By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Advent ushers in the new Church year calling the Lord’s disciples to prepare his way for the coming of the Kingdom, one of justice and peace and the joy of the Holy Spirit. (Romans) Faith in the One God sent is the road to life, because it is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The Word of God in Advent addresses the call to holiness and righteous living for the individual, but also calls for the removal of sinful structures and realities in our midst that are obstacles to God’s Kingdom on earth.
John the Baptist represents every generation of prophets in anticipation of the Messiah who had this vision, for he is the voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3,5-6) On the second Sunday in Advent, these words of Isaiah, embraced by John the Baptist, point to the long-awaited Messiah, the Lamb of God who will gather all nations into the peace of God’s Kingdom.
Yet, there can be no lasting peace without justice and the words of the four prophets of Israel featured during Advent make this abundantly clear. On the second Sunday in Advent the prophet Baruch full-throated and unsparingly proclaims: “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever, wrapped in the cloak of justice from God… God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.” (Baruch 5,1-2, 8-9) This is my longing and hope for the Diocese of Jackson and especially for the parish communities of Saint Joseph in Starkville and Corpus Christi in Macon. Let the Lord Jesus banish the clouds of mourning and misery and guide us in the light of his glory with mercy and justice for company. What a great gift this will be for all of us who seek to prepare His way in our lives.
On the First Sunday in Advent last week we placed an insert in the parish bulletins of Saint Joseph and Corpus Christi that calls for restorative justice and reconciliation for all who are suffering in these parish communities. Justice requires that everyone who sincerely gave to Father Lenin Vargas’ causes for health and/or mission, causes, not done with diocesan oversight for a number of years, must be offered the opportunity for financial and material restoration. This is underway.
However, only the strength that comes from God can remedy the profound sense of mourning and misery that weigh down the hearts, minds and souls of many of the faithful, financially deprived or not. We pray that the season of Advent will be a time of reconciliation and renewal and we have scheduled a Reconciliation Service at Saint Joseph’s for the two parish communities on Wednesday, December 19, to pray that God’s saving grace may level mountains of mourning and fill the valleys of emptiness presently overwhelming our hearts.
The hope and joy of Christmas are rooted in the conviction that nothing is impossible for our God who comes to save us and I pray, along with many others of good will, that the seeds of healing and new life are already taking root because the Lord is near, in every corner of our hearts and minds and in every corner of the Diocese of Jackson. Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus.
By Bishop Joseph Kopacz