This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - December 21, 2018


This Week – December 21, 2018

Dear All:

Happy winter solstice, the day with the smallest amount of daylight. Also, the day when the rising sun angles through our church’s roof windows to shine on the heart of our crucified Christ. Sort of our own little Stonehenge, but better. Too bad today’s gloom deprived us of that. But it is also the feast of the great Dutch Jesuit, Peter Canisius, a doctor of the church and a superb teacher. Students facing those final finals, ask him to help.

Today’s “THIS WEEK” is short. Who has time to read this close to Christmas? It is also the last one for a few weeks. You will receive regular greetings but not a full weekly update.


  • Weekend Mass Schedule – The regular Mass schedule applies this weekend (4:45, 7:15, 9:30, 11:30 and 6:00). 

  • Christmas Mass Schedule – There are three Masses on Christmas Eve, each with a different music offering.

    • 4:00 pm – The children’s choir provides the music, with some help from our cantors.

    • 6:00 pm – Laurie and the Sunday 6:00 pm Praise Group will sing at the 6:00 pm Christmas Eve. 

    • 10:00 pm – The carols start at 9:30 pm, led by the Sunday 9:30 a.m. choir.

  • There are also three Masses on Christmas morning:

    • 7:15 am – Andrea and Tim, the regular 7:15 ensemble, will provide the music.

    • 9:30 and 11:30 – These are the BIG music Masses. Andrea and Tim will support a mix of regular musicians and visiting musicians. The lineup includes Trombone (by the guy who plays the trombone in the White House Marine Band!), bass guitar (Pete from the 9:30), french horn, viola, violin, flute (Thomas from the 9:30), Andrea playing the organ and guitar and singing also (7:15 regular), her husband Tim singing bass and a visiting Soprano (the singing kind, not the gangster kind)

It will be excellent to pray with you whenever you are here. When thinking through Mass times, remember that the 4:00 pm is very convenient for many and starts to fill in at 3:00 pm. By 3:45 we pretty much reach the fire code limits, that is with people standing in the gathering space and the hallways. Last year we had to draw the line at 1300 people. (For reference, we usually have 1300 people for the entire weekend.) Also keep in mind that the music will be delightful at all the Masses and that the full sound at the 9:30 and 11:30 merits consideration. Either way, pray well!

  • Confessions – I will be in the confessional for an extra half hour tomorrow (Saturday) – starting at 3:30. Once again, think of enjoying the grace of reconciliation – a good Christmas present to yourself.

  • Prayer Service for Refugees and Migrants – Mark your calendar for Wednesday, January 9. Sister Ruth Bolarte, IHM, Director of the diocese’s Secretariat for Family and Pastoral Life, has invited St. Joe’s to host the diocese’s prayer service for refugees and migrants around the world. This prayer service is part of the nationwide observance of what the U.S. Catholic Bishops have labeled “National Migration Week,” January 6-12, 2019. Come and pray if you can.

Sunday’s Homily – “December 16, 2018 – Third Sunday of Advent: Hope, Part IV: Hoping for Inspired Certainty”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page


  • Your Great Efforts to Console: You perform remarkable works of mercy all year long. Your year-round generosity is both inspired and inspiring. Most recently, you have truly outdone yourselves – both in helping people to have a good Thanksgiving and in helping them to have a good Christmas. May God bless you mightily. It will be good to take a fresh look at our ministerial options. We can do all that after January 1. Meanwhile, continue to be good to those you meet – and take good care of yourself.


  • Welcoming the Hopeful – Many people who come to pray with us only on Christmas. Thanks for joining me in welcoming them into our community. We will have some goodies for them as they leave church. I will need a few of you to help hand out said goodies – all of which are designed to get them thinking about coming more often. 

  • Welcoming the Little Children – I will also need a few folks to help hand out coloring books and crayons to the little ones, especially at the 4:00 pm. The crayons etc increase the chances that the kids will have a good time in church and the chances that their parents might be able to relax and pray.

I assure you of great blessings for you and your loved ones and your celebrations of Christ’s appearance on earth. Being your pastor makes me the luckiest guy I know – enormously blessed. Thanks for that privilege.

Fr Hank

Summary of December 16 Homily:
Third Sunday of Advent
Hope, Part IV: Hoping for Inspired Certainty

Certainty can be a good thing or a not-so-good thing. Uninspired certainty can leave us committed to choices and adventures that have little to do with Jesus’ desires for all of us. Inspired certainty, by comparison, is that justifiable confidence that my choices and adventures align with Jesus’s Sacred Heart. Uninspired certainty makes us vulnerable to that age-old malaise “Often in error, never in doubt.”

Zephaniah upbraids the people of ancient Israel for leaning to heavily on uninspired certainty. They somehow convinced themselves that it was OK to worship Baal and some of the area’s other false gods. But Zephaniah also assures the people that the day will come, after they repent, when they will enjoy the peace that comes from knowing they are making inspired choices and are entitled to that peace that only invades our hearts when our choices reflect God’s. In Sunday’s first reading Zephaniah assures the people that God will eventually rejoice over them and sing about them. Why all of that divine gladness? Because they will be making the inspired choices that create inspired certainty.

Sunday’s gospel portrays people sincerely seeking advice from John the Baptist. Three groups – the crowds, the tax collectors and the Roman soldiers – ask John “What should we do?” Clearly, they want to get to a place of inspired certainty, where they can relax and pray in the knowledge that they are fundamentally getting it right with God. They can put self-doubt aside and absorb God’s love.

What about you? When have you had particularly strong desires for inspired certainty? Sometimes we get the craving – to know deeply that we are knowing, wanting, and doing what God wants. When have you had that experience? Sometimes difficult circumstances intensify our hunger for inspired certainty. New adventures also have a way of strengthening our desire to get it right. That appetite for inspired certainty, whatever the stimulus, is a gift. It truly opens us up to God’s hopes. It is frequently a difficult gift but a gift nonetheless. When have you been, at least in your heart, as hungry for inspired certainty as the three groups of people who, in Sunday’s gospel, asked with complete sincerity, “what should we do?”