Merry Christmas everyone!
The Christmas season has officially begun! For a lot of people, Christmas season seems to have begun much sooner. I noticed this year that decorations, advertisements and Christmas theme items began to appear the day after Halloween instead of the day after Thanksgiving. I guess there are a couple of different ways to view that but it seems to me that our world longs for the Christmas season because we long for more of Jesus in our lives. Although we may complain about consumerism and a loss of the sense of the sacred in our society, there are still a great many believers and to them, it is truly Christmas that we celebrate! I have a special attraction to Advent and to Christmas so I don’t mind the extra time of decorations that announce Christ’s coming. To me, it all serves to extend the reminder of Christ’s special presence among us “Emmanuel” and God’s incomparable gift of forgiveness that brings peace, reconciliation, joy and salvation to the whole world! This is truly worthy of an extended celebration! In one of the traditional songs, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” it mentions that a special gift was received on each day of the Christmas season, which continues to the Epiphany of the Lord. The song reminds me that one way of making Christmas Season special may be to space out our gift giving and gift opening so that it extends through the Christmas season. As you know, the song mentions that the gifts received came from “my true love,” which is God. The partridge in the pear tree is Christ. 2 turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments. 3 French hens are the theological virtues of Fath, Hope and Charity. 4 calling birds are the 4 Gospels. 5 gold rings are the first 5 books of the Old Testament. 6 geese laying are the first 6 days of creation. 7 swans swimming are the seven seven sacraments. 8 maids milking are the beatitudes. 9 ladies dancing are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. 10 lords leaping are the Ten Commandments. 11 pipers piping are the 11 faithful disciples. 12 drummers drumming are the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed.
We offer tokens of love and esteem to each other in the form of presents and kindness. This is important because love flows forth from God who is the source of love and God’s love within us then reaches out to others. We also know that our most true and lasting gifts come to us from God’s love and mercy! The Christmas season is interspersed with special feasts: Saint Steven, The Holy Innocents and The Holy Family and Epiphany. Each of these feast days offers a particular window from which to view the mystery of Christ and his mission to save us. Let us ponder with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and kings the gift of Christ who is our true love and give thanks to God for our families: family of origin and our family of faith! Blessings of peace and joy to you all! +++ Fr. Peter
Rejoice! The Lord is near!
The readings this weekend are filled with hope and fulfillment. Isaiah’s message fills us with hope because all people of the world will recognize God’s people as his “delight.” They will receive abundant blessings from God, so much so that their land will seem to be “espoused.”
The Gospel traces out the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham to Jesus. One important feature in this genealogy is that some of the characters in Jesus’ family line were not all Jewish and some were far less than perfect. In the Gospel, we are given a sense of fulfillment. Jesus entered human history. He had a normal human family complete with flaws. God is entering human history embracing humanity with love and acceptance, even with our personal imperfections!
As Christians, we recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise to David that one of his descendants would rule his kingdom. When we ponder the way that God chose to fulfill his promise and plan of salvation, we should be struck with awe.
Mary and Joseph were descendants of David and God chose Mary who was a poor, lowly girl to be the Mother of the Savior of the whole world! When Mary said “yes” she was lifted up and so are all women through her. Because of this all generations now call her “Blessed.” Mary was the last who became first among the Redeemed and reigns as Queen in heaven. The mighty and powerful rulers of the world are reduced to silence before her and no accomplishments of theirs will compare to her part in salvation history. God surpassed Mary’s hopes and dreams in a greater way than he did those of David. Jesus told us that the poor in spirit will attain the kingdom of heaven, the meek will inherit the earth and the pure in heart will see God. The kingdom that Jesus established is beyond the powers and limits of this world and we are invited to come and follow his plan. We are invited to say “yes” to God with Mary every day of our lives and as we do, we experience a surpassing gift that only Christ Our Savior can give.
Our expectant hope for a special grace every Christmas in the present is based upon God’s action of grace in the past. A Christmas hymn that underlines the fulfillment of God’s promise is O Little Town of Bethlehem. The last line of the first verse says: “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Our hopes are fulfilled by a loving, merciful Savior who dispels darkness, fear and doubt. God bless you with light and peace! +++ Fr. Peter
May the approaching dawn lift you in hope!
The readings from the Third Sunday in Advent of Year C are considered some of the best because they really inspire us to rejoice in hope!
