From Our Pastor ~ December 21, 2014

From Our Pastor ~ December 21, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Already last weekend we had many people who were wishing us a merry Christmas and about to leave for parts all over to celebrate the holidays with family or enjoy a nice Christmas break vacation. For those who are traveling this week, we offer special prayers for safety. May all your visits fill you with joy and good memories; where reconciliation is needed, may unity endure; where understanding is sought, may it be found. May love be the guide for every word and situation. And may the mystery of the Son of God come to birth in a tiny child in obscurity always cause you to find wonder and awe at the desire of our loving God to “stoop down,” as the Fathers would say, to raise a suffering world with his caring love. Merry Christmas.

For those who are traveling, I want to remind you that you can always find our bulletins posted on line, so you don’t miss our greetings or any news about upcoming events in the parish. If you haven’t subscribed, all you have to do is go to our parish website (www.stmaryfred.org) and at the lower right corner of our front web page type your email address in the box and click on “subscribe.”

Giving can become such a complicated procedure. For many, Christmas has become the only time during the year when we remember each other with a card (how often do you buy stamps these days?) or bake something for our neighbors. I actually put “shopping” on my to-do list this time of year. We wonder if something has happened to someone because we didn’t get the usual Christmas card in the mail this year.

I have never liked shopping. I always wonder why I didn’t just get this done last summer when nobody was thinking about Christmas shopping yet? Every once in a while there is a nice spirit with so many people out and about and looking for that perfect gift for someone in particular, if you are lucky. More often than not I am grateful that some visionary invented the internet and the “shopping cart.”

I know a lot of families, especially older brothers and sisters, who have pretty much lost the spirit of giving. The calls come, eventually: “How much are you giving?” Of course, you don’t want to give more than somebody and make them feel bad. In the same way nobody likes to feel like they got the short end of the stick. For a while in our family we wrote checks to each other for the same amounts and basically exchanged bank balances, an equal transfer of funds. It was either give up on it all together, or re-think the meaning of why we give.

The truth is, giving can never become routine, or it isn’t giving anymore, it is just a habit. Giving is something that shapes us and makes us different from all other forms of life in God’s creation. We give because we are made in the image and likeness of God, who gives. He gives his Son. He gives his life on the cross. He gives his divine life in the sacraments. Jesus literally gives his Body and Blood, his life, his Mother, his Spirit, his Mission of blessing from the Father. How many times we read Jesus explain that the Father has given everything over to him, and all that he has received from the Father he has given to us?

Notice the gift is always the gift of self. It isn’t a gift card or a lottery ticket, or even a shiny new car with a big bow on the top. It’s something better. For this reason we often encourage our children not to think so much about buying something, but instead making  something of themselves to give at Christmas time. Something personal, because giving is meaningless if it doesn’t also involve a personal commitment of good will and love. The gift is only the expression of what is inside, a revelation, the invisible made visible.

Those actually are the words we use to describe Jesus at Christmas, the definitive Revelation, the fullness of love.

In these last days before the great Gift of Jesus, take a few moments in your busy day—commit to a few moments in each of the few days remaining—ask what might be your special gift to your family and those you love? To your parish family? What gifts has God given to you in particular? Ask God for the grace to be truly thankful for them, and truly strong in seeking ways to use them to make him known this Christmas, to bring him to birth in your life and make it visible. Above all, ask God for the ability to truly give yourself to him, and to those he loves.

God bless you.

 Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ December 14, 2014

Express Announcements ~ December 14, 2014

* Please give generously to the Catholic Charities’ Annual Christmas Collection, our second collection this weekend.

* Handcrafts from the Holy Land will be on sale after all Masses this weekend. A perfect Christmas gift from Bethlehem will complete your shopping list for Christmas giving and help people in great need in the land where Jesus was born.

* Advent Lessons and Carols , our annual Advent prayer service, is onTuesday, December 16 at 7:30pm. Saint Mary choirs present Advent songs along with Scripture readings and hymns for all to sing.

