My dear friends,
Well, here we are. The Fourth Sunday of Advent has arrived. Whether in person or virtually on our YouTube Channel (still hard to believe we have a YouTube Channel), we have journeyed together throughout this season of preparation for the coming of Christ this Christmas. In many ways it is a journey and a calling home.
In the midst of all that we are going through this season, Advent is a joyful celebration of the condition we find ourselves in as Christians. It announces that God is always moving towards us. God is at work in the world and in our lives, ever creative and ever renewing. The Lord comes to us every day if we are properly disposed, in prayer, in events and in other people. Yes, even in the midst of a pandemic. God continues to create and to reveal his love for each of us.
The good news is that we are pilgrims on the move and are going home to God's house. The only worthwhile baggage to carry on that journey is good works and acts of loving service performed for Christ.
The liturgy invites us to allow this future hope to shape our present lives. It's an invitation to see our life as a preparation for the great call home. We have the assurance that in Christ God has opened up for us a future hope in a life beyond our time. What we need to do is find the time and space to stop, reflect and recognize the hope we have been given in Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is exactly what this pandemic has allowed us to do.
Without repentance, forgiveness and renewal there can be no real Christmas joy. Yes, there can still be joy this Christmas. While Christmas may be simpler and quieter this year, there is still joy to be found and lived out – in the revealing of God’s love for us in taking on our human flesh and becoming one of us in the form of a baby. All done in and out of love for each of us.
Please be assured of my continued prayers and know that we are very much united in prayer at every Mass I have the honour of celebrating with and for each of you.
May God continue to bless each of you and those that you love. Stay safe.
My dear friends,
As you may already know, I spent many years working in retail. In the midst of the busy Christmas shopping season I can recall around this time looking forward to it all being over – the craziness of the season. Christmas day would eventually come, and I was grateful that the day had finally arrived – because I knew that I made it through another season. Add on to that the fact that I had been listening to Christmas music in the store from the beginning of November and I will admit that I was done. Christmas day was a day of rest, and it all began again on Boxing Day. Yes, we would attend Christmas Mass together as a family, yet the true meaning of the season was somehow lost. This was the reality of my life. That was then, and this is now.
This year for some reason is especially different. Yes, the Christmas music has been on the radio since the beginning of November, yet I am in the car less these days, and in the shopping mall even less. While everything has changed and slowed down in the midst of the pandemic, somehow I am in awe that it is December the 12th, and I ask myself where has the year gone? Now, here we are, at the third Sunday of Advent, the midpoint of the season of preparation for the coming of Christ into our hearts at Christmas, and we speak of the rose candle of Joy. I ask myself what is it that I am feeling? Does joy come to my mind? Does joy come to your mind?
Just like the season of Lent all those months ago, this is a very different season of Advent. Yet there is something very different between the two. We are able to gather together at St. Julia for the celebration of Mass, the source and summit of our faith. For that reason, I feel a sense of joy. For us as disciples, it is at the Mass that we are fed with the Word of God and the Eucharist, the real presence of our Saviour, body, blood, soul, and divinity. It is what is keeping us going through these times, as people of hope, peace, love, and yes, joy. Some may be reading this thinking I have not been to Mass in nine months. Imagine that, nine months. Yet I know that you are home safe, longing to return to Mass. I rejoice in the fact that I know you are safe. I know that this too shall pass, and that one day we will all be one again at St. Julia. And that is what the Eucharist and Communion is – one – one with Christ.
Once again, I remind us not to dwell on the past or to worry about the future. That is a sure way to suck the joy out of the present moment. As Dr. Josephine Lombardi put it recently, worry is the thief of the present moment. When we live in the moment and count our blessings for what we have and the gift of our faith, we can live in the peace of Christ, the peace that Christ, and I, want for each and every one of you. We look forward to when we can all gather together as one. And in a more profound way, perhaps like never before, we wait with great expectation for the coming of Christ into our hearts this Christmas.
May we be ready to welcome our Saviour with open arms.
Please, please know of my continued prayers for your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, and may God continue to bless each of you and those that you love.
