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 in glory 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 we hear proclaimed, the Sacraments we celebrate and through each other. We have responded to John the Baptist’s call to repent and celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation at our Advent Reconciliation Service last Monday. This year, our Fourth Week of Advent lasts six days. The Christmas Season begins with our anticipation Masses at 4:00pm on Friday. But before that happens, we need to conclude the Season of Advent.
Last Friday we shifted gears in our Advent journey – our daily Scripture readings began our annual retelling the story of Jesus’ first coming in the past. We are setting the stage for our Christmas celebration at the end of this week. Today the person of Mary steps into our Advent spotlight as we hear the familiar account of her visitation with her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. At the time of the annunciation, Mary was also given the news that her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, was six months pregnant. Mary immediately turns her attention to the needs of Elizabeth. She goes to care for her during the final months of her pregnancy. Mary’s own needs became second to the needs of someone else. From the very beginning, Mary teaches us how to be disciples of her son. This significant Gospel helps to set the stage for Friday and Saturday’s celebration of Christmas.
Last Friday’s celebration of Simbang Gabi with our Filipino community was a very moving celebration. The Filipino community brings much to our larger church community. We are blessed to have the Filipino community remind us that we are a part of a larger church community.
During this final week of Advent, we have scheduled some additional times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. On Monday, we will have an opportunity for the Sacrament following our daily Masses from 7:30 to 8:30am and from 12:35 to 1:30pm. Reconciliation times on Tuesday will be from 7:30 to 8:15am and from 3:00 to 5:00pm. Reconciliation times will conclude on Wednesday and will follow the same schedule as Monday – following our daily Masses from 7:30 to 8:30am and 12:35 to 1:30pm.
Many of our college students have already made their way home for their Christmas break. Congratulations on a successful completion of your Fall semester. We are very happy to have you home with us!
Looking ahead to next weekend, our Christmas Masses begin on Friday with simultaneous Masses at 4:00pm in both the church and the Ministry Center. Doors will open in both buildings at 3:00pm. As we normally have capacity congregations for these Masses, our custom in the past has been to begin the Mass in the church once that space is filled. This could happen as early as 3:40pm. Then people will be directed to the Ministry Center where that Mass will begin closer to 4:00pm. Please do not drop off a family representative to “hold seats” in the Church with the rest of the family arriving later. Once the Church is near capacity, we will fill in any “saved seats” and begin the Mass. Please bring your entire family with you when you arrive so that you will be able to attend the Mass of your choice together. We have found that this staggered beginning of our 4:00pm Masses also allows for a staggered exit from the parking lot. Additional Christmas Eve Masses will be celebrated at 6:30pm (Spanish) and at 10:30pm. If you would like to avoid the crowds on Christmas Eve, please consider the 8:30am Mass on Christmas Day. It should be an excellent choice for seating and parking. Additional Masses on Christmas Day will be celebrated at 10:00am, 11:30am (Spanish) and 1:00pm. Our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass schedule is posted on our parish website www.stisidoreparish.org.
If you have been attending Sunday Mass through our live streamed Masses and feel comfortable, please consider joining with us in person. The live stream Mass may have filled in a void, but nothing beats being here in person. If you feel like your “soul is hungry,” it is! Nothing can replace the gift of the Eucharist in our lives. We are fully open for in person prayer – no advance reservations are needed. Come and be nourished. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.