Awaiting with Joy

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Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer. You see more amazon trucks than Walgreens stores. One of the many features that people love about Amazon is that you know when your items will arrive and receive a picture to prove that your item was delivered. We live in a world of knowing, planning and calculating.  

Today we mark the beginning of Advent, a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. Advent means “arrival” or a coming into place.” We mark this holy season with the color of purple, create an advent wreath with candles for the 4 weeks of anticipating and waiting for the birth of Jesus. Everywhere there are decorations, songs, and lights reminding us that Christmas is coming soon. 

As the world emphasizes material goods and festive celebrations, as Christians, we are invited to a time of prayerful anticipation. Christ’s birth is the center of Christmas, not Santa (sorry Santa). The Advent season invites us to step away from what can be a frenzied time to consider how we commemorate the birth of Jesus, one of the holiest times in Christian faith. It is also a time to reflect on the return of Jesus at His second coming.

Unlike Amazon, we don’t know when Jesus is coming, when he will arrive and how close he is to being here.  How are we to see the signs that he is here? “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…” Mark 13: 33. This passage from today’s scripture puts me on edge. Is my heart ready for his coming? Do I have my life in order that he could come at this moment? Have I fulfilled what he has asked of me? These questions draw me to deeper silence and prayer during Advent Even within this busy ministry time of the year, living the beatitudes and trying to fulfill the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, God is calling me to spend time with him. 

This week I witnessed Jesus in a profound way. One of our parishioners had to bury his wife of 72 years. At one point, he walked down the aisle with his eyes closed ready to bid farewell to the love of his life. I knew in my heart the beautiful Jesus mosaic with arms wide open will embrace his suffering, welcome his beloved home to his heart, and strengthen him during this difficult time. Yes, Advent has begun, but it should never end. We are always waiting, anticipating and longing for the Lord to arrive in our world, and to bring healing in our communities  and families, and in our hearts. The JOY of waiting is part of his coming. Join me in making this advent journey one of JOY in not knowing but embracing that Jesus is amongst us in each other. See you at Mass.  Blessed Advent!

Posted by Mary Lestina
Tags: advent

Love Your Neighbor

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“We will find ourselves and come alive when we make a sincere gift of ourselves to our neighbor”

This statement is part of the mission of a local work camp called Love Begins Here, run for middle and high school students. I participated in this camp for the first time a few summers ago as a leader and it changed my life. So many times in Scripture, Christ teaches about laying down your life for another and in the Gospel this weekend we see that even more in depth as Christ speaks about the two greatest Commandments. The first speaks of loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind and second, to love your neighbor as yourself. The two Commandments are really connected together by one word, “gift.” We all have been gifted life, created in the image of God, He formed us in love to give love back to Him, especially through serving others. When we understand the true gift that we have received in simply being created, we can’t help but love the creator, God. And when we see that we ourselves are loved, created in the image of God and gifted life, we would think that it would be easy to look at our neighbors and see that same gift of life. Yet we often find it so hard to love our neighbors as Christ has asked of us. During Love Begins Here, I had the complete joy to work alongside students who made a sincere gift of themselves to love their neighbors in the multiple small tasks they did to help people they had never meet before. We all came alive with such joy in serving our neighbors because God created humanity to love Him and to serve others. As hard as it is to love every person, especially those who have hurt you or who drive you crazy, ask the Lord to help you see Him in each person and you will be amazed at how easy it becomes to love. As you go forth this week I offer you three questions that were given to me to reflect on in regards to living a more other-centered life.

  1. Do I see other people in their struggles?
  2. Am I moved with compassion?
  3. Do I approach them to offer help?

Seeing, letting our hearts be moved, and approaching to help is a three step approach to how we can begin to give a sincere gift of ourselves to our neighbors and in turn love the Lord God even more.

Tags: love

Caution. Speed Bump Ahead

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Speed bumps are installed to encourage people to slow down. Pay attention to the warning signs and you can navigate safely. Ignore them and you and your vehicle will get quite a jolt and may suffer damage.

Advent and Christmas are right around the corner. Working at UPS for almost 3 decades, Advent was a blur. The goal was to get home on the 24th in time to make it to family gatherings and Mass, and then collapse. Fast forward to working here. It is easy to focus on the planning and doing of the big days. Will we have enough seats, will the sound system work, where will people park, what about the weather. Being focused on the relatively insignificant, Advent runs the risk of again being a blur. I need to install a few speed bumps. How about you? What can we do?

During Advent, our staff will form small groups and discuss how the weekly readings speak to us. Our families are ready-made small groups. Take 20 minutes a week and discuss faith as a family. Consider attending Adoration on Tuesday, turning off the radio, pausing electronics for 10 minutes, going to a daily Mass, to confession, or stopping in the church for a time. These all provide time to talk with God. Cell phones and calendars can rule, and ruin, our lives.
I am setting a daily appointment and alarm, to stop for at least 5 minutes to be quiet and pray.

Will you allow Advent to be a blur? What will be the focus of your Christmas day? Praying we avoid the pitfalls and follow the warning sign God has ready for us: SLOW DOWN...speed bump ahead. A Blessed Advent.

Posted by Michael Ricci
Tags: advent

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