Friday, December 14, 2018

Rejoice!


It’s the third Sunday of Advent, yikes!  Where does the time go?  Are all my gifts bought and wrapped? Are all my homemade goodies made?  Do I have my dinner planned or at least have all my ingredients? Have I forgotten someone I need to get a gift for? Did I get that gift for the giving tree?  Am I ready? 

It’s a lot to think about but if you look at this weekend’s readings the message is clear…It’s all going to be okay.  Thank heavens for the soothing and supportive words from this weekend’s readings, they couldn’t have come at a better time.  The first reading from Zephaniah says “The King of Israel is in your midst you have no further misfortune or fear”, have no fear for God is with you, what a welcoming thought. Try to remember that when you’re standing in line at the check-out  counter waiting patiently while in the back of your mind you’re thinking about having to pick up the kids or get something before the store closes or be on time to meet your friends.  Have no fear! God is with you! 

The psalm again tries to allay our worries and our fears by reminding us that “God is indeed our savior; I am confident and unafraid”.  Be confident and unafraid?  The holidays are really nothing to fear however the immense pressure we put on ourselves to get it all in is stressful and can be overwhelming.  How about adding to that phrase by holding on to the thought that God is good and to “be confident and unafraid” that it will all get done, you won’t miss anything and if you do it will still be okay!  If that isn’t enough to help you through the often stressful preparation for the holidays then you should take a look at the second reading to the Philippians which says “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Have no anxiety? That’s a tall order you’re thinking.  It’s the holidays and stress comes with the territory.  That may be so but remind yourself how wonderful it is that the peace of God which surpasses all understanding is protecting your heart and mind with all there is to do and think about.  

And if you’re still missing the message then go straight to the Gospel of Luke 3:10-18.  The crowds are bewildered as they don’t know what to do. They need guidance and focus.  John the Baptist instructs them, he tells them to share what they have, he tells tax collectors to “stop collecting more than what is prescribed” he tells them to “be satisfied with your wages”.    We are not tax collectors and we have every intention of being the best givers this Christmas so what would John tell us if he were here right now? He would probably say, stop running about trying to do everything, be mindful, be happy with what you have accomplished and stop taking on more things than prescribed; be satisfied!  Good thoughts John and amen to that!  

Ok, so there you have it, in each reading on this third Sunday of Advent, the same messages are trying to reach you, listen to them!  Rejoice, and be less anxious, and be at peace.  I know this is not easy and we go through this every year with the same struggles but do try to lessen that stress and focus on the goodness of God, the joy of His coming and the salvation to come and the rest will mercifully fall into place.


By: Mary Juliano-Hayes

Thursday, December 6, 2018

How can we embrace Advent?


I don’t know how many of you have social media accounts, but I am sure many of you do! I like Social media and how it has evolved. I love seeing people’s pictures and keeping up with friends from all over the world, but this time of year is a time when I need to step away from face book.  Why you ask?  Because its “Christmas Season” and my stream is full of people’s perfect Christmas trees and light displays, pictures of families going places to see Santa or the enchanted village, and kitchen counters full of freshly baked cookies and perfectly wrapped packages.  It is really hard to think about being quiet, and preparing for the coming of Jesus on Christmas.  Instead my Facebook feed sends me the message loud and clear:   I am not doing enough and clearly my children are being slighted because they are not having enough Christmas experiences! No matter how committed I am to Advent, the messages are hard to ignore for me, never mind my children.  I have learned these last few years, that it is possible to embrace the season of Advent, but it takes intentionality.   This Advent there will be no personal social media for me.  I am going to embrace my Advent, not how others spend the month of December!

The message of Christmas in our world has become to go more places, buy more things, bake more, decorate more and certainly be exhausted by December 25th.  My home has an Advent Wreath, a Nativity Scene, and have birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas morning, but my teenage daughter insists that the Christmas Season lasts from Thanksgiving till December 25th.  My message isn’t as strong as the message of the world.  I will continue to fight that battle, and lead by example.   How can I lead by example when I just admitted I have trouble ignoring the messages of the world too?  How do we “DO Advent” with intentionality?

