May the light and joy of Christmas and the New Year fill your hearts and minds!
This weekend we honor the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and recognize the monumental role of the family in salvation history. It is only through the context of family that God entered our nature and it is through the same context of family that we know Mary as Mother of God. Jesus and Mary could not have survived without Joseph to protect them and provide for them.
God chose the family as the place where salvation begins! The family is the first building block of society. God’s plan through nature shows that no child is conceived outside of a relationship between a man and a woman. This is the first fundamental relationship that images the love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This natural cell of social life is where the husband and wife are called to give themselves to each other in love and to give themselves in love to the mystery of the gift life, the family. It is in the family home that we all first learn about God, about authority, stability, freedom, responsibility, respect, justice and honor. In the family we learn moral values and how to interact with each other in ways that do not cause hurt or harm. It is in the family that boys learn how to become men and girls learn how to become women and that they are different than each other—they are not the same. The family teaches that men and women each have a special role to play and all need to give and receive the dignity and respect that God intended they have in their special roles. Family life is where we learn how to participate in society, which is the family of man stretching across the globe.
Today, our family of faith, the Church, needs holy families. As depicted in the scripture stories today, holy families regularly practice the faith with the community. Without them the Church won’t be holy; it will be weak and there will be a lack of vocations. Without holy families and vocations, society will drift away from God. Staying close to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph will always give you joy and peace! +++ Fr. Peter
May the light of Christmas give you peace and joy!
Merry Christmas everyone! During Advent we made special efforts to prepare to celebrate anew the birth of Christ our Savior. As you know, it is the year of Grace and by God’s free gift of grace we are experiencing changes and new life through freedom from sin. Like you, I had many opportunities to serve Christ in others and I found it a special gift of grace to have done so. I was also consciously aware that when I wished someone a “Merry Christmas” at the grocery store, the restaurant or along the street, I intended to be a witness to the real and true meaning for the season – Jesus Christ the Savior’s birthday is here! I wasn’t influenced by fear of offending someone or afraid of not being politically correct. I am proud of my faith as a Catholic and of my God for being so great and good! Christ is present in the world!
One of the first things that St. Paul mentions in his letter to Titus is that the ”grace of God has appeared, saving all . . .” One of the things that has been a source of joy for me is to recognize the way this grace from God has appeared within our own community. People in Lebanon who are not parishioners have told me how wonderful the people of St. Edward parish are. The toy give-away and food-baskets have also shown Christ’s compassionate care for the poor and those in need. The most prominent to me has been the way the communities of St. Edward, St. Thomas, and St. Bernard engage in outreach to those in need. There are many kinds of gifts for which we are thankful and enjoy sharing, and rightly so, but above them all is Christ who brings us to each other and holds us together in his love.
May God continue to bless us and make His light shine through us to all the world! +++ Fr. Peter
May Advent joy glow within you!
As you know, the third Sunday of Advent is also called “Gaudete Sunday” which is a Latin translation of the word “rejoice.” When we hear the readings from Isaiah and John we do get a sense of joyful anticipation for the Messiah who is to come. It is also striking that this Sunday is situated very near two occasions when the Blessed Virgin Mary is honored in a special way: the Immaculate Conception (est. Solemnity 1708) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (est. Feast 1999, apparitions 1531). One of the titles we are given for Mary in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary is “Cause of Our Joy” and this title seems especially appropriate for her as we prepare with her for the coming of Christ on Christmas.
Isaiah’s message is joy-filled because it promises good news, liberation, healing and blessing. It promises forgiveness and renewal of the Covenant for God’s people. In John’s Gospel, we see John the Baptist calling the people to repentance: turn your hearts to God! Ask for forgiveness! Forgive others! The Lord is near, and he comes to save; not to condemn. We know this from Scripture, the teaching of the Church and our own experience!
