This week’s memory verse: Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. —Romans 12:12

  • 12/16 – Jeremiah 29:11
  • 12/17 – Romans 15:13
  • 12/18 – Isaiah 40:31
  • 12/19 – Hebrews 11:1
  • 12/20 – Romans 5:2-5
  • 12/21 – Romans 15:4
  • 12/22 – 1 Peter 1:3

Pray the week:Lord Jesus, grant me the gift of awareness and in awareness strength of hope.

The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Two weeks ago we discussed our call to stand up, to hold our heads high for the Day of the Lord, our hearts focused on plugging in and being ready, rather than on giving up and checking out. Last week we took that message a step further. When we are plugged in and prepared we are able to step out into the world announce the kingdom, calling sinners to a renewed and joyful life. Plugged in people have God’s true joy, a joy that doesn’t leave us.

The faithful, truly plugged in and ready for the Lord’s return, filled with joy, have a unique gift. It is the gift of hope bringing awareness.

Awareness is a unique gift. It is a gift that implies knowledge and insight giving us hope. Look at the awareness and hope evident in today’s readings and Gospel.

Zephaniah was a prophet living in very dark times. Most of his message was dark. People had closed their hearts and minds to an awareness of God. They unplugged, and lived in unjust and abusive times. They pursued what they thought would buy them happiness. Zephaniah spoke of devastation and death, Divine judgment on the “day of the Lord.” Yet, in his plugged-in-ness, Zephaniah stayed aware – This is not the real end. He acclaims with great hope: Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult, the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.

Similarly, St. Paul reminds us that our awareness leads to the same joy and that joy provides us with steadfast hope. He says: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all.

John went out with joy and hope. Because of that, he did amazing things. He provided sinners with a taste of that hope and joy, the removal of anxiety, freedom from desolation in promise of the Messiah Who was on the horizon.

The promise of Jesus is on the horizon. Set aside anxiety. See the peace and hope that is ours, not just on Sunday, or in Advent, or in the coming of Christmas, but everyday, every moment. Let us stay hopefully aware, on top of Jesus’ closeness. He is near!

Advent

  • December 2: 1st Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass at 9:30am and 11:30am. 
  • December 9: 2nd Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass at 9:30am and 11:30am. 
  • December 16: 3rd Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass with Advent Penitential Service at 10:30am followed by Youth Musical Presentation and Parish Vigil Dinner.
  • December 23: 4th Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass at 9:30am and 11:30am. Greening of the Church between Holy Masses.

Christmas Season

  • December 24: Vigil of the Nativity with Holy Mass at 4pm.
  • December 25: Solemnity of the Nativity. Holy Mass at Midnight and 10am.
  • December 26: Feast – St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr.
  • December 27: Feast – St. John, Apostle & Evangelist. Holy Mass at 7pm with Blessing of Wine.
  • December 28: Commemoration – Holy Innocents.
  • December 29: Feast of the Holy Family. Holy Mass at 10am.
  • December 30: Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds. Holy Mass at 9:30 and 11:30am.
  • January 1: Solemnity of the Circumcision. Holy Mass at 10am.
  • January 2: Solemnity of the Holy Name (Parish patronal feast), Holy Mass at 7pm.
  • January 6: Epiphany of our Lord. Holy Mass with blessing of chalk, charcoal, and incense at 9:30 and 11:30am.
  • January 13: Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. Holy Mass at 9:30 and 11:30am.

This week’s memory verse: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. — Romans 15:13

  • 12/9 – Romans 12:12
  • 12/10 – Philippians 4:4
  • 12/11 – Psalm 28:7
  • 12/12 – Psalm 100:2
  • 12/13 – Nehemiah 8:10
  • 12/14 – 1 Thessalonians 5:16
  • 12/15 – Psalm 5:11

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant me Your reinforcing joy so I may sing out of Your return in gladness.

Checked in and
joyful.

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Last week, we discussed our call to stand up, to hold our heads high for the Day of the Lord. Our hearts focused on plugging in and being ready, rather than on giving up and checking out.

If indeed we plugged in and walked in the path of readiness, something wonderful happened. I know I felt it.

It was a long week for me. I left on Tuesday morning for San Diego. Everyone encouraged me, Oh, you’ll have fun, its sunny and warm. Well after about six hours of traveling, I arrived to a setting sun. Not as warm as I expected, but I packed wisely, just in case. Two days of rain and flooding later, it got sunny and warm, just as I entered the airport for the trip home on Friday.

I knew I’d be home late – actually early Saturday morning. I’d be exhausted. As you might imagine, traveling is no joy in this day and age. My trip had its share of what normally would be annoyances. There were a few additional things that go thrown on my plate mid-week as well. But something was different. Expecting Jesus really changed my days and turned annoyances into moments of prayer. Jesus turned times of dread into opportunities. I am so thankful.

Dreading being alone, eating alone, away from friends and family – a brother priest happened to be in the same city at the same time. Neither of us had to be alone. The person snoring on the plane, directly across the aisle from me, for three hours? I had the chance to pray for that person, for healing and better health. There were other moments like that too.