** SCRIP is on sale this weekend in the Parish Life Center after most Masses. Please use SCRIP and help our school.

 

From Our Pastor ~ December 14, 2014

From Our Pastor ~ December 14, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Last week I wrote about the Advent theme of the power of silence and waiting. This week I would like to speak a moment about the power of Time.

Time is probably the greatest gift that God gave us. The angels didn’t get it, it is something completely foreign to God, as one of the attributes that we know about God is that God cannot change. Change is inevitable with time.

Funny, change is also probably the most resisted reality of our lives. Change isn’t easy, it isn’t welcome, and it makes us nervous.

Yet, it is unique to who we are that, as creatures placed in time and space, we are put here to change. And our religious life is programmed each year—from start to finish—according to the way the Church has ordered the calendar to the Mysteries of Christ. We begin with this time of longing, fulfilled in the Incarnation of Jesus at Christmas. Then, after Mother of God (and our Mother), Holy Family, Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord, we go right to his public life, baptized and sent forth into the world. We live his preaching and his miracles—Word and Sacrament, Scripture and living Tradition as it unfolds in our parish life.

Then Lent begins, a time of reflection and soul searching. We know that Jesus is ready and willing to obey his Father and home to save us. Well, he came, he comes, and he saves. What must we do to put our houses in order for this most beautiful expression of God’s love, the Last Supper meal, the Cross, the empty tomb of Easter, then his glorified life with us, finally his ascension to heaven and the birth of the Church at Pentecost, to be ready to receive his Spirit?

So then we come to the beginning of Summer. We reflect on our ministry, our life, how we are called and what gifts God has given us to accomplish the mission of Jesus. The mission of Jesus is given to us in the Church, to carry forward exactly what Jesus was doing in his public life, which has now become our public life. The Cross is the moment of now—when we realize that every moment of life is a moment of transition—of change—in which we decide to move from the old and be renewed, reborn.

The circle comes back around again, and again, every year of our lives, however much Time God as given us to live it. But the secret is not to become familiar with the Mysteries of Christ; it’s not like we pass a test and then we’re good to go for the rest of our lives. Each year as the events come back around, we need to find ourselves changed, on a higher plane. The circle of Time needs to spiral upward (if sin could be considered spiraling downward) so that each road marker finds us living a new, more fulfilled life, that “fullness of charity” that we pray for at every Mass.

We find this “new thing” in both the revelation of the Old Testament, and in the Book of Revelation in the New: It is you and me.

“Thus says the Lord who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters. Remember not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, even now it is springing to light. Do you not perceive it? A way will I make in the wilderness and rivers in the desert!” Isaiah 43:16, 18-19.

And from the seer of the New Testament, Saint John whose feast we celebrate shortly after Christmas:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down . . . and I heard a great voice from the throne saying: Behold, the dwelling of God is with men . . . he will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, for the former things have passed away… Behold, I make all things new.” Revelation 21:1-5

Some people call this change deepening (Confirmation), healing and conversion (Reconciliation), commitment (Marriage and Holy Orders or Religious Life). We choose what to do with this precious gift of time that God has so graciously given to each of us sometimes in a most unnoticed way. But our attention is drawn to this gift of Time and the Call that is inherent to it. Time is of no value unless you do something with it!

This weekend, Gaudete Sunday, we use the color rose to indicate joy. There is joy even in waiting patiently, as we anticipate the richness, diversity of God in his Newness.

God bless you.

Fr. Don

Special Advent and Christmas Schedules

Special Advent and Christmas Schedules

One additional week of Confessions is added to the regular schedule in preparation for Christmas.

All are encouraged to plan to celebrate the Sacrament of Confession early in the season to avoid the last-minute rush and crowded lines, and the risk of coming too late.

Please note well: There will be no additional Confessions after Tuesday, December 23.

Special Advent and Christmas Schedules