Brothers and sisters:
“Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” asks Isaiah. Recently at a Diocesan gathering of parish staffs we were presented with statistics backing up what most seem to recognize with some trepidation: that evidence of fervor in the practice of the faith seems to be waning a bit in general. Mass attendance and religious vocations in our country are trending down even as the number of self-identified Catholics is remaining fairly steady or even trending up a bit. There is also statistical encouragement. For example, young people who are Catholic generally intend to remain Catholic. Also, “fervent” or regularly practicing Catholics seem to be demonstrating even greater generosity in witnessing their faith. Even so, many of us ponder the reality we face. There seems to be less demonstrable faith in God among the general populace. We know that this is a recurring theme throughout history. In general, God’s people are filled with grace and inspiration in one moment and seem to lack it in others. We experience this in our individual lives as well. There is mystery here, but our faith tells us God is always at work in the midst of it. “Lord, increase our faith” we cry with the Apostles.
The Season of Advent and a new liturgical year call us to renewed hope. It is a time of joyful anticipation and preparation for the celebration of the Word-made-flesh, God among us. Wherever we find ourselves, God is with us; recognized or not. “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved” declares the Psalmist today (Psalm 80). “Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33). The Advent Season, the Liturgical Year, and our journey here on this earth are short. Jesus reminds us of this. He wants to reveal the face of God to us. We strive to be busy seeking when He comes: “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways” (Isaiah 64:4).
In Christ, son of Mary,