Today we mark the Second Sunday of Advent. As we move into the heart of this very short season in the Church Year, the figure of John the Baptist steps into the spotlight. His preaching to prepare a straight path for the Lord and to turn from our sins becomes the focus of these middle weeks of Advent.
I suspect for many of us, the Advent challenge is to truly clear that straight path for the coming of the Lord – not just on Christmas, but today and each day that we live. The tremendous amount of activity during the month of December is a major obstacle. We are busier this month than we are during most months. It is difficult to recognize the simple, everyday “comings” of the Lord all around us. Many of us are using the “Little Blue Books” for the Advent and Christmas Seasons 2015/2016 as our guide in our efforts to “spend some quiet time with the Lord.” Others are attending our weekday Masses at 7:00am and 12:05pm. A good number of people took advantage of our First Friday Eucharistic Adoration last Friday and were here for 15, 30 or 60 minutes of quiet, personal prayer. Still others are taking additional prayer time in our Eucharistic Chapel either before or after Mass, or some time during the day. Whatever our practice, taking a few minutes for quiet, personal prayer each day can help us recognize those simple “comings” of the Lord all around us.
Tuesday, December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a Holy Day of Obligation. Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of the United States. Masses for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception will be celebrated beginning with the anticipation Mass on Monday at 7:00pm and continue on Wednesday at 6:30am, 8:15am with the Grade School community, 12:05pm and conclude at 7:00pm with a Bilingual Mass.
Also on Tuesday, December 8th, we begin the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a Holy Year running from December 8th to November 20, 2016. In the document The Face of Mercy (Misericordiae Vultis), Pope Francis formally announced the Holy Year of Mercy. He said that the Holy Year will be a time for animating “a new stage in the journey of the Church on its mission to bring to every person the Gospel of mercy.” We’ve recently had background articles in the bulletin anticipating the Holy Year and will participate in it as much as we are able. The Holy Year promises to be a special year of grace!
Advent is one of those ideal times to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation – especially during the Holy Year of Mercy! Last week we celebrated Reconciliation Services with Grades 3 through 6 Faith Formation groups and the Junior High groups. This week we will celebrate a Reconciliation Service with the Grade School on Wednesday morning. Regular times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation are on Saturdays immediately following the 8:15am Mass until 10:00am (or later if necessary). We have added additional Reconciliation times on Tuesday, December 22nd and Wednesday, December 23rd. 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.
Saturday, December 12th, is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas. In 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to an Aztec Indian, Juan Diego at Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City. What was amazing about the apparition was that Mary appeared with the features of a pregnant Aztec maiden. This was another example of God’s practice to meet us wherever we are. As a result of this apparition, nearly the entire Aztec nation converted to the Christian faith. This was no small feat, especially when we remember that Christianity was the faith of the Spanish conquerors of Mexico. We will celebrate Saturday’s feast with our Hispanic brothers and sisters at the regular 6:30pm Spanish Mass and at the fiesta that will follow in the Ministry Center.
Next weekend we will have the opportunity to respond to the annual Retirement Fund for Religious appeal. There are over 60,000 religious men and women living in our country. Since Religious Sisters and Brothers were not permitted into the Social Security system until 1972, their average Social Security benefit is about 60% less than the average American citizen. Our donations to the Retirement Fund for Religious help with the costs of their living and health care. Last year, more than 96 percent of the funds donated were distributed to religious communities for their retirement needs. As you have in the past, please respond as generously as possible.
Just as we are decorating our homes for the holiday season, so too is our church home decorated for the season. Our Art & Environment Committee coordinated the Advent preparations in both the Church and the Chapel. Thank you to all who worked hared to provide a fitting environment for our Advent prayer.
There is a lot of activity going on around us, both within our parish and in our other commitments. I pray that we will be able to carve out some Advent quiet time in the midst of all of the December activity. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy