.” There is no place for division in unity - we are either divided or united, and politics should NEVER be the determining factor in how we live our Catholic faith. Recall the story of the Pharisees who tried to trick Jesus by asking whether or not people should pay the census tax. His reply was simple, yet profound: Jesus recognizing their hypocrisy said: “Whose image and inscription is on this coin? They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mark 12:16). His reply could not be clearer! First and foremost we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, every other allegiance is secondary. So let’s commit to stand together as brothers and sisters of Christ, put our differences aside, help one another, leverage our differences for the greater good, and pray: “O God who by the light of the Holy Spirit does instruct the hearts of your faithful, grant that in the same Spirit, we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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