Bishop Robert Barron describes Advent as the “season of vigil keeping” in his Gospel reflection for Nov. 28, the first Sunday of Advent, and recommends eucharistic adoration as a discipline to practice our vigil keeping. “To spend a half or an hour in the presence of the Lord is not to accomplish or achieve very much — it is not really ‘getting’ anywhere — but it is a particularly rich form of spiritual waiting,” Bishop Barron says.
His advice seems especially appropriate in this time and place. We need an antidote to our culture of impatience that causes us to lose sight of the needs of others. Reflecting on Jesus’ self-giving love in the Eucharist is an excellent practice to prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts and our actions. Another way to keep vigil is to read and reflect on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ new document on the Eucharist, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” (https://tinyurl.com/pewcha8v).
There is much to appreciate in this document on the Eucharist, which emphasizes “Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist and our response to that gift.” We call the sacrament “Holy Communion precisely because, by placing us in intimate communion with the sacrifice of Christ, we are placed in intimate communion with him and, through him, with each other.” We are to bring the love of Christ to every dimension of our personal and public lives, consistently. What does that look like in our daily encounters with others?
For starters, look to Pope Francis, who asks all Catholics to engage in the synodal process to listen humbly and respectfully to others — in and outside our families and our work, social, political and faith circles. Listen as they talk about their dreams, values and concerns. Listen without interrupting. Listen without judgment, no matter how challenging that might be. Check out the Diocese of Davenport’s Synod 2021-2023
(davenportdiocese.org/synod-2023) to learn more.
Secondly, the bishops remind us that the “Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren” (Catechism of the Catholic Church). Opportunities to walk with people struggling to make ends meet are plentiful this season of vigil keeping. Volunteer at the local food pantry, meal site or homeless shelter. Offer to share your financial, language or other skills to people who need to learn those skills.
Make financial contributions to Catholic Relief Services (crs.org) the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (usccb.org/committees/catholic-campaign-human-development), Catholic Charities (davenportdiocese.org/catholic-charities) or other charitable organizations that respond to immediate needs for food and shelter and provide systemic support to help individuals and families help themselves.
Visit the Iowa Catholic Conference website (iowacatholicconference.org) for information about the 2022 General Assembly, policies and issues that benefit the least among us, including affordable housing and childcare, nutrition assistance, job training, fair wages and working conditions and non-discriminatory voting policies. Sign up for action alerts with the ICC to maintain vigilance about developments in these important issues.
Advocate for humane, just immigration policies and laws. The Justice for Immigrants website (usccb.org/offices/migration-policy/justice-immigrants) lists criteria for the reform of the U.S. immigration system that affirms Church teaching on the importance of family, the value of work and the dignity of every person.
The self-giving love of Jesus that calls us to love one another also calls us to take loving, self-giving action toward care of our planet. The Laudato Si Action Platform (https://www.laudatosi.org/laudato-si/action-platform/), an initiative of Pope Francis, provides ideas for Catholic institutions and families to help ensure that we take care of the earth for future generations and our own. The bishops point out that “Pope Francis, like Pope Benedict XVI before him, has eloquently drawn the connection between the celebration of the Eucharist and care for the environment.”
Reciprocating the self-giving love of Jesus requires patience, thoughtfulness and awareness of the impact of our actions on others, all of it, grounded in prayer. We should take up Bishop Barron’s suggestion to spend time in eucharistic adoration and to discern how we plan to be vigilant this Advent season.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor