Wow! What a month November has been. We have been on a very emotional ride between the Cubs winning their first world series since 1908, and a very hotly debated election that has yielded new leadership in many key positions, most notably the presidency. The campaigning and the election have brought continued, sharp political division. Credible historians tell us that we have not seen this level of political separation in the United States since the Civil War.
Last weekend’s liturgies took us back in remembrance of one of Chicago’s greatest spiritual leaders, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, as we marked the 20th anniversary of his death. We also welcomed our brand new Cardinal, Blase Cupich in yet another milestone of his time with us. We all remembered saints and heroes on the first day of the month, and many gathered to remember loved ones who passed away this past year on the second day of the month.
Many of us gathered with family and loved ones for Thanksgiving a few days ago, and now, as a particularly emotional November draws to a close, we mark the beginning both of a new church year and Advent this weekend.
With all of our feelings and emotions, almost all of the current events of this past November urge us to look forward. Go, Cubs, Go! and win another World Series next year. Cardinal Cupich is encouraging us to Renew the Church of the Archdiocese of Chicago. President Trump will bring new people and strategies to the nation’s highest office. We may not be a Cub fan, so renewal on the north-side won’t be a priority for us. We may have reservations about what Renew My Church means, and we may have opposition or reservation regarding new political leadership. Advent signals a profound spiritual message in the midst of all of this. It not only marks a beginning, but it prayerfully leads us to look ahead to the incarnate word of God joining us in the arena of human life, becoming one of us, and bringing us light – not only despite our differences, but, in some cases, because of our differences.
The final line of the first reading this weekend from Isaiah gives us a spiritual message that we can all embrace. Isaiah urges the warring nations of his time to “Come…let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is an invitation to all of us today. God gives us a holy light in Jesus Christ. Let us walk in that light together. At times that means that we put our short term or superficial differences aside and walk together, taking each other’s hands even though we may disagree. At other times we might have to agree to disagree and yet still take each other’s hands, particularly as we pray together and celebrate the sanctity of who we are and who Christ is to us, in the Eucharist.
You will notice, as we start a new church year and read primarily from the Gospel of Matthew, there will be many references to light. Hopefully you will notice our sanctuary a bit dark as Advent begins and then it will become brighter as we welcome the ultimate new light, not only at Christmas, but beyond in the celebrations of the Christmas season that include, Mary, the Mother of God, the Baptism of the Lord, and especially Epiphany.
Accompanying the growing light will be our new theme for the year, reNEW. This word not only supports the efforts of our new cardinal and the Archdiocese of Chicago, but it is an invitation for all of us. As you can see, the emphasis is on the word NEW. This year brings us opportunities to reNEW ourselves as God’s people in our local church, but also here at Holy Family. It quite simply is an invitation to be an even HOLIER Family. I am asking you very directly to be the evangelizers of the many good, positive, creative, powerful and meaningful ministries that happen here at Holy Family every day. I am asking you to be harbingers of our many ministries and how they have enriched your faith life and that of your families.
We are highlighted in Bill Simon’s brand new book entitled Great Catholic Parishes. In it he illustrates four essentials of a great parish. They are:
- Shared leadership
- Excel on weekends
- Foster spiritual maturity and discipleship
- Evangelize in intentional and structured ways
We will be focusing on these essentials and more as we take this year to focus on how each of us can reNEW ourselves and our parish community, but I am asking all of you to be more intentional and structured in your invitation to people you encounter to join us here at Holy Family. I am asking you to be intentional evangelizers in reaching out to people who have left the church, and perhaps left Holy Family.
I am asking those of you who are particularly dedicated to the very ambitious mission of Holy Family to be the choir that preaches to our community. The image of the pastor preaching to the choir highlights a mistake that many leaders make. They criticize those who are already present. I am asking all of you to be the choir that preaches Holy Family’s good news to our community and beyond. I am certain that this effort will reNew us all!
An opportunity to reNew your spirit is our all parish Advent Reconciliation Service on Wednesday, December 14 at 7:00pm. Mark your calendars.