Both messages are vibrantly relevant for today and they invite us into the joy of the kingdom but to do so, we cannot hold on to any form of sin or contribute to it. We cannot become imprisoned by fear, retaliation, negativity, unrealistic expectations or bad behavior. It is Advent now and stress accompanies busyness with shopping, parties, and too many details to count. There is also our own historical context of widespread confusion and fear about COVID-19, the corruption and lies of political leaders, judges, media and so on. Many are experiencing grief, loss, brokenness and loneliness. Some are just emotionally more sensitive because of stress and little things get to them. In order to “not quench the Spirit” or “despise prophetic utterances” we can follow Mary who invites us to be quiet, focus and reflect on God’s activity in our lives. It is also important for us to know that we are invited to ask Jesus for help with anything we need, especially healing and forgiveness.
God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter
May the coming light of Christ give you peace!
This Sunday’s readings affirm in us the characters of hope and peace that Advent calls us to. In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah announces that God does not hold grudges. God is aware of the longing his people have while they are captives in Babylon. God is aware of their suffering. Carried away as captives because of their sins and hardness of heart, God announces that He will gather them and lead them back to their homeland, and to their rightful place of freedom and worship. This is exciting news for them and brings them great consolation!
St. Peter encourages the Church to conduct themselves in holiness and devotion so that they may always have an inner peace and be spared from worry, fear, dread, sorrow or any other pain resulting from sin. When he reminds the people that a thousand years are like one day, and one day is like a thousand years, he helps us grasp the importance of how we live each day of our lives and how mysterious are God’s ways. St. Peter teaches us that God’s patience with human beings is directed toward salvation because he is full of love and wisdom, he is tender and compassionate toward all his creatures! How wonderful is our God!
In the Gospel, John the Baptist is at work bringing burdened hearts and souls back to God. The invitation is there for all of us today as it was for them. It is easy to do: go to Confession acknowledging our own sins and ask Jesus for mercy, then drop the grudges, the bitter feelings and attitudes that creep in and bring pain into our own hearts. Realizing how good God is with us then we can forgive others too. As we grow less self-centered and more open and generous toward God, he can work through us to improve all of our lives and bless our communities.
The wonderful thing to remember in all of this is that this is actually God’s work in us! God removes the rough ways and the crooked paths. It is God who levels mountains and fills in the valleys so that our lives become more smooth and even! For our part, we are invited to turn to him who is our Redeemer and our Savior. Please take a moment to check the schedule for dates and times for the Sacrament of Penance. The Lord is waiting for you!
May God bless you with peace and hope! +++ Fr. Peter
May Advent hope lift you to peace!
Advent season is special for all Christians because as the first reading expresses, we long to experience God. We need God’s help to turn away from sin and to be freed from things that weigh us down. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to watch! He means that we have to keep God foremost in mind and be on our toes to recognize his presence and action around us. Advent is a time of hope and a time of preparation! I have been thinking about the event of the Annunciation and how Mary and all the Jewish people must have been hoping that God would deliver them from oppression and sadness due to the Roman occupation of their land. Millions of people throughout the world are experiencing the effects of oppression, injustice and corruption. Like the Jewish people of Mary and Joseph’s day, we have a longing for God to break into our world and restore integrity, truth, justice and peace. We are told that Mother Mary made the effort to be ready for God’s presence and action by reflecting on God’s Word and by prayer. Advent is a time when we are invited to follow Mary’s example and like her, we too will experience God’s love and strength more deeply in our lives.
As you know, Advent means “coming” which tells us that God is no doubt up to something! I know that this time of year we are usually up to something too! In fact, perhaps too many somethings! I can’t think of a time when we are busier than Advent. It is important for us to gather, connect and appreciate the joy of our families and friends. While we are doing that, Jesus reminds us to “watch” for something special that is from God. Some of our family of faith are perhaps closer to Mary this month because they are expecting the gift of a new life in their homes. For some of us, this is the most difficult time of year because we may feel alone or experience the pain of loss for loved ones. As we journey into this special season, we can watch for ways that we welcome Christ more deeply into our lives and also make Jesus known and loved like never before.
May God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter