November 25, 2016

Rejoice in the Lord

Waiting in hope with grateful hearts, we begin a new Church Year

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

“As we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us” Ti 2:13-14.

Just yesterday, we celebrated the popular Thanksgiving holiday. As I’ve mentioned before, I spent 20 years living in Rome and traveling all over the world on behalf of my religious community, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists).

During my time abroad, I discovered that nothing unites Americans who live away from their homeland more than the annual Thanksgiving celebration. No matter where we are in the world, when Thanksgiving Day comes around, we Americans find a way to celebrate!

Many families, as they gather around the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day, take some time to share with one another what they are grateful for. This is a powerful custom because it gives concrete, verbal expression to things which we may feel in our hearts but do not acknowledge often enough.

My “gratitude list” is a long one. It begins with my family—especially my mother who is 93—and extends to friends, fellow Redemptorists, co-workers in my ministry to the Church in central and southern Indiana and the universal Church, and all the people I am called to serve as a missionary disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank God for the gift of faith and for the love that has been shared with me so generously by people I’ve met in every region of this great archdiocese and in every corner of the globe—especially since Pope Francis made the two “shocking announcements ” of my appointment to the College of Cardinals and to lead the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.

I also thank God for the gift of hope. Without it, I would be unable to move forward in my new responsibilities when confronted by doubts, uncertainty and the truth of my own sinfulness. Hope enables courage, perseverance and confidence in the future.

Advent, which begins this Sunday, is the season of joyful hope. It is also the beginning of a new Church Year, a year of hope and joy.

We pray about “waiting for the blessed hope” every day in the Mass, and in a special way during Advent. Our faith teaches us that the Lord will come again. And we’re told that his coming will be a time of great rejoicing, a time when every tear will be wiped away and all our hopes will be fulfilled.

We believe this. It is an integral part of Christian hope. One day, the Lord will come again and the redemption of the world (and our personal redemption) will be complete.

As a Redemptorist, I have a keen awareness of this fundamental truth of our faith. The process that was initiated by God’s promise to his chosen people, the Jews, and that was realized in the fullness of time by Christ’s incarnation and by his passion, death and resurrection, will be brought to fulfillment on the last day. This truth was taught to Redemptorists in a powerful way by our founder, St. Alphonsus Liguori.

We wait for the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with a profound sense of gratitude for all that he has done for us. And we thank God that we have hope—the ability to overcome doubt and despair—which leads invariably to joy!

We begin each Church Year with this season of waiting, this time of expectation and longing. Advent prepares us to celebrate Christmas without falling into the trap of superficial or unrealistic expectations. It teaches us that the greatest gift of Christmas is the Lord himself.

Advent shows us that a personal encounter with Jesus Christ is what we truly hope for at this time of year (and always). It reminds us that all the joys of Christmas and of the Lord’s second coming can truly be ours—if we learn to wait for them with gratitude and with hope.

Waiting in hope requires patience, trust and a firm belief that God will hear and answer our prayers. We hope that the Lord will give us everything we truly desire and need and that his coming again—this Christmas and at the end of time—will be our greatest source of joy.

A couple of weeks ago, I made the connection between gratitude and holiness. Holy people give thanks to God for all their blessings. But they also look forward in hope regardless of the tragedy and sorrow they must confront in their lives.

Let’s thank God for all his gifts. And let’s move forward in joyful hope as we await the coming of our Lord! †

Local site Links: