A word from Pope Francis ~ “The Lord is always there waiting to give us his love: it is an amazing thing, one which never ceases to surprise us!”
On this final Sunday of November, 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’s 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 we 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 available again this year (in both English and Spanish). This year’s book gives us six-minute daily reflections on the First Readings for daily Masses during the Advent/Christmas season. 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.
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 8:15 am Mass (8:45-10:00 am). We have added additional Reconciliation times on the Fridays of Advent (December 2, 9, 16 & 23) following the 7:00 am Mass (7:30-8:30 am). Our parish’s Advent Reconciliation Service will be held on Monday, December 19 at 7:00 pm. Additional priests will be with us. We will also have additional extra times available during the 4th Week of Advent, following our daily Masses on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Looking ahead, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary will be celebrated on Thursday, December 8. Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of the United States of America, and this is a holy day of obligation in our country. Masses will be celebrated on Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm and on the feast day at 6:30 am, 8:15 am with the school community, 12:05 pm and 7:00 pm. All Masses will be in English.
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, Christmastime can be a true vacation.
New beginnings are good. Advent is a very beautiful, though short, season. Some of the most powerful readings in Scripture will open up before us. Let us take advantage of these opportunities, listen to our stories and enter the season as best as we can. I am certain that God is near 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