My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
The season of Advent is a time of interior reflection upon our life in Christ. We anticipate the birth of our savior and realize that our choosing salvation is our inner struggle between good and evil. The season of Advent brings us great light and we ask God to know what is happening within us.
Pope Francis spoke about this inner struggle recently and said, “even saints feel this inner struggle within themselves.” It is not an abstract differential between good and evil. It is a struggle that is within us all and during this season, particularly, we are more focused on this struggle that we might prepare the way of the Lord.
Who is guiding us in our daily living? On whom are we focusing as we do our shopping or participate in a penance service at Church or visit with family or attend a holiday party? Is our delight truly awe of the Lord? Pope Francis said the struggle “is always between grace and sin, between the Lord who wants to save us and pull us away from this temptation and the evil spirit who always throws us down” in order to defeat us. Are the decisions we make in union with God or dictated by selfishness?
Sometimes it seems that we are very critical of each other, but not necessarily examining ourselves inwardly. Recently a news story published an overall criticism of Diocesan Review Boards, commenting on the lack of transparency, the lack of leadership, the lack of wisdom and understanding of its members. The Diocesan Review Boards were formed to assist with the safeguards within a Diocese for assuring as safe an environment as possible. Our own Diocesan Review Board was formed in 1995 at the suggestion of a victim of sexual misconduct by a priest. I am grateful for the courage of this victim to make such a suggestion. I am equally grateful for the late-Bishop Norbert Dorsey who listened to the victim and called for the creation of a Diocesan Review Board. Having met with the members of the Diocesan Review Board, I can tell you that they take this call to serve very seriously. They sacrifice their time and travel from throughout the Diocese to meet and confer about matters of safety; about reaching out to those who are hurting; and advise me on various aspects of policy and accountability. They do not come together to be lauded; but, are humbled to serve. These men and women are members of our parishes, they are your neighbors, they are a part of the body of Christ. They deserve our gratitude and prayers, not our criticism.
I also noticed that we are asked during the upcoming election year to make a pledge to be civil toward one another and to avoid bullying and yelling at our differences. I find this idea of a pledge very sad since in our baptism we are called to be in union with God. God would not advocate for anything but the strength of him who is love.
As we continue to make straight the path to God, let us be mindful of our own difficulties in loving each other. Let us not put conditions on God; rather, let us truly examine our own heart that it is open to receive the word made flesh to dwell among us.
May we have the spirit of strength to follow Jesus; not to judge him, but to befriend him. May we make room in our heart for God’s actions and be accountable before the Lord.