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November 29, 2020: First Sunday of Advent - Pastor’s Corner

Happy Advent!  This week we enter into the sacred season of waiting for the Advent, or coming of our Lord.  Sometimes we imagine our spiritual life as a journey.  We are on this earth to search for and discover the presence of God in our daily lives and relationships.  God is “out there” to be found and our task is to focus our energy on going to meet him.  Though there are aspects of this image of journey that are helpful, Advent reminds us that, even before we begin to look for God, He is already coming to greet us.  God is not statically ensconced on a heavenly mountaintop, available to only those who have the spiritual strengthen and virtue to ascend the heights.  As our loving Father, God has sent his Son into our world and become enfleshed in human nature.  Advent is the season where we are reminded that God always takes the initiative to come into our lives.  Jesus is eager to be present in our lives and Advent is the season the Church gives us to be reminded that we need to open our minds and hearts for his arrival.

In preparing for Jesus’ arrival, we usually think of the historical nativity of the Word made flesh in cave at Bethlehem.  However, the arrival of Advent follows two other important narrative threads.   First, we anticipate the Parousia (Greek for “advent”), the second coming of Christ in glory to judge the world.  In the Gospel, Jesus says, “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk.21:36) Jesus admonition to be alert to his 2nd coming is the basis of our belief in Him as our King and the foundation of our Advent joy. Second, between the historical and future comings, there is the preparing for the coming of Christ in our minds and hearts in a personal way.  In the first reading, Jeremiah prophesies the advent of the promised Messiah.  This promise shaped (and continues to shape) the core of the Jewish faith: God’s promise of a Redeemer directs and focuses all Jewish worship, ritual and covenant.  This is why the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures is still relevant for us as Catholics.  Just as Moses and the prophets yearned to see the day of the Messiah, so too, we eagerly wait for the coming of Christ both now and in the future.  By looking to the heroes and saints of the past, we learn how to live in the present and prepare for the future.

In order to prepare for Christ’s arrival, I suggest three practical ways that we might open our hearts to the new life of Christmas. First, make a schedule of daily prayer.  Especially in Advent, we need to establish (or reestablish!) a rhythm of prayer which will open our hearts to prepare for Christmas joy.  I invite you to join the friars for our chanted morning prayer at 7:15am and at 5pm for our evening prayers via our livestream.  We are so blessed to have been able to livestream via our YouTube channel for the past 8 months and we want to invite you into the heart of our prayer.  Second, enter into the fullness of the season by attending one of our virtual events at the parish.  For example, this Thursday December 3rd, I will be leading a Zoom “Angels in Advent” retreat which will focus on the angelic activity which was present at Christ’s conception and birth. Just as the archangel Gabriel announced the Incarnation, so too we are called to anticipate the birth of Christ in our hearts and lives.  Third, take a Christmas “ornament” from our giving tree.  The Church continues to be open every day from noon-4:30pm and especially during this pandemic, we are in need of “angelic” assistance to provide Christmas gift cards to those in need.  Even in the challenges of this year, we were able at Thanksgiving, through your generosity, we were able to provide a delicious meal for almost 300 families. Most of these families have children and we confident that our gift card ornaments will be able to provide gifts for those who would otherwise go without.  Whenever we give to those in need, we encounter the living presence of Jesus. May Jesus’ Advent find us ready to receive him afresh!

            ~ Fr. Michael

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