Saint John the Baptist Roman Catholic Parish
Monaca, Pennsylvania

Pastor's Desk
A Message from Fr. Michael R. Ruffalo

Second Sunday of Advent [12/10/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we celebrate the
Second Sunday of Advent we are presented with the figure of Saint John the Baptist, our patron. There is perhaps no other individual, aside from our Lord Jesus Christ, who better represents this holy and privileged season. It was to St. John the Baptist to 'prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths'. To be, as it were, that voice crying out in the desert as foretold by the prophet Isaiah. What is perhaps most amazing is the proclamation that St. John the Baptist makes when Jesus finally arrives to be baptized in the Jordan. Recall, that the Baptist cried out, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!" I believe this was the announcement for which St. John was born. Before his birth, St. John the Baptist, although not able to make this proclamation, showed forth his joy and excitement when he came in proximity to Jesus during the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We hear in sacred scripture from St. John's mother, Elizabeth, that "for at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy." It is this title as Lamb of God announced by John that we should reflect upon in this Advent Season. The lamb bears an enormous weight of meaning that calls us to once again see this season as pulling together the past, the present, and the future.

During the ancient Jewish temple rituals, an unblemished lamb was sacrificed to almighty God. After the animal was put to death, it would be divided. The portion that was offered to God was called the
holocaust and was burnt. The other portion of the lamb was shared among the priests. Thus, this sacrificed lamb became a prefigurement of Jesus Christ. He is indeed the Spotless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He is put to death upon the cross as an offering to the Father.

The past is united to the present as we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We share in this sacrifice by our participation in holy communion. Remember at each Mass, the priest repeats the words of John the Baptist, when he holds the consecrated host before the people and says,
"Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb." We take part, through communion, in eating of the Lamb of Sacrifice Who is Jesus Christ, in a fulfillment of the Old Covenant. Finally, we see once again the Lamb of God make an appearance in the book of Revelation written by St. John the Apostle. He speaks of seeing the Lamb upon the throne Who breaks the seals on the scroll to bring about the end of the world.

So you see, my brothers and sisters, the
Lamb of God as proclaimed to us by Saint John the Baptist does indeed unite the past, present and future. The lamb of sacrifice of the Old Law in the temple is a prefigurement of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, to Whom St. John was called to announce. It is that spotless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, of which we partake in the New Covenant as we receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist here and now. As we receive His sacrifice at each Mass in the Eternal Present, we look with expectation to the Lamb seated upon the throne Who will come again in glory as prophesied by the Book of the Apocalypse.

This week, let us reflect and meditate upon the Lamb of God and see in the words of our patron, St. John the Baptist, the fulfillment of past, present, and future in the person of Jesus Christ. Let us indeed, prepare the way of the Lord!

Fr. Michael


First Sunday of Advent [12/3/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we begin the liturgical year with the
First Sunday of Advent. As you can see, the tone and tenor of the liturgy has changed from last week when we celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King. Although simple, this beautiful season prepares us for the celebration of Christmas and the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ by calling the faithful to watch and wait for the Lord.

If the Season of Advent could be reduced to one word, it would be found in the gospel today when Jesus exhorts his disciples to
watch. The idea of watchfulness includes both waiting upon the Lord and preparation for His arrival.

The season of Advent unites the two
comings of Jesus Christ. On one hand, we prepare to celebrate the past event of Jesus being born of His mother, Mary, and look with expectation to the fulfillment of His words that He will come again on the Last Day. In a truly mysterious way, we are found between these two advents of Jesus. We look back to the past as we remember the Incarnation; and to the future, when the glorious King will return.

Although the season of Advent is not as ancient as the season of Lent, it is believed that Advent was celebrated long before 480 A.D. The purpose for this season was to take on some of the qualities of the season of Lent as we prepared for Christmas. However, there is discrepancy throughout Europe as to how strict Advent mirrored the season of Lent. Although fasting and penance were part and parcel of both seasons, these practices did not take pride of place in Advent as they do in the Lenten Season. Rather, Advent was a time of preparation in which we wait upon the Lord to return in His glory within the context of remembering His coming among us born of Mary. Therefore, the main emphasis to Advent was joyful expectation which would include preparation as manifested through prayer and fasting; whereas, Lent focuses upon becoming more like Christ through the graces of our baptism and the practices of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving.

As we begin again another year of our Lord, liturgically speaking, let us take an assessment of our lives and ask the question: "Are we being watchful?" In another way, are we preparing ourselves for the Lord? Each year on January 1st we attempt to take on a New Year's Resolution in which we put forth a concerted effort to better ourselves. In this new liturgical year, starting today, perhaps we can make a resolution to better our watchfulness. Some examples could include, but are not limited to: praying the rosary daily, praying a novena to our patron saint, reading the scriptures for fifteen minutes a day, attending a weekday Mass, abstaining from meat on Fridays, visiting the sick, etc. There is much we could be doing to keep ourselves alert and ready for the Lord when He comes.

May this Advent season be a time of blessing and holiness for all of us as we live the command of Christ to "Be watchful, be alert."

Fr. Michael