December 21, 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We have come to the final Sunday of Advent. Unfortunately, we do not have a whole week to prepare for Christmas, considering that the feast of the Nativity is (this) Thursday. I pray that your time of preparation for the coming Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord was fruitful and that you took time for prayer, devotion, enrichment, and most importantly, the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).
As we enter into these final days, our minds and hearts are naturally lifted to the great mystery of our faith in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. What a wonderful and beautiful event it is that the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, should clothe Himself in our flesh and descend among us.
The joy of this Christmas season is that finally God had chosen to act and begin the process of setting the world back to the way it was in the beginning. The sin of Adam is undone by the coming of the New Adam, Jesus Christ. The birth of the Lord is what all creation has anticipated and all the prophets foresaw. The words of the Creed will take on a greater meaning in just a few days when we proclaim: Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Santo ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est. ...and he became man.
In the gospel today, we are delighted to hear how the incarnation of our Lord transpired. It shows us how the angel Gabriel came to Mary and offered her the privilege of becoming the Mother of God. All Gabriel needed in return was her consent; her "Fiat!". Let it be done to me according to your word. It is that phrase from the lips of the Blessed Virgin that invited Jesus into our world.
She alone was full of grace to accept the gift that God the Father was willing to bestow upon her; and indeed, through her, to whole world. This sentiment is perfectly coined when we say: To Jesus through Mary. Jesus is the greatest gift ever given, which is the origin of the charitable spirit of the season. We give gifts to each other because God has given us His Son.
As we prepare in the next few days to give and receive gifts to and from one another, let us have a grateful heart. All charity comes first from God. May we always have a thankful heart for the rich blessings that are bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus in the love we show one another in this holy season.
For those of you traveling to other areas of the world to be with family for Christmas, please know of my prayers for your safe travel and that your time with loved ones will bring you joy and peace. For those remaining or hosting families here in Monaca, I look forward to seeing you and yours at our Christmas Masses. As a reminder, our Christmas schedule is: 4:00PM on Christmas Eve; 12:00AM (Midnight), 9:00AM and 11:00AM on Christmas.
December 14, 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, or Rejoice Sunday. Today, the priests of the church don the rose colored vestments that give us a momentary respite from the rigor of the season. You have heard me over the past two weeks speak to you about the nature of the season of Advent. Advent, much like Lent, is a season of preparation and spiritual renewal. It affords us the time to reflect upon our lives and prepare ourselves with increased prayer and devotion for the coming celebration of Christmas. This includes examining our consciences and seeking to make a good confession.
Because the purple seasons can be taxing, Holy Mother Church has included within them a Sunday in which we pause to reflect upon where we have come and what more needs to be done; a resting point as it were. Gaudete and Laetare Sundays roughly mark the midway piont of the seasons. After today, the season shifts toward a greater focus on the feast of Christmas rather then the generic focus on the manifestation of the Lord that permeates the first part of Advent.
Gaudete Sunday also serves as a reminder to the faithful that Christmas is soon upon us and that the time to ready ourselves is running out. If you haven't gone to the Sacrament of Confession thus far, please try to make a concerted effort in the week ahead. The best way to prepare for any major celebration in the Church is to go to confession. As you know, the Sacrament of Confession has a two-fold nature and purpose. Of course, everyone knows that Confession is for the forgiveness of sins, which we all have committed, but it is also for an increase in sanctifying grace. Every sacrament brings us closer to Christ.
The Church makes every effort to provide Confession during these holy seasons. Please examine the times and places below where confessions will be offered. I beg you to make a promise to God and yourself that you will go and avail yourself to this gift that comes to us from the hands of Christ; the gift of mercy.
Beginning today [December 14, 2014], the Catholic churches in our area will provide the Sacrament of Confession with a number of priest in attendance. You will not have to wait in long lines and you will have the priest of your choice. The area confession schedule is, as follows:
- Sunday, December 14, 2014 at 7:00PM - St. Frances Cabrini, Center Township
- Monday, December 15, 2014 at 7:00PM - Our Lady of Peace, Conway
- Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 7:00PM - Our Lady of Fatima, Hopewell Township
- Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 7:00PM - St. Cecilia, Rochester
- Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 7:00PM - Sts. Peter and Paul, Beaver
- Saturday, December 20, 2014 at 12Noon - St. John the Baptist, Monaca
December 7, 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent. The readings presented to us this day exhort us to keep watch and prepare for the coming of the Lord, lest it catch us off guard. In particular, the second reading from Saint Peter reminds the faithful that we must busy ourselves waiting upon the Lord for his return. This is an important theme for both Advent and Lent in which we examine our lives, correct our sinfulness, and rededicate ourselves to God. Both of these privileged seasons remind the faithful that we must work out our salvation in fear in trembling as Saint Paul said to the Philippians.
St. Peter in his own beautiful way teaches the faithful in plain and simple language. He says, "He (God) is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." Take notice that God wishes that none should perish, not that no one will perish. This is a subtle but significant difference. Sadly, the false message that has permeated the modern world and even the Church is that there is a universal salvation in Christ, and that one does not need to concern themselves with a religious life in order to go to heaven. Our salvation is guaranteed and thus we should spend our time here seeking the pleasures of the world. Nothing could be farther from the teaching of the gospel. In essence, the time that is provided to us is a sign of Godís mercy and kindness. This time here on earth should be spent, as the Prince of the Apostles states, "conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God." Even Jesus said to His disciples to, "strive to enter through the narrow gate; for many I tell you will try to enter, but will not be strong enough."
If one wishes to be healthy, he must exercise. If one wishes to be smart, he must study. So it is with the spiritual life. If one wishes to receive salvation, one must daily live in the spirit. This means living a life in conformity to the commandments of Christ and precepts of the Church. It means putting our faith into action with prayer, devotion, and the worship of God on the one hand, and service and charity to our neighbor and one another. The time given to us is precious and finite. We must prepare ourselves to enter through the narrow gate by works that show forth the liveliness of our faith.
Our Patron, St. John the Baptist, sums it up quite nicely when he cried out in the desert. He said, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths." The act of making straight His path is attentiveness to our spiritual lives, rooting out our sinful ways, and returning to the Lord with all our heart.
As we continue through this Advent, let us examine our lives and in particular our relationships to God and to one another. The sign of God's mercy is the time we have; and if we use it to draw closer to Him and each other, that divine mercy will continue from this life into the life to come.