The prophet Zephaniah encourages the people to shout and sing joyfully, to be glad and exult with all their hearts because God is coming to favor them with love and mercy. The people of Zephaniah’s day had turned away from God and fallen into idolatry—placing other things as more important than God. The king introduced religious reform and encouraged the people to put God first in all things. He then instructed them not to fear but look to God, ask for mercy and ask for help and blessings.
The Psalmist too invites us to join in a song of joy because God is already among us.
St. Paul further encourages us to rejoice in prayer and in good deeds because it is by the practice of our faith that we experience the peace and joy of God’s kingdom. Paul’s experience as a builder of the early Church was filled with challenges and difficulty. It seems that he was persecuted on every side. He was stoned by Jewish people, beaten with rods by Gentiles then finally imprisoned and put to death by pagan authorities. His successes were probably not huge numbers of people coming to faith in Christ but rather small numbers. Our sense is that he took great joy in the fact that those who became believers were sincere and dedicated to the practice of the faith knowing that God would bring the increase over time.
In the Gospel, we encounter John the Baptist who is calling the people to turn away from sin and to seek God above all. When asked what should we do? The Baptist’s reply is consistent, turn away from sin: avoid corruption and selfishness, don’t lie, cheat or steal, don’t harbor grudges or hatred but have charity toward others and give of your wealth, your possessions and of yourself.
It seems like we have a connection with each of the characters in the readings today. We all know people who have fallen away from the faith or have never had a faith at all. Many of us are experiencing the challenges and difficulty of being Christians in a world that doesn’t want moral constraints. There are also discord, tensions and dysfunction in our families. So why the call to rejoice? Because, against such a back drop of darkness we should rejoice as we put into practice the Good News that we have in Christ! Jesus is truly present within us as we go about our day-to-day faith in plain fashion. Jesus didn’t overthrow the Roman occupation, he transcended it. This weekend we rejoice because we see ourselves lifted up by his love and mercy transcending the foreign occupations of our time–those in our world, our towns, our families and ourselves. Our faith filled works make God’s love and mercy palpably felt by hearts and souls all around us and it is God working through us!
May the God of all joy bless you with peace! +++ Fr. Peter
May the coming light of Christ dawn in your hearts!
Many people are living lives that are full but not fulfilling. Some may be overwhelmed with obligations and responsibilities that bring tension and worries, others may be consumed by busyness, clutter and the complexity of demands that they’ve taken upon themselves. It’s easy to get trapped in an endless cycle of hyperactivity and consumerism. But what everyone really wants, what we all really yearn for is peace, wholeness, and feeling loved.
What is it that can lead us to a new level of freedom? Spirituality.
Many are seeking an inner balance, peace and happiness through consumerist channels. But there is a better way to spend time! Spirituality requires and returns the gift of time. Spending time in prayer with the Lord restores our sense of freedom and well-being. Prayer brings us to inner peace and helps us discover the best way to use our time of life. We understand that life doesn’t have to be frenetic with activity and we don’t have to be stressed because God will take care of the things we can’t.
John the Baptist calls us to prepare the way of the Lord by making a straight path for God to enter our hearts and minds so that we can experience his saving love at every moment of our lives! That’s what spirituality is all about. It’s about lifting our hearts and minds to God who is coming to fill us with his love, presence and blessings!
On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception we will make an act of faith in which we spiritually entrust/dedicate/consecrate ourselves, our families, our homes, our possessions, our towns, our state and our nation to the care of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As we do so, we are embraced by Mary in a special way. She will intercede for each of us in the same way as she did for the people at Cana asking God to fill us with his blessings. She also asks us to embrace her and trust her as a special mother, a teacher and a guide in discipleship. She instructs us just as she did the servants ant Cana: “do as my Son tells you.” For our part, we will pray the Rosary and meditate on her life with Jesus and the disciples. Following the inspirations and inner light we receive in Mass, confession and prayer, we will strive to live holier lives through daily conversion. We will place our prayers and sacrifices in her hands for sinners and the world so that she receives from us the honor and dignity that God wishes her to have: a Mother, Intercessor for the human race. The Five First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Hearts of Mary and Jesus will begin at St. Edward on the first Saturday in January: 8:30 Rosary, Mass at 9:00. I am looking forward to this devotion that promises so much grace and heavenly aid to our families and our world. I hope that you are too! God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter