My dear friends,
Last Sunday I had the blessed opportunity to celebrate First Communion with eighteen of the children from our parish. I must say I am grateful we did as these celebrations are postponed indefinitely in our diocese. This is what these families needed. To gather together, in their church, as a family, in a service that was simple yet still beautiful. The focus was on one thing, or I should say one being, and that is Jesus. Communion. One. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote to the parents / guardians:
At your child’s baptism, you gave your child the greatest gift that you will ever give them – the gift of faith. You continue to nurture and feed that faith. Now the time has come to do exactly that – feed your child with the Body of Christ in the beautiful Sacrament of Communion.
Over this past year I have witnessed far too many special occasions in the life of the church that were either postponed or cancelled due to the church being closed or with limited capacity…I am blessed to care for the spiritual needs of this community – your spiritual home of St. Julia. And now is the time to care for your child, by bringing Christ to these young people who are excited and ready to receive Jesus for the first time. They have prepared extensively in their classroom at St. Peter Catholic Elementary School. I have practiced virtually with them and have assured them that I will guide them every step of the way!
And that is exactly what we did. They encountered Christ, the real presence of Jesus, body, blood, soul and divinity. And it was beautiful.
In the midst of these challenging, and perhaps dark times, the light of Christ guided these children and their families to come and be one with us. The Easter candle burned brightly, reminding us again of the light of Christ in our midst. Everyone left with a smile, under their mask of course, for this was a moment of joy for all of these families. It was a sign of hope.
As the parish community of St. Julia, let us pray for these families. May they hunger to return and be fed by the Body of Christ. May they feel welcomed, and loved. May the happiness the children experienced on the day of their First Communion be one they desire in their hearts every week. May the gift of faith given to them at baptism be reignited.
May each of too be guided by the light of Christ. May we too be people of hope, reminding ourselves that God has seen us through difficult times in the past, and that God too will see us through these times as well. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Once again, this weekend in our Gospel we will hear Jesus speak the words “Peace be with you.” May God continue to bless and protect each of you and those that you love, and may the peace of Christ be with you always.
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,
From Our Pastor