This week’s memory verse: There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Pray the week: Lord, renew my joy; take away any coldness that remains in me. Reawaken me in anticipation of Your day.

What if I’m
bored?

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Today we are one week closer to standing before that stable. One week closer to welcoming the Lord.

That is a beautiful thought. My family puts up its Christmas decorations very late, days before Christmas. In the Advent spirit we are anticipating. We know that once the decorations are up, the vigil meal will be around the corner. We know that we will trek to church and witness the Babe born anew, and feel within ourselves His warmth – happiness, joy, peace, and the promise that because of Him we will have peace.

But what happens when we feel dead inside. What happens when all the expectation is gone – when that occasion about four weeks hence is a bore. The decorations are dusty already, the food isn’t good, and church is a function rather than a joy. Some might even think they are at peace when in reality they have just become numb.

That is where Israel was. The stump of Jesse is literally the sterility of David’s line. Jesse was David’s father and David’s male line was now impotent. Two hundred and seventy years after David was born to be King of Israel Isaiah told us that the dying, impotent, sterile kingship in Israel will produce its once and final King – the true King – the Lord Jesus.

Twenty-eight generations later. Jesus would be born of the line of David. His line – all but forgotten, dusty and dead, no flavor, nothing there and life suddenly springs anew.

John sets out for the Jordan. The prophet, the forerunner, has arrived. Word spreads – there is hope around the corner. Something amazing is about to happen. As the people came forward they acknowledged their sins – primarily the sin of lost hope, of not believing in the promise. Thy came forward to say, ‘Our dead hearts are waking up.’

Paul understood this would happen to us, so he says: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus. Paul is telling us to keep it together, to be encouraged. Seven hundred years passed between Isaiah and Jesus. That is a lot of dust, a lot of boredom, and a lot of numbness. Life and joy lost.

What if we’re bored? What do we do? Start here: Surrender our pre-conceived to-do list. Time to change things up – to build a spirit of anticipation. Then, when the moment comes, we find in it the full power of the promise that is ours.

Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Last year we dedicated ourselves to focusing on joy. In the spirit of one liturgical and calendar year ending and the next beginning, let’s look back. We began last year in Advent, a season of anticipatory joy. Fitting for us as Christians – God’s children – we awaited the best present ever. Then came that day standing at the stable, looking upon the baby Jesus and living the forty days of joyful celebration that followed. Knowing Jesus is always in our midst as well as newly with us. We walked though each season finding new joy in Christ and each other. Here we are – at the start – again reconnecting, celebrating, and knowing endless joy. Time to smile, shed a tear of joy at the stable, and look ahead.

Join us throughout December for a jam packed schedule of holy events, fellowship, and mostly joy. Escape the harangue of the world and find peace, time out from the madness in Jesus and the family of faith.

Send in your Polish Food Sale orders. Get a memory cross. Pick up those Christmas wafers / Opłatki. Join us for our annual Christmas Vigil / Wigilia pot-luck will be held on Sunday, December 18th following Holy Mass. Our SOCL students will present a short play for your reflection and enjoyment. Our brother, Derek Westcott will present two musical pieces he has been working on for months. Come see and support them. Genealogy, roots, stipends, college, read up…

You may view and download a copy of our December 2016 Newsletter right here.

This week’s memory verse: The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.2 Peter 3:9

Pray the week: Lord, your consequences are real. Grant that I may not look back in shame, but as one who has done all I can to live in your promise.

Taking instruction.
Reaping benefits.

For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Here we are, entering Advent. In a little more than four weeks we will stand at the stable as thousands in this parish have done since 1922, and billions of Christians do each year. If we could just imagine ourselves there for a moment, what would we say to ourselves – the person standing here today? What advice could we give ourselves?

Isaiah pegged it right when he told us to pay attention to the word of the Lord. This isn’t just a hearing, or a mere paying attention to, or a listening. Our paying attention must be converted to the integration of God’s word into ourselves. We are to make every act, word, gesture, project, task, and study a living encounter with God’s love – within ourselves and for each other.

As with most prophetic utterances Isaiah gives us both a consequence and a promise.

The promise is that our living encounters with God’s love results in this: They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. Those very real encounters within us and in our relationships come from walking in the light of the Lord!

The consequence is judgment. God looks at us and will judge whether our lives have been an encounter with His love. No one likes the thought of that because we all fall short. As such we must measure how our life in Jesus reaches reality and hold ourselves to a much higher standard. We cannot just ignore the consequence and hope for the best. We cannot walk in darkness and expect the promise to happen in spite of us.

