Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent

WhatifLove

“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”

Today we hear of Joseph as he confronts fear, doubt, and a decision about right and wrong.

The Gospel tells us that Joseph was a righteous man. Now, being ‘righteous’ or ‘just’ as an observant Jew meant that Joseph followed, lived, and abided by the law.

The law laid out the penalty for pre-marital sex and adultery. It was death for both the woman and man involved. Leviticus 20:10 states: “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.Deuteronomy 22:22 states: “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

Since Joseph and Mary were engaged, Mary was legally Joseph’s wife. Mary was obviously pregnant – so in everyone’s mind she was an adulteress. By law Joseph could denounce Mary and she would be stoned to death. Joseph would cast first stone.

Joseph is shamed by Mary’s pregnancy. Joseph went home to think this all over. We can imagine his thoughts, the stress, the anger, the shame, and the hurt. What should he do? The law says put her to death, get revenge, and purify the community. What would happen if he didn’t follow the law?

Before his adopted Son would ever proclaim the value of forgiveness, before Jesus would say, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” or “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” Joseph acted with true righteousness. Amidst the hurt, pain, and conflict Joseph decided against death. He would arrange a no-fault divorce, without admitting or denying paternity of child. This would save Mary’s life.

God would intervene through His angel to give Joseph all of the facts – that there is no human father for Jesus. More importantly, Joseph provides us with an example of true righteousness. This is the kind of righteousness we are called to live.

Death is the penalty for sin. Thankfully, through Jesus’ coming, we have been freed from death. Being freed, Jesus asks us to free others from death. This is not the literal death of the Old Testament imposed by stoning, but the sort of death we impose if we harden our hearts to those who have hurt us.

As Joseph chose true righteousness so must we. When we do, when we forgive as we are forgiven, when we free as we have been freed, we overcome death by love.


Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

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“Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”

If we have been watching television over the past several weeks we may have encountered a twenty-four days of Christmas programming marathon. Twenty-four days of non-stop Christmas movies and shows. Among the shows we will certainly encounter Dickenson’s “A Christmas Carol.”

As we recall, his former partner, Jacob Marley, first visits Scrooge. Marley is fettered in heavy chains that he drags behind him. He tells Scrooge that he created these chains throughout his life by his lack of charity and love. We immediately understand and connect. We see our sins and failings as heavy chains that bind us, that prevent us from reaching heavenward.

Jesus told John’s disciples: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.

In sin we are the poorest of the poor. We are blind. We are crippled. We become deaf to the call of love. We reap the wages of sin, which is death. Amidst all this Jesus comes to save us.

Jesus’ salvation is an ongoing grace in our lives. In Him we find the One who will break the chains that bind us. In Him we find clear vision. In Him we are healed. In Him our ears are opened. In Him we find the guarantee of freedom from death and the hope of resurrection.

Jesus’ offer of salvation requires our cooperation. We have to be willing to lift up the chains that bind us. If we lift them before Him and His Holy Church, and ask forgiveness, He will free us. If we ask Him to hear us in the sacrament of penance, which He entrusted to His ministers, we will be forgiven for: “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would strengthen feeble hands and knees and give strength to the frightened. He would come with vindication – freeing us from the accusation brought about by our sin. He would exonerate us completely by paying the price for us.

Jesus came to save you and me. He came to free us, to take the weight from our shoulders, our hands, and our hearts. He came so in freedom we would be ready to stand before Him at His coming.


Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

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By endurance and
encouragement

“Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

St. Paul speaks of endurance. This week we experienced the passing of a man of endurance. His quote on the front of our bulletin speaks of endurance. Read again his words: “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” The quote is taken from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, published in 1994.

Mr. Mandela endured years of struggle in the fight for freedom, including 27 years in prison. Imagine yourself as standing up for what you believe, enduring struggles, facing prison – all for what you believe, for offering the promise of freedom to your fellow man. We can all follow in his example because it is the core of Christian faith and action.

The world counts Mr. Mandela a hero because of his endurance, the encouragement he offered; for standing up in the face of oppression. Through his endurance he brought freedom to his people. Not only did he endure for freedom, but also for a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness in the midst of political and social change.

Think on these things – freedom, forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation. Our Fathers in faith, Paul, Peter, the other apostles, the saints and martyrs throughout history and even to our day endure prison and persecutions enduring to offer the hope and encouragement of scripture, the promises of Jesus to all.

We are called in this Advent season to reconnect to our call, to endure and to encourage. We call called to strengthen our faith and to offer the deliverance foretold by Isaiah and delivered by Jesus: Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.

Let us live like Paul and Peter, like Mr. Mandela, calling all to learn, to be encouraged through scripture, to live in harmony and mutual support in the Christian community. Together in Christ we offer the world what we have – the message of true and eternal freedom, endurance, encouragement, reconciliation and forgiveness.


