This week, as we mark the second Sunday of Advent, we’re featuring stories on China (Page 4), the Church in Scotland (Page 5) and a pictorial Advent In Focus that takes a closer look at how different cultures around the world celebrate the season of watching and waiting — including in Poland, Haiti and the Philippines (Pages 11-14). We’ve also got a photo and a saint box honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe (Pages 2, 17), whose feast we celebrate Dec. 12. And our editorial examines the plight of Christians who are being persecuted for their faith, particularly in the Middle East. Tying it all together, Barry Hudock highlights the Church’s incredible tradition and history with a look back on the Council of Trent 450 years after it occurred (Page 8).
What does all of this underscore? The simultaneously similar, yet unique, nature of our worldwide Church. The faces of the faithful may be different, but the beliefs are universal. This universality, of course, stems from being rooted consistently in Christ.
In his homily Nov. 24, at a Mass wrapping up the Year of Faith at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis focused on this theme of the “centrality of Christ.”
In a letter to Colossians, St. Paul presented Christ as the “first-born of all creation.”
“This image enables us to see that Jesus is the center of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works,” Pope Francis said. “When this center is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.”
He added that Christ is also the center of the people of God, acting as a “brother” to them.
“It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life,” Pope Francis said. “In him we are all one; united with him, we share a single journey, a single destiny.”
Finally, Christ is at the center of each of our lives individually, he said.
“To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles, which are part of our lives,” the pope said. “When Jesus is the center, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope ... .”
Advent can be a busy time of year — certainly a time where, despite counting down the days until his birth, we forget to center our lives around Christ. Pope Francis’ words, therefore, are even more valuable and worthy of reflection as we continue to prepare our hearts for our Lord’s incarnation.
Our hope is that you will find encouragement and inspiration in the faces of those who celebrate the Faith both close to home and far away. Those who, as do all of us, strive to keep Christ at the center of life.