COME, AND YOU WILL SEE By Bishop Edward M. Rice
Nov. 25, 2022
In these waning days of November, the month of All Souls, as we begin the season of Advent on Nov. 27, I want to remind you of the beautiful tradition of having a Holy Mass offered for the repose of the souls of the departed. This tradition, reaching back into the Old Testament illustrates the union of the Body of Christ in prayer. In 2 Maccabees 12:38-46, Judas Maccabeus orders that sacrifices be offered in the temple in Jerusalem for Jewish soldiers who had died. The Roman Catholic teaching on purgatory reflects its understanding of the communion of saints. We are connected to the Saints in heaven, those in purgatory and believers here on earth. The Catholic Church teaches that all sin, unfortunately, has a life of its own and may have bad effects even after the sinner repents. I share with you a beautiful quote that was recently sent to me. The author is unknown, but the words speak so beautifully of our spiritual relationship to one another: “All creation is taken up by Christ the Redeemer to be transformed and presented to the Father. In this way we also bring to the altar all the pain and suffering of the world and the certainty that everything has value in God’s sight.” In other words, nothing is lost to God: Everything belongs to God. In the month of All Souls, we are reminded of our mortality here on earth and should also be reminded of the ultimate goal of this life—heaven!
Do you know Leon Bloy? Born in France in 1864, he went from being an agnostic and intense anti-Catholic to a staunch defender of the faith. I offer a quote for consideration as we ponder the traditional “for last things”—death, judgment, heaven, and hell. “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is to not become a saint.” And so I remind us of our three diocesan priorities—growth in holiness— forming intentional disciples—and witnessing to the faith. May each one of us do our part to become a saint.
THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS
I recently received a letter from a parishioner who asked me to encourage respect for the Holy Name of Jesus by bowing one’s head during the liturgy. I quote from her letter: Every chance I get, I have included in the petitions that we show respect for the name of Jesus by bowing our heads at His name. I had hoped that you would encourage this habit (which I have) by asking your clergy to do this (I have) and thus being an example to the people. I cannot understand your reluctance to do it (I am not). During a recent Vigil Mass that I celebrated in St. Sylvester, in Eminence, a woman from out of state said she noticed that I bowed my head at the Holy Name during Mass. She remembered it from her childhood and said she was inspired to renew the practice in her own life. However, this is a form of piety and I cannot legislate piety. So, like the woman in the Gospel who badgered the unjust judge until she got justice, I pass on her words to the clergy and to all the people of the diocese: Start bowing your heads at the name of Jesus or this woman will do me harm!
“O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” For me, nothing says Advent like that beautiful song. I’ve always found the melody to be rather haunting and joyful at the same time, filled with expectation, hope, and longing. For the weeks leading up to the Feast of Christmas, the days of Advent call us to prepare the heart, to turn away from sin, and anxiously await Christ at his coming.
This time of year, society pummels us with advertising. In order to have a “good” Christmas, you need the latest gadget, the latest clothing, the latest toy. There is an alternative! As the Scriptures unfold for us week-by-week, we hear the beautiful details of how God is active, fulfilling the promises of the people of Israel. The prophet Isaiah calls us to beat our swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. He has this beautiful vision of the world where, “One nation shall not raise the sword against another… let us walk in the light of the Lord!” In the coming of the Lord, Isaiah reminds us, “There will be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain.” At the coming of the Lord, “The desert and the parched land will exult … They will bloom with abundant flowers.” The images of Isaiah are some of the most thought-provoking, challenging us to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ.
The Gospels of Advent challenge us to, “Stay awake and be ready, for the Son of Man will come when we least expect.” We hear John cry out, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His path.” The Gospel of the fourth Sunday of Advent gives us the details of Joseph, Mary, the Holy Spirit and the bestowal of His sacred name, Jesus.
It is during Advent that the Domestic Church, the home, plays such a significant role in celebrating this liturgical season. Celebrate Advent with an Advent calendar where each day you can reflect on the Scripture of the day. Place a manger scene in a prominent place in the home and have the kids place a piece of straw in the manger for every kind act, making a “bed” for the baby Jesus. I have a habit of praying the joyful mysteries every day during the Advent and Christmas season. It really helps to keep me focused. Make decorating your home a religious experience by singing a Christmas song before and after putting up the Christmas tree. Of course, the Advent wreath is most prominent. You can make your own Advent wreath with evergreens. Light the candles every evening at dinnertime and offer a little prayer. I have fond memories as a child of lighting the Advent wreath. The little pamphlet that came with the Advent wreath had certain prayers which indicated that on the first week, the father lit the candle; the second week the mother lit the candles, the third week the oldest child, and in the fourth week, the youngest child. And of course, we all fought to blow out the candles at the end of the meal.
Emphasis on the “Domestic Church” is a key factor as we strive to move from “maintenance to mission.” What the faithful experience on the parish level, especially the sacramental life, should bear fruit at home, the domestic church. Prayer should not be limited to the parish church. If so, there is a disconnect between life and faith. No, it is in the home, the “domestic church” that it all comes together. I am sure that everyone will see the Advent wreath when they walk into the parish church on the first Sunday of Advent. What a beautiful complement it would be to have an Advent wreath in every home. And how powerful it would be for a family to attend one of the scheduled communal penance services and experience confession as a family! Family reconciliation fulfills the words of Isaiah, where the wolf will lie down with the lamb, i.e., family members at peace with one another. So, celebrate Advent at home. Utilize an Advent wreath. Truly make your home the “domestic church.”