For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade

Through much of Advent we read from the Prophet Isaiah. In those readings we often hear a reference to the poor and how God will save the poor. Later in the Christmas season we will hear Jesus quote Isaiah 61:1 when He gets up to proclaim the Word and teach in the Synagogue: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. We might think to ourselves, well isn’t Jesus just great with the poor! Think of how He helps them and causes us to exert our charity in helping the poor. He lays out all this stuff about us doing for the least of these, thus doing it for Him. That work for the poor helps us get to heaven. The Church, in the model of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, established the Corporal Works of Mercy focused on the poor.

What we tend to miss in all this discussion of the poor is the fact that Jesus did not specifically come to address the economically poor. Remember, He told us: For you always have the poor with you. (Matthew 26:11). If He did not come to address the economically poor, then who did He come to help? The answer is simple enough, Me. Jesus came and gave His all for me. I started in a place that was very poor – my humanity – and Jesus took on my poorness, entered into my poverty – to raise me and many on high, up to the very heaven He came from. He sacrificed His life to make me rich, a co-heir with Him to all His Heavenly Father has.

As we walk through Advent and finally gaze on the representation of Jesus in the poverty of the stable, let us remember where we were before we came to faith in Jesus and how very rich we are now. Then let us act! Certainly, to act means to care for the economically poor as required of us by the gospel of Jesus, but also beyond that to lift up those who are what we were, poor without Christ Jesus. Let us use this new Church Year to invite them into the Kingdom, to share in the treasure we have, to be rich with us.


Welcome to our December 2022 Newsletter and the journey through Advent to the start of the Christmas season (all forty days of Christmas starting Christmas Day). As you can imagine, there is tons going on.

The Opłatki / Christmas Wafers and Advent Wreath are blessed. The Church’s youth are gathering the evening of December 2nd. We have our Seniorate Advent gathering and youth meeting on December 3rd. There is daily Holy Mass at Noon and Rorate Holy Masses every Wednesday of Advent at 7:30am. Join us for our Wigilia / Vigil Dinner on December 11th. Help us decorate (green the Church) on December 18th. We have a full schedule of Holy Masses for Christmas (the traditional three) including the Shepherd’s Holy Mass at Midnight – yes, a real Midnight Mass right here in Schenectady. Join in our giving efforts, enjoy a concert by the Thursday Musical Club, offer a Memory Cross in honor of someone you wish to remember this Christmas season, and join us in giving thanks for all who do so much on behalf of the parish. Above all, remember to keep centered on the Holy Eucharist.

All that and more in our December 2022 Newsletter.

Love.

Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ.

This Advent we focus on the promises of God. We have provided a handy follow along book of reflections and devotions covering thirty promises of God broken down under the categories of hope, peace, joy, and love. This final week we reflect on God’s promise of love.

Remember that promises from God are things we can absolutely count on. We have perfect assurance that God’s promise of love will be fulfilled. We know this more so because God has shown us by His outward action that His love is perfect and all giving.

St. Paul is reflecting on that very fact in today’s Epistle. He calls our attention, once again, to the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, came to once and for all consecrate us – that is to make us holy and pleasing to His Father. He would do this, not through the sin offerings of people, which God did not delight in, but through the love offering of Himself, the perfect sacrifice as willed by the Father.

It is key for us to focus on the value of offerings. You see, the sin sacrifices of people could never compensate God for what they had done. Rather, its key metric was in the way it forced people to evaluate, in a tangible way, the cost of what they had done. 

Now if a person were really dedicated to loving God, they would say the cost is too high. I must rather turn away from sin and by doing so, not suffer the cost consequences. But the people never did change, they got caught up in paying to play. Their hearts remained hard, not like the hearts of flesh God wished them to have. For them, it boiled down to an equation in the Law.

To change the equation, to fully carry out the will of the Father, His Son, Jesus, had to step up and say yes. He had to give His love totally to the Father in sacrifice. By doing so He carried out the Father’s will for us. 

Jesus carried out the Father’s love mission. He destroyed the old equation of cost sacrifices and says to us, come, live in my love. St. John’s repeats Jesus’ words: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.

The choice is clear. We have met our God Who gave Himself as sacrifice. We cannot pay, there is no option for that, so we must choose to dedicate ourselves to Him, to live in His love. If we make that choice, we are among those made holy by God’s perfect love gift.

