Today 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 Luke. Week by week, season by season, Luke’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 of 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 and grow in our relationships with them, we are called to listen to the stories of our church family and 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.
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 2015/2016 available again this year (both English and Spanish). This year’s book gives us six-minute daily reflections on the Advent/Christmas season weekday First Readings. 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.
We have another opportunity for quiet, individual prayer on the First Friday of each month as the Eucharist is exposed for adoration beginning at 7:30am on Friday and until Benediction at 8:00am Saturday. Interruptions occur for the 12:05pm Mass and when there is a funeral, wedding or wedding rehearsal. But for the most part, there is a continuous opportunity for prayer in the presence of the Lord in our church on First Fridays. Someone once described this quiet prayer time as “face time with Jesus.” We are able to quietly bring him our joys and burdens, tell him what our concerns or fears are, and simply spend some quiet time listening. This personal, quiet prayer can be an oasis away from all of the activity and busyness of our lives. Our next opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration is this Friday, December 4th from 7:30am Friday ending at 8:00am Saturday. Come for 15, 30 or 60 minutes – as much as you are able. It will make a difference in your day!
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 8:15am Mass – 8:45 until 10:00am. We have added additional Reconciliation times on Tuesday, December 22nd and Wednesday, December 23rd. Additional Reconciliation services have been scheduled for the grade school and religious education classes. Our parish Advent Reconciliation Service will take place on Monday, December 14th at 7:00pm. Additional priests will be available as confessors at this service. Please set this date aside to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for Christmas.
It is wonderful to see so many of our college students while they are home for the Thanksgiving holidays. We promise them our prayerful support as they return to school to complete this semester with all of its papers and exams. Once that is done, Christmas vacation will be a real vacation.
With a New Church Year beginning this weekend with Advent, wouldn’t it be good to think of New Years’ Resolutions now, instead of waiting for the calendar year to turn over? Some excellent resolutions could involve our Sunday Mass experience. Advent gives us an ideal time to renew our commitment to the Third Commandment and make regular Sunday Mass attendance our regular practice every Sunday. And what about the courtesy (and expectation) of arriving on time and staying until the dismissal at the end of Mass? I know that unexpected things can come up that might delay our arrival at Mass on time. But we have a significant number of people who regularly arrive late and who leave before the final blessing and dismissal – every weekend! Occasional practices soon become habits and the bad practice of arriving late or leaving early has become a regular habit for a number of our parishioners. This is not the practice at other parishes. Guests and visitors often notice this bad habit and share their amazement with me following Mass. Now is an excellent time to recommit to the church’s expectation of regular Sunday Mass participation and the practice of arriving on time and remaining until the final blessing/dismissal. Once again, thank you to all those who wouldn’t think of missing Mass on a Sunday or of arriving late or leaving early.
New beginnings are good. Advent is a very beautiful, though short season. Some of the most powerful readings in Scripture will be opened 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 lurking 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