Advent, Christmas and Spreading the Gospel
As we continue our Advent preparations and get closer to our celebration of the arrival of Christ our Savior at Christmas, it is a good time to reflect upon the challenge that we as believers have in participating in the New Evangelization called for by all of our recent Popes; Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Evangelization, as you know, is the spreading of the Gospel message of love and salvation to the world.
Amidst the often frantic pace of the Christmas season, it is traditionally also a time for getting together with family and friends. There is something about this festive season that seems to soften the human heart. One might say there is a special outpouring of God’s grace into the world. Because of this, we are offered a great opportunity to bring the Gospel message to those who may not normally be open to hearing it.
We don’t have to be as radical or as outspoken as John the Baptist, whom we see in the Gospel today. However, seeking to be reconciled with those from whom we have been sepa-rated, forgiving past hurts, extending true hospitality to those we do not normally get along with, generously sharing our material goods with the less fortunate - these are concrete ways that we can make the love of God known to others. In the end, proclaiming the Gospel is not just putting forth propositions to be believed as it is in making known to others the love of God in specific ways. This comes from the idea that our faith is not about belief in a series of doctrinal statements as much as it is belief in the person of Christ. It isn’t that the “what” or content of our faith isn’t important, but that the “what” is important only in reference to the “who” of our faith, which is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thus, in showing love to others we are showing to them Christ, who is Love. It is a most effective way to spread the Gospel. I hope and pray that the Lord comes into your hearts anew this Christmas; it is also my wish that you make the most of this chance to bring the love of God to others this Christmas. In doing so, you will not only be cooperating in a most important work of the Church, but also, I believe, opening yourself up to an even greater share in God’s love for yourselves.
God Bless You,
Father Joseph Byerley
Today we begin a new Church year by marking the time of spiritual preparation by the faithful before Christmas
called Advent. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (Nov. 30). It
spans four Sundays and four weeks of preparation (although the last week of Advent is usually shortened
because of when Christmas falls. For instance, this year, the fourth Sunday of Advent is on Sunday, and then
that evening is Christmas Eve.)
The celebration of Advent has evolved in the spiritual life of the Church. The historical origins of Advent are a
bit murky, with different regions in the Church having different celebrations each with their own emphasis.
The Church gradually more formalized the celebration of Advent. The Gelasian Sacramentary, traditionally
attributed to Pope St. Gelasius I (d. 496), was the first to provide Advent liturgies for five Sundays. Later,
Pope St. Gregory I (d. 604) enhanced these liturgies composing prayers, antiphons, readings, and responses.
Pope St. Gregory VII (d. 1095) later reduced the number of Sundays in Advent to four. Finally, about the
ninth century, the Church designated the first Sunday of Advent as the beginning of the Church year.
Despite the imprecise history behind Advent, the importance of this season remains and give us the opportunity
to focus on the coming of our Lord. (Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning coming.) The
Catechism stresses the two - fold meaning of this coming : When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent
each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation
for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming (No. 524). So on
one hand, we reflect back and celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s first coming into this world. We ponder
the great mystery of the incarnation when our Lord humbled Himself, taking on our humanity, and entered
our time and space to free us from sin. Then on the other hand, at the same time, we recall that our
Lord will come again to judge the living and the dead and that we must be ready to meet Him.
One of the most common symbols of Advent is the Advent Wreath. The wreath is in the shape of a circle,
without a beginning or end. By this we call to mind how our lives, here and now, participate in the eternity
of God’s plan of salvation and how we hope to share eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The wreath is
made of fresh plant material, symbolizing how Christ came to give us new life through His passion, death,
and resurrection. Three candles are purple, symbolizing penance, preparation, and sacrifice; the pink candle
symbolizes the same but highlights the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, when we rejoice because
our preparation is now half - way finished. The lighted candles themselves represent Christ, who entered this
world to scatter the darkness of evil and show us the way of righteousness. The progression of lighting candles
shows our increasing readiness to meet our Lord.
It would be wonderful if each family have an Advent wreath, light it at dinner time, and say the special prayers.
This tradition will help each family keep its focus on the true meaning of Christmas. During Advent we
strive to fulfill the opening prayer for the Mass of the First Sunday of Advent: Father in Heaven,…increase
our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of His coming may
find us rejoicing in His presence and welcoming the light of His truth.
Have a happy and blessed Advent,
Father Joseph Byerley
Many, many thanks to all who came out and supported the 96th Annual Saint Rose of Lima Christmas Bazaar – wow 96 years - can you believe it?! It was a great success once again; in fact it was the best ever! It was also a wonderful prelude to the Christmas season. The tally is still being totaled, but the final benefit to the school and parish will be excellent. I wish to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to all of our chairpersons and volunteers who made this year’s Christmas Bazaar very successful once again. It’s hard to really count up days, weeks and the hours and hours that so many of our people put in to make this such a great event as always. I thank you all and may God bless you!
Congratulations to our Winners!
The winner of the Walt Disney Family Vacation voucher was Kelly McAneny
The Grand Slam 50/50 winners are:
- $2181.50 - Joanne Altamuro
4th prize - $2181.50 - Alexis Geyer
3rd prize - $2181.50 - Amy Ezekiel
2nd prize - $2181.50 - Jolene Sparano
1st prize - $ 13,089.00 - Eileen Fisher
We can always learn new perspectives on prayer. Pope Emeritus Benedict shows us how the Blessed Mother can help us in our prayer. Meditation isn’t just for the Saints, it is for us all and it is fundamentally simple and uncomplicated. I hope this reflection is beneficial to you.
