My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As we begin the holy season of Advent, a beautiful Advent hymn that comes to my mind is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” When translated to English, it means “God is with us.” That is important to remember, because many of us during this time of year may feel very much alone.
That is exactly why the season of Advent is even more important. It is an opportunity for us all to prepare for the second coming of Christ by entering into solidarity and communion with one another. It is the season of hope, and we appropriately lit the first candle last weekend to signify the hope Advent brings to all of us.
While suffering, great or small, can be something none of us want to endure, we should realize that our human suffering is an opportunity to follow the example of Christ, for in our pain we become more united deeply to the Lord.
That is something I hope can bring comfort to the millions of Christians being persecuted around the world for their belief in Christ.
The persecution of Christians is at near “genocide” levels according to some reports, and Christianity faces being “wiped out” in some parts of the Middle East.
The Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need has published a report, “Persecuted and Forgotten,” where it says the persecution against Christians has now worsened in South and East Asia.
Our Christian brothers and sisters are enduring unimaginable suffering. To raise awareness to their plight, the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Christmas tree this year is adorned in only the color red, specifically 17,000 red lights and 2,500 red bows. The Diocese of Brooklyn, DeSales Media Group and Aid to the Church in Need are part of this special tree lighting on Thursday, December 5 in front of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.
The ceremony includes the blessing of the life-sized Nativity crèche and a special performance by the St. Saviour’s High School Gospel Choir.
This year we are encouraging parishioners to also hang red ribbons in their own trees, homes or fences to bring awareness to the suffering our fellow Christians are enduring across the globe. It will be one small way to show persecuted Christians they are not alone, they are in our prayers and their suffering will not be in vain.
Advent is a reminder that we are not alone. With our suffering, it is tempting to allow ourselves to forget our great value and worth in the eyes of God. The Advent hymn continues, “O Come, O Wisdom from on high, who ordered all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show and teach us in its 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 into the deep this Advent, my hope for you and your loved ones is that this season may be a time of profound hope and renewed peace.