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.

Who lit the
fire?

“In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

There are many jobs that require a moment’s notice to be ready. Included are emergency workers, utility crewmen, soldiers and sailors. Today, Jesus speaks of the end of the world. Telling what it will be like, He reminds us that we too have to be ready at a moment’s notice. We will talk today about what we should be ready for and what we should do to prepare.

Our preparation must be centered on belief in Jesus. More easily said than done! It is very difficult for the people to believe in Jesus, not just today, but even when He walked among us. The world questioned and still questions His abilities, background, and leadership. True belief lived begets dedication, proclamation, and a deepening of relationship. We must check in to make sure our belief is doing that in our lives.

If we know Jesus, if we are growing in relationship with Him, we should consider ourselves specially blessed – and be thankful. Jesus promised that He would raise those who do believe in Him on “the last day.” What a great gift, an everlasting gift, a gift for everyone no matter who we are – as long as we believe in the Name of Jesus; no matter where or when, a gift just for us.

What we should be ready for are those things Jesus laid out for us. There is and will be tribulation. There are choices to be made, and we want to be in the group of his elect.

If you have looked into the history of our Church, you would note, as some do with a bit of humor, that our organizer, Bishop Hodur, ‘extinguished the fires of Hell.’ Well not exactly (some took it that way). What he did rather was work to remove fear of Hell fire as the motivator for preparation. We must not have fear as our motivator. Our motivator must be to grow in belief through more intimate knowledge of the grace and glory of God – to know Him, to experience the Holy Spirit, so to desire preparation for what is to come: Us on fire with belief, ready for that moment’s notice, and thankful to be so.

Who paved this
road?

For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.

The Prophet Baruch proclaims words similar to those proclaimed by Isaiah and Sirach: prepare, make straight the path for the Lord. We hear those same words re-proclaimed by John the Baptist:

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth…”

These prophetic words are heard in church each Advent. They easily define for us the things we are to do as part of both our Advent journey and throughout the rest of the year. We are to prepare ourselves and make ourselves ready for the coming of the Lord.

How should we prepare? The Church helps to guide us – and the guidance certainly isn’t to be busy, busy, busy all the time with decorating and shopping. The Lord is expecting a different kind of present from us – a prepared, humble, and penitent heart – a heart filled with love for Him and for our neighbor.

A far more difficult question is, even with the Church’s help, whether we are able to prepare enough. How can we fully turn our lives around so that we are perfectly ready for the Lord?

Thankfully, Baruch tells us how those high mountains will be made low, how deep valleys and gorges will be filled in, how the road will be made ready – how we will be made ready: God will do it. The high mountains in our lives – those things too difficult to overcome on our own and the deep valleys of failure will be overcome and filled in by God.

Baruch tells us that God has commanded these things. Having commanded it, that is, having made it a requirement, He had to bring His command to fulfillment.

God brought all things to fulfillment by sending His Son, Jesus, to accomplish His command. Jesus was and is the only One who can level the mountains and valleys of sin, despair, and death for us. He took all those things away and paved the road of life for us. He took away our sins – all of them. In a similar way, God stated multiple times (see Deuteronomy, Jeremiah and Ezekiel) that He would make our hearts ready.

All of this mountain leveling, valley filling, and road paving are impossible for us on our own. We cannot earn God’s favor. Rather, we make ready by accepting Him fully in faith. That is the preparation that is most important. Accepting Him and traveling His way we shall see the salvation of God. He paved the road and we just have to take it.

Reflection for the 1st Sunday of Advent – A – 2013

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Yesterday, Today,
and Always

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

In the Holy Mass we participate in doing something extraordinary. When Jesus left us the gift of His body and blood and said, do this in memory of Me He gave us an explicit command to do what He had done that night.

Each of us has a special role in carrying out the Eucharist. Our gifts and sacrifice in the form of the bread and wine we offer is changed into Jesus’ body and blood by what the priest does during the Eucharistic prayer. Jesus’ role as servant is exemplified in the work of the deacon who serves at the altar. Each of our roles is essential. Jesus didn’t do any of what He did alone, but in the midst of community.

