4th Sunday of Advent/Christmas Eve Mass Obligation

Photograph of Father Peter PatrickThis is an unusual year for the Liturgical Calendar.  Christmas falls on a Monday, so Christmas Eve is on Sunday.  That means we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent with our usual Masses:  the Saturday December 23rd Mass of Anticipation at 4:30 pm and Sunday morning Masses December 24th at 8:30 am and 11:00am.  That same day, we celebrate Christmas Vigil Masses at 4:30 pm and Midnight Mass at 12:00 am.  It will be a full day!  It’s now that we need to remind ourselves of the 3rd Commandment:  “Remember to keep holy the LORD’S Day.”  Also the 1st precept of the Church; “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.  We must “sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord” (Sunday), as well as the principal feast days, known as Catholic holy days of obligation.  This requires attending Mass, “and … resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.”

On Monday, the Mass of Christmas Day will be celebrated at 10:00 am.  We need good planning on that weekend.  I know it will be tempting to skip the morning Mass on December 24, but I encourage you to celebrate the Liturgical Year in all its fullness.  The readings and liturgical prayers for the 4th Sunday of Advent are important to set up the full joy of Christmas.  We should see this day not as a burden, but as an opportunity to spend a really holy day with the Lord, whose Paschal Mystery begins with the Incarnation.  The long-expected Messiah finally comes into the world to announce the Good News that God will redeem the world.

Have a blessed Advent Season!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Peter Patrick

 

 

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Gratitude and Forgiveness – A Parishioner Reflection

Father Solanus Casey, the humble Capuchin Friar and simplex priest, who was canonized on November 18, 2017, in Detroit, said: “Poor humanity’s sorrow—ingratitude. Humanity’s outstanding weakness seems to be a thoughtless want of appreciation for the uncountable blessing by which Almighty God is surrounding it. . . .”  Until recently, we in the United States have been particularly fortunate.  However, the hateful language of the past couple of years, especially during the election campaigns and the vindictiveness of protestors and counter-protestors all over the country has changed the conversation and has taken our country in an entirely different direction.  The terrifying events of the last several weeks. . .the lone gambler in Las Vegas who planned, apparently for a whole year, his attack on a group of strangers . . .sitting in a comfortable hotel room pouring bullets down on people he couldn’t even distinguish, killing 59, and injuring more than 500 others—the disaffected 29 year old immigrant admitted under the “Diversity Visa Program” who plotted for months for his rampage in a rented truck through a shade bike path in New York, killing as many runners, walkers and cyclists he could.  Total strangers all . . .shouting for the glory of “his God”. . . then the disturbed young veteran who took his guns to a rural church in Texas killing 26 men, women and children, and wounding at least twenty more. . . returning to his vehicle where more guns were stored to continue!  Lately, a suicide bomber in New York City who, fortunately, was not successful in a plan to kill many.

At least two of these events are directly connected with a radical version of Islam which is a complete distortion of the peaceful religion established centuries ago by Prophet Mohammed. Hate breeds hate, breeds more hate.  Only love extended to God and to neighbor wherever the neighbor is found, can change all of that.  The disastrous acts we are experiencing in the United States and Canada now are the kinds of events people in other parts of the world have been suffering throughout the centuries.  The goals of our forefathers were to change all that; they left home and loved ones, fought and died to achieve the freedom we have so long cherished.  We must return to those goals; we must pray for our country and we must love our God and our neighbor regardless of the color of his/her skin, rich and poor, schooled and unschooled, religious and irreligious.

Again, there is the tragic case of a Pakistani Catholic Christian woman, Asiya Noreen Bibi, better known as Asia Bibi.  In June of 2009, she was harvesting berries in a field near her native village in Punjab, Pakistan with other women.  An argument broke out. One accused her of blaspheming Prophet Mohammed, a charge she vigorously denied.  Asia was arrested and jailed. Her case was heard in the local District Court.  In November of 2010, she was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.  An overflow crowd in the courtroom roared approval, shouting: “Kill her! Kill her! Kill her!”  Asia has been in jails in various locations since 2009.  Petitions have been filed from all over the world in her behalf.  Pope Benedict XVI, called for dismissal of the charges.  Many Muslim leaders called for her release.  Two Pakistani leaders championed her case– a Christian minister, Shahbaz Bhai, and a Muslim politician, Salmaan Taseer, were assassinated for their efforts in her behalf.  Hate breeds hate!

Asia is married and a mother of five children.  From her cell last year at Easter, she composed a prayer: “Resurrected Lord, allow your daughter Asia to rise again with you.  Break my chains, make my heart free and go beyond those bars, and accompany my soul so that it is close to those who are dear to me, and that it remains always near you.  Do not abandon me in the day of trouble, do not deprive me of your presence.  You who have suffered the tortures of the cross, alleviate my suffering.  Hold me near you Lord Jesus.  On the day of your resurrection, Jesus, I want to pray for my enemies, for those who hurt me.  I pray for them and I beg you to forgive them for the harm they have done me.  I ask you, Lord, to remove all obstacles so that I may obtain the blessing of freedom.  I ask you to protect me and protect my family.”

Hate breeds hate!  Only love can save us and our fellow human beings.  Can we not remember the need for gratitude and forgiveness in our daily lives, and put aside the small slights and humiliations that come to all of us?  Can we not listen respectfully to the ideas and beliefs of those who see things differently?  Can we not reach out to neighbor and stranger with the gentleness and hope of Asia?  MMD.

Be Watchful – Fr. Dennis’ Homily for December 3, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxAdvents come and go, but there is one I will never forget.  It was the first Advent I spent in the Dominican Republic.  The only hint that Christmas was just around the corner was the string of color lights Rosa Parks put up on her store.  There was an absence of Christmas sales, Black Friday sales and the constant barrage of Christmas advertising.  No one in Sabana Yequa decorated the outside of their house; mainly because they were too poor to waste their money on non-essentials.  It was an Advent spent without all the hustle and bustle that is so much a part of our experience.  I found a stillness in that uncluttered time—a time to look within myself—a time to care for the inner home.

The Prophet Isaiah announced, “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:3).”  God is always at work within us and around us.  He is like a potter and we are the clay.  He is forming and shaping us into thAe person He is creating.  In God’s eye we still are unfinished creatures.  St. John in his first letter states, “What we shall be has not yet been revealed…when it is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).”  We think because we cannot see Him that He is far from us and that He resting.  We cannot see love.  We only see the effects of love, and so it is with God.  In the stillness of the soul we will find God creating and loving us.

We are the gatekeepers of our souls.  Jesus asks us to be watchful because we do not know when the Master will return.  The question is, “What have we let into our souls?”  Surely we do not want to welcome the following guests into our souls:  anger, pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony and sloth?  These will muddle the voice of God and we will not hear the soft whispering of our Lord.  We can overcome those unwelcome guests because we have the power to do so.  St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians states, “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift, (1 Cor. 1:3a).”  We have the grace to clean the inner home of our souls so as to ready it for the Master’s return.  We wait in joyful expectation for His coming home to us.

Advent is a time in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season when we need to return to the stillness that lies within each of us.  It is a time to embark on a journey in which every moment, every step is a new revelation of God’s presence in our midst.  The interesting fact of this journey is that God is both the road by which we must travel and the destination of our journey.  It is a journey of waiting for God to reveal Himself in our waiting to be healed, in our waiting to forgive, in our waiting to let go.  Waiting is a responsibility of being a gatekeeper and we are the gatekeepers of our souls.  It is in the stillness of the soul that we come to know what the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are the potter: we are all the work of your hands.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis