Archbishop exhorts Advent vigilance as national shrine’s Holy Door sealed

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — “Waiting is one of the watchwords of the liturgical season of Advent, which we begin today,” Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services told the faithful gathered for Mass Dec. 3, the first Sunday of Advent, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

“The Word of God advises us today to stay awake, to be vigilant for the Lord’s coming and to look for the Lord and use our talents and profit from the graces offered us,” the archbishop said in his homily.

Archbishop Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was the main celebrant of the Mass, which included his blessing and sealing the basilica’s entrance door as a Holy Door for the Catholic Church’s Holy Year 2025, which has as its theme “Pilgrims of Hope.”

Concelebrants of the Mass included Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the basilica; Msgr. Vito Buonanno, director of pilgrimages at the basilica; and four priests who are studying at The Catholic University of America, which campus is adjacent to the basilica.

In the first reading, from Isaiah, “the chosen people are filled with pain and sorrow for their sins. They have experienced the terrible consequences of their infidelity, exile, (and) profanation of the temple,” the archbishop said.

He asked, “Does anyone examine his or her responsibility for the difficult situations of our time? Can Isaiah gain a hearing in our midst?”

The Word of God is “the power that motivates the chosen people,” the archbishop said, adding that it is “so often forgotten, but still capable of moving hearts, calling forth aspirations and inspiring the courage to accomplish difficult tasks.”

“It is what we hear today (and) can be our companion during these short weeks of spiritual preparation for our celebration of the Lord’s coming in our midst,” Archbishop Broglio said. “Jesus in the Gospel tells us to be vigilant at all times because we know not the day nor the hour. It is a clarion call to recognize Almighty God as the master of our lives and to try and conform to his plan,” he said.

Referencing Pope Francis’ Angelus message that same day, he said the faithful should not have “an attitude of fear” because “the Lord’s return is a moment of joy.”

Archbishop Broglio also quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s Angelus message of Nov. 30, 2008. “We all say that we do not have enough time because the pace of daily life has become frenetic for everyone,” the pope said. “In this regard too, the church has ‘good news’ to bring. God gives us his time. We always have little time, especially for the Lord. We do not know how or sometimes we do not want to find it. Well, God has time for us.”

“The invitation is to prepare for the Lord’s coming — really his three comings,” the archbishop continued. “Quite naturally, we are all aware of our preparation for Christmas, the anniversary of the birth in time of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That is our immediate focus as we light the Advent wreath and as we accomplish all of the tasks associated with this holy season.”

But “the beginning of Advent has a strong notion of the second coming, whose day and hour is unknown,” Archbishop Broglio said.

In the day’s Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus alludes to the end times and his second coming on Judgment Day, telling his disciples, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”

“When Jesus will say clearly that the hour has come, there can be no doubt we must be ever vigilant,” Archbishop Broglio said. “Finally, there is that personal encounter at the end of our pilgrimage that cannot be forgotten. The notion that we must be ever prepared to meet the Lord when he summons us into his presence is not absent in these days. That thought is not meant to be frightening, but it is a call to open-eyed preparation in every day of the journey that is ours.”

The archbishop told the faithful gathered “in this magnificent basilica” that the church now begins “long-range preparation for another time of grace” — the Holy Year 2025.

A holy year, or jubilee, is a time of pilgrimage, prayer, repentance and acts of mercy, based on the ancient Jewish tradition of a jubilee year of rest, forgiveness and renewal. Holy years also are a time when Catholics visit designated churches and shrines, recite special prayers, go to confession and receive Communion to receive an indulgence, which is a remission of the temporal punishment due for one’s sins.

A news release from the basilica said that for the Great Jubilee 2000, St. John Paul II expanded the designation of Holy Year doors “at particularly notable sanctuaries outside of Rome.” The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was the designated location for the United States in 2000, for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2016 and now for the Holy Year 2025.

“Let me assure you that these extraordinary times of grace offer us unique opportunities,” Archbishop Broglio said.

“Each jubilee year has been a clear call to experience the power of God and to profit from the divine grace held out to us. The upcoming jubilee will be no exception,” he said.

“Pilgrims of Hope,” the 2025 theme, “clearly points out both that we are on a journey and not pessimistic travelers,” he said. “You and I are charged to bring a message of hope to a world that desperately needs that gift.”

He pointed to the Israel-Hamas war in the Holy Land, “where Israel wants security and the Palestinians a place to call home,” Russia’s war against Ukraine and ongoing crises in Syria and Haiti.

“There are many more places and peoples who desire to experience that hope,” Archbishop Broglio said. “Even in our land of promise, we struggle to recognize the dignity of every person and the mission to fill up the legitimate needs of all. We long for a society where people respect and listen to one another.”

“May this long-range planning for the holy year inspire our efforts so that 2025 will truly be a year of hope,” he said. “We symbolically close a door this afternoon to anticipate its opening and the graces that will be offered to us.”

Julie Asher is senior editor for OSV News. Follow her on X (formally Twitter) @jlasher.

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