December 2013 Newsletter

The first day of December and the parish newsletter is complete, posted, and mailed – talk about Advent preparation! Our newsletter for December reflects on this sacred time of preparation for the Forty Days of Christmas and Jesus’ Second Coming. Check it out, stay informed and see our action packed schedule for Advent and Christmas. You may view and download a copy right here — December 2013 Newsletter.

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Our Advent and Christmas Schedule

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  • Sunday, December 1st: 1st Sunday of Advent. Service at 9:30am. School of Christian Living study and presentation preparation follows.
  • Sunday, December 8th: 2nd Sunday of Advent. Service at 9:30am. School of Christian Living study and presentation preparation follows.
  • Sunday, December 15th: 3rd Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass at 9am with Advent Penitential Service. Children’s Christmas Presentation follows. Annual Christmas Vigil potluck Dinner with Main Fish Course provided by the parish
  • Sunday, December 22nd: 4th Sunday of Advent. Service at 9:30am. Greening of the Church follows.
  • Tuesday/Wednesday, December 24th-25th: Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord – Shepherd’s Holy Mass/Pasterka at Midnight followed by a festive repast.
  • Wednesday, December 25th: Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord – Service for Christmas Day at 9:30am.
  • Thursday, December 26th: Feast of St. Stephen the Proto-Martyr – please keep the persecuted Church and all deacons in your prayers this day.
  • Friday, December 27th: Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist – Service and Blessing of Wine at 7pm.
  • Saturday, December 28th: Commemoration of the Holy Innocents – please keep all children subject to abuse and bullying in your prayers.
  • Sunday, December 29th: Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds. Service at 9:30am.
  • Tuesday, December 31st: Solemnity of the Holy Family – please pray for God’s blessings upon all families, that they may model the life of the Holy Family.
  • Wednesday, January 1st: Solemnity of the Circumcision of our Lord – Service at 9:30am.
  • Thursday, January 2nd: Solemnity of the Holy Name of Jesus – Service at 7pm.
  • Sunday, January 5th: Feast of the Holy Family. Service at 9:30am.
  • Monday, January 6th: Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord. Service with blessing of chalk, charcoal, and incense at 7pm.
  • Sunday, January 12th: Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. Service at 9:30am.

Epiphany home blessings will take place starting Tuesday, January 7th and continue through Tuesday, March 4th, 2014. Make arrangements with Deacon Jim.

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Reflection for the 1st Sunday of Advent – A – 2013

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Yesterday, Today,
and Always

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

In the Holy Mass we participate in doing something extraordinary. When Jesus left us the gift of His body and blood and said, do this in memory of Me He gave us an explicit command to do what He had done that night.

Each of us has a special role in carrying out the Eucharist. Our gifts and sacrifice in the form of the bread and wine we offer is changed into Jesus’ body and blood by what the priest does during the Eucharistic prayer. Jesus’ role as servant is exemplified in the work of the deacon who serves at the altar. Each of our roles is essential. Jesus didn’t do any of what He did alone, but in the midst of community.

Jesus didn’t want us to just remember what He had done. Memory is fleeting and can fade with time. Rather, in asking us to carry out the same action as a family, to live the roles He exemplified, we are part of Jesus’ yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In the Eucharistic moment we are at once transformed and present with Jesus at His birth and in His ministry. We are there at the Last Supper, at the foot of the Cross, His burial, His resurrection, His Ascension, and at His return.

How amazing it is that we are there with Him, that we can be so very close to Him.

We might think that this is enough. Certainly Jesus’ coming was that moment in time where our redemption occurred. We, who have accepted Jesus into our lives, have received His assurance of salvation. We have been justified. Yes, but greater things are yet to come.

This Advent, this day, is the moment we must be awake and ready for that greater thing. Those greater things are the miracles we bring to the lives of others by our ministry and by the proclamation of Jesus’ word. Faith and salvation will come to them through us as St. Paul tells us: [by] what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.

The greatest thing yet to come, our greatest hope, is that day of Jesus’ return in glory. We cannot know, or even predict when that day will be, but it will come. We are already part of that always and this season of preparation is our moment to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.


The Eighth Advent O Antiphon: Why marvel ye at me?

The O Antiphons are said before the Magnificat at Vespers in the last seven days of Advent. An additional antiphon dedicated to the Blessed Virgin was added in some English Churches and by certain religious orders during medieval times. The original seven antiphons are moved back by one day so this antiphon could be prayed on December 23rd.

O Virgin of virgins,
how shall this be?
For neither before was any like thee,
nor shall there be after.
Daughters of Jerusalem,
why marvel ye at me?
That which ye behold is a divine mystery.

Mary drags us to her Son, Jesus. Yet we resist her.

She points to Him. She disappears into the background for Him. She gives up the ‘normal’ life she could have had, for Him. She suffers for Him. She follows Him and serves Him — not as the glorified maiden, but as a maidservant.

I am the handmaid of the Lord.