Jesus didn’t want us to just remember what He had done. Memory is fleeting and can fade with time. Rather, in asking us to carry out the same action as a family, to live the roles He exemplified, we are part of Jesus’ yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In the Eucharistic moment we are at once transformed and present with Jesus at His birth and in His ministry. We are there at the Last Supper, at the foot of the Cross, His burial, His resurrection, His Ascension, and at His return.

How amazing it is that we are there with Him, that we can be so very close to Him.

We might think that this is enough. Certainly Jesus’ coming was that moment in time where our redemption occurred. We, who have accepted Jesus into our lives, have received His assurance of salvation. We have been justified. Yes, but greater things are yet to come.

This Advent, this day, is the moment we must be awake and ready for that greater thing. Those greater things are the miracles we bring to the lives of others by our ministry and by the proclamation of Jesus’ word. Faith and salvation will come to them through us as St. Paul tells us: [by] what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.

The greatest thing yet to come, our greatest hope, is that day of Jesus’ return in glory. We cannot know, or even predict when that day will be, but it will come. We are already part of that always and this season of preparation is our moment to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.

Special Note – Events and Times for Sunday, December 16th

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out – Acts 3:19

Next Sunday, December 16th, we observe the Third Sunday of Advent, the lighting of the Third Advent Candle. On this Sunday we traditionally add to our Advent preparations during Holy Mass with a special Advent Penitential Service.

Proper Advent preparation requires that we free ourselves of sin. This is our opportunity. In this special preparatory moment we are better able to examine our conscience and put forth our best effort to make things right with God and our neighbor. These special penitential services occur only twice a year – so it is vitally important that we attend, participate, and celebrate together.

Following Holy Mass we will take time to enjoy fellowship, our Youth Christmas presentation, and join in preparing all those wonderful meatless dishes we will share with each other at our Vigil Dinner starting at 11:30am.

To allow sufficient time for our Penitential Service, Holy Mass, our Youth Presentation, and our Vigil Dinner we will begin at 8:45am with the lighting of the Advent Wreath immediately followed by our Penitential Service, receipt of the Sacrament of Penance, and Holy Mass. We are pleased to have Fr. Rafał Dadiełło from Holy Spirit Parish in Little Falls join us to administer the Sacrament of Penance and to offer Holy Mass.

St. Paul reminds us: All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation2 Corinthians 5:18. God gave His Holy Church the power to loose us of our sins -– come and be made free once again in the love of God who has reconciled all things to Himself in Christ Jesus. Then free, join in celebrating the coming season with each other.

Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent

Are you full?
Just fulfilled, thanks.

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

Oh, to be full! Sometimes overstuffed is a better word. We eat everything on our plate because we don’t want food to go to waste or, because when we were growing up our parents would tell us there were starving children in another country. In the end we may be full but are we fulfilled? 



A typical day for a busy parent: Wake at 5:30am get breakfast, make lunches, get everyone out the door, clean the house, grocery shop, maybe wash a couple loads of laundry, pick kids up from the bus stop, help with homework, make dinner, clean kitchen, bathe kids and put them to bed, and THEN sit down for a few minutes. It was a full day, and tomorrow will be an equally busy and productive day, but are they fulfilling? 



Full is an adjective meaning completely filled; containing all that can be held; filled to the utmost capacity
 or volume. Fulfill is a verb meaning to carry out, or bring to realization, to make complete.

The days of preparation are upon us. These are the days in which we need to move from being filled up with things to finding real fulfillment in Christ. We need to move toward the place and moment where our cup overflows with the joy of being complete in God.

St. Paul exhorts us: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father.

Jesus wants us to be fulfilled, to be complete. It can be great to be full, but we have to be careful not to mistake fullness for fulfillment. We cannot make a full day or full stomach a substitute for a heart fulfilled in Jesus.

This Advent we need to prepare ourselves for fulfillment. We make a start by emptying ourselves of our failures, our sins, and our shortcomings. By doing so we make room for the Holy Spirit who will fill us with new attitudes and motives. Then, with a heart full of love and good, blameless in holiness, we are ready to be fulfilled, completed in Jesus.

Fulfilled in Jesus we become receivers of His promise. In Him we are made free, free to stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand.

Our hope is set on God’s promise and His fulfillment. He is coming to fulfill our lives. In receiving Him and His promise we become more than full, we are completely fulfilled.