theROCK

Sounds of the Spirit

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Stop! I want you to just stop. Take a moment and feel where your mind is. Are you thinking of what you need to yet get accomplished for Christmas? Are you thinking of the food and house you must prepare? Are you thinking, who gets what and did I forget anyone?

Can we stop and just listen to the sounds of the Spirit breaking through? One of my favorite lines of any of the many Christmas songs is from O LIttle Town of Bethlehem.

The hopes and fears of all the years are met with thee tonight.

It seems paradoxical, fear is the enemy of hope. This one line reveals the incarnation as something that bridges these two opposites. God becoming human changed the world and everyone in it, from the joyfully hopeful to the dreadfully fearful. And in this little place called Bethlehem, in this little stable, from this unremarkable couple, came this epic event.

God unsettles us with his opposites, choosing a humble beginning instead of a majestic entrance. This baby Jesus is visited by lowly shepherds and three kings. The birth of Jesus appears to do nothing, yet everything is changed. This year, I have thought of the gifts I have been given by being pastor of this parish. I have spent time thinking about those who clean our church, plow and salt our driveways, pay our bills and answer our phones. I also remember having all three pastors here for Holy Thursday, and having Archbishop Listecki for the dedication of our Risen Christ statue. I remember the baptisms, weddings and funerals. This place, our parish of St. Dominic is a place where the hopes and fears of all the years are met with thee tonight. It is what makes us family.

Have a blessed Christmas season and New Year,
Fr. Dennis Saran

Advent Preparations

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One of my favorite memories as a child was the two days after Thanksgiving. Of course I was off from school, but this was also the time when the Christmas tree went up and lights were put on the house. There are certain ornaments, even to this day, that my mom leaves for me to put on the tree - mainly the Packer ornaments! For many of us, we are going into "Christmas mode". I'm sure decorations are going up and family events are being planned. These are all wonderful things because as Andy Williams sings, "It's the most wonderful time of year!"

Through all these joys, we have to remember that this is the beginning of the Advent season, not the Christmas season. These next four weeks are a time a preparation, not only to welcome guests into our home, but also Jesus himself into our hearts. In the middle of all the busyness, we must recall why we're doing all of this in the first place. Perhaps this year something won't be as perfect as you'd like. Maybe you didn't have time to make that one extra side dish because you took a break to pray. Maybe there's a few decorations that didn't make it up this year because you came to Mass or Reconciliation instead. I promise you that time spent preparing your heart will make you far happier on Christmas morning than any decoration.

Together, as a family, may we prepare our hearts well this Advent, so that we can join the choir of angels on Christmas morning singing, "Glory to God in the highest!"

in Faith, Love

God's Love For Us

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I love Christmas time! Yes, partially because my birthday is Christmas Eve and usually kicks off the Christmas festivities for my family, but also because the Church takes this time after Christmas to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas - God’s love for us.

No other deity that has ever been worshiped has desired a relationship with humanity. No other deity that has ever been thought of has desired eternity with humanity. This is the heart of our faith—that we have a God who loves us, desires to have a relationship with us, and hopes to spend eternity with us. So much so that God sent the Word to become man: to walk this earth, eat with us, cry with us, laugh with us, and to show us how to get to heaven. He loved us to the point of becoming vulnerable with us, even coming as an infant.

I am a relatively new parent. I think of everything my son needs me to do for him daily:  feed him, change his diapers, get him dressed, and snuggle him when he gets hurt. As much as he is growing and learning, he is still dependent on us.

Jesus allowed for Mary and Joseph to care for Him. We are capable of loving God. As in any relationship, to love someone is a commitment. God shows His commitment to us by giving us free will, and by becoming man even while knowing that we would still face temptation and sin. He instituted the sacraments to right our relationship with him and fall more in love with him.

My hope is that this Christmas season, you encounter God’s love anew in the infant Jesus and make a commitment to grow in your love for Him.

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