We continue recording Sunday liturgies to place on our website and Facebook pages. This week we will also post the January 1st liturgy for Mary, Mother of God.
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Pictures idealize the Holy Family, but they had their challenges: an unexpected pregnancy, a long trip, no safe place to give birth, becoming refugees, etc. But Mary and Joseph had the courage and the faith to weather all of this and provide a nurturing home for the Child Jesus.
It is interesting to reflect on the effects of the pandemic and quarantine on families. The news tells us that domestic violence has risen significantly. And yet any number of people have expressed to me how being at home has strengthened their family life and brought them together more. Why such opposite effects?
Maybe there is a clue in our second reading from Colossians. The more family members are living these virtues that Paul presents, the more likely quarantine will bring them together. And the more someone isn’t, the more likelihood of unhappiness and trouble. And the key: am I able to think of others or do I just think of myself? The virtues Paul lists are the following: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another…And over all these put on love… All of them have to do with thinking of the other, giving the other a break, being
understanding. Our reading from Sirach reinforces being aware of and acting on the needs of the other.
How have I been doing in the last nine months? Sure, we all have days that are better than others, but overall, have I shown that I am basically able to think of more than just myself and my needs? Where – and how – can I do better? Reflecting on our experience of these last nine months might help us grow in our ability to make our
families places of happiness and growth.
I wish you each a happy new year and a blessed 2021. Be assured of my prayers. I end with my favorite prayer for January 1st:
Dear Lord! So far this year I've done well. I haven't gossiped, I haven't lost my temper, I haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I'm very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, Lord, I'm going to get out of bed, and from then on I'm probably going to need a lot more help. Amen
Today we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent; in 4 days we will be celebrating the Christmas Vigil Masses. King David is one theme in our last set of Sunday readings before Christmas.
In the first reading, a very successful King David wants to build a magnificent temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. The prophet Nathan thinks it is a great idea but God nixes it. Why? Basically, God is saying HE is in control, not David, and HE will decide about “houses.” A big, gaudy temple (which would, incidentally make David look good and cement his legacy), is not important to God. God then promises to raise up an heir of David who will be His Son and will bring about an everlasting Kingdom of peace and justice. THAT will be David’s legacy.
Our Gospel is the story of the Annunciation, which we all know so well. With the words, "He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end,” Gabriel confirms that Jesus is the fulfillment of each of the promises that God made to David.
But notice: there is no temple or magnificent building in our Christmas story. The Annunciation happens in a simple house in a backwater town, far from the important city of Jerusalem and its temple. The new born King is in a manger, not a palace. Instead of being welcomed by His people, he becomes a refugee, right from the first years of his life.
I think all these details are important. God is telling us, as He told King David, that he is not interested in magnificent buildings and pomp and circumstance. He is interested in bringing about the Kingdom and reaching out to those most in need.
Do we hear this message? During the 7 years I lived in Rome and traveled all over Europe to visit our Salvatorian communities, I was in some magnificent basilicas and churches. Sometimes I would be a little uncomfortable as I looked at all the gold leaf, etc. “Did God want that?” I would ask myself, “or is it fulfilling a human need and we tell ourselves it is for God?” My conclusion is that a simple space where the community can gather to worship and support each other is enough; if we listen to what God says in the scriptures, the rest of the resources would be better used to feed the poor, to get water to villages, to train people so they can support themselves, etc.
Advent is a time of reflection, a time of preparing to celebrate the first coming of Christ. I invite us these last days to reflect on our values and how much they reflect Gospel priorities. How can we do better? Come, Lord Jesus, into our hearts!
I wish each and every one of you a blessed Christmas.
Our Advent Reconciliation Service is this Tuesday evening at 7:00 pm in the church, safety precautions in place. After the communal service, three priests will be available for individual confession. Please take advantage of this opportunity to receive this sacrament before Christmas.
Today we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent, also called “gaudete” or “rejoice” Sunday. Our reading from Paul begins, “rejoice always.” In our first reading from Isaiah, we hear, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord.” The responsorial psalm in the Lectionary is the Magnificat, in which Mary proclaims, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” We are being told to be joyful because our Savior came to bring us salvation.
In the first words of our selection from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, we are given three attitudes that are basic for Christian living, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks. Let’s look at them in reverse order:
In all circumstances give thanks: our faith tells us that God loves us, God wants the best for us, and God is in control. All that we are and have comes from God. What great reasons to give thanks always, no matter what is happening!
Pray without ceasing: the beautiful thing about prayer is that it reminds us that we are dependent on God, that we can’t do it alone. God doesn’t need us to tell Him what to do, but we need prayer to remind us that God is there. It helps us build a strong relationship.
Rejoice always: when we have that strong relationship, when we realize that God is in control and wants the best for us, what can we do but rejoice!
When I was a child, I thought we were rejoicing because we were at the halfway point in our preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Now that I am an old man, I rejoice because I have experienced how God is in control and that, eventually, all works out for the best, according to His plan.
As we celebrate this third Sunday of Advent, I invite you to reflect on the great things God has done and is doing for you, so that you can proclaim with Mary, My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
God bless and stay safe.
Tuesday is the feast of the Immaculate Conception; Masses will be at 8:00 am and 7:00 pm. On December 15th, we will have our Advent Reconciliation service at 7:00 pm in the church. Please mark your calendar and take advantage of these opportunities. Safety procedures will be in place.
Our Gospel today introduces us to John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin who is a primary Advent figure, someone who “prepared the way of the Lord,” as we are supposed to do with our lives. It is interesting to look at the differences between John the Baptist (a stereotypical Old Testament prophet) and Jesus (who introduces us to a new way of thinking about and interrelating with God).
The first difference is that John was out of the way, off in the desert, and people had to go out to him. Jesus, on the other hand, went into the towns and villages and approached people directly, going out of His way to reach out to sinners, even dining with them. Jesus took the initiative to be with the outcasts of society.
John’s message was a fiery one, threatening dire consequences to those who didn’t take it to heart. Jesus’ message was more a joyful announcement of the Good News.
No miracles are reported about John the Baptist, but Jesus’ ministry was full of miracles, especially healings.
Finally, both preached repentance, reform, a change of heart. Jesus, though, was more than a reformer: He transformed our condition and the condition of the world. After Jesus, everything was different!
What does this say to me? Well, it makes me think that the fire and brimstone sermons I have heard are more appropriate for the Old Testament. Jesus came to present to us a loving God, the Prodigal Father, who is always waiting for His child.
That leads me to realize that, if I have internalized Jesus’ message and way of being, I will not be living out of fear, but rather a joyful desire to bring Gospel values into the world, to help transform the world, as did Jesus.
Advent is a time of reflection on how well I am doing at preparing the way of the Lord for others. Am I fearful or do I trust that God loves me and wants the best? Am I doing what I think is right just so I won’t go to hell or am I so joyful with what I have been given that I want to share it with others? How can I transform myself more into a joyful messenger of the Good News? As we struggle to do this, let us support each other with prayer and example. God bless and stay safe.