Love!

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

In the first three weeks of Advent we focused on hope, peace, and joy and how those key elements of God’s Kingdom life must be shown in our lives and conveyed by us who are His people, the brothers and sisters of His Divine Son, Jesus.

Our kingdom tasks – what we are to convey – is:

  • An offer of hope to those we encounter;
  • To be peace in the midst of the communities we are involved in – our neighborhoods, workplaces, social groups, and families; and
  • To be promoters and bringers of joy, bearers of a joyous message – Jesus has saved us and is available to each and every person. Come meet Him.

In this final week of Advent (lasting less than a full week), we focus on our responsibility to love.

The Alan Jackson’s song, ‘I Need A Love Like That,’ as certain songs do, conveys what we seek, our need for a love that surpasses time and space, a love that takes hold of us, completes us, and makes us whole. We all need a love like that.

God understands that need, for He Himself is love. So, God determined to act and give His all, His very Son to us. He carried out His plan to show us the immensity of His love by engaging people who would respond in love. We know their names: Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Simeon, Anna, and John. We know their occupations: shepherds and Maji, Levites and prophets.

By the giving of God’s greatest gift, and our acceptance of that gift, we follow in the footsteps of love. We become bearers of the central element of God’s Kingdom – love. 

As with those who responded to God’s plan with love, we respond in love. We show forth the all-encompassing love that surpasses time and space. We bear that love which has taken hold of us, that has completed us, and that has made us whole.

Indeed, God has engaged us because He knows we are people who will respond in love. We know our responsibility is to love and by love to draw people to Jesus. 

Our names inscribed in the Book of Life are known to God. Our professions, whether accountants, civil servants, service workers, business owners, healthcare workers, or even priests give us the opportunity to show love. Our times and circumstances allow us to hear those who say, ‘I need love’ and answer with Jesus, the love that will take hold of, complete, and make them whole.

Joy!

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.

In the first week of Advent, we focused on hope; our very own kingdom task of offering hope to those we encounter. In the second week of Advent we focused on peace, both personal peace and being peace to those we encounter.

In this third week of Advent we focus on joy and rejoicing. Rejoice, the Lord is near! In reflecting on joy and rejoicing we recognize that we are asked to be bringers of joy and rejoicing. St. Paul also instructs us – Do not quench the Spirit. 

Something that rang true for most of us last week was recalling the difference between someone who walks into a room and, well, removes all peace and the person who walks in and we say, ahhhh, I feel at ease now.

Now imagine another person walks in, on fire with the Spirit. They open our eyes to possibilities and fill us with a share of that same Spirit. We feel uplifted, energized, filled with joy, and are ready to go forward with rejoicing. On the other hand, imagine that other person walking in – the quencher, the negative person who sees no joy, who refuses to allow the inspiration of the Sprit in, and wants to ensure no one else does either.

As the faithful we must be careful to be promoters and bringers of joy, to recognize where the Spirit in moving amongst us, where God is among us. Where – Emmanuel – is acting to move us forward.

Indeed, we are bearers of a joyous message – Jesus has saved us and is available to each and every person. The Holy Spirit has infused us with life and His great gifts of praise, song, wisdom, and voices that along with John can proclaim, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’”

What a wonderful message of joyous anticipation – the very heart of Advent, Jesus is near, He is ready to meet you as He has met me. Proclaim that the Spirit is in us and work to bear God’s joy by making the Lord’s way straight, by filling in where people are low and easing the jagged edges in the lives of those we know.

John was confronted by the joy removers, the naysayers, the quenchers. John bore a message of joy, the forgiveness of sin and the opportunity, soon upon the people around him, to meet the Savior, the Messiah Who now lives among us. John’s joy filled message in response to the Pharisees and Levites still rings true – in our age perhaps even more than in the Israel of John’s time – “there is one among you whom you do not recognize.” Wake up and recognize Him. Meet Him and be filled with joy.

To have the fulness of joy, to look forward, no matter what is going on about us, with joy, is to have Jesus alive in us, the Holy Spirit moving within us, and to share the message – Rejoice! 

Peace!

Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

In the first week of Advent, we focused on hope. We learned that we stand in charge, each with our own kingdom task – to offer hope. We asked that on Jesus’ return He would find us expectantly waiting and offering the hope found in His name.

This week we focus on peace, both personal peace and being peace.

In Isaiah we hear of God setting things right by freeing His people from sin. The herald is to come and prepare the landscape for the arrival of the Messiah. All is to be leveled, i.e., brought back to balance in preparation. For His arrival. The herald proclaims the good news – the Savior is near!