Her action, work, love, and dedication are theologized to such an extent that we miss her humanity. Her simple humanity submitted itself fully to the Lord. Trusting, not knowing. Hearing, not debating. Serving, not bemoaning honorifics.

Would that we take her at her word: Why marvel ye at me? Would that we follow her example all the more closely. Would that we allow ourselves to be carried away, subsumed fully by the mystery of the Incarnation. Would that we say with her,

Be it done unto me according to Thy word.


Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

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Because He said it…
believe it!

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

The Annunciation – that moment where the angel Gabriel told Mary that God had chosen her. The dialog goes on and we hear Mary say yes to God. She says yes to the impossible.

Months before that Zechari’ah was serving in the temple when the Gabriel appeared to him and told him that his elderly wife Elizabeth would have a baby. Zechari’ah didn’t believe that the impossible could happen, even with an angel telling him (a seemingly impossible event in and of itself). Because of this disbelief Zechari’ah was left without speech.

Today, we hear of the confluence of these events. Mary travels to see Elizabeth, to serve her in her pregnancy. As Mary arrives, and sounds her greeting, the seemingly impossible happens. John, still in his mother’s womb leaps for joy. John leapt for joy not just because of the sound of Mary’s voice. He leapt because of the presence of God in her womb. How could this be possible?

Throughout salvation history the impossible has happened. A small tribal people became God’s people. They were saved in miraculous ways. In the fullness of time God came to us through them, and offered Himself for our redemption and salvation. He died and rose from the dead, and from there His word spread throughout the world at the hands of fishermen, tent makers, tax collectors, and others. That word went out and was accepted by new groups of people and nations who all became God’s chosen people.

Consider too that the time of the impossible has not ended. The saints and martyrs – and all who hold and profess our common Christian faith have accomplished the impossible. In the history of our Holy Church, a small group of people worked together, and democratically, to organize a new society of faith, a new Church to carry out the seemingly impossible. Now its work is spreading around the globe.

As with Mary’s example, we must be prepared to believe that there are no barriers in God. With Him, nothing is impossible and conversely, the impossible is nothing to us. God’s grace is powerful and can accomplish everything. We must take up and accept that grace, agreeing to be His allies and His workers in carrying out the impossible.

Walter Cronkite used to say: “And that’s the way it is.” Let us be joyous as Elizabeth and the pre-born John were, that God continues to speak to us, to call us, to accomplish the impossible through us. That is the way it is with God. Because He says it, believe it! We are blessed who believe.


The Seventh Advent O Antiphon: Come to save us, Lord our God

The O Antiphons are said before the Magnificat at Vespers in the last seven days of Advent. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.

O Emmanuelu,
nasz Królu i Prawodawco,
oczekiwany zbawicielu narodów,
przyjdź, aby nas wybawić
nasz Panie i Boże

O Emmanuel,
our King and Lawgiver,
the one awaited by the gentiles,
and their Savior:
come to save us,
Lord our God.

Come thou long expected Jesus! Come, O come, Emmanuel — God with us.

You are with us indeed, ever present on the altar and in the tabernacle. You are present in our coming together and in our work. You are present in our solitude and in our pain.

Lord, you are with us. Not just as a man, or as a spirit, but as the God-man. You are the perfection to which we are drawn. Yours is the kingdom which is now, but not yet. We are part of it, still striving toward it, and fully acknowledging that which is unfulfilled. Our thirst remains.

The vision of You is what we long for, not in the accidents of bread, but You in all Your reality and power, face to face. You, as Moses saw You. You, who swept across the waters and breathed life into the nostrils of the first man. You, for Whom we are sorely unprepared.

Lord, our God, Emmanuel, we cannot quench our thirst. We know we can only be complete in You, in Your totality and your reality. Come to save us. Come Lord Jesus come!


The Sixth Advent O Antiphon: Come and save mankind

The O Antiphons are said before the Magnificat at Vespers in the last seven days of Advent. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.

O Królu narodów
przez nie upragniony,
kamieniu węgielny Kościoła,
przyjdź zbaw człowieka,
którego utworzyłeś z prochu ziemi.

O King of the Nations,
and the one they desired,
keystone,
who makes both peoples one,
come and save mankind,
whom you shaped from the mud.

You have fashioned and created us, formed us in the womb. You are our beginning and our ending, yet we reject You.

You are the keystone, the cornerstone, the stone the builders rejected. Because of that rejection You have made us co-heirs, adopted sons and daughters, yet for all this generosity we know You not.

You come to us weak and vulnerable, God in the flesh, we nailed You to a tree. You come again and again, in word and in food, word that flies by our ears and food we eat without an afterthought.

Come and save us indeed, save us from ourselves. Save us from the pull of the world which longs to return us to the mud.

You have fashioned and created us, formed us in the womb. You are our beginning and our ending, You know us best, and that is why You come, over and over, to save us.