Dear friends on the journey,
Waiting and watching. This seems to sum up 2020. For months now, we have been hunkered down, watching the worldwide devastation of Covid, government and medical leaders’ response, and the reaction of our community. We’ve been waiting for the all-clear to go out again only to be tugged back in, for a cure and vaccine, and for life to return to normal. I can just imagine a world of mask-less huggers partying for days! With patience and hope, this day will arrive. Of this, I’m confident.
How might we be better for this long season of pandemic waiting and watching? It’s something to ponder as we enter into a real season of waiting and watching ... Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent literally means “coming,” the coming of Jesus at Christmas. We know full well these four weeks are not about the gift buying, decorating, parties, stressing, cleaning, and hustling. Don’t get me wrong, these can be joy-filled and fun, but I think we can get trapped by it all. I found that I can enjoy it more when the perceived necessity of getting it all done goes away and simply revel in the light of the truth of the Incarnation, the coming of God to us on earth in the person of Jesus as well as celebrate Jesus’ presence now and his coming again.
A casualty of Covid may very well be the distracting hustle and bustle of Christmas preparation. I hope. Perhaps this Advent can truly be a season of waiting and watching with hope, love, joy, and peace. Just maybe this Advent can truly be the fourweek journey of preparing or freshening up the home in our heart for Jesus. How can we prepare our hearts? How can we really embrace the gift that is Advent? I believe we’ll find it in the intentional slowing down and looking inward to take stock of our readiness for the “Lord of the house” (Mk 13:25) to come.
I hope you consider using one or some of the following Advent resources to aid you on your spiritual journey of waiting and watching: www.padreserra.org/advent:
Of the 102 colonists who came across the Atlantic to the North America, only 53, just over half, survived that first year to bring in a harvest. More than anything else, this one fact tells us that the first Thanksgiving participants celebrated in spite of terrible suffering, hunger, losses and heartache. Yet, they still found room in the hearts for gratitude. It really is extraordinary.
We’ve had our own horrible year. I don’t need to remind you of everything, between pandemic and politics that we have been through. We’ve all lived through this together. Can we be as exceptional as the Mayflower passengers, finding our own reasons for celebrating what God has done for us? I know that we can!
For myself, I am endlessly grateful for everyone in the medical field. I have been cheering on and praying for researchers seeking vaccines and cures from the beginning. The brave souls who work with the sick have a most tender place of gratitude in my heart.
I have no end of appreciation for the staff of the parish who have worked so heartily, whether in their offices or from their homes, to continue our mission of encountering Jesus and serving as His disciples. Under extraordinarily tough circumstances, they do so very much to keep us together, to provide liturgies, both in person and online, to serve the needs of our children, to offer us support in our ministries and to provide us adult faith formation opportunities.
Our volunteers, sacristans, lectors, ushers, cantors, musicians, tech crew, and Eucharistic ministers have taken a hard situation and made it an amazingly beautiful experience. Who could have known that we could enjoy Mass outside as much as we have?
I am reminded by the many parishioners who serve in the military just how blessed we are that there are so many good people willing to sacrifice and serve to protect us, our country, and the values that make America a great nation.
I am grateful, in a most profound way, for the parishioners who have continued, in this stressful time, to support the parish financially. We have been weathering this storm with your amazing and much appreciated support. From my heart, I thank you!
And then there are the many small things. I am grateful for the pleasure of autumn chill in the air, the first rain, the sound of children playing on the east side of the parish campus during their recess, the hard work of teachers and parents helping children grow in knowledge and faith.
I am grateful for cooking adventures in the kitchen, the smell of onions and garlic sautéing in a frying pan, the heat of a tasty chili pepper, the taste and texture of cheese – oh how I am grateful for cheese.
I am grateful for a good book, a warm cup of chai tea, whitened with milk, for a lit fireplace when it is chilly outside, and for my favorite playlists of gentle, uplifting music.
I am grateful for my comfortable beach chair, for time on cliffs looking down on the Pacific, for pelicans and porpoises, for sea gulls and sunshine on water.