So, that is exactly what happens. John the Baptist, the herald arrives to cry out the good news. Through a baptism of repentance, people are forgiven and re-leveled. The valleys and hills in their personalities are leveled out so that they might have peace. The tensions, sorrows, weights and chains, frenzy that urges us to sin is cleared and we are brought back to peace. Our paths are cleared of sin so we may approach and meet the Savior.

Indeed, the Lord is returning, so as St. Paul teaches, we are to be the sort of people who conduct themselves in holiness and devotion so we may be found without spot or blemish. Paul wraps this all up and says we are to be found at peace.

This is a good time, and indeed the right time to consider our own hills and valleys, the obstacles between me and Jesus. What barriers am I putting in the way? What trenches am I digging? Is it anger and pride, my convincing myself I am right over all? Is it placing my trust in people or believing whatever self-serving truths are handed to me? Is it habitual sin or attractions that are unhealthy? There is a lot we can do to destroy peace and accord between each other and in the world and to mess up the straight path between ourselves and God.

Our first step is to get to personal peace with God through proper confession of sin, resolution to resist sin, penance for sins committed, repentance and reconciliation, and prayers for the grace necessary to stay on the level and straight peace-filled path to God. Once our valleys are filled in and our hills are leveled, we are to move to the next step, being God’s heralds of peace.

See, we could live in conflict. We could continue to toss Molotov cocktails in our words and actions, but doing so only burns us, for as St. Paul recounts: the earth and everything done on it will be found out. We will be accountable for our spiritual state and what we bring, and let it always be God’s peace.

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.

December, Christmas, New Year’s Eve. That’s our secular calendar for December. Whether we get our calendar at the bank, the local liquor store, or online – we can find all those things. But if we happen to have picked up a Home Liturgical Calendar (there’s still a few available), we find a bridge, the start of a new Church Year with the season of Advent. Advent is about hope and expectation of a brighter future. In Advent we at once commemorate the waiting of the Jewish people for the promised Messiah and connect with our urgent expectation of His return. We are first and foremost called to look forward with hope. Henryk Adam Aleksander Pius Sienkiewicz, the Nobel prize winning author, wrote his “Trilogy” of historical novels – set in the 17th-century Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth – in the late 19th century. In this series of books (and I recommend you get the translation by W. S. Kuniczak) he points to people looking to the sky in the midst of Poland’s wars and sufferings, and declaring ’It must be the end.’ Certainly they did. Yet the world did not end in the 17th or 19th centuries. Any among the people of that time expecting the end lost the opportunity to hope forward. For us as Christians, the call is not to sit around contemplating the end, biting our nails and hoping we get to heaven, but to offer hope today, and thus to be heaven, the breaking open of the Kingdom of God, for our brothers and sisters. We all long, that cannot be helped. We have all been challenged, and especially in this year. For us, Advent longing and the challenges of the time must not be met with dour, sad, and forlorn attitudes but rather with hope filled and bright faith looking forward. Each Advent, let us look forward, not in a delusional way, but with ready faith. Let us look forward expectantly, with active faith. Let us never lose the opportunity to live and share hope. Grasp it so we may meet Jesus, the Hope of humanity.

December is here and so is our newsletter. This month we focus on looking forward with hope as we walk through the Advent Season into the new dawn of Christmas.

Read about our Advent charity programs and Pastor Jim’s Christmas greetings as well as his thankfulness on the 6th anniversary of his ordination to the Holy Priesthood. Join us for weekly Zoom calls so we can face these days Together in Faith and Love. Stop by Wednesday mornings for a Rorate Holy Mass (Holy Mass by candlelight only). Offer a Memory Cross for our Christmas trees. Get your Christmas wafers/opłatki. See our Christmas season schedule of Holy Masses. We continue planning for our 100th Anniversary, observed in 2021. There is a great reflection On Holy Communion. Want to be on the Parish Committee? Time to get your name into running.

Read about it in our December 2020 Newsletter.

Hope!

Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old.

We begin the season of Advent with this prayer from Isaiah. 

Isaiah’s prayer begs for the Lord’s return. In his prayer, even as our prayers often go, he wonders about the wrong in the world, the failure of God’s people to listen. He recounts the corruption that has made them unworthy, perhaps only worthy of abandonment, carried away like the wind. He recognizes that God was right to turn His face away from them. Just before getting to final despair, Isaiah recalls God’s Fatherhood to Him. Isaiah reminds God that we are the work of His hands and ends his prayer with hope.

The Corinthian Church was called to be the redemptive fellowship known as Church – the body of the saved offering hope to the world while expecting Jesus’ return. This is who we are too. We are to recognize our changed focus, from eyes cast down and living a hopeless existence to eyes looking up, preparing by building the kingdom, calling the unsaved, and offering Jesus’ hope as we expect His return.

