Advent is a wonderful time of year. It’s that special season when families huddle together around the TV (or alone, on their various devices) to watch hundreds of greed-inspiring ads and listen to Xmas carols with rewritten lyrics that sell lottery tickets, and cars, and smartphones.
That’s Option A. Option B is this: We can make Advent 2017 something much deeper and much better. We can live it as the season was meant to be lived.
C.S. Lewis, the great Christian scholar and storyteller of the last century, had a particular dislike for the yearly pagan blowout called “Xmas” (now “the holidays” – even Xmas was too religious for mass marketing purposes). Lewis wasn’t a Scrooge, and he certainly knew the beauty and joy of gift-giving rooted in love. But he always led his readers to remember what Advent and Christmas are actually about.
In his novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lewis describes the fear and sadness of an imaginary world (Narnia) ruled by an evil witch; a world where it’s “always winter and never Christmas.” And in that world, when Father Christmas finally does arrive, he’s the sign of an even greater arrival: the coming of the lion Aslan, son of the Great King over the water, and Narnia’s savior and liberator. A more vivid Christian allegory is hard to imagine.
The joy in Christmas (“Christ-Mass”) has its source in the birth of Jesus Christ, redeemer of man. Advent, the start of the new Church year, is the preface or prequel to that world-changing event. It readies our hearts to receive the Child Jesus at Bethlehem, and also Jesus the Son of God and Lord of history at the end of time. It’s a season to reflect, repent, put aside our sins and failures, and begin again in hope as true disciples.
How do we do that? Christian life involves a balance of contemplation (prayer, worship, and the sacraments) and action (the practical works of discipleship that flow from our faith). Thus, there’s no such thing as authentically Christian action unmoored from a personal faith in, and relationship with, Jesus Christ.
This is why putting ourselves in God’s presence through daily prayer, frequent Mass and Confession, and regular reading of Scripture are so important: These things are life-giving waters in the desert of our daily challenges and distractions. Reading and praying over the first and second chapters of Luke’s Gospel each day during Advent are a great way to experience the richness of the season.
But the seed of faith is meant to grow into a life of apostleship. That means engaging the needs of others. Mary and Joseph were strangers to Bethlehem, travelers, poor, and without shelter the first Christmas. Recalling that is a good way to direct our thoughts away from ourselves to the hopes and worries of others this season. And plenty of people do need our help.
To take just one example: Despite the kindness of so many Philadelphians, and the great work of our Catholic Social Services and other organizations, our city ranks among the 10 most distressed large cities in the United States on issues like unemployment, median income, poverty, housing and education.
Hunger – astonishingly, for a nation as wealthy as the United States – is also a major problem. One in five Philadelphians can’t afford enough food, according to the group Hunger Free America. This makes the work of our archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services (NDS) – especially the NDS Child Nutrition Programs and NDS Community Food Program – doubly vital.
Meanwhile, our metro area is home to thousands of young adults living in limbo this Advent due to the shutdown of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. These persons arrived as children with parents who illegally immigrated. They’ve grown up in the United States knowing no other nation or home.
To put it more bluntly, America is their home but they’re not citizens. And starting in March 2018, up to 1,400 DACA recipients a day of the 800,000 countrywide will become subject to deportation.
Both of our political parties, as well as the White House, sympathize with the plight of these young people. But the devil (or God) is in the details. Good intentions in Washington often founder on partisan bickering.
Among the greatest acts of kindness we can do this Christmas is to write our U.S. senators and congresspersons. We need to urge our federal representatives to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act without delay. The DREAM Act is a good solution to this significant problem, and it has my strong support and the support of America’s bishops.
In the end, we’ll be judged by the depth of our faith and how it shaped our lives – or didn’t. It’s a simple truth, but a good one to keep in mind in the remaining days of Advent.
Editor’s note: Information about archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services can be found at NutritionalDevelopmentServices.org. Tax deductible gifts can be sent to: Nutritional Development Services, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 222 North 17th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
Information about the DREAM Act can be found here.
Contact information for U.S. senators and congresspersons can be found here.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Really don’t understand what is immoderate about my response to Gerard. No expletives, no hateful speak; just my opinion of G.’s views on DACA. What’s the problem? Is it that you just don’t agree with me? How not?
the Catholic Church must provide alternatives…the martyr Fr Pino Puglisi did so in Palermo. what he fought against was corruption and exploitation. if people are not doing that here then what exactly have we to offer? open new programs south of the US border and in Africa. close the door to addictive drugs and immoral behavior. we are seeing young people used as drug mules arriving on airplanes. that is highly organized crime. Go forward and stop assuming we are offering what is not here. the border is protected by law..what are we teaching those we encourage to undermine our system. I have years of experience and some people are very hard to help because they have 1. no intention of respecting US law 2. they bring some very serious behavioral problems with them3. they think we are stupid 4. so we must do good really not fulfill the expectations that we will allow anything from anyone. 5. be kind but protect human rights and US law…6. criminal and civil law cannot be thrown out and there is Biblical exhortation to work. and the Church needs to address the same bad actions any place.
I was listening to Representative Jim Jordan, (R) of OHIO, grill the assistant Attorney General asking what it would take to get him to appoint a second special prosecutor to investigate some stupid contrivance regarding Hillary Clinton and the now infamous 2016 presidential campaign. His question, of course, was designed to deflect attention from the myriad issues which Donald Trump, finds himself under scrutiny for. This of course is what interests the Republican party that controls Washington the most these days. This and the passage of their tax scam bill, which would strip the middle class and poor of America from any chance of ever having a real stake in the well-being of our country.
I would like to ask Archbishop Chaput what it would take for him to finally assign responsibility for the abject failure to address any of the problems he alluded to in his article where it squarely and plainly belongs. Not with Congressional Democrats who fight tirelessly to improve all of these conditions; but with the President and Congressional Republicans who daily attempt to squeeze the remaining life and hope out of anybody in this society who enjoys less than $1 million per year in income. I can’t be sure, but I think it may have something to do with the abortion issue, over which the Archbishop continues to dismiss any discussion as “dissembling.”
Vincent, I will put you on the prayer list of our men’s prayer group.
It seems that calls for greater immigration, like DACA, work against the other 2 priorities that the Archbishop articulated. I wonder how many of the DACA-eligible are part of the statistics of unemployment, median income, poverty, housing, education, and hunger in the Philly area.
I don’t believe that simply legalizing all those eligible, en-mass, is the answer. We must know much more about these 800k people. I believe that we must screen them using the RAISE Act standards. Any DACA immigrant that has been convicted of a felony (not just violent crime) must be deported.
Economic and personal security would also be great Christmas gifts that the government could bestow us!
These kids were brought to this country as small children. They know no other home. They may well be more American, and more Christian, than you ever were or will be! Every piece of research that I have seen indicates that the vast majority of these DACA folks are solid citizens who are proud to be Americans! Unless you’re a native American, we could just as easily send you and yours back to the country of origin of your ancestors. In your particular case, that may be one way to MAGA without spending a dime of taxpayer money!!