A word from Pope Francis ~ “To prepare the way for the Lord who comes, it is necessary to take into account the demands of conversion.”
Today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent. We are in the final phase of our preparations. The Advent Scriptures have challenged us to look to the future when the Lord promised to return with salvation for his people, to remember the past when he came among us as one of us, and most important, to recognize the Lord’s presence already among us in his Word, the Sacraments and through each other. We have responded to John the Baptist’s call to repent and celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This year, our Fourth Week of Advent lasts five days. The Christmas Season begins with our anticipation Masses at 4:00pm on Thursday. But before that happens, we need to conclude the Season of Advent.
This past week our daily Scripture readings have been retelling the story of Jesus’ first coming in the past and setting the stage for our Christmas celebration. Today the person of Mary steps into our Advent spotlight as we hear the familiar account of Gabriel’s Annunciation to her. We see Mary as a young maiden who lived in simplicity, even poverty. In Mary’s village of Nazareth, there were no magnificent buildings. Mary’s clothing would have been homespun. She would have gone with other women to the town’s single well to draw water. In her home, she would have been engaged in cleaning, gardening, cooking and sewing. The angel Gabriel brought the announcement to Mary in this humble setting. Mary’s initial response was fear and confusion. Gabriel seeks to help her to understand and comforts her so that she can respond. This significant Gospel helps to set the stage for Friday’s celebration of Christmas.
Our Christmas Masses this year will look like no other year. Reservations are needed for in-person Mass attendance. Our reservation system opened for our Christmas and New Year’s Masses last Thursday at noon. Several Masses will be live-streamed for those unable to join us in person. Please check the schedule on page 3 of our digital bulletin for the livestreamed Masses. Please note that the 11:30am Spanish Mass in the Ministry Center will be live-streamed in from the church. Communion will be brought to the Ministry Center at communion time for those who are there. Face masks and social distancing continue to be the norm for each of our in-person Masses this year. It will certainly be a year to remember.
And now some thoughts on our celebration of Christmas ….
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.” Isaiah 9:1-2
Each year we hear these Scripture verses proclaimed as we complete our Advent preparations and celebrate the profound mysteries of God’s presence among us. Each year we emerge from the darkness of sin, reconciled to our God and each other, and celebrate the Light shattering our darkness. Christ, our Light, has come! Even the world of nature has responded to the Lord’s coming as the days since the winter solstice last Monday are now getting longer. We live in the Light of Christ. Even in the darkest hours of this past year of pandemic, we have lived in the light of Christ. The Lord has come to us and remains with us.
As we gather again on Thursday or Friday for our celebration of the feast of Christmas, I ask that each of us be as generous as possible in remembering your Christmas gift to our parish. This has not been a good year for any of us. I am very grateful for your faithful support throughout the course of the year, and thank you in advance for your continued support at Christmas.
Please note the services schedule elsewhere in the bulletin for our additional Reconciliation times this week, daily Mass times, Christmas Mass times and hours for our Parish Office. Next Sunday as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, our schedule of Masses will be the same as our regular Sunday schedule, beginning with the anticipation Masses on Saturday evening.
As we gather with whomever we can to retell the story of God’s coming among us in the past, let’s allow our retelling of the cherished and familiar story to open our eyes to recognize God’s coming among us today – especially through each other.
“God bless us everyone!”
Fr. Jim Murphy