Paul reminds us that Jesus has enriched us in every way, that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift and that as we expectantly wait, He will keep us firm to the end.

Isaiah’s pre-Jesus prayer is hopeful for overcoming. Paul, living in Jesus’ reality, reminds us that we hold the hope that overcomes all things.

Advent is the message of hope needed right now. We are reminded of that hope and our duty to offer it. The darkness, despair, and abandonment felt throughout these many months, the feeling that we are being carried away like the wind, is strong in many hearts and minds. As such, we must offer each other the reassurance of the hope we have and teach the worldly that there is a hope that overcomes. All need that reassurance of hope.

Today we move from the contemplation of the last things, the end times, to hope filled expectation. Indeed, the Lord has told us to be ready for His return looking forward to that moment when He will break through.

The answer to Isaiah’s prayer came in Jesus and continues in our redemptive fellowship, our being Church. We are Jesus’ breaking through and offering of hope to the world. For that purpose we have been changed. We stand in charge, each with our own kingdom task – to offer hope, for soon the Lord will break through in power and glory, light, and peace. May He find us expectantly waiting and offering the hope found in His name alone.

As usual, we will be gathering can and dry food donations now through December 20th. You may leave your donations by the Mary Altar. 

If you have good unneeded clothing to donate, it may be dropped off downstairs. The YMSofR will take these donations to local charities. 

We have put up our giving tree set up with ornaments. These 50 double sided 3”x3” Compassion International hanging ornaments each represents a donation option to help those in need. We ask you to pick one as a family and make a donation to change a life. We also have a beautiful ornament for you to take home. If you would prefer joining your donation to others for a larger gift, place it in the basket by the tree.

View the Compassion International video below to see hope your donation carries out the advent call to hope, peace, joy, and love.

In
advance.

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Three weeks ago, we reflected on God’s wake-up calls delivered through the prophets so we might be found awake and ready. 

Two weeks ago, we focused on God’s proclamation of His truth as revelation for us. We understand that to be part of God is to be part of His extraordinarily different way, and to live up to it. 

Last week we considered the rejoicing ready for us right now and to come upon Jesus’ return.

In a few days, this will all come together in our Christmas celebration. To prepare, God asks us to consider the depth of His love and how we live it.

We know the Spirit stirred life in the womb of a peasant girl – God’s proclamation through prophets and angels comes to reality in Mary’s womb by her loving acceptance. God is engaged in His extraordinarily different way.

Mary and Joseph betrothed, not yet married, were expected to remain chaste. Mary’s pregnancy catches Joseph by surprise, more literally he was shocked and dismayed. Joseph seeks to avoid humiliation (for him) while also fulfilling the law. He is not yet connected to God’s different way of love or His proclamation. The angel sets that straight. The angel admonishes Joseph to embrace his role and Joseph responded lovingly. Joseph then becomes model for all who encounter the message of Jesus – God’s proclamation made real in vastly different ways and to be accepted in love.

God’s realm is becoming manifest among us at the near conclusion of this Advent season. If we have taken wake-up calls and proclamation seriously, we are awake, ready, listening, prepared, and knowledgeable. God calls us to act so vastly different in advance of His son’s glorious return. We are called to be part of His necessary work at this end-time, i.e., to becoming deeply faithful to love. Love must overcome disbelief. Love must overcome labeling (imagine what people called Mary and Joseph). Love must overcome conflict and chaos, eliciting peaceful hearts. Love must overcome complacency. Jesus’ way of love must rule our heart and way to the core of our being. 

In
advance.

“Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Two weeks ago, we reflected on God’s wake-up calls delivered through the prophets. Delivered to us too so we might be found awake and ready.

Last week, we focused on God’s proclamation of a truth, through His angels, that most would consider hard to believe. For God does things in vastly different ways. We come to realize, by faith, that God’s proclamation is God’s reality that He provided in advance so that we might have a chance to live up to His vastly different way. 

Today we consider the rejoicing in store for us, right this very moment, and to come upon Jesus’ return.

Each of these themes, wake-up calls, proclamation, and rejoicing are things given to humanity in advance of Jesus’ coming. We are reminded of them now because Advent is that time in advance of His returning. He is returning in power and might to take up those who are awake, to fulfill all His proclamation, and to gather us in rejoicing.

Isaiah tells us that the very earth, all of nature will exult, rejoice, and bloom. In his time of anticipated rejoicing, Isaiah reminded Israel to strengthen itself, to build itself up, to cast out all fear. Nothing should be upon us that would hold us down. So today, let nothing stop us from rejoicing. Let us prepare ourselves to enter singing, crowned with joy, and meeting together with gladness.

