Peace to you as we move into Advent’s home stretch.
This Week in Prayer
Here in the first chapter of our human existence, our goal is to make choices that align with God’s hopes. Doing so brings great peace in chapter one and eternal bliss in chapter three.
But how do we know if our choices are lining up with God’s hopes? We consult the scripture and we consult our tradition. We also consult our experience. Properly interpreted, our experience can tell us much about our choices and whether they line up with God’s hopes.
The readings of Advent’s first Sunday remind us that our choices’ consequences reveal much. Choices that line up with God’s hopes tend to lead us to spiritual consolation, to palpable increases in serenity, spiritual fervor, faith, hope, and the active concern and service of others we call “charity.” Choices that do not line up with God’s hopes steer us toward desolation, the opposite of consolation. Sometimes the consolations and desolations are quite powerful. Sometimes they are more subtle.
Last Sunday’s readings remind us that our choices’ roots also reveal much. Some choices are rooted in interior freedom – i.e., the state-of-soul in which nothing matters more than the goal of knowing, wanting and doing what God wants. Other choices are rooted in disordered attachments – the state of-soul in which my choices are organized around other goals.
Sunday’s passage from Isaiah 40 speaks to the very loveable members of a community that had been exiled from its home for 70 years. Many wanted to return from Babylon to Jerusalem. Quite a few were unsure or opposed the prospect. Some feared the trip across the desert. Others liked their lives in Babylon. Isaiah did his best to assure the people that God wanted them to go home. Sadly, their very understandable but disordered attachments to worry-management and familiarity kept them from asking first and foremost “What does God want?” Hence, many were inclined to stay.
In Sunday’s gospel, John the Baptist appears as the poster child for interior freedom. The location of his work, the clothes he wore, the food he ate, the message he delivered, the challenges he raised – everything about him shouted of his pervasive desire to do only what God was asking him to do, clear the way for Jesus by announcing him and by encouraging people to repent.
Each of us can relate to the Exiles and each of us can relate to John the Baptist. Our souls hold a mix of freedom and attachments. In some choice-making settings, we ask the truly inspired questions. In others, not so much. Each of us has also moved beyond the reach of certain disordered attachments. God’s grace has enabled us to move to greater interior freedom.
What about you? As you review your history, what two or three disordered attachments have (a) kept you from truly seeking God’s desire and (b) then lost their grip on you? What uninspired choices did the attachments produce? What desolations did they yield? Most of all, how did God free you? Was it mostly through the prophets in your life? Through interior lights? Through prayer?
Our parish’s Advent penance service is Tuesday at 7:30 pm. Many friendly, compassionate priests will be available to hear confessions. (We do a pretty good job of keeping the mean ones out.) As we renew our review of our choices, there are some we want to bring to the sacrament. See you there?
Once again, God bless the parishioners who reply to God’s nudge to go to confession. What a gift it is to pray with the Saturdayregulars and what a special grace it is to welcome people who have been away for years. Thank you for the privilege of praying with you. I will be in the confessional from 3:30 to 4:25 this Saturday. If you cannot get through the line by 4:25, I am more than happy to hear your confession after Mass. Also, email me if you would like me to hear your confession in my office.
HOLIDAY MASS TIMES – check the bulletins etc. Monday Christmas provides two odd twists.
First, the early part of Sunday, December 24 is the Fourth Sunday of Advent while the second half (starting at 4 pm) is Christmas Eve. The idea is to go to one Mass for the fourth week of Advent and another for Christmas. If you go to two Masses on Sunday – absolutely don’t worry about receiving communion twice in one day – not a problem.
Second, even though January 1 is not a Holy Day of Obligation, it is great day to go to Mass. We will have Mass for the feast at 6:00 pm on New Year’s Eve (Sunday night) and at 8:30 on New Year’s day (Monday morning).
Listen to this week's readings and homily (this week's homily was not recorded due to a technical difficulty)
- Read last Sunday's readings
- Read the coming Sunday's readings
This Week in Community
What fun it was to see so many people at Sunday’s concert. The size of the crowd surprised even optimistic me. Great thanks to the members of the Raritan Valley Chorus who sang so beautifully.
Great thanks to all who continue to beautify the church for Christmas. The downside of Christmas on Monday is that it makes the final decorating push a double-turn-around-jump-shot. But the place will be beautiful, and our thanks go to all who make it that way.
The other glitch with Monday Christmas is that it tends to confuse the use of the offertory envelopes. If you can give what you gave last year – both for the last Sunday of the year AND for Christmas – we will be in good shape. No one should stress about it. If you are having a bad financial year, do not fret over the year-end collections, even a little. If you are having a good year, it would be great if you could repeat last year’s gifts. If you can cover a little extra for the people in tough financial shape, great.
Mark your calendars . . . After the holidays, I will be offering two programs in Adult Faith Formation, i.e., two opportunities for adults to take a next step in growing their faith. Both programs will last eight weeks and will start during the week of January 29 and end during the week of March 19. The Monday program, “Meeting Christ in Prayer,” is an eight-week offering that helps people to grow in prayer. It involves weekly meetings of small groups. No surprise, it is based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. The Wednesday program “The Sacraments” is more catechetical in nature. After the first session, the program will look at one sacrament each week. Details will surface after Christmas.
This Week in Service
Your response to the Giving Tree Project has been pretty amazing. I will have details for you after Christmas. For now, trust that you have brought much happiness to many people. God is working through you in so very many ways.
Great thanks too to all who made the Baby-bottle drive a rollicking success. Those numbers will also be finalized after Christmas. You have made it possible for many women in difficult circumstances to take a different approach to their child’s birth. You have given them a room in an inn. Good for you.
January and February will be our time for ministry recruiting. Give it some thought. Is it time to try something new? Is it time to keep doing what you are currently doing well and enjoying?
May the season’s busy-ness produce much good fun and may this be a time when the blessings of spiritual peace, despite the hub-bub, swamp you in wonderful ways. Count on special prayers for those who are going through doing a difficult medical or another personal patch this season.