by Bishop DiMarzio
A very beautiful Advent hymn that is known to many is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Of course, “Emmanuel,” when translated to English, means, “God is with us.” That seems appropriate, because many of us today feel very much alone.
Why is it that we feel alienated? Increasingly in today’s society, human beings’ worth is determined by their productivity. We become cogs in a machine. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in an address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, speaks about the work of the New Evangelization as helping “to dethrone modern idols, replacing individualism, materialistic consumerism and technocracy with a culture of fraternity and gratuity, and with mutual love.”
The season of Advent is an opportunity for you and for me to prepare for the second coming of Christ by entering into solidarity and communion with one another. Advent is a reminder that we are not alone. All too often, this preparation has been reduced to decorating the home and purchasing gifts. Those things which are precisely intended to foster deeper and longer lasting relationships very often today become a cause of anxiety and alienation.
In no way is that more clearly seen than the case of the new trend some take part in to shop at the end of Thanksgiving Day, when we should be taking the time to spend the day with our families and friends.
There was a beautiful short story by the American author O. Henry titled “The Gift of the Magi.” As most of you know, the story is about a very poor husband and wife who sacrifice what is most important to themselves in order to give a gift to the other. I think most families try to do that today. Despite the difficult economic conditions, many people go into debt in order to purchase gifts for loved ones.
Time, Love and Attention
The reality is that what our children most need is not the most popular gaming systems or a hundred more Legos. Rather, it is the time spent with and the love of their parents. So too, most parents are not primarily concerned with the gift that a child could give. The parents are more interested in being an active part of their children’s life, even when the parents are elderly.
Most husbands and wives would much prefer the warmth and affection of their spouse to a beautiful watch or the newest accessory.
How then might we engage in preparation for this second coming of Christ? We start with rediscovering our own great dignity. Pope Benedict XVI frequently describes Advent as a purification of memories. Perhaps over the many years of life, the bruises that are inflicted upon us, as well as those that we may inflict upon others, are in need of forgiveness. For us as Catholics, this season may be the most appropriate time to take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation.
Perhaps those moments when we have treated other people as though they are objects, or when we have allowed ourselves to be objectified can be healed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we look around our Nation and the world today, the economic problems we all confront are daunting. Life seems much more expensive, employment more tenuous, and many find themselves living paycheck-to-paycheck just to get by.
It is tempting to allow ourselves, in the midst of these circumstances, to forget our great value and worth in the eyes of God. The Advent hymn continues, “O Come, O Wisdom from on high, who orders all things mightily, to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.” Wisdom is seeing ourselves in the world as God sees us in the world, and resisting the Devil’s grip which obscures our sight and diminishes us and those around us.
As we put out in the deep this Advent, in this beautiful Year of Faith, my hope for you and your loved ones is that this season may be a time of profound joy and renewed peace.