Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception – a mysterious and marvelous feast. Mysterious in that no gospel passage describes it. Marvelous in that it marks the dawn of our salvation. It has been a tremendous gift to pray with so many of you at the feast day masses. It will be good to see even more at tonight’s7:30 Mass.
This Week in Prayer
“Key words” for this coming Sunday’s homily.
Interior Freedom: The ability to make a choice based primarily on the discerned belief that the choice I am making, among all the options, is the most inspired choice, the choice that aligns most closely with God’s hope.
Disordered Attachment: A desire that keeps me from interior freedom; a goal that matters more to me than the goal of making the most inspired choice.
Homily for the First Sunday in Advent
“Be watchful! . . . be on the watch . . . Watch, therefore
. . . I say to all 'Watch!'"
Sunday’s gospel issues four warnings to “watch.” But what are we to watch? Are we to watch the clouds for the Son of Man’s return? Extraordinary natural phenomenon? Signs of the end times?
Or perhaps God is urging us to watch something more up-close and personal. Perhaps God is asking to watch, among other things, our choices and the extent to which they align with God’s hopes? Perhaps the gospel is urging us to notice the consequences of our choices and to watch the ways in which our choices help or hinder God’s effort to lead all people, selves included, to a deeper experience of Christ’s peace. Perhaps it is ok to hear the gospel as saying “Discern! Discern! Discern!” But how do we do that? How do we discern? How do we know if our choices align with God’s hopes?
Our tradition gives us a tried-and-true way to evaluate our choices. Choices that align with God’s hopes tend to lead us to consolation, to deeper peace, faith, hope and charity, and to deeper and more delighted concern for others. Choices that don’t align with God’s hopes tend to lead us to desolation, the opposite of consolation. There are exceptions and subtleties, but the basic dynamic is as reliable as the dawn: evaluate your choices by the consolation or desolation they yield.
Sunday’s passage from Isaiah offers a classic portrayal of spiritual desolation: “you let us wander . . . and harden our hearts . . . you are angry.” Most distressing of all, they tell God “you have hidden your face from us.” Their choices have led them to acute desolation.
In the second reading, Saint Paul affirms many components of the Corinthians’ consolation: “in (Jesus) you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, you are not lacking in any spiritual gift . . . He will keep you firm to the end.” The Corinthians have made choices that align with God’s hopes. Those choices continue to make them “irreproachable” and consoled.
What about you? Looking back, can you name some choices that led you to consolation? Perhaps they were about a bold move or a big change. Perhaps they were little choices about ways of praying or playing or working. Maybe they were choices about relationships. When have you made choices that have led you to consolation? Looking back, can you see that those choices were inspired? And what about choices that led you to desolation? Can you see that they maybe did not line up with God’s hopes? And what does all that say about upcoming choices?
- Read last Sunday's readings
- Read the coming Sunday's readings
This Week in Community
God bless OUR KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS! They knocked it out of the park once again in preparing and serving breakfast for more than 300 people. We are blessed to have such an extraordinarily devoted group among us. I encourage even more men to consider joining the K of C and helping the parish.
The big Christmas concert is Sunday at 3:00 pm. Those who have heard the Raritan Valley Chorus know their music is excellent. Almost all the free tickets for parishioners have already been claimed. I will have a few more to hand before and after Sunday Masses. Tickets for others are $10.
Thanks to all the Blue Storm basketball players and the program organizers who added so much by serving at Sunday’s 9:30Mass.
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.
Thanks to the many who have decorated our church for Advent and Christmas. You know who you are and you know what a great job you do – in making it possible for people to pray more deeply.
This Week in Service
The response to our Advent Giving Treecontinues to be excellent. Thanks and more thanks. Your kindness will make a big difference to many. The gifts will be distributed to all of the agencies this coming week so please do your best to bring them to the Memorial Hallway as soon as you can.
This weekend is the final week to turn in your Baby-Bottle! Don’t stress but do what you can.
If you are planning on upgrading your home’s television, please consider donating your old (but working) LCD (flat screen) TV to us to use in our CCD classrooms. Contact Bob Ferretti if you think you may be able to help us in this way.
January and February will be 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 Advent be a time of great blessing for you.