From the Pastor’s Desk

Now Known as Chardonnay W(h)ines!

December 15th | Third Sunday of Advent

Whoo hoo! It is the Third Sunday of Advent! I guess the more correct way to say it is Gaudete Sunday – Latin translate to English…..REJOICE! We light the rose-colored candle in the Advent wreath and rosecolored vestments are an option for the priest to wear. Last year a parishioner sent me a text with an amusing cartoon about the rose-colored vestments. The priest is at the altar celebrating Mass wearing rose-colored vestments. The girl altar server says to the boy altar server: “I like Father’s pink robe.” The boy altar server responds: “It’s not pink!” The girl altar server says: “How do you know?” The boy altar server says: “Because Jesus rose from the dead. He didn’t pink from it!”

As the Scripture readings for the Third Sunday of Advent moves us closer to the Christmas celebration of the First Coming of Jesus, we do have reason to REJOICE!! In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah announces that God is approaching to deliver the people and to advance the plan of salvation. The first half of the reading contrasts the lifeless conditions of a desert with a lush garden teeming with life. The latter half of the reading brings this lovely imagery to bear on the human condition. Sin and ignorance have rendered the people spiritually weak and feeble. Their eyes are unable to see by the light of heaven; their ears are deaf to God’s word; they are unable to make progress along the way of life. But now, they sing and dance as they return to God. That was then. We have reason to REJOICE NOW! For in the Gospel, when John the Baptist, in prison, asks whether Jesus is the one to come, Jesus tells John’s disciples to go back and tell John what they see and hear. The blind regain their sight! The lame walk! Lepers are cleansed! The deaf hear! The dead are raised! As Christians, we know and experience these very things in our life today because of the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. So indeed, we have two reasons to REJOICE today. First, Jesus came which we celebrate at Christmas, and second, Jesus will come again!!

Have a blessed Advent!

Fr Don

December 8th | Second Sunday of Advent

Normally the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is celebrated on December 8th. However because this year it falls on a Sunday, the Sunday Mass always take precedence over any feast day. The Immaculate Conception will be celebrated on Monday, December 9th and is NOT a holy day of obligation this year. Mass is at 8:00AM on Monday and there is not any additional Masses scheduled since it is not a holy day of obligation this year.

What does the Immaculate Conception celebrate? Officially taught by Pope Pius IX in consultation with the world’s bishops and promulgated in the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus on December 8, 1854. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary “was, from the first moment of her conception, by the singular grace and privilege of almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race, preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

The religious meaning of this dogma centers on the victory of God’s grace, freely given in Christ. Sin is universal, and the whole human race is in need of salvation. This is offered because of God’s love and mercy poured out in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus, prior to any merits or deserving works on the part of human beings. The dogma of Mary’s original sinlessness celebrates God’s victory over the powers and principalities of this world as this woman comes into existence. In her very being, through the mercy of God, the grip of evil is broken. So to us Catholics, it is fitting that grace be freely given to Mary from the first moment of her existence because of her role in being the faith-filled mother of Jesus. Her yes to God brought Christ into the world, through whom the ancient sin of Adam and Eve is overturned. That God generously graces Mary, enabling her living union with God from her beginning even while not removing her from the sufferings of history, is congruent with divine mercy. It also signifies the good news that for the Church and for every human being, grace is more original than sin!

We light the second candle of the Advent wreath today. The countdown to Christmas is moving on. The media, and especially advertisements, remind us constantly that time is short. So too does John the Baptist in today’s gospel. His reminder is to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. With that in mind, I invite you to our Advent Communal Penance Service this Tuesday, December 10th at 7:00PM. There will be a brief prayer service followed by individual confession. Clean not only your house for Christmas, but your soul as well!!

Have a blessed Advent.

Fr Don

December 1st | First Sunday of Advent

A new year has begun – liturgically speaking. The First Sunday of Advent ushers in the start of a new cycle of scripture readings. This liturgical year we will hear the story of Jesus’ life primarily from the Gospel of Matthew. In last week’s article, I drew out some of the primary themes of Matthew’s gospel. So let us look now at the four weeks of Advent.

Advent has a two-fold character to it. It is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. My experience is that most of us spend a lot of time and energy preparing for the celebration of the First Coming of Jesus in our Christmas celebrations. But it’s hard to do much preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus during Advent because our culture, marketing, and commercialization focus all our attention on the celebration of Christmas. The selection of our scripture readings for the first, second, and third Sundays of Advent turn our attention to the Second Coming of Jesus. It isn’t until the Fourth Sunday of Advent that our thoughts are turned to Christmas.

