Today, 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 Advent spotlight. His preaching to prepare a straight path for the Lord and to turn from our sins becomes the focal point 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 toward 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. Many of us are using the “Little Blue Books” for the Advent and Christmas Seasons as a guide in our efforts to “spend some quiet time with the Lord.” Others are using the daily on-line Gospel reflections of Bishop Robert Barron or Father Burke Masters. Others are attending our weekday Masses at 7:00 am and 12:05 pm. A good number of people take advantage of quiet time in our Eucharistic Adoration Chapel – it is like a gift exchange of time with our Lord. 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 Thursday, December 8, 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. Masses for the holy day will be celebrated on Wednesday, December 7 at 7:00 pm and on Thursday, December 8 at 6:30 am, 12:05 pm and 7:00 pm. The weekly Grade School Mass is also at 8:15 am. All Masses are in English and will be in the main church.
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 until 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 Advent Reconciliation Service will be held on Monday, December 19 at 7:00 pm. Additional, bilingual priests will be with us. We will also have reconciliation opportunities during the Fourth Week of Advent following our daily Masses on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Retired and 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 they were not permitted in 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. Envelopes for this appeal are included in the monthly mailing for those who receive Sunday donation envelopes. Or you may use a white envelope in the pew racks and mark it “Retired Religious.” Or you may donate to this appeal through our website. Thank you in advance for your generosity next weekend.
Looking ahead – the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated next Monday, December 12. We will honor Our Lady of Guadalupe with our Hispanic brothers and sisters with the traditional early morning Mass at 5:00 am and the evening celebration and Mass beginning at 6:30 pm. The Filipino novena of Simbang Gabi will be celebrated at our parish on Friday, December 16 with an evening program and Mass at 6:30 pm. These special ethnic celebrations are deep-rooted cultural celebrations of our faith. All parishioners are welcome, and I join with our Hispanic and Filipino communities in inviting you to join in these celebrations.
Advent is a very beautiful, short season. Some of the most powerful readings in Scripture will be opened 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 lurking in the silence and can readily be found. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy