December 3, 2023

On this first Sunday of December, we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent and a new Liturgical Year. We begin a new cycle in our celebrations of the Liturgy. This year, our primary Sunday Gospel will be the Gospel of Mark. Week by week, season by season, Mark’s picture of the person of Jesus will unfold before us. We will be telling our family stories. Some are humorous. Some are tragic. Most deal with familiar, common, everyday events. These stories are life-lessons about birth, coming of age, dealing with hardship, sickness, death and all the joys and struggles of life. These stories tell us who we are and where we are headed. Just as we take the time to listen to the stories of those we love in order to grow in our relationships with them, we are called to listen to the stories of our church family to grow in our relationship with God and each other. This new beginning is a new opportunity. Let us be grateful for the year that has been and for the year ahead of us.

“The Lord is always there waiting to give us his love: it is an amazing thing, one which never ceases to surprise us!”

Pope Francis

One of the major themes of Advent is an invitation to recognize the presence of the Lord in the darkness and stillness of December. Our difficulty is that December is one of our busiest months. With all of the activity around us, it is easy to miss the simple “comings” of the Lord all around us. While we can’t change the pace of the month, we can try to build some quiet moments into our day where we can wait for the Lord in prayerful stillness. I have found that individual, daily, quiet prayer is the key. Even a few minutes of daily personal prayer (especially silent, listening prayer) can change the tone of this season for us. We have the “Little Blue Books” for the Advent and Christmas Seasons available again this year (in both English and Spanish). This year’s book gives us six-minute daily reflections on the Infancy Narratives of Luke. The six-minute program begins today, the First Sunday of Advent. If we can carve out some time for daily prayer, the effort will be worth the result.

Advent is one of those ideal times to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our regular times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation are on Saturdays following the 8:15 am Mass from 8:45-10:00 am. We have added additional Reconciliation times on the Fridays of Advent (December 8, 15 & 22) following the 7:00 am Mass from 7:30-8:30 am. Our Advent Reconciliation Service will be held on Wednesday, December 13 at 7:00 pm, and we will have additional priests with us. We will also have additional reconciliation times during the Third Week of Advent following our daily Masses on Thursday and Friday.   

Later this week, on Friday, December 8, we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Under the title of the Immaculate Conception, Mary is the patroness of the United States of America, and this day is a holy day of obligation in our country. Holy Day Masses will be celebrated on Thursday evening at 7:00 pm in Spanish and on Friday at 6:30 am, 8:15 am with the school community, 12:05 pm and 7:00 pm.    

It was wonderful to see so many of our college students while they were home for the Thanksgiving holidays. We promise them our prayerful support as they return to school to complete this semester with all of its final papers and exams. Once that is done, Christmas vacation will be a real vacation.

New beginnings are good. Advent is a very beautiful, though short, season. With Christmas Day falling on a Monday this year, we will experience the shortest Advent season possible. The Fourth Week of Advent is only one day long – Sunday, Christmas Eve! Then in the mid-afternoon, our Christmas Eve Vigil Masses begin, as Advent gives way to Christmas. Since the season is so short, it is all the more reason to enter Advent now – today. The season will be over before we know it and gone will be the opportunities to recognize the Lord present among us in our day-to-day activities. As some of the most powerful readings in Scripture will open before us, let’s take advantage of these opportunities, listen to our stories and enter the season as best as we can. I am certain that God is waiting for us in this new beginning and can readily be found. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.

– Father Jim Murphy