Bishop’s Letter: Checking your list twice with a spiritual lens

Dec 6, 2023
Stained Glass of the Annunciation at St. James Cathedral, Orlando.

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you this holy season of Advent. How marvelous is God to offer us His sacred comfort — the comfort we receive when we partake of the Eucharist. This sacred comfort is everlasting; for He is with us always, generation to generation for all time.

I do not think it can get any better than that! Yet, I find in our encounters, that we are constantly seeking, not with a focus on God who transcends our daily living, but on other things. We have only to look at our Christmas lists to recognize that our heart may not be “rightly set.”

The Catholic Church gives us this glorious season of Advent to prepare the way of the Lord! We are called to make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Isaiah the prophet tells us to shout to the world about God and, without fear, be the herald of His Good News. We are called to proclaim peace to all the people.

Pope Francis said, the greatest gift is Jesus “being in our midst, in our being in His presence and company. He walks with us. He shows us the path of love. He lifts us up when we fall, and with such tenderness. He supports us in our labors. He accompanies us in every circumstance of life.”

We look to the faith of our Blessed Mother to understand how God works through each one of us to comfort each one and to grant us His salvation. In Mary, God rejoices and is especially pleased as the angel Gabriel calls her, “blessed.” He hosts in her womb the very source of our life, Jesus, the Son of God. She lives intimately united to her Son, to show us how to straighten our crooked paths and to let everyone know of His great light by our own daily living. She challenges us to become merciful, loving people that all communities become oases and sources of charity, that everyone know of God’s indelible comfort.

Let us make haste to be ready to receive Jesus, no matter the day, time, or year. Let us empty ourselves of our old ways of thinking. We return to our focus on God and clear out the sin that clouds our vision of God. I recommend we avail ourselves to the Sacrament of Penance so that we are ready to receive God’s forgiveness to be renewed by  His abiding presence within us.

Let us go back to that Christmas wish list and rethink it based upon our transfigured highway to God. Is there an action of charity listed? Is there a conversation with someone you need to forgive? Is there a time for praying with the family? Is there a desire to participate in the celebration of Mass? What might you add to keep you on God’s path?

Pope Francis exhorts us, “(T)he Word of God speaks to us of mission. Where does mission originate? The answer is simple: it originates from a call, the Lord’s call, and when He calls people, He does so with a view to sending them out. How is the one sent out meant to live? What are the reference points of Christian mission? Every Christian, and especially you and I, is called to be a bearer of this message of hope that gives serenity and joy: God’s consolation, His tenderness towards all. But if we first experience the joy of being consoled by Him, of being loved by Him, then we can bring that joy to others. This is important if our mission is to be fruitful: to feel God’s consolation and to pass it on to others!”