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 Matthew. Week by week, season by season, Matthew’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 2016/2017 available again this year (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.
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 then 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 2nd beginning at 7:30am Friday and 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 the Fridays of Advent (excluding December 23rd) following the 12:05pm Mass – 12:35-1:30pm and on Wednesday, December 21st and Thursday, December 22nd. 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 19th 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.
We are now moving into the final weeks of this year’s Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. Thank you to the 1,040 donors who have already responded. We have payed $155,866 towards our goal of $171,242. Please be sure to continue making your monthly payments toward your pledge. While we have reached our goal in pledges with $184.365 pledged, changing individual circumstances can prevent some from fulfilling their pledge. Last year we had close to $19,000 in pledges that were not fulfilled. Right now, we need $15,376 in pledge payments in order to reach our goal this year. Again, please be sure to continue making your monthly payments towards your pledge. We successfully reached our parish goal over the past two years. It would be sad if we fell short of reaching our goal this year after two successful years. Currently, we are 71 donors below our total from last year.
If you have not had an opportunity to make your personal response to the Annual Appeal, please consider doing so as soon as possible. A one-time donation is possible and welcome. We have commitment envelopes available at the hospitality desk. If you have already fulfilled your commitment to this year’s Appeal and are in a position to make an additional gift, please consider that option. I made a one-time gift at the beginning of the Appeal and am considering a second gift to help our parish surpass our goal. Again, thank you for your generosity.
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