In the face of God’s love, Mary served, Elizabeth proclaimed, and John leapt. In the face of God’s love, we must also serve, proclaim, and leap, not to pay, but as sign of love in our consecrated lives.

Joy

Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

This Advent we focus on the promises of God. We have provided a handy follow along book of reflections and devotions covering thirty promises of God broken down under the categories of hope, peace, joy, and love. This week we reflect on God’s promise of joy.

Remember that promises from God are things we can absolutely count on. As such, we have absolute and perfect assurance that God’s promise of joy will be fulfilled.

As I began reflecting on this Sunday and its readings and gospel, the song: “I’ve got joy, joy, joy deep in my heart” kept ringing in my ears. Indeed, that is God’s desire for us, that we would have His joy deep within us.

I would be remis if I did not remind myself and all of us that God’s joy, here on earth, is not giddy happiness. It is not the worldly definition of happiness at all. Rather, it is a deep and profound contentment that all is well in my life. Happiness is an emotion while joy is both emotion and state of being.

Joy means I have an assurance, a promise from God that I can face whatever comes with a feeling of good pleasure, inner contentment, and satisfaction because I am in Jesus, because the Holy Spirit dwells with me and guides me through everything.

God is at work in our lives, and He has shown us a way through, especially through trials. If we have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, there is no question as to our ultimate outcome. We can therefore be joyfully content no matter what.

John came as the Forerunner to preach a message of good news. The Savior, the Messiah, the One Who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire is coming, and we know He is returning. By John’s preaching people came to repentance, a change in their lives that gave them real joy. They were no longer burdened by wrongs they committed, and they were refreshed. They could approach life joyfully.

So too we. Our Advent guide points out, we have (1) Each Day as a Gift, (2) A God Who Gave His Life for Me, (3) Salvation, (4) A God Who Delights in Me, (5) An Approachable God Who Listens, (6) A Choice of Joy Amidst Trials, and (7) God’s Trustworthy Promise. We can live joyful lives in all these promises.

We are called to the knowledge that God is indeed with us. He is present in our everyday lives. He is accessible and open to us. In any circumstance or situation, we can accept comfort and peace, contentment – that is: joy from God.

Paul re-reminds us: The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all. Let us then go forth with joy, joy, joy, deep in our hearts. 

Hope.

The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.

This Advent we focus on the promises of God. We have provided a handy follow along book of reflections and devotions covering thirty promises of God broken down under the categories of hope, peace, joy, and love. This week we reflect on God’s promise of hope.

First, let us cover what a promise is. A promise is an assurance that what is said will come to be. I am sure we have been assaulted in our lives by unkept promises, whether the kids forgot to clean up or take out the trash, a seller reneges on a guarantee, or more seriously a promise is broken at a level affecting our relationships.

Every broken promise hurts. Each affects our trust relationships. Assurance seems not so assured. But thanks be, we have a God Who provides promises we can absolutely count on. You see, God cannot lie. God, in His perfection, can only utter truth. As such, when God makes a promise, we have absolute and perfect assurance that His promise will be fulfilled.

God promised to give us hope. But what is hope? Hope is not the kind of wishy-washy thing we engage in day-to-day – I hope I win the lottery, I hope my ship comes in, I hope it doesn’t rain or snow. No, the hope God offers is a certainty about the future. In God’s promises of hope we have certainty that the things He said will come to pass and that impacts our lives in the present. If we know our future, how we live today changes.

Our study guide covers seven areas of hope promised by God. It helps us inspect our lives and see if we are living today as our future portends. The hope promises are these:

Light in the Darkness – Jesus is the Light. He helps us inspect those areas of darkness in us that need His cleansing light.

Renewed Strength – we do not have to struggle – God will come through on our behalf no matter the circumstance.

Hope and a Future – for those loyal to God, who follow His gospel way – our current situations are not our always situation. God has a plan and future waiting for us.

A Full Life and Eternal Life – It is life that is a gift now/today and awaits us eternally. This life cannot be taken away from us unless we allow it. This life was won for us in the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Anything is Possible with God – yes, God has no barriers unless we erect them through unbelief.

God Is Our Firm Anchor – He cannot be moved, and He gives us assurance. Let us be confident in our hope.

This week let us focus on our assured hope.