Editor’s note: Bishop Paul Sirba wrote this column for the December issue of The Northern Cross shortly before his death on Dec. 1.
With the nights getting longer and the cold growing colder, it may seem counterintuitive to be thinking of new beginnings. But the expression “it is always darkest before the dawn” really comes into play — and maybe those who live in the Southern Hemisphere have a slight advantage this time of year. Our Church begins a new year with the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 1.
Bishop Paul Sirba
What this means for us is not a static, ho-hum, here we go again chapter of life, but a vibrant, life-giving, grace-filled adventure in salvation history. I take comfort in believing that those who have gone before us didn’t have an undue advantage over those of us living in our own appointed times.
Though we were not physically present to have heard Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount the first time, His word is living and effective to us in the Sacred Scriptures today. Though we were not able to be at the Last Supper, we are able to be present at its re-presentation every Sunday and Holy Day and to receive the Risen Lord truly present under the appearance of bread and wine, just like the Twelve Apostles did.
So the Church in her wisdom designates this period in our liturgical calendar as a new year of grace. Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of Our Lord, remembering and making present His first coming and in anticipation of His glorious return.
I heard from one of our financial advisers a new twist on the traditional Advent calendar. Instead of opening the windows of the calendar to find a new gift waiting for you, each day opens with an empty place wherein you put a gift for the poor and needy and thus draw out the love of giving as Jesus did.
On Dec. 14, I’ll be celebrating 10 years as your bishop. Thanks be to God and you! The verse on my holy card from the day of ordination was a passage from the writings of St. John of the Cross on whose feast day I was ordained. The verse reads: “Where there is no love put love and you will draw out love.” I didn’t realize when I was selecting the verse 10 years ago how important a challenge and opportunity it would present to me.
We live in a world that, forgetful of God, is quickly losing the meaning of love. It is a tragic reality. Jesus teaches us that the more we give in love the more we receive ultimate meaning. Unless we lose ourselves in giving we will never truly find ourselves.
It is for us to re-propose to ourselves, one another, and our world that we don’t have to remain in the cold and darkness of a world without love. The light of the world is coming. He, Jesus Christ, opens up the pathways to eternal life and love.
I am grateful to God for being sent to you. I pray He help me fulfill my duties with a true shepherd’s heart. I wish you a blessed Advent and Merry Christmas! May we generously, randomly, intentionally place love where there is no love and so draw love in abundance — Jesus.
Bishop Paul Sirba was the ninth bishop of Duluth.