From the Cardinal: Waiting for the Blessed Hope |  December 1, 2023

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Vol. 5. No. 6 

For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:11–14).

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We pray about “waiting for the blessed hope” every day in the Mass, and in a special way during Advent. Our faith teaches us that the Lord will come again. And we’re told that his coming will be a time of great rejoicing, a time when every tear will be wiped away and all our hopes will be fulfilled. 

We believe this. It is an integral part of Christian hope. One day, the Lord will come again, and the redemption of the world (and our personal redemption) will be complete.

As a member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), I have a keen awareness of this fundamental truth of our faith. The process that was initiated by God’s promise to his chosen people, the Jews, and that was realized in the fullness of time by Christ’s Incarnation and by our redemption through his passion, death and resurrection, will be brought to fulfillment on the last day. 

We wait for this day, the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams. 

But there are different kinds of waiting. As anyone who has been caught in a traffic jam on an Interstate knows, waiting can be frustrating. And those who have found themselves in an emergency room know that waiting can be very painful.

There is eager waiting—as when a friend or family member is due to come home after a long absence. There is anxious waiting that comes after a tumor has been removed and the results of the biopsy aren’t in yet. And many of us have experienced what might be called “angry waiting” when, for example, someone we trusted to do something very important for us has so far failed to deliver on his or her promise.

Waiting is not something we do easily. We prefer the instant gratification of our desires, the quick fix. We don’t like waiting in long lines, and we get irritated when the meal we order in a restaurant takes longer to be served than we think it should.

So what does hopeful waiting mean for us? Is it just a nice thing that we reflect on during the Advent season? Or does it tell us something important about who we are as “missionary disciples of Jesus Christ” (as Pope Francis calls us)?

As missionary disciples, I believe that we encounter God first and foremost in prayer and in the loving service of others that is nourished and sustained by our prayer.

Authentic prayer requires patience. We open our hearts to God; we share with him our deepest hopes and fears and desires; we ask for God’s help; we promise to be more faithful and to sin no more—with the help of his grace. And then we wait for God’s response.

As Pope Benedict XVI said, prayer is “hope in action.” It is action because we take the initiative and reach out to God, who is always there—our constant companion on every step of life’s journey. Prayer is also a profound expression of hope because it requires that we let go of our need for an immediate or predetermined answer. Prayer teaches us to wait—and to trust—in hope.

We begin the Church year with a season of waiting, a time of expectation and longing. Advent prepares us to celebrate Christmas without falling into the trap of superficial or unrealistic expectations. It teaches us that the greatest gift of Christmas is the Lord himself.

Advent shows us that a personal encounter with Jesus Christ is what we truly hope for at this time of year (and always). It reminds us that all the joys of Christmas, and of the Lord’s second coming, can truly be ours—if we learn to wait for them prayerfully.

Waiting in hope requires patience, trust and a firm belief that God will hear and answer our prayers. We hope that the Lord will give us everything we truly desire and need and that his coming again—this Christmas and at the end of time—will be our greatest source of joy.

And, so, we pray: Maranâ thâ’ (Our Lord, come)! Help us wait patiently, Lord. Prepare us for Christmas and for your coming again in glory. Remove all the obstacles—our frustrations, pain and anger—that prevent us from receiving you with joy, so that we may share your love with others as missionary disciples. May we be one with you always, our blessed hope.

Sincerely yours in Christ the Redeemer, 

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R. 
Archbishop of Newark  

What is Advent?

Sunday, December 3, 2023 – Sunday, December 24, 2023

Beginning the Church’s liturgical year, Advent (from, “ad-venire” in Latin or “to come to”) is the season encompassing the four Sundays (and weekdays) leading up to the celebration of Christmas.

The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and to the anniversary of Our Lord’s birth on Christmas. From the earliest days of the Church, people have been fascinated by Jesus’ promise to come back. But the scripture readings during Advent tell us not to waste our time with predictions. Advent is not about speculation. Our Advent readings call us to be alert and ready, not weighted down and distracted by the cares of this world (Lk 21:34-36). Like Lent, the liturgical color for Advent is purple since both are seasons that prepare us for great feast days. Advent also includes an element of penance in the sense of preparing, quieting, and disciplining our hearts for the full joy of Christmas.

As we prepare for Christmas, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal notes some differences to the Mass that should be observed during the season. For instance, the priest wears violet or purple during Advent, except for the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) when rose may be worn (GIRM, no. 346). Aside from what the priest wears, other aesthetic changes in the Church can include a more modestly decorated altar.

The final days of Advent, from December 17 to December 24, we focus on our preparation for the celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord at Christmas. In particular, the “O” Antiphons are sung during this period and have been by the Church since at least the eighth century. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming of Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but of present ones as well.

Advent devotions including the Advent wreath, remind us of the meaning of the season. Our Advent Calendar can help you fully enter into the season with daily activity and prayer suggestions to prepare you spiritually for the birth of Jesus Christ.  

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (cf.

A Message from Pope Francis: Words of Challenge and Hope  

(A selection from the Holy Father’s Angelus Message on Sunday, December 4, 2022)

The Gospel presents the figure of John the Baptist. The text says that John “wore a garment of camel’s hair”, that “his food was locusts and wild honey” (Mt 3:4), and that he invited everyone to conversion: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”! (v. 2). He preached the nearness of the Kingdom. In short, he was an austere and radical man, who at first sight might appear somewhat harsh and could instill a certain fear. But then again, we can ask ourselves why does the Church propose him each year as our primary traveling companion during this Season of Advent? What is hidden behind his severity, behind his apparent harshness? What is John’s secret? What is the message the Church gives us today with John?

In reality, the Baptist, more than being a harsh man, was a man who was allergic to duplicity. Listen well to this: allergic to duplicity. For example, when the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were known for their hypocrisy, approached him, his “allergic reaction” was very strong! In fact, some of them probably went to him out of curiosity or opportunism because John had become quite popular. These Pharisees and Sadducees were content with themselves and, faced with the Baptist’s sharp appeal, they justified themselves by saying: “We have Abraham as our father” (v. 9). Thus, due to duplicity and presumption, they did not welcome the moment of grace, the opportunity to begin a new life. They were closed in the presumption of being right. So, John says to them: “Bear fruit that befits repentance!” (v. 8). This is a cry of love, like the cry of a father who sees his son ruining himself and tells him: “Don’t throw your life away”! In essence, dear brothers and sisters, hypocrisy is the greatest danger because it can ruin even the most sacred realities. Hypocrisy is a serious danger. This is why the Baptist — as Jesus would be later — was harsh with hypocrites. We can read, for example, chapter 23 of Matthew, in which Jesus speaks so strongly to the hypocrites of that time. And why do the Baptist and Jesus do this? To shake them up. Instead, those who felt they were sinners “went out to him [John], and they were baptized by him, confessing their sins” (cf. v. 5). Therefore, prowess is not important to welcome God, but rather humility. This is the path to welcome God. Not prowess: “We are strong, We are great people…”! No. Humility. “I am a sinner”. But not in an abstract way, no — “because of this and this and this”. Each of us has to confess our own sins, our own failings, our own hypocrisy, firstly to ourselves. We have to get off the pedestal and immerse ourselves in the water of repentance.

Dear brothers and sisters, with his “allergic reactions” John makes us reflect. Are we not at times a bit like those Pharisees? Perhaps we look at others from top to bottom, thinking that we are better than them, that we have our lives under control, that we do not need God or the Church, or our brothers or sisters, every day. We forget that it is legitimate to look down on someone else only in one case: when it is necessary to help them get up. This is the only case. The others are not legitimate. Advent is a time of grace to take off our masks — each one of us has them — and line up with those who are humble, to be liberated from the presumption of believing we are self-sufficient, to go to confess our sins, the hidden ones, and to welcome God’s pardon, to ask forgiveness from those we offended. This is how to begin a new life. There is only one way, the way of humility — to purify ourselves from the sense of superiority, from formalism and hypocrisy, to see others as our brothers and sisters, sinners like ourselves, and to see Jesus as the Savior who comes for us, not for others, for us, just as we are, with our poverty, misery and failings, above all with our need to be raised up, forgiven and saved.

And let us remember another thing: with Jesus, there is always the possibility of beginning again. It is never too late. There is always the possibility to begin again. Take courage. He is close to us and this is a time of conversion. Each of us can think: “I have this situation inside, this problem that I am ashamed of…”. But Jesus is beside you. Begin again. There is always the possibility of taking a step forward. He is waiting for us and never grows tired of us. He never tires! And we are annoying, but he never grows tired! Let us listen to John the Baptist’s appeal to return to God. And let us not let this Advent go by like days on the calendar because this is a time of grace, a grace for us too, here and now! May Mary, the humble servant of the Lord, help us to meet him, and our brothers and sisters on the way of humility, which is the only one that will help us go ahead.

In the section "My Prayer for You", Cardinal Tobin is standing with his hands together in prayer.

My Prayer for You  

Please join me in praying this Advent prayer:
Loving Father, God of Love,
Your Son, Jesus, is your greatest gift to us.
He is a sign of your love.
Help us walk in that love during the weeks of Advent,
As we wait and prepare for his coming again at Christmas.
We make this prayer in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior,

by The power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.