On this first Sunday of December, 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. Pope Francis recently said, “Whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.” 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. Some of us are using different devotionals, like the “Little Blue Books” for the Advent and Christmas Seasons as our guide in our efforts to “spend some quiet time with the Lord.” Others are attending our weekday Mass at 7:00am. Others are taking advantage of our reopened Eucharistic Adoration Chapel and are here for 15, 30 or 60 minutes of quiet, personal prayer. Still others are taking additional prayer during the day. Whatever our practice, taking a few minutes for quiet, personal prayer each day can help us recognize the Lord’s presence all around us and especially in those simple everyday “comings” of the Lord.
This Tuesday, December 8th, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the patroness of our country under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Even though the dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is still in effect, we will celebrate extra Masses on that day. The Vigil Mass on Monday, December 7th will be at 7:00pm and celebrated in Spanish. Masses on the 8th will be celebrated at 7:00am and 7:00pm. The weekly Grade School Mass will be at 8:15am. Reservations are necessary for the Monday Vigil Mass at 7:00pm and the 7:00am and 7:00pm Mass on Tuesday. They can be made at the parish website or by calling the parish office.
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 following the 7:00am Mass (7:30-8:30am). We are hoping to schedule additional reconciliation times during the Fourth Week of Advent. For the present we are planning on having two Advent Reconciliation Services and are waiting for word from the Diocese to see if the COVID-19 restrictions would permit these gatherings. Hopefully, we will receive a response soon.
Aging religious need our help. Next weekend is the annual Retirement Fund for Religious national appeal. Thousands of senior sisters, brothers and religious order priests spent years working in Catholic schools, hospitals, and agencies – often for little pay. Their sacrifices leave their religious communities without adequate savings for retirement and eldercare. Since religious sisters, brothers and priests 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. Envelopes for this appeal are included in the monthly mailing for those who receive Sunday donation envelopes. Or you may use an envelope of your own marked “Retired Religious.” Or you may donate to this appeal on our website. Thank you in advance for your generosity next weekend.
Looking ahead, during this pandemic time we are required to plan simpler and smaller celebrations for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Saturday, December 12th at 2:00pm and for the Filipino novena of Simbang Gabi on Friday, December 18th at 7:00pm. Both events will have limited seating due to social distancing. Both Masses will be livestreamed so that as many people who want to participate in them would be able to do so. Like the rest of 2020, Advent 2020 will have a different look to it – all part of the “new normal.”
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 the silence and can readily be found. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Fr. Jim Murphy