Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Throughout the Advent season, our hope, joy, and expectation has been increasing as we prepare that place in our hearts and homes for the Lord Jesus to occupy. He who was foretold by the prophets is truly drawing close to us, just as He drew close to the people who walked in darkness some 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. We began the season praying that the Lord would grant us the resolve to run forth to meet Christ with righteous deeds at His coming. To run to greet someone indicates a level of excitement and joy that demands our haste and all speed. That sense of excitement for the coming of Jesus is what we strive to cultivate during Advent. To allow that joy to grow, I hope you have had the chance to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, receiving the gift of God’s mercy and heeding the call of St. John the Baptist to repent. Thus prepared and eagerly expectant, we have been invited to turn toward the Lord. Now, in this last week of Advent, the Church invites us to go with Mary, to set out in haste with the joyful news of the Incarnation of the Lord on our lips.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was, we know, receptive to the message of the Angel Gabriel. When told the joyful news that she was to be the Mother of the Messiah, Mary responded with her free and total fiat, “Let it be done.” In addition to her own joyful news, Mary had also received the miraculous word that her cousin Elizabeth, long past the age for childbearing, was to give birth to a son. Mary set out in haste to visit, for her own joy was now a joy shared. She went with anticipatory joy: Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her pregnancy and the birth of John the Baptist would happen soon. She went with haste to perform righteous deeds: her cousin was much older and would need the help of young Mary. She went to announce joy and to share joy: “At the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leapt for joy,” “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
With Mary, we are invited this week to go out with haste, motivated by our joy that the birth of our Savior is drawing near. Let this be a week of concern for others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves. Let this be a week in which we strive to serve the people around us, reverencing their God-given dignity and helping them with joyful hearts. Let this be a week for sharing joy and spreading the good news of the Gospel. Our faith is a treasure, and the news of the birth of Jesus does so often get lost in the busyness of the season. We have an opportunity to gently share the true reason for our joy and to keep that anticipation at the forefront of our thoughts and actions. When Mary went out in haste to visit Elizabeth, she went also to help her cousin prepare for the birth of John. In this week, let us turn to Mary and ask for her intercession so that we, too, can prepare for the birth of Jesus anew in our hearts and world. And let us strive to help our friends, families, and each person that we meet to prepare that place to welcome the Savior.
Next Saturday, we will mark the great solemnity of Christmas. As you know, Christmas is often an occasion for homecoming. This is equally true for our biological families as it is for our parish family. At home, family members we have not seen in quite a while gather with us to celebrate. Likewise, at Mass, members of our community we have not seen in quite a while will gather with us. Christmas Masses – especially the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve – are a golden opportunity for us to welcome people home and invite them to continue to worship with us regularly. You will certainly see some unfamiliar faces sitting near your normal pew. Welcome them, greet them, introduce yourself to them, and so help them share the joy of Christmas and receive the invitation of the angels to come and adore. Overflow seating will be available in the Community Room for all Masses on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Unfortunately, we are not able to have a separate Mass in the school building as we have in years past – please pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood! With Christmas falling on a Saturday, I would also like to remind everyone that the following day, December 26, is Sunday. Our normal Sunday morning schedule will be followed, with Masses at 7:30 AM, 9 AM, 10:30 AM, and noon. The Sunday after Christmas is always the feast of the Holy Family. How beautiful that we can celebrate the Holy Family as we rejoice in welcoming members of our spiritual family home to worship and pray with us, and invite them to share that joy each Sunday.