December 23, 2018
If you are reading this Saturday evening, Sunday morning or evening – Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent!
If you are reading this Monday evening or Tuesday morning – Merry Christmas!
This is another interesting year when the fourth week of Advent is just under twenty-four hours long with our Sunday and Christmas Mass schedules.
I pray these beautiful days of the Christmas Season from December 24th through January 13th bring much peace, joy, love and new life to you and your family. I am grateful my Mom is able to celebrate with me here this year. My sister and her family will be traveling to her in-laws near Erie, Pennsylvania. I recently egged my sister on about spending another eight and a half hours in the car to visit Easton after thirteen and a half hours from Minnesota to Pennsylvania. She simply chuckled and said nice thought, with then an almost twenty-four hour drive back. I sure hope my oldest nephew does better flying in the years to come.
Christmas is all about family, from the Holy Family to each our own families. Christmas is filled with traditions and treats, heartfelt greetings and happy meetings, nostalgic memories and new experiences. Celebrating Christmas in my family has definitely changed in the past ten years with older generations needing to give newer generations the opportunity to host. What I knew growing up as the family gathering at our house Christmas day, has now expanded across the miles with younger first cousins with their own children hosting their parents, my aunts and uncles. It is interesting working with couples preparing for marriage when we talk about family of origin and extended family. One of the first things a young couple needs to navigate are the holidays. They definitely often feel pressure from parents and/or siblings, especially when the first grandchildren are born into the family. I do not envy them deciding where to go or when to stay home and shift the family dynamic to a new way of celebrating. I pray for peace in families at Christmas when emotions and expectations are often the highest of the year. Let us remember the first Christmas was not exactly what Mary and Joseph hoped for, but in the end it all worked out in ways they never could have planned.
May the angels’ voices to the shepherds in the field ring in our hearts as we sing Angles We Have Heard on High, or Hark the Herald Angels Sing, or the return of the Gloria at Mass, singing from scripture what the angles’ message was that holy night. May we have the faith of the shepherds to follow God’s call and journey where we need to go in order to find Jesus’ presence in our lives. May Mary and Joseph’s trust in God from each of their own unique experiences with God, help us to trust God more deeply in our lives, especially in times and in circumstances we don’t expect or understand. May the peace, joy, love, and new life of this holy season bless you as we celebrate and we believe.
December 16, 2018
Happy Third Sunday of Advent also known by its Latin name of Gaudete. It is the first word in the opening antiphon for the Mass: “Gaudete (Rejoice) in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5). We light the rose colored candle to help us see that we are now more than halfway through this holy season. There is shift in the opening prayer from focusing on Christ’s returning in glory to harkening back to our Lord’s Nativity, his first coming as the incarnation of God’s Word, the Word made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us.
We again hear about John the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke. However, the focus is not like last week in that John’s message is one of preparing the way for the Lord to come as much now pondering how we are to live in the Lord. Sharing, acting justly, living honestly with compassion and love for others. The second half of today’s gospel foreshadows the end of the Christmas Season when we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus will forever link John’s baptizing with water into his own baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire in order to bring about a new creation sprung from the old.
The readings beginning on Monday, December 17th are really exciting since most of the first readings are the prophecies about the coming Messiah and the story of Sampson’s birth after Hannah’s prayer to God. The gospels are the unfolding story of John and Jesus’ births leading us to the evening of December 24th. The ancient O Antiphons are the verses during the alleluia for the gospel and the antiphon introducing each evening prayer’s Magnificat. It is truly a time of rejoicing and anticipating how the baby Jesus in the manger will once again change and effect our lives for bringing more joy to the world.
I am rejoicing with you as many of you have and are bringing joy into the hearts of many people this coming Christmas through volunteering at My Brother’s Keeper, your own company giving drives, preparing food boxes, but most especially through your generosity here at Holy Cross in your response to the tags on the Giving Tree. I can only imagine the joy, gratitude and happiness so many children, teens and adults will experience this Christmas because of you sharing from your time and treasure. Thank you once again for your generous response and heartfelt compassion to those in need. I would like to especially thank parishioner Patti Saganey for organizing the Giving Tree process from start to finish: gathering needs from families, gathering other parishioner volunteers to help write and hang the tags, to our teens at the 5:30pm Sunday evening Mass for providing the human chain of hands to get the presents from the vestibule to the church basement, and still others who sorted gifts and made sure they got where they needed to go. May God continue to bless you and your family as we all head toward celebrating the great feasts of the Christmas Season.