My dear friends,
Our Advent journey continues as we enter the second week of preparations for the coming of Christ into our hearts this Christmas. This past week many of the clergy of our diocese had the blessed opportunity to take part in a virtual Advent morning of recollection with Dr. Josephine Lombardi. Dr. Lombardi provided us with rich insights and reflections, drawing us into a deeper relationship with Christ and our Blessed Mother. This was time very well spent.
One question that Dr. Lombardi posed is that what we should ask ourselves is “What does it feel like to be in my presence?” In other words, when people are with me, either at home, or work, school, when they see me at the grocery store, or here at St. Julia, how do they feel? What are they thinking when they walk away? Or, what are they thinking when I am speaking, praying that they are listening to me? Dr. Lombardi said that they should sense our Lord. They should sense the fruits of the Spirit.
Taking the candles on our Advent wreath, when people are in my presence, do they feel a sense of hope? Do they leave with a sense of peace in their heart? Joy? Love? This is yet another opportunity and challenge. We know very well the challenges we are facing at this time – together – never alone. Yet we have an awesome opportunity to radiate what it is that we believe, and to radiate the one who dwells within us. That is our saviour, Jesus Christ.
Please know of my prayers for our continued health and safety, and may God bless each of you and those that you love.
The new liturgical church year begins this Sunday with ADVENT. If you were an early subscriber to our newsletter, you will recall that when you opened one of these first newsletters the word “HOPE” jumped off the page. Now here we are, and another season of Advent has come, it feels, out of nowhere. Just like Sacred Scripture, the living Word of God, this message of HOPE is alive, and one that I believe we need to hear as we navigate through these times together. Christ is our source of HOPE and continues to be our navigator.
To complete my studies in the seminary, my final comprehensive theological reflection paper was titled “Assistance During Difficult Times: Ministry of Providing Authentic Christian Hope.” It was in fact based on my summer here at St. Julia in 2015 when I was deacon. So, here is some bedtime reading on Hope.
Hope is the theme of the entire Bible. Both the Old and New Testaments are interwoven with anticipation of some future good, be it the end of a flood, deliverance from slavery, or the coming of the Messiah. This hope that we as Christians speak of refers to Christ, “our hope,” for it is our hope in God’s promise and the person of Jesus Christ that is the ground of hope, and is that which gives us hope. It is our very foundation. We read in Psalm 103:11 “as the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful.” This hope, given from God himself, stirs within the human that is positively grace; this hope is born of a gift, and as the theologian Anthony Kelly notes, “that gift is precisely the energies of God-given love.” This is the foundation of hope that is found in the entire Bible.
Jesus Christ is the foundation, the source, and the thrust of our faith, and it is in Jesus alone that we find our foundation for hope. What exactly is hope, Christian hope that is? As defined by Daniel Harrington, at its most basic level, hope is a desire accompanied by the possibility of (or belief in) its realization; thus hope has an object or focus, looks toward the future, and has some ground or basis in reality. Hope is faith and trust in the possibility of the not-yet which makes it worthwhile to live and be in the present; hope is what you make it, or better what you make of life. And the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines hope as “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” These are just a few of the rich definitions of Christian hope.
As we begin our Advent journey as a community of believers here at St. Julia, it is my prayer that this season be a time spiritual renewal and one filled with many blessings.
O come, O come, Emmanuel.
May God bless and keep safe each of you and those that you love,
That the 3rd Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday (Rejoice Sunday)? I will admit that I only captured the meaning of this Sunday in Advent when I entered the Seminary. The entrance antiphon of today’s Mass says “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near” Advent is a time of waiting, anticipation, a time for a deeply religious experience – a time of hope and renewal- a penitential time, preparing for the coming of the Lord. But today, Gaudete ("rejoice") Sunday addresses the joy of Christ’s coming. The time is near, and we should be prepared, but are joyful in anticipation of the great gift of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity coming to redeem us. As we are now at the midpoint of Advent, let us rejoice, and take comfort in knowing that our Lord is indeed near.
From Our Pastor