Love filled
results.

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

We have focused on being checked in and its results from three perspectives. Those are: The peace that comes from being prepared, ready and refusing to give up; Stepping out into the world to announce the kingdom, to proclaim a renewed and joyful life in Jesus. Plugged in people have God’s true joy, a joy that doesn’t leave us; and Hope lived everyday, in every moment – Jesus is near! Peace, joy, and hope, three hallmarks of being checked-in with Jesus.

Peace, joy, and hope – wonderful gifts that are essential elements of our checked-in lives, essential elements of the one thing that wraps them all up together – love.

As we prepare to enter into the Season of Christmas, we are called to take the gifts of peace, joy, and hope and to wrap them together in love and deliver them to the world. This is our charge from Jesus, to take what most consider conceptual and out-of-reach and make it real. More than make it real, show it forth, we are to use God’s grace to get results with those gifts.

Getting real results, love filled results – that is the message of today’s Gospel, that is the message of Jesus first coming, and His anticipated return.

An angel visits Mary, ensconced in her home. She is asked to literally give up everything for love, for the love necessary to bring a child into the world. She is asked to show forth love, and to get real results with her love. Showing forth that love would not gain Mary any love. Her espoused was ready to abandon her. Her community rejected her. Making love real meant ridicule and abandon, yet Mary did it and topped it off with service to her cousin Elizabeth in her need. Mary wrapped the peace of God, joy and hope, in love, stayed checked-in. She made it real to her expected Son and her cousin.

We are recipients of Jesus’ showing forth the fullness of God’s love, and its reality. The results are within us – our sins washed away, our hearts and minds fed by His word, and ready to receive Him. We march forth into the world like Mary with a gift wrapped in love, not to be stored under a tree or on a shelf. Let us never shy away from opening God’s gifts of peace, joy, and hope in love, putting them to work for real love filled results.

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.

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.

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.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood

The words above are taken from the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 20, verse 28. St. Paul is meeting with the elders – the Bishop and leadership of the Church in Ephesus. Paul speaks of how he was plotted against, how he held to the truth, and how he preached repentance. Paul focused on the example he set. He is telling the leadership to follow that example – to live it. In other letters, Paul spoke of how he worked for his own bread, how he battled temptations, and how he went willingly into the unknown for Jesus.

Many Roman Catholic faithful have been shocked and disturbed by recent and past revelations of evil doing, abuse, and how those acts have been covered over/covered up for decades. You may be among them, asking: ‘What happened to the example laid down by Paul and the other Apostles?’

All Christian faithful are supposed to live, first are foremost, the life of Jesus. We are all called to walk in the footsteps of the Blessed Virgin and all the saints. Paul did that! We ask again: ‘Shouldn’t the leadership of the worldwide Roman Church be on the same page?’

We feel for you and are sad for your experience. It is heartbreaking to have one’s trust broken repeatedly, to see one’s role models and leaders fall so hard by their own fault.

You may feel conflicted because we are all taught to forgive, to reconcile, but we know there are lines we cannot cross. We know that calls to prayer and fasting among the faithful laity are not enough. Real change is needed now. Meetings months from now isn’t soon enough. Committees and focus groups cannot be left to debate issues without real resolution. Vows of sorrow and pleas for forgiveness do not really change anything unless it is followed by action and significant change. You do not want to just sit in a pew for weeks, months, and years awaiting change. No reasonable person would.

Brothers and sisters,

We offer you an invitation. If you are looking to get away, to take a break for awhile, we can help. We offer you that break, a time away for peace, quiet, and prayer. We offer you solid Catholic worship and a chance to take a step away for healing.

We are not asking you to join our parish, or to leave the Roman Church. Come, pray and worship in surroundings that are comfortable and safe. Then, when you are ready, go back to start anew.

Note that Roman Catholics are allowed to receive the sacraments in our parish under the provisions of Canon 844.2 of the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law. Canon 844.2 states that the sacraments are lawfully received from a priest in the National Catholic Church: “Whenever necessity requires, or, a genuine spiritual advantage requires it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ’s faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a [Roman] Catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-[Roman] Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid.”

Time for
rethinking.

“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in?’ “It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel.”

So here we are. In about six hours we enter into the Vigil of the Nativity. Six hours after that, we join in the celebration of the Lord’s coming, His Nativity, in candlelight and soft tears – our hearts alive with the spectacle of extreme love made real.

When we face extreme love, when we experience the power of God, we are left to stand in awe. Wow, look what God did for me, look how He guided my steps. The next thing you know, we want to do good, to repay God. David felt that way. He was humbled by all that God had done for him and wanted to reward God. God was not amused.

God says, look at all I did, I have complete and ultimate power to accomplish all things. I took a shepherd boy from nowhere and made him king. I protect my people, and you’re going to build Me a house?

God proceeded to tell David what would happen. I am going to build the house. I am going to establish the kingdom. From your people, your lineage, will come the King, the Messiah. I will raise up your Heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make His kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

The rest of today’s scripture flows from this promise. Paul, writing as an Apostle of the promise delivered, tells his people, Give praise and glory to Him who can strengthen you. Rely on God to deliver – because He already did. He will make you strong in the face of everything. Don’t worry about what you can do for Him – but rather just praise Him, glorify Him for what He has done.

That reaction, that praise comes from our attitudes, our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies. We are to be ready to give this witness of praise. Our praise is to be a living portrayal of the glory of the Nativity, the freedom bought by the Cross, the promise of the Resurrection, and the Ascension. It is living in advent expectation for His return in glory.

The end of our Advent journey is the beginning of a new and more powerful journey. It is time to rethink our reaction to God. God chose what would be done and He fulfilled all he promised to do. We can give Him nothing except to live differently, to listen like Mary and to react as she did – “Behold, I will do what the Lord asks, I will do His will. Let all things in my life be according to God’s word.”

This week’s memory verse: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.Philippians 4:4

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, I rejoice in Your tremendous gift of salvation, freely given. Grant that I may be generous in sharing your love.