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How Do I?

Fr. Tom’s Letters

 

Each week Fr. Tom writes a letter to parishioners in our bulletin.  Every letter is comprehensive, including current information about the Parish, an explanation of Scripture for that Sunday, and an invitation to become more engaged in the life of the parish.

 

 

 

 

December 8, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

In my homily of last week, I said that the Season of Advent is a time when so many activities vie for our attention. In the midst of all these we need to be alert for the presence of the Lord during these shorter days and extended nights. In addition, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is shorter than usual. A review of last week’s bulletin in preparation for this week’s letter gives a sense that so much is happening during this first half of Advent. Blessings of crèches and trees, singing carols and lessons and carols, donating gifts and toys and meals are some of the activities occurring this weekend and next. Dates and times are all in the bulletin.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is usually celebrated on December 8, this year a Sunday. The Second Sunday of Advent takes liturgical precedence over the December 8 Solemnity. This year the Church celebrates the Immaculate Conception on Monday, December 9 and it is not a holyday of obligation. Masses will be at 7:30. 9:00, and 7:30 PM.

The following Monday December 16 we will offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation from 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM in the church. This special day for confession gives parishioners an excellent opportunity to prepare oneself spiritually for the Solemnity of Christmas. Over the past several years many parishioners have taken this opportunity to return to the Sacrament of Penance after many years. We are all encouraged to celebrate this sacrament at this time of the year.

JOHN THE BAPTIST

The gospels for the second and third Sundays of Advent turn our attention to John the Baptist. A main theme of John’s preaching is captured in the opening line of today’s gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

I recently asked our eighth graders in school what it means to repent. They provided excellent and insightful answers. They said, “sorrow for sin,” “doing a penance to make up for sin,” “turning away from a bad habit,” “making a change in the way I do things,” “changing the way I think.” All their responses indicated some facet of repentance. John the Baptist holds a special place in Advent, so we do well to heed his call to “repent.”

The reading makes clear that John’s role was to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John dressed the part in clothing made of camel’s hair. Similarly his diet was locusts and wild honey. Still he attracted large crowds, “the whole region around the Jordan were going to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.” John’s Baptism brought people a sense of liberation from their past mistakes. John’s Baptism brought people joy. Repentance can do just that for us.

The second part of the gospel today makes clear that John had his enemies, particularly among the Pharisees and Sadducees. He addressed them as “you brood of vipers.” His strong words conclude with the threat of “unquenchable fire.”

Yes, Advent is a time of preparation, waiting, expectancy, and joy. But the image and message of John suggests also that Advent is a decisive time. Advent beckons us to consider how open we are to the message and person of Christ. Advent and Christmas are more than times of sentiment and good feeling. These days call upon us to reflect upon where we stand in relation to Christ and the community of the Body of Christ, the Church. It is a time of challenge.

A dimension of the challenge of this time of year is put squarely by St. Paul in the middle reading. St. Paul call us to hope, harmony, and accord. And we strive for these experiences “in keeping with Christ Jesus.” Then Paul puts the challenge directly, “welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.” That is quite a challenge. It is a challenge that not only extends to our family of faith, but extends to all whom we meet, to welcome as Christ welcomes us. We all know what it feels like to be welcome and unwelcome. To welcome encourages acceptance, relationship, and care. To unwelcome suggests isolation, rejection, and indifference.

Advent and Christmas are times of meeting lots of different people in all sorts of different circumstances. I suggest we walk this second week of Advent with the words of John the Baptist and St. Paul reverberating in our minds: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,”

Peace be with you!

Fr. Tom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The letters are available in PDF and require Adobe Reader to view.  If you do not have Adobe Reader, you can download it for FREE by clicking the graphic to the right.