By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Following the great Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the culmination of the church year, we seamlessly flow into the season of Advent when the Word of God directs our gaze beyond time and space to eternal life. It is the season of light in the midst of darkness, when we prepare for the coming of the Lord at the end, at every moment and at Christmas.
Come, Lord Jesus, for you are our hope and peace, the way and the truth who can shepherd us through uncertainty and vulnerability by the light of faith.
The pandemic, along with other threats to the dignified well-being of humanity, continues to intensify personal and social woes, as well as inspire amazing resiliency and loving concern for others. It’s a reality that places before me the timeless words of Charles Dickens that are quite fitting for the season of Advent, and for the times in which we live.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was a time of light, it was a time of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
How each of us chooses wisely and justly in the circumstances and trials of our lives while caring for one another makes all the difference in the world. Our God of salvation calls us to pursue the best of what this world has to offer: wisdom, belief, light, hope and a vision for eternal life when indeed we will have everything.
It’s not easy on some days, but in the midst of the whirlwind we recall that all things are possible with God. Advent is a sacred season, inviting us to recommit ourselves to reconciliation and hope, justice and peace.
The last half of my column this week is a substantial part of my annual Advent/Christmas letter sent to the folks back home and in the diocese.
“I hope y’all have experienced far more blessings than burdens this past year. In the great Magnolia State throughout the Diocese of Jackson, as with many organizations and events, there has been a steady return to our churches, and greater participation in various ministries, with our schools at the forefront well into the second year of the pandemic. In the time ahead, we are looking forward to the Year of the Eucharist as parishioners return to church in greater numbers, and over the next four months to gatherings throughout the diocese in response to Pope Francis’ challenge to the church to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through all baptized Catholics.”
“In the personal sphere, my dear dog of 14 years, Amigo, took his last breath on Easter Monday, April 5. He lived 14 years almost to the day, seven as a northerner, and seven as a southerner, truly a charmed life. No explanation is needed regarding the void from his passing.”
“On the other hand, later in the year in October, when my sister Mary Ellen was here on vacation, we made an astonishing discovery among my father’s courtship letters to my mother during the World War II years. Within the pack of his correspondence from Italy where he served during the war were several postmarked letters from, guess where – the Air Force Base in Columbus, Mississippi.”
“Surprise, surprise! Right up to that moment of discovery, I had always stated that ‘I’ve never known anyone personally who had lived or lives in Mississippi before my assignment here.’ I began my service here toward the end of 2013; Pop began his service here toward the beginning of 1943. My roots in Mississippi are quite deep after all, going back nearly 80 years. As providence and fate would have it, I was consecrated and installed as the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Jackson on February 6, my father’s birthday. Golly, I never saw that coming!”
May the season of Advent that has opened up before us allow the Lord to prepare our hearts and minds to await his coming so that on Christmas our voices will cry out full throated and unsparingly with the choirs of angels, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth.”