I am grateful for socially distanced dinners in backyards of friends, for any picnic, for tuna salad sandwiches with tomatoes, for a glass of wine with good conversation.
I am grateful for breath, and touch, and taste and sight, and sound and scent – how can I ever be grateful enough for any of these?
This past week was a busy and blessed one for our parish! On November 14, Ron Spooner, a baptized Christian, was received into the Church, confirmed, and joined us at the table of the Eucharist for the first time. On November 17, eleven of our Elect were fully initiated through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion: Vivian Aldapa, Dan Armitage, Adrian Avalos, Aubriella Avalos, Christian Conley, Shane Conley, Leah Cowans, Lindsey Cowans, Lily Kirksey, David Mitchell, and Christopher Thompson. On November 18, Jim Ramey was also fully initiated. We warmly welcome them all and thank God for their presence among us and the gifts they bring to our parish.
We can learn a great deal by watching young children. They are born with unconditional love and an unburdened innocence that allows them to dream without boundaries. They continue to shape their own individuality as they mature into teens and young adults. Parents observe with love as aptitudes such as artist, writer, listener, or advocate form their lives’ mission. Our children ultimately find within themselves talents that can yield big results in their chosen occupations, relationships, or ministerial roles. Some are learned but I believe most are attributed to what God has given each of us as gifts waiting to be shared.
In today’s Gospel we hear the parable of the talents. Three are provided an opportunity to grow what has been given them. Two achieve this while the third decides to accept openly what has been entrusted to him but chooses to bury it. His choice has deep personal ramifications while also limiting the growth otherwise available to others. Not unlike this parable, our own decisions and actions with small matters can indeed impact us personally as well as others we encounter.
Each of us should return to what has allowed young children to dream and develop their talents openly. We must pay close attention to small matters that can mean so much in how we support our loved ones and neighbors in need, but we cannot do it alone. Everyone has a responsibility to share his or her God given gifts. Doing so can ensure that topics we personally find most difficult to achieve or face also get the attention they deserve.
I like to think of the sum of our lives’ possibilities as a yardstick. We likely will only have enough time, talent, or treasure in our own lifetime to address just one inch of the overall thirty-six. The good news is that each of us can make a difference with our portion. Equally important is that though we are all created in the image and likeness of God, we are given individual abilities and talents. Our contribution of God’s love to the world is therefore an opportunity to grow in wisdom and holiness as inch after inch continues to build.
Can Christmas still change the world? The Christmas story is a story of love, hope, redemption and relationship. So, what happened? How did it turn into stuff, stress and debt? Along the way the best story in the world... has become a story of what's on sale.
Hello Parish Family,
We’ve all heard it, patience is a virtue. When we have this virtue, we are able to see things with clarity. We are not bound but what is happening in the present, but rather, through patience we gain in wisdom.
It’s not a coincidence that wisdom is one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is through wisdom that we have the ability to see things beyond our mortal lens. Through wisdom, we are able to see with the same sight of our loving God.
When we go into this Sunday’s gospel, we see the difference between the wise and the foolish. The foolish brought no oil for their lamps, only focusing on the present (gas cans are heavy, I understand). The wise were well prepared, knowing that their path to the bridegroom would be more clear with a little more effort and understanding on who the bridegroom is.
Now, I’m not an advocate for the anxiety about the future. When we trust in our Creator, our Bridegroom, we know that His time is different than ours. If we live our lives knowing the possibility that our God may present Himself, it should actually bring peace, not anxiety.
In the same way that we should fill up our gas tank when the light goes off (I have been known to play the gas game and have failed multiple times), it simply is better to fill up your gas tank and have some reserved for a long drive. No one should ever try to calculate the exact amount of gas to put in your car for a destination, it is reckless. You don’t know when the next gas station will pop up on a long trip.
So friends, though the future may be scary, we can always find excuses to be anxious. Our God asks us the opposite. Find peace in Him. Don’t be constantly be worried about where you will encounter God, but rather, wait in joyous anticipation for the times that He will be there. We can add to that peace when we live lives in anticipation for our bridegroom.