St. James clues us in: Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. Do we think anyone will win who is just standing by asleep, unhappy, thinking it will never happen for them? Is just going through the motions enough? No! It is for those who are making it real, living up anticipating, and glad right here, right now, in this place, in this City, in this family.

Listen carefully again to Jesus’ very word: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” He has given us the best reason for rejoicing in advance of His return. He has told us, in advance, we are greater than John the Baptist. We are powerhouses of faith, strong to withstand because in advance we are awake, living up, and rejoicing.

In
advance.

Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume

Last week we reflected on God’s wake-up calls. God is diligent at wake-up calls. He gives us this opportunity of Advent in advance so that we may be prepared. He gave us the first coming of His Son, His life and word as model so we may live awake, active, and expectant for His return.

This week we reflect on His proclamation – proclamation of a truth people so often wish to avoid for God does things in vastly different ways.

Consider the words of Isaiah. Would anyone expect the wolf, lamb, leopard, kid, calf, and lion to live and eat together in peace, guided by a child. Would anyone expect a baby to play together with snakes. Could we believe that a day will dawn where there is no ruin or harm? That’s the thing. It sounds all so great, and fanciful, and maybe someday – but you’ve got to be kidding me. Look at the world today!

God isn’t fooling! Those pretty words from Isaiah that begin in justice for the oppressed and right judgment for the afflicted, the casting down of the wicked and ruthless are God’s design and proclamation. He has told us, His faithful, that this is the way it shall be. This is what we must endeavor to bring about. This is the Kingdom life!

Paul tells us this was: written for our instruction, endurance, and encouragement so that we might have hope. This was written down as our instruction manual so that we might break down artificial barriers and preconceived notions. Who would think that the gentiles might be co-heirs? God did. Thus we rejoice for the gift we have been given in Jesus.

Each of the characters of Christmas brought a part of God’s proclamation. The prophets gave the wake-up call. The angels exceedingly rejoiced in God’s gift of His Son, Jesus. John, the Forerunner, proclaimed the way it must be by God’s design. John came in advance. He picked up sinners (lions, leopards, wolves) so they could eat and rest together with the lambs, kids, calves, and children. Those who confessed were freed. John held out the truth to those who wanted to pretend that things wouldn’t change. Who warned you, he said. He called them to change.

God’s proclamation is God’s reality, His truth. He provided it in advance. Advent gives us the chance to live up to His vastly different way.

Peace.

Advent is here and Christmas is less than four weeks away. As we enter this season of expectation, thoughts turn to where we should be versus all the anxieties found in our daily life. As we enter this season and approach Christmas, let us consider peace. Peace is mentioned more than 429 times in the Bible. In the Bible, peace is taught as the Shalom of God. Being of God, Shalom, peace, encompasses many meanings including totality or completeness, success, fulfillment, wholeness, harmony, security and well being. Shalom is an ordering of life ordained by God through creation and established with God’s people in the covenant. Shalom is a place of being where chaos cannot exist. Chaos is those things we all abhor – sickness, war, social strife, any violation of the covenant and God’s law of love. As we enter Advent, let us consider the place of peace in our lives. Where are we in terms of the totality or completeness, success, fulfillment, wholeness, harmony, security and well being God desires for us? Where are we in relationship to Him and each other? Are we living His Shalom or are we enveloped by chaos? The Church presents Advent as that time to re-enter the Shalom of God. We have this short period of time, set aside – really separate – where we can retreat and pray, worship (communally in church), study (Biblical reading), fast, share (get rid of the excess we have), re-connect, and holistically enter into God’s peace. To do otherwise is to allow ourselves to slip into the abyss of chaos that is screaming around us. Jesus is inviting us into his peace. He is constantly doing that. He wants us to be prepared, settled, rested, and ready for His return, both symbolically at Christmas and in reality. As we stand before the manger, at Christmas, throughout its forty days, and thereafter, let us do so in peace.

December, Advent and the approaching Christmas season. So much going on – be part of it. We are reintroducing Candlelit Rorate Holy Masses every Wednesday in Advent at 7am. We have wafers/opłatek available for you to take home. We will bless and light the Advent wreath on December 1st, have our Vigil/Wigilia dinner on December 15th (come and partake) and the greening of the Church on December 22nd (come help decorate). We have our food and clothing collections ongoing for those in need in our local community. Of course a whole schedule of Holy Masses for Christmas, including a true Solemn Midnight Holy Mass, the blessing of wine on the Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist – and so much more.

Read about all this and a reflection on generosity in our December 2019 Newsletter.