God bless you,
Father Joseph Byerley
Today, I do wish to speak about meditation. And what is meditation? It means to "remember" all that God has done and not to forget all his benefits (cf. Psalm 103:2b). Often, we see only the negative things. We also need to hold in our memory the good things, the gifts that God has given us; we need to be attentive to the positive signs that come from God, and remember these. Therefore, we are speaking about a kind of prayer that the Christian tradition calls "mental prayer." We are more familiar with vocal prayer, and naturally the mind and heart must also be present in this prayer, but today we are speaking about a meditation that does not involve words, but that is rather a making contact of our mind with the heart of God.
And here Mary is a true model. The Evangelist Luke repeats numerous times that Mary, for her part, "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (2:19; cf. 2:51). She keeps them; she does not forget. She is attentive to all that the Lord has said and done to her, and she ponders; that is, she makes contact with diverse things -- she dwells deeply upon them in her heart.
In our own time, we are absorbed with so many activities and commitments, concerns and problems. Often, we tend to fill up all the spaces of the day, without having a moment to stop and reflect and to nourish our spiritual life -- our contact with God. Mary teaches us how necessary it is to find in our days -- with all its activities -- moments to recollect ourselves in silence and to ponder all that the Lord wants to teach us, how He is present and acts in the world and in our life: to be able to stop for a moment and meditate. St. Augustine likens meditation on the mysteries of God to the assimilation of food, and he uses a word that recurs throughout the Christian tradition: "ruminate." The mysteries of God should continually resound within us so that they might become familiar to us, guide our life, and nourish us as happens with the food that is neces-sary to sustain us. And St. Bonaventure, referring to the words of sacred Scripture, says that they "should al-ways be ruminated on so as to be kept in mind by the ardent application of the soul".
To meditate therefore means to create within ourselves an atmosphere of recollection, of interior silence, so as to reflect upon and assimilate the mysteries of our faith, and all that God is doing in us -- and not only the things that come and go. We can "ruminate" in many ways; for instance, by taking a short passage of sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostle's Letters, or a page from a spiritual author we are drawn to and which makes the reality of God in our today more present, perhaps taking advice from a confessor or spiritual director; by reading and reflecting on what we've just read, pausing to consider it, seeking to understand it, to understand what it says to me, what it says today -- to open our soul to all that the Lord wants to say to us and teach us.
The holy rosary is also a prayer of meditation: In repeating the Hail Mary we are invited to think back and to reflect upon the mystery we have announced. But we can also dwell upon some intense spiritual ex-perience, on the words that have remained with us from our participation in the Sunday Eucharist. You see, therefore, there are many ways of meditating and of thereby making contact with God -- of drawing near to God, and in this way, of being on the road to heaven.
Dear friends, consistency in giving time to God is a fundamental element for spiritual growth; it will be the Lord Himself who gives us a taste for His mysteries, His words, His presence and action, to feel how beautiful it is when God speaks with us. He will make us understand in a more profound way what He wants of us. In the end, this is the goal of our meditation: to entrust ourselves ever more to the hands of God, with trust and love, certain that, in the end, it is only in doing His will that we are truly happy.
I have just returned from a very beautiful pilgrimage to Spain, Portugal, and France. It was filled with many blessings; I was fortunate to have visited some amazing places and shrines. I remembered you, the wonderful parishioners of Saint Rose of Lima at every Mass and especially at Lourdes and Fatima where I was blessed to be able to concelebrate Mass at the actual spots where the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary took place.
One of the things that I was reminded of as I visited these holy places where the Blessed Mother appeared was some common themes that these apparitions shared. Whether it was the humble shepherd children of Fatima or the poor country girl, Saint Bernadette, Mary seems to choose those whom the world finds insignificant to deliver a very significant message. This also is seen in the Blessed Mother’s apparitions to Saint Juan Diego in Guadalupe. It is a humble and simple heart that can respond so much better to Our Lady and to her Son, Jesus, than a sophisticated one. This humble and simple heart that Jesus speaks of so often is the one we need to always be striving for if we are going to make any real spiritual progress.
Whether it was Lourdes or Fatima about sixty years later, there were three things that Mary stressed at both places: penance, prayer for sinners, and the Rosary.
Mary asked repeatedly to those to whom she appeared to undertake penance for sinners. We are to do penance in reparation for sins. And we must believe that, if we can take the word of Our Lady, which I am sure we can, consciously “offering up” of penances and sufferings really does matter. It isn’t some old fash-ioned idea that was made up to keep us docile, but truly contributes to the salvation of others. It makes sense too, considering what Saint Paul states in his letter to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24).
Not only do our sufferings offered up in reparation for sins spiritually benefit others; our Blessed Mother was also insistent that we are to also pray for sinners. Although we ourselves are sinners and in need of other’s prayers for ourselves, our prayers for our fellow sinners brings down graces to them that they would never receive if we were not praying for them. This mutual benefit of praying for each other, as sinners, is a humble recognition that our disobedience of God’s laws matters. That is, what we do or don’t do matters greatly in our eternal lives and that we need God’s grace and mercy to advance spiritually.
Finally, Mary strongly encouraged (in fact, essentially mandated) to Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia in Fatima and to Bernadette in Lourdes, to pray the Rosary daily. Meditating on the mysteries of Christ in the Rosary and offering this special prayer to Jesus through Mary, His Mother, is one of the most powerful prayers that exists. Since the month of October is the month of the Rosary, it would be a wonderful time for all of us to rediscover the beauty and the power of the Rosary. We have our Lady’s word and innumerable historical events that confirm that the short time that it takes to pray the Rosary profits us with incredible spiritual benefits.
God bless you,
Father Joseph Byerley