November 25, 2005

Advent teaches we’re not in control — God’s light can help

Catholic Sentinel

11/25/2005 Archbishop John Vlazny

Advent is as long as it can possibly be this year — four full weeks. It all begins on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 27. Advent, that wonderful season of hope, provides us with a time to celebrate quietly and purposefully the coming of the Lord Jesus among his people. Advent is a time of great expectation. It is a time when the prophets speak to us in Scripture about the one who comes with justice and peace. Parents see expectation in the faces of their children. We all long to teach them about the birth of Jesus as they wait for the coming of Santa Claus.

Last year in Advent I heard about the situation in Ireland back in the 17th century when the English armies were occupying the country. The King’s army had been sent to suppress the “Roman” religion of the Irish peasants. Priests were outlaws. They were all forced to minister on the run and celebrate the sacraments in secret.

But the Irish were not easily intimidated. When Christmas came, they placed burning candles in their windows and left their doors unlocked. The occupation troops were suspicious and wanted to know what this was all about. The people explained that the candles were lighted and the doors left open so that Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to stay on Christmas Eve, would find their way to their homes where they would be welcome. Of course the English thought this was just another silly “superstition” and they let it go. But the lighted candles were really a signal to any priest in hiding that this was a “safe” house where he could come in and offer Mass on that most holy night. ...

On the first Wednesday of Advent, Nov. 30, we shall be observing our first Ember Day of the new liturgical year. This is a time I have asked all the Catholics of western Oregon to set aside for prayer and fasting. Our intention once again is for the healing of the victims of child sexual abuse by clergy and their eventual reconciliation with the church. We pray too for our perseverance in continuing the evangelizing mission of the church, in spite of all the obstacles and distractions.

The unremitting anxiety, unexpected longevity and mounting frustration that have accompanied the scandal have made life challenging for all of us. We like to be in control. Clearly we are not in control this time. When you stop to think about it, a major problem of the human family right from the very beginning was its desire to be in control, to be like gods. That’s what led to the downfall of Adam and Eve. It can lead to our downfall as well.

Posted by kshaw at November 25, 2005 04:55 PM