Like the Israelites returning to the Promised Land, we who are checked in and preparing are able to hold our heads high, to march forward with joy knowing the Lord has us in the palm of His hand; is protecting and guiding us.

Like John the Baptist, we are taking charge and doing God’s work with joy. In many ways we announce the kingdom, call sinners to a renewed and joyful life, and heal hurt. Even when the work is hard, and we are down to our last few locusts for dinner, the light of true joy doesn’t leave us.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I wonder if the translators got it wrong? I wonder if I can say “got” in that sentence? Paul, writing to the Philippians, says he is moving toward the goal. A grammar study would tell us that “to” and “toward” are two different things. There is a key distinction. As we enter into Advent and soon the Christmas season, this is a vital distinction. Are we moving toward or to Jesus? In any sentence, “towards” means “in the direction of that person or thing”. When we use “toward,” we are not describing a destination; the destination is without certainty. Toward only describes a general direction. However, when to say “to” we have defined the destination of our journey. While our exact way of getting to that destination remains un-described, we have set our goal with certainty. We work to get to it. We focus on it. We say with confidence, that is exactly where I am going. Advent is a call to prepare for the journey to the returning and victorious Christ. We are to spend this time getting ready, fortifying ourselves for His return so we can meet Him “standing erect with our heads held high.” We are called to set our destination, and retranslate Paul’s words – I am moving to the goal, to the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. That is where I want to be. We may feel fine walking toward Jesus. We might get lucky and trip into the manger at Christmas. The problem with a lack of certainty on our part is that we may miss the mark and end up separated, unable to get to our goal. Getting close, being in the neighborhood, is not enough for Jesus. He wants more. The four weeks of Advent lead to the forty days of Christmas. Time is short. Let us then set the goal, let us be dedicated and focused on the place we need to get to. Let us walk straight to a kingdom defined life. That is the goal, the prize.

December, the quick journey through Advent to the forty day season of Christmas. We discuss the journey, as you see above. Are we heading in God’s general direction, or are we going straight to Him? It makes a difference. We are so excited about these seasons, their quiet times and their activities. Join us for our meatless vigil dinner on December 16th. Listen to what our youth have prepared. Join in and ‘green the church’ on December 23rd.

Looking for real Midnight Holy Mass? Only here in Schenectady! Blessing of wine on the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist – yes, that too.

We wish you all the many and varied blessings of these seasons as we expectantly move to Jesus’ return.

Check out all this and more in our December 2018 Newsletter.

This week’s memory verse: Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. — 1 Corinthians 16:13

  • 12/2 – Philippians 4:1
  • 12/3 – Ephesians 6:11
  • 12/4 – Galatians 5:1
  • 12/5 – Joshua 1:9
  • 12/6 – 2 Corinthians 1:24
  • 12/7 – James 5:8
  • 12/8 – Hebrews 6:11

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that I may always be found standing, building up the Church, and holding my head high for Your return.

Check out or
Stand up?

But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.

St. Paul had arrived at Thessalonica in the winter of 49, around this time of year. Paul had just struggled mightily in Philippi. His rights as a citizen were violated and he was mistreated and now ended up in Thessalonica.

Unfortunately, Paul did not have it much better in Thessalonica. He was forced to leave in the face of severe opposition. Yet his time there was blessed. He founded a fledging Church. On the down side, he didn’t have time to fully teach the members of this young Church. After leaving, and meeting Timothy in Athens, he sent Timothy back for a check-in visit.

The letter to the Thessalonians, authored in about 51, two years after he had to leave, was intended to offer support and learning to this young Church, and to reassure it in the essentials of the faith.

A vital, moment in a young (or even not so young) life comes when we are confronted with that life altering choice. Do I turn left or right? Do I go forward or turn back? Do I check out and slink away, or do I stand up with my head held high? Jesus put that choice to us. Paul put it to Thessalonica. We are asked in our youth, and we are asked today – How will we decide?

Today we enter Advent, the season of waiting, preparation, and expectation. Jesus reminds us of what we are waiting for, preparing for, and expecting. It is His return. Will I be ready to stand up and raise my head at His return? Will I be prepared? Am I even expecting Him or have I checked out?

Paul taught the young Church at Thessalonica and us today about those choices. They are before us because Jesus promised His return in glory. The angels on the Mount of the Ascension attested to it: “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.”

So what are we to do, we in our youth and our not so youth? The Church at Thessalonica took Paul’s advice. They did what was necessary. They lived in constant and urgent expectation. They not only lived it, but also shared expectation so others might be saved. Time to stand up and do likewise.

This week’s memory verse: On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. — Revelation 19:16

  • 11/25 – Hebrews 1:1-2
  • 11/26 – Hebrews 1:3-4
  • 11/27 – Revelation 17:14
  • 11/28 – Revelation 11:15
  • 11/29 – Isaiah 9:6
  • 11/30 – Psalm 47:2
  • 12/1 – Psalm 22:28

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant me humbleness of heart. Make me Your servant. Grant that I may only worship and adore You.