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Fr. Yaw Acheampong: Advent is a season of new beginnings

By  Fr. Yaw Acheampong
  • November 30, 2018

As we begin a new liturgical year and also the season of Advent, here is a short quiz:

1) Do you know the new beginning and the end of the liturgical year?  

2) Do you know why the Church’s liturgical calendar is different from the calendar year? 

The answer to the first question is easy: The Church’s year begins with the First Sunday of Advent (Dec. 2 this year) and ends at the 34th Week in Ordinary Time. At the same time, in accordance with the three-year cycle of Scripture readings, we move from Cycle B (Gospel of Mark) to Cycle C (Gospel of Luke).

The answer to the second question is a little more complicated, but absolutely essential to our spiritual understanding. The structure of the liturgical calendar helps us celebrate and understand the spiritual significance of the mysteries of Christ as we journey through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time.  

A unique feature of the liturgical calendar is the transition from one year to another. The last Sunday (34th Sunday in Ordinary Time) of a liturgical year is celebrated as the Solemnity of Christ the King, reminding us of our call to reflect on the deeper meaning of God’s Kingdom — “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

This transition invites us to reflect on the deeper understanding of God’s Kingdom in our lives and on our response to the call of building up a kingdom of “justice and peace” in our communities.

As we begin a new journey on the first day of a new liturgical year, we may make some “New Year” life-affirming resolutions to improve on our spiritual relationship with God and our neighbour. 

In the Toronto area, this journey is given special significance in archdiocese’s “Pastoral Plan,” inviting us “to reflect on our role as stewards of God’s many gifts, calling us to a profound inner conversion that leads us to a spirit of generosity, most fully revealed in the sharing of time and talent with others.” In the realm of spirituality, this Advent season can be a starting point for us to reflect on how we are responding to the call to stewardship. We can examine the many ways by which we may use the gifts of time, talent and treasure that God has given us in building up His kingdom.

The season of Advent shares some features with the season of Lent — the penitential nature characterized by the purple/violet colour of the vestments, the omission of Gloria at Sunday Mass and the moderation of the use of flowers around the altar. The penitential nature of Advent invites us to embark on our Advent “discipline” as a means of reflecting on the state of our discipleship. 

Every baptized person is called into stewardship by joyfully and faithfully using the gifts entrusted to him or her by our Lord “according to his or her ability.” Stewardship helps build others up in our faith communities. To be able to live as grateful and fruitful stewards, we are called to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit so that He may lead us to repentance, renewal and transformation of our lives. 

“Stewardship calls for nothing less than both individual and communal conversion, rooted in faith and fruitful in action,” Cardinal Thomas Collins wrote in a pastoral letter on stewardship.

The season of Advent is a time to reflect on the hope, joy, peace and love that comes with Jesus born Emmanuel (God with us). It is a new beginning to reflect and to renew our commitment to love God and to love neighbour as self. This year we can use Advent as a time to reflect on how we can best share our gifts of talent, time and treasure in our parishes. 

Just like the rest of the population, we tend to relate Advent to Christmas and are tempted to focus our attention on the celebration of Christmas — shopping, putting lights around the house, planning for parties. However, as people of faith, we need to understand the season of Advent in a manner different from the view of the world.

Stewardship clearly has a meaning that is important for Christian life, a way of commitment to our baptismal promises. Reflecting on the meaning of stewardship as a way of life, and turning thoughts into action, is a perfect way to celebrate this Advent season.

We wish you all a blessed new Church year.  

(Fr. Acheampong is the pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Toronto.)

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