December 9, 2018
The readings for this Second Sunday of Advent are full of hope and expectant joy. The responsorial psalm from Psalm 126 sums the feeling up well: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” God’s people who were in exile will soon be making their way back to the holy city Jerusalem “by the light of God’s glory with his mercy and justice for company.” Paul’s hope and prayer for the Philippians is that their love increases ever more and more. John the Baptist urges us this week and next fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah to “prepare the way of the Lord…because all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
However, keeping this sense of hope and joy in our hearts in the present day is as challenging as it likely was for generations past. Most of us are not in physical exile, however we know other Christian brothers and sisters have fled violence in the Middle East, crossed the Mediterranean, or more recently have caravanned thousands of miles from Central to North America. There are many reasons for these modern exiles and views up for debate but one thing is certain in our faith, every human being inherently deserves to be treated with dignity and respect simply for being created by God. I wonder how Mary, Joseph and Jesus were treated when they had to flee to Egypt. How would we treat them today without knowing the rest of the story?
How do we keep a sense of hope and joy when there are natural disasters of hurricanes, tornadoes and wild fires, senseless shootings, hate crimes, opioid addictions and deaths, and global temperatures rising faster and faster? At times I am tempted to want to believe ignorance is bliss, but it is not. We all have a part to play, however small globally but likely very effective locally, to bring about hope and joy by our words and actions.
May the hope and joy of this holy Season of Advent increase in us and the world as the light intensifies on the Advent wreath. May hope and joy displace cynicism, apathy or any type of hatred that is the root of fear. The ancient Israelites kept hope and joy in their hearts even though for a time the Babylonians tried to instill fear. The Holy Family kept hope and joy in their hearts even though the Romans desired to intimidate by fear. Our ancestors who immigrated here kept hope and joy in their hearts amid turbulent travel and persecution for being Catholic. God’s promise was, is and always will be that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it! Blessings to you and your families as we continue our Advent journey together with hope and joy in our hearts.
December 2, 2018
Happy New Year of Grace 2019 as the Season of Advent beings this weekend. This first week of Advent continues the end of time theme we have been hearing the last two weeks, looking toward the end of time when Christ comes again. The Sunday readings for the second and third weeks of Advent highlight the hope and joy of this brief season. John the Baptist helps us to focus on being prepared and ready every day of our lives. There is only a brief mention of Jesus’ first coming in the Advent I preface to the Eucharistic Prayer: “For he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh, and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago, and opened for us the way to salvation.” That is the only reference to Christmas during the first three weeks of Advent. Then, beginning on December 17th, and the 4th Sunday the focus changes and we hear mention of Emmanuel and how the birth of Jesus came about with Mary and Joseph. So even though secular society rushes things, especially this year this past week before even Advent began with: CMA’s Country Christmas, Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, the lighting of the Copley Square, Boston Common and Rockefeller Christmas trees, may we challenge ourselves to patient waiting, prayerful preparation, and vigilant expectation not only for our annual celebration of Jesus’ birth, but especially for whenever he comes again. Are you ready if that happens before Christmas?
This year the Season of Advent is only three weeks and a 48 hour “4th week” leading into Christmas Eve on the evening of Monday, the 24th of December. We will have a regular Mass schedule for the 4th Sunday of Advent. Christmas begins on Monday evening with two simultaneous 4:00 p.m. Masses (one in church and the other in the great room) followed by an 8:00 p.m. and Midnight Mass, and a 10:00 a.m. Mass on Christmas morning. So we have three weeks and two days to live into the Season of Advent this year. The first resource is The Word Among Us daily prayer booklets available at the doors of the Church. The daily Mass readings are in the middle section and brief daily reflections by date in the front and back help guide our thoughts and actions for that day. Another daily resource is online at dynamiccatholic.com/advent where you can sign up to receive daily short inspirational videos, practical tips and real-life stories of hope to guide you through Advent in preparation for Christmas. There is our regular Saturday afternoon opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Saturdays from 3:15-3:45 p.m. You can also always call or email Fr. Brad or Fr. Jim to set up an appointment to receive the sacrament. Also think about checking availability on the LaSalette and St. Anthony’s shrines’ websites and other local parishes for different days and times. I spiritually guarantee if you balance parties and preparation for Christmas with prayer and penance, you will have one of the most rewarding Advent and Christmas seasons you have ever had. Remember, the celebration of Christmas only begins on the evening of December 24th and continues through January 6th and 13th with the feasts of Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord.
I look forward to praying with you through this year’s Season of Advent as we prepare for Christ’s second coming and our celebration of the Season of Christmas. Know of my prayers and the prayers of the entire parish staff as these blessed and hopeful days unfold in the weeks ahead. May we all prepare ourselves well in order to welcome Jesus into our hearts anew this year.