This Sunday we hear the famous words of John The Baptist, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” John is calling us to repent and to prepare our hearts for the coming of our Savior, Jesus.  So what does one who wants to celebrate Advent as a time of waiting and self-reflection do?   When John calls us to repentance and to ready our hearts.  What is he really saying?  He is asking us to visit the question,

Who is Jesus in our Lives here and now?  Do we know him or just know about Him?  Do our lives look different because Jesus is our Savior?

One way I have found to ready my heart each Advent has been the Best Advent Ever by Dynamic Catholic.  If you are not taking part in the Best Advent Ever, I strongly suggest it as a way to ready yourself for the coming of Jesus.  I play the quick video each morning as I put on the tea kettle and my daughter makes her lunch.   I hope the message will be absorbed even as she vocalizes that she isn’t listening.  On day two the reflection was particularly good and when I watched it the first time it brought tears to my eyes.   I encourage you to watch it here and subscribe if you like it:


The question asked of each of us is, Do we know Jesus?  If we can’t say yes right now, what might we do this Advent to change that?  John’s command to prepare is really to get to know Jesus better.  My commitment this Advent is to stay off social media and live my Advent not someone else’s… and I think The Best Advent will help me?   How will you get to know Jesus better this Advent, so you can welcome him anew on Christmas?

By Jeanne Cregan

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Light the Advent Candle One, Now the Waiting Has Begun


Happy New Year!

This weekend we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent which begins our new liturgical year.  As you walk into the Church this weekend you will notice a change.  Gone is the green symbolizing the growth that takes place in our lives during ordinary time and in its place stands the purple of repentance and humility.  We are living in darkness as we wait for the Light of the World to come into our hearts and lives on Christmas morning. 

Like many families, our family has the tradition of lighting the candles on the Advent wreath before dinner each night during Advent.  Before we light the candles, we turn off all of the lights in the house, so the only light present during our prayer is the light that illuminates from the wreath.  This week, the light will be dim, one small flame from a single candle, a mere flicker in the darkness, showing us how far we are from Christ. But as we get closer and closer to Christmas morning, that light grows and soon the light from the four candles will fill the room, telling us that the Lord is near.

At the end of the prayer we sing the verse of the week and refrain from the Advent Song.  This week, this will be our song to end our prayer - 

Light the Advent candle, one:
Now the waiting has begun;
we have started on our way,
time to think of Christmas day.


Refrain
Candle, candle, burning bright,
shining in the cold winter night;
candle, candle, burning bright,
fill our hearts with Christmas light.



Part of my spiritual preparation this Advent will involve spending more time in prayer, meditating on the words of Jesus in Scripture, using a centering prayer known as Lectio Divina.  If you aren’t familir with Lectio Divina, there are four steps, the 4 R’s – reading, reflection, response and rest. During the first step, reading, you read the scripture passage slowly, sometimes multiple times and let the words of scripture sink into your hearts.  During the second step you reflect on the passage, was there a word or phrase that stuck out to you or resonated in your heart?  Step three, response, we let our hearts speak back to God and finally we rest and let go of everything in our hearts and minds and just be in the presence of the Word of God.

This week as I was praying my Lectio Divina I was focusing on this week’s gospel, Luke 21:25-28, 34-36, and the phrase “beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life” struck me and continued to speak to me as I listened and reflected.  Working retail the last 3 years, I had grown to dislike the holidays.  Christmas meant angry customers, destroyed stores, and long hours away from family and loved ones.  Depending on the shifts I worked, I could go 3 or 4 days without seeing my children while they were awake.  I was consumed by the anxieties of life and grew to dislike everything that we associated with Christmas.

But as I sit and reflect, what I was really doing was forgetting to celebrate Advent.  Life was overtaken by Christmas and the commercial aspects of it, I forgot about the real reason for Christmas, the birth of our Savior.  The trees, the lights (Graham, my 2 year old, is mesmerized by every Christmas light he sees), the gifts, the parties are all great and awesome, but as you are preparing for those things, don’t forget to also celebrate Advent. Prepare your heart for the light of Christ, because without it, we will continue to live in darkness and be consumed by the anxieties of our daily life. 

Take some time this Advent season to sit in the darkness and let the light of the coming Christ fill your life. 

Blessings this Advent season,

Matthew Bensman


Rejoice!

It’s the third Sunday of Advent, yikes!   Where does the time go?   Are all my gifts bought and wrapped? Are all my homemade goodies made?...