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Note: The blog series for The Ten Commandments will conclude next week, as Bishop Perry has something to say .. below. 

“The Troublesome Season of Advent”

Bishop Joseph N Perry of Chicago

The Church dons her clergy in somber purple these four weeks. Coupled with the sober chants and hymnody ordered for the season, within a cold, darkened world as the northern hemisphere is turned away from the sun for a while, the dry barren remnants of nature left behind, the absence of decoration in our churches, all provide a peculiar ambience for reflection and prayer for purposes of a deeper understanding of what God has done and is doing with us for the salvation of this world. 


Matched with the ancient days this season echoes, Advent is not meant to be a festive interlude certainly.  Apart from the warmth and charm of the season and the affirmative note given our closest relationships, this is a season of mixed emotions.  Advent reminds us of all that is not but should be.  The first Advent lasted several thousand years while a people waited for God’s touch upon a troubled world.


In addition, the surrounding chaos overhanging life, fear that grips our streets and the apprehension that permeates our city, the health crisis that has gripped the country and indeed the world; and the resulting commotion that grips our individual lives, brings sharp imagery to this season of begging consolation from God.  If anything, we are aware of our own lack of fulfillment and satisfaction in face of all that is going on in the world.


Yet, God is in our midst when signs would indicate otherwise:  outbreaks of urban terrorism around the country, gun violence in our streets, mysterious suicide rates; the various addictions that grip the lives of people, family dysfunction and divorce, miscarriages of nature, moral confusion, the unsettling issues of immigration which have succeeded in working divisive tensions among us while ripping families apart, Advent has something to say to all of this.


For these are news items that can lead to cynicism or despair or inspire faith that the Lord continues to speak to us in our chaos … issues through which Jesus continues to walk through our lives overcoming all things in order to save us despite it all.


In this time of vigil, Christians are coached not to give in to depression or sarcasm.  Instead, we are given the grace to make God incarnate these days through our words and actions, to support one another with hope in God while we navigate together through the problems of these times.


Necessarily and most especially out of the tragedies and moral degradation of these days we must speak and live prophetic lives announcing a year of favor from the Lord, effecting revitalization of the Christian life in these times while we await Jesus to come back to take us with Him.


Advent’s most important message these four weeks is that we are essentially waiting for Jesus to come back to take us with Him.  Notice, the last book of the Bible, - Revelation - the very last page of the Bible, the very last words on the last page of the Bible are found recorded these words:


“Come, Lord Jesus!”


Reading the bible from cover to cover and imbibing God’s Word to us in midst of a people who experienced triumph and tragedy, sinfulness and holiness, war and peace, all this leads to those very last words of the sacred writ focusing our attention on the primary sentiment of the Church, namely, waiting on its Lord to return as He promised. Nothing in the interim is found entirely satisfactory in this life.  In the words of St. Augustine:


“Our hearts are restless O Lord, restless until they finally rest in thee!”


Therefore, until He returns all else exists in the realm of the meanwhile, the meantime, the temporary.  When He comes, all else will pass away.  In fact, words like, the end, final, stop, conclusion, finish, finale, termination, period, such words will disappear from language forever.  For with God there is no beginning and no end to anything where He dwells.  Everything will exist in the eternal present.


In the meantime, nothing is lasting here. When He comes we know He will give us the fullness of life which the world cannot give us.  Advent looks forward to the Lord’s Second Coming.  Practicing Christians that we are, we have a rich opportunity to wrap our worries and anxieties in the scripture and the Church’s prayer these weeks of Advent and therein find reassuring glimpses of God’s consoling presence in our lives.



There are a number of themes we can develop these several weeks but, we might say Advent is a time for us to let go of things that hold us back from truly preparing and for opening our hearts to the great hope the coming of the Lord will bring to each of us.  As we all know, letting go of the things we have and hold on to can be difficult.  The things we hold on to tend to be a mixture of the good and the bad and the ugly and the neutral.  However, letting go and allowing the Lord to lead us will result in blessing beyond imagination.


There are 3 principal actors in this season that show us how:


Blessed Virgin Mary

Joseph of Nazareth

John the Baptist


All three of them let go of things and allowed the Lord to lead them. The blessings that flowed resultingly for them were extraordinary!  These 3 personages are our models for how we can navigate through the challenges of life with our faith and hope and love intact.


John the Baptist had a thriving ministry addressing the moral sickness of the day.  He had followers who found his words attractive and believed in his preaching.  He was baptizing scores of folk at the shore of the Jordan River and was becoming famous in the region for a cutting analysis of the prevailing culture.  Leadership saw him as a trouble maker.  He had fame, adulation and respect from still others.  Yet, he was able to let go of it all and allow his essential vocation to come to light.  As the gospel describes him, the Baptist was called to decrease so that Jesus could increase.  In his own words in reference to Jesus:  “I am not worthy to untie the straps of his sandals.”  Can you imagine a professional athlete, a politician or Hollywood actor or actress uttering such words about another person? 


Granted, the Baptist was speaking about the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus.  John was only a prompter, forerunner, backstage hand, not on the stage as protagonist, not under the lights, but in the shadows.


Ultimately, John had to let go of his own life, snatched away from him by the local regent, king Herod, who had promised to deliver John’s head on a  platter to the daughter of his mistress who bore a grudge against John for reminding her and Herod of their illicit relationship.


Joseph our Lord’s foster-parent, shows us the stature of a good man, husband and father, a believing man in how he let go of his own doubts and fears that, for a young man in particular, was amazing.  Joseph loved and cared for Mary and no doubt he dreamt of the life they would have together as husband and wife.  In this first of families of our Christian dispensation we see exemplified life’s pattern of trouble, set-back, anxiety and joy that all families go through.  Yet, God walked with Joseph and Mary and the child Jesus. 


Getting married was taken for granted in Palestinian culture of that time.  A single man or single woman in Israel was looked at askance.  There were no other respected lifestyles for that culture of that time.  It was expected that every young man and young woman would marry and raise up children to the nation Israel. God’s promise to their ancestors would be fulfilled in their descendants, their children’s children and then some.


Think then of how Joseph must have felt when he found out that Mary was pregnant.  He was heartbroken.  Her reputation was brought to question. Yet, even in that hurt he was unwilling to expose Mary to public shame.  What a glimpse we have into the noble person of the man Joseph, a gentle, quiet man who loved and respected the woman who was arranged to be his wife and wanting to protect her.


Then the angel intervenes with a message from God: “Do not be afraid to take Mary into your home as your wife for what is of her womb is of God’s doing.”  Joseph was chosen to protect God’s secret, namely, the origin of His Son and the integrity of the Child’s mother.


Instead of feeling cheated out of his plans Joseph lets go of his doubt and confusion to allow God’s will to take center stage.  Joseph willingly let go to let God.


How blessed we are that Joseph demonstrated such manly humility and affection for his bride-to-be and the circumstances she labored under.


Now, let’s look at our Blessed Mother and how she let go of things.  She most likely also had dreams of what married life would be like making a home and raising children with Joseph.  Mary was a normal young woman for her culture and time except for sin, of course.  Yet, she was willing to let go of her dreams when the Archangel brought news that she would conceive in her womb and bear a son but no man would be involved, as God had design and purpose for this child.  Don’t forget that Mary did not say yes on a whim. She understood what was taking place.  “How can this be since I have had no relations with a man?”  Mary understood the facts of life and also knew the serious implications of a single woman becoming pregnant before she was properly married in that highly religiously grounded society where shame of this sort was socially unacceptable.


Mary must have had fear about her safety and her future.  How would she tell her parents?  How would she tell Joseph, her intended?  Telling them she became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, though true, might not be the most believable to those around her.  Instead, she casts her worries and cares aside and decides to leave behind the tension and travel south to be of assistance to her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant with a child who will be known later as, John the Baptizer. 


Mary returns home around five months later, only for everyone to notice immediately that she is with child, but by whom?



The Advent collection of scripture, purple, candle light, sober hymns and reflection offers the right kind of medicine for these times of apprehension.  We need the season of Advent in order to help us process the mysterious things that go on in our lives, things we often have no control over but for which we wish to get through with our faith, hope and love intact.  Advent is Advent precisely because of the trouble that lingers in the world and in our individual lives. We are reminded that God walks with us and His plans will prevail if we let them.


It is clear from bible references and the lives of bible figures, from the lives of saints gone before us and the lives of saints we rub elbows with every day that God never asks anything of anyone without the components of inconvenience and suffering attached to it. 


We can sometimes hold on to things we feel that only we can handle.  We push God aside until we are desperate and then we expect God to perform on our behalf. We are not so ready in the meanwhile to suffer for God and his Cause.


This Advent, let us pray that we would be open to letting go of anything the Lord’s asks of us and to pick up and carry the cross He sometimes sends to us.  In doing so, the blessings that will come to us and through us will be beyond our imagining.


How about bringing the powerful Advent message of light and hope to our homes? – I can suggest several ways you can evangelize your household this season:


  1. Display the Advent Wreath with its four candles accompanied by the lighting prayer just before saying grace before a meal, a seasonal passage from the prophet Isaiah or the gospel of Luke read by a family member.
  2. Helping our children and teenagers and young adults wrestle soberly with all that is going on in the world and in our city from a Christian perspective.
  3. Display the Christmas crèche without the figures of the infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph till Christmas Eve, then have the children or grandchildren come together to place the figures in the scene, instructing the children on the significance of each of the nativity figures.  Explain the difference between the symbols of the holiday season and the emblems of the holydays.
  4. Praying the rosary as a family.  The Joyful mysteries of the rosary capture the mood of Advent.  Before each decade a short reflection on the particular mystery can be read from the bible by a member of the family.  The rosary mysteries are found in prayer books and published pamphlets and the internet.  If needs be, each reflection can be written out or re-written to match the abilities and understanding of a child.


Advent is a reminder that fulfillment is not yet ours in this life.  Our fulfillment comes when He finally comes again to close off this age of trouble!




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