On the First Sunday of Advent, the prophet Isaiah turns our thoughts to “in the day’s to come”……a vision of a peaceful world where there will be no more war. That will be a reality when Jesus returns. In the gospel, Jesus gives a warning about the end of time. On the Second Sunday of Advent, Isaiah continues his vision of a world where everything is in harmony –don’t we long for the day! In the gospel, we meet John the Baptist who calls us to repentance. On the Third Sunday of Advent, Isaiah continues his vision of a world where healing will take place – and don’t we need that!! The gospel tells a story of John in prison, Jesus already born and doing miraculous things. It isn’t until the Fourth Sunday of Advent that we get to the Christmas theme.

I know it’s difficult with all the details of getting ready for Christmas….the shopping, decorating, cooking, cleaning etc. but I urge you in your interior life to take the slow movement toward Christmas that our Advent readings do to think and pray about the Second Coming of Christ. Then perhaps, when the Church’s Christmas Season comes (December 25 through January 12) you will have a little more energy to celebrate the First Coming of Jesus as the Church does, and not end your Christmas celebration as the commercial world does on December 26th!

Have a blessed Advent!

Fr Don

November 24th | Thirty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The scripture readings and prayers at Sunday Mass celebrate the birth, life, teachings, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus in a three year cycle. Each cycle begins on the First Sunday of Advent and ends on the feast we celebrate today, Christ the King. Today then, we end cycle C. During cycle C we have heard the story of Jesus as told from the Gospel of Luke. Next Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent we will begin cycle A and will hear the story of Jesus as told from Matthew’s perspective.

Some things to know about Matthew’s Gospel. He writes primarily to Jewish Christians around AD 80-85. He begins with a long genealogy of Jesus to establish Jesus as an heir to the promise of Abraham and as the Messiah King who has to come from the house of David. At the time Matthew wrote, Jews and Christians alike were in turmoil. The Romans had destroyed the great Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Christians were under suspicion and attacked by Jews, Romans, and even other Christians who had set themselves up as prophets. In this turbulent time, Matthew assures his audience that even though the world in which they must preach the Good News is a hostile one, with many temptations to turn away from Jesus, those who acknowledge Jesus will inherit the Kingdom of God.

Also, in Matthew’s vision, faithfulness to the Gospel ethic to love God and neighbor is the crucial determinant of whether a Christian will be invited into heaven. Finally, Matthew’s Gospel places emphasis on the concept of Church. It is in this Gospel that Peter is named the rock upon which the Church is built. Matthew also draws out the understanding of Christian discipleship and community as the fuller and deeper living out of the Jewish Law. Jesus himself says, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17)

Year A then is dominated by two themes from Matthew’s account: urgency and uncompromising choice. Matthew begins our cycle A with warnings to stay awake for the coming of God, and ends it with judgment between those who followed a righteous path and those who did not. In between, Matthew exhorts us to watch, to listen, and to follow Jesus. One either follows Christ or does not; one either lives in the reign of God or dies apart from it.

This Thursday we celebrate our national holiday of Thanksgiving. We invite you, your family, friends and guests to start your celebration by coming to the greatest thanksgiving feast ever! We will celebrate the Eucharist on Thanksgiving Day at 9:00AM. Fr. Mark and I hope to see you there!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day!

Fr Don

November 17th | Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today we welcome our Bishop, R. Daniel Conlon who will confirm 84 of our young high school parishioners. We congratulate and welcome these young adults as fully initiated members of the Church. Here is a little bit of history on Confirmation.

In the early Church the three Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist – were celebrated in the same ceremony by adult catechumens at the Easter Vigil which was presided over by the bishop. Then by the fourth century when Constantine proclaimed Christianity the state religion, many more people, with their children were being baptized, and not just at the Easter Vigil. Christianity also spread from the cities to the countryside. It became impossible for bishops, who were now also involved in governing, to preside at every Baptism.

The bishops of the East solved the problem by delegating the Sacraments of Initiation to the presbyter (priest), reserving for themselves only the blessing of the oil used in the rite. To this day, the Eastern churches initiate with all three sacraments at once, whether the person is an infant or adult. The bishops of the West also delegated Baptism to priests, but retained the function of performing the initial anointing and laying on of hands. This they would do whenever they visited a particular locality. Thus, in the West the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation was done at a later time than the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism. In 1932 it became common in the West to receive Eucharist before Confirmation.

The theological debates continues today about when Confirmation should be administered. Some say put it back in its original order. Some say 8th grade is the right time and others say high school and older. But whenever Confirmation is received, it brings baptismal grace to completion and strengthens us to live our baptismal commission to be a disciple of Jesus, and make more disciples!

Have a blessed week!

Fr Don

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