As We Begin This Holy Season

Homily for December 3, 2017 (1st Sunday of Advent)
Is 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7; Ps 80; 1 Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37

When I came to St. Clare Montefalco several months ago, I was excited and fearful.  I was excited to have another opportunity to be in parish ministry.  In my years as a seminarian and later as a deacon and priest, I was blessed to serve at several wonderful parishes in Chicago and Milwaukee.  I was hopeful that I could draw on those experiences in a new and much larger community.

But I was also anxious, for the one thing that I knew I lacked was also one of the things so essential to ministry in a parish like St. Clare:  the ability to speak Spanish.  Although I had picked up a few Spanish words and phrases over the years, I had never studied the language.  I also knew that language is much more than words; it is also an expression of culture.

While I am grateful for the incredible patience, understanding and kindness from many parishioners, I am still afraid and self-conscious.  I continue to study and I continue to learn, but I know that it will take me years to really acquire and be comfortable with this new language.   But people continue to encourage me and tell me, Poco a poco, Padre.  Little by little, I need to keep moving forward.  I will stumble, but I want to stumble forward on this journey.

Today we enter a season of journeys, particularly in parishes blessed with the cultures of the peoples of Mexico: 

The Novena and feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron of the Americas;
Las posadas, where we remind ourselves that Mary, Joseph and Jesus were themselves migrants and pilgrims in need of hospitality;
The season of Advent, which reminds us that the coming of Christ is a past, present and future event.  As we used to say in one of our old memorial acclamations at Mass:  “Christ has come, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

These are journeys that we make every year.  We are aware of our sinfulness and we strive for conversion poco a poco.  We also recall our mortality:  one day we will die and the world as we know it will end.

As we begin this holy season and this very busy month we pray for the grace to look back and see God’s providence in history, from Bethlehem to Tepeyac; to look around and see God’s presence and action in our midst, in the places where we live and work; and to look ahead to that day when Christ will return and we will experience the reign of God in all its fullness, beauty and peace. +