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A New Beginning

Today is the First Sunday of Advent, this makes it the First Sunday of the Liturgical Year and also the liturgical cycle. If you did not know, our Church reading calendar is on a three year cycle—Years A, B and C. We just finished Year C, so now we begin the cycle all over again. This cycle and in fact this year will include the national elections and all the hoopla that will surround them, so it may be an interesting time.

We need as always to look at this time through our liturgy.

Our second reading today is from Romans. St. Paul is writing to the formerly pagan Romans and explaining that their lifestyle prior to knowing Christ must now change to a whole new way of living in Christ. It is a good thought for us today. This is from chapter 13, but back in chapter 12 Paul calls all his readers to a renewal of their minds. This is putting that admonition into practice.

Many times, we can forget that the writings of the saints over the centuries were often to Christians, so the sermons against sins and calling people away from the path to Hell were spoken to whole cultures that already embraced our faith.

Now we are living in a culture more like the First Century Rome than Eleventh Century Europe. We live in a time where we are choosing Christ every day in the midst of a culture that truly does not understand Him.

We are also learning that how we live our faith today needs to be radically different than people expect. In fact, the problems in the Church may come from a loss of understanding of what it means to be Catholic. It is that false understanding that people call Catholicism.

Cardinal Sarah, whom I quoted several times over the past several weeks, laments the fact that people assume Catholicism is nothing but morals. He explains that actually Catholicism begins with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is why prayer is so important. It is through prayer that we understand where Christ is leading us and we change our lives accordingly. In fact, he, citing Pope St. John Paul II says that “The path marked out by divine Law is not a moral police ordinance, but the mind of God.”a [1]

This is the point of St. Paul’s teachings: Now that you know Christ, leave your past behind you, embrace Christ and allow him to lead you forward.

He is teaching the pagans who sought out and found Christ that the life they are leaving behind is not compatible with a relationship with Christ. We miss the point if we figure that is the message of Paul. He is not just saying to let go of the past but more to embrace the future in Christ.

This has to be our message as well.

Our Church has been through a real cleansing over the past almost twenty years. However, the time to be cleansed needs to change to a time to walk anew in the Lord. This is especially true for this parish. Never forget whom we are. We are surrounded by Harvard Business School. We are just down the street from one of the powerhouses of the Public Broadcasting System. Not far from Boston University and of course from the Local CBS outlet. Of course, there are the Bruins and Celtics across the tracks. You living your faith by doing something as simple as being people of prayer and by coming to Church is powerful especially right here in this parish.

There are countless lives that are touched by your neighborhoods every day and many of those lives want to see Catholicism is in action.

Many only understand it in terms of the morality police that Cardinal Sarah decried.

Our faith is something bigger and more powerful than just a system of morality which is why we need to look at what St. Paul is saying.

In about a month people will be talking about New Year’s Resolutions and all the gyms will have specials for the first month of 2020. This new liturgical year is not the time for a resolution but a decision to follow Christ more closely. To grow closer in Christ so that just doing that will change the rest.

I am going to invite you to make this your mission this year. Make it your decision to draw closer to Christ by making time daily for prayer, bible reading for example spend time with the daily readings of the Church and definitely do good spiritual reading. I obviously cannot recommend to you enough Cardinal Robert Sarah’s new book: The Day Is Now Far Spent. Many believe he is a reactionary, nothing could be further from the truth. His teaching is radical for our times.

I want to invite you to consider seeking Christ through contemplative prayer and Thomas Merton is a good writer for that material, especially New Seeds of Contemplation which fifty years on, is still a great book.

I read a great column on Medium by a woman who grew up in a Calvinist background[2], endemic in this area. She wrote that Calvin taught that humanity is nothing more than poor wretched sinners. Never forget the most famous American sermon was given in our own state: Massachusetts, enforcing that same idea of Calvin. The Sermon was Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Rev. Jonathan Edwards in North Hampton, Massachusetts. The title speaks for itself. None of that is Catholicism. However, many people who reject Christ, reject that understanding of Christ which is not Catholic. Christ calls us to know him through prayer and contemplation.

Make this new year, especially during Advent a new beginning in deepening our relationship with Christ. Leave the past struggles behind and let’s walk a new road to Christ. If possible, come visit the blessed sacrament especially on Wednesdays from 6pm-7:30pm after work. Because I have a feeling the next year will be a turbulent one, especially in light of the current upcoming election and the issues surrounding it. People will seek to know there is more to our existence than Green New Deals, Impeachment proceedings, walls on the Southern border and issues coming out of Eastern Europe.

There is everything that is Christ whom we experience personally, communally and profoundly. This year, let us do all we can to experience Christ to the fullest.

[1] Sarah, Robert Cardinal with Diat Nicholas, God or Nothing, 2015, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Kindle Version, p. 156

[2]Hobbs, Allegra, The Self Help Movement is Upending American Christianity, Citation does not constitute endorsement. I do not agree with use of the enneagram (ed.)

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