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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Sunday

First Week of Advent: Christmas conversion

At the very heart of the spirituality of St. Alphonsus is love: God’s love for us and our love for God in response. St. Alphonsus was overwhelmed by God’s love for him and for all of us, and for Alphonsus, this was especially manifest in Jesus. Jesus is the unshakeable sign and proof that God loves us.

The spirituality of St. Alphonsus has traditionally been summarized in the four symbols of the crib, the cross, the altar, and Mary. This Advent season, we’ll take the time to reflect on the crib. Each week’s reflection will focus on a different theme related to the birth of Jesus — in time and in our hearts this Christmas.

 

By Rev. Norman Bennett, C.Ss.R.

“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise to the house of Israel and Judah.” (Jer 33:14)

This surge of hope for God’s people comes from the prophet Jeremiah, imprisoned by Zedekiah, the King of Judah, because he had so much as told the King he was neither a believer in God nor leading the people according to God’s will. It is a surprising position for Jeremiah to be in — imprisoned and yet singing of hope for the restoration of a united Judah and Israel through a descendant of David, “a just shoot.”

It is a difficult time for the Catholic Church today. We live in a secular culture. We will have to juggle our Christmas preparation of Christmas shopping and Christmas parties with a serious commitment of penance in order to present ourselves worthy to celebrate the welcome of Jesus born anew in our hearts. Unfortunately, there are not a few in our culture who have distanced themselves from the “institutional Church,” and those, like Zedekiah, who imagine themselves righteous before the Lord.

This Advent, despite the secular wave for material possessions and the call to self-centeredness, the Church calls us to penance, like Jeremiah, to be selfless in giving, despite the numbers who do not welcome the message. Christmas is the celebration of a selfless God, Jeremiah’s “just shoot,” who becomes at once totally one of us and totally for us. Christmas is Jesus, the promise fulfilled we celebrate. May we be inspired this Advent to hope and love through the Church’s invitation to penance: prayer, fasting and giving alms to the poor.

Father Bennett is associate pastor of the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, N.Y.