Let’s get back to our advice to ourselves – I would say to myself – be careful each day to walk in the light of the Lord. Don’t make those mistakes. Let His word and His way be integrated in me; make it real in my every encounter. If the Lord’s promise fills me, and all I encounter, I will see His promise come to reality. People will be lifted up. Joy will be made real.

In today’s Epistle and Gospel we hear the challenge – our salvation is nearer now; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Our advise to ourselves – we cannot afford to set the light of the Lord aside or expect that the consequence is not near. So let us take up His instruction, live His promise and make every encounter a reflection of His light.

Memory verse for this week: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Matthew 6:33

Pray the week: My Lord and King, receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess.

Remember
me.

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day’s pay for their time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for winning, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for long service or high achievements and good performance, that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award, yet receives such a gift anyway, it is a good picture of the way God’s kingdom is designed. His is a kingdom in which we receive the a full inheritance to which we were never entitled but has been won and gifted to us.

The generosity of Jesus’ kingdom is on full display in the encounter between the two robbers and Jesus. Each sentenced to death; one’s heart remains stone cold. The other’s heart is opened. The King of heaven and earth offering His life for the redemption of the world is both taunted and adored. In this sacred moment God reveals His offer to the whole world and how that offer is for all as well as for each of us individually.

The two criminals were equally near to Christ. Both of them saw and heard all that happened those hours that Jesus hung on the cross. One died in his sins, he died as he had lived, without repentance. The other repented and believed in Jesus. He saw the promise of His kingdom, called on Him for mercy, and went to Paradise.

It is interesting that Jesus responded directly to the thief that called out for mercy – Yes, I will remember you. You will be with Me in My kingdom this day. Jesus responds to us when we humble ourselves, when we recognize His rule over us. When we place Jesus on the throne, front and center of our lives, and give up our willfulness, we become co-heirs with the King. Notice that the criminal who repented placed Jesus on the throne; specifically mentioning ‘Your kingdom.’

It is even more telling that Jesus gave no response to the one who mocked and taunted Him. Some think that God is a punishing and vengeful power. Yet here we see God’s true nature. He does not curse, punish, or in any way does He respond to the one whose heart remains cold – who hates to the end. God gives Him every moment available to take the opportunity to repent, to place God front and center. Jesus’ offer of merciful opportunity is such a powerful gift

The Lord wants us all to recognize ourselves in this moment, to see the true nature of His kingship, to cry out too, “Jesus, remember me,” and to know He does. We receive a prize we have not won when Jesus is our King. We will be with Him in Paradise!

Memory verse for the week: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.James 4:10

Pray the week: Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess.

I give
up.

“You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Christians are oddball people. It took me quite awhile to figure that one out. They give up.

When I was young I used to read the prayers in the pew missal. There were all kinds of prayers – a prayer of confession. There were prayers to be said after receiving communion (something we find on pages 1-8 of our pew missal). A there was this prayer that really bothered me. A few lines from that prayer (attributed to Ignatius of Loyola):

“Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess”

I said to myself – hold on – that cannot be right. Why would I give up those things? Didn’t God give me a will in the first place?

Frankly, this prayer confused and angered me. In those feelings I eventually found the source of my sin, and the source of all sin. It is our tendency to say ‘my way or the highway.’

Throughout biblical history God asked His people to surrender, to give up their will and to do His will. Again and again His people said no.

Jesus set before us the prime example of surrender as He prayed to His Father in the garden: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Jesus agonized over surrender so much that He sweated drops of blood. Surrender is hard work. It requires intense warfare against our tendency to say no; to say ‘my will be done.’

Jesus asks us to do the hard work of surrender each day and today’s scripture exemplifies the level of surrender we are to have. It is extreme, it is powerful, and it is scary. It means saying yes to God and no to the world – even to family and friends. It means we may be hated or even killed.

If we surrender everything to God, if we choose – and we have to choose one way or the other – we rely on God to work things out. We stop trying to manipulate, plan, force our agenda, or control the situation. We no longer react to criticism or rush to defend ourselves. Our way of relating is changed. People are no longer the other. They are now before us. We are no longer self-serving but other serving. We let go and let God work. Instead of trying harder, we trust more.

Each day let us truly give up – giving all we have up to God. In that we will be victorious. As Revelation tells us: they have conquered because they loved not their lives even unto death.

This week’s memory verse: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”John 11:25

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, sustain my hope. Bring me into Your kingdom of everlasting life.