Dear friends on the journey,
Jesus is of the past, the present and the future. We know from scripture that he has already come into our world in history and that he will come again at the end of time, though we do not know when. But every Advent is a time to renew ourselves to welcome Jesus in the present, at Christmas when he comes to dwell in our homes, consciousness, and hearts.
As I read today’s gospel, I was struck by Luke’s use of the words drunkenness and anxieties, things that cause drowsiness and keep us from being alert. Recently I heard a simplistic explanation of depression and anxiety: depression looks to the past while anxiety looks to the future. Drunkenness, or any substance or addiction, masks the pain of our past. Anxiety thrusts us into the future worrying about things that have not happened yet and may not ever occur. Both keep us from living in the present, the only time we truly have.
The Advent season is our opportunity to embrace the present. Stillness helps us to pay attention to where Jesus is active in our lives. Who or what has he set in your path as a messenger? Stillness allows us to be attentive to the stirrings of our hearts and minds. What might God be calling you to right now? Stillness affords us the opportunity to engage our whole being and senses to see the kindness in people, hear the music and sounds around us, feel the breeze on our skin, smell the seasonal scents, and taste the goodness of food and drink. Who or what needs your attention this week?
Our parish offers many ways to be present in our relationship with God, to ready our hearts and homes, and to simply enjoy the season. On this first Sunday of Advent, I invite you to consider one or two of these spiritual activities:
It just might be possible that you’re too worn out for gratitude, but I hope not. It’s my sincere hope that you are filled with gratitude, and empowered by it. Why?
First of all, gratitude is a biblical value. The psalmist proclaimed, “Oh Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks (Psa 30:12), and repeatedly commanded us to be grateful (30:2; 107:1; 118:1; etc.), as did the prophets Isaiah (Isa 12:4; 38:19) and Daniel (3:8990). The Israelite people gave thanks for all God had done for them (1 Chron 16:8). Paul thanked God for the faith of the Roman Christians (Rom 1:8), for the grace given to the Corinthians (1 Cor 1:4), for the the joy he experienced when remembering the Philippians (Phil 1:3), and for the love and faith of Philemon (Philem 4).
Jesus was moved by the gratitude of the Samaritan who, healed of his leprosy, fell at His feet, giving thanks (Luke 17:16). In the moment of greatest intimacy with us, before offering Himself on the cross, Jesus picked up a cup, gave thanks, and invited us to share in His blood of the covenant (Matt 26:27).
Why would the Scriptures both model gratitude and then require it from us? Well, as we pray at every Mass, when invited to “give thanks to the Lord our God,” it is “right and just.” Our lives are filled with blessings, if we look for them, and it’s right that we recognize that. It’s also just that we lift up our voices and hearts to say as much. So, gratitude is at the heart of the prayer of the church since the earliest recorded Eucharistic Prayer of St. Hippolytus 1,800 years ago.
Beyond being right and just, it is also good for us. This is no surprise. God always wants the good for us. If only we’d cooperate with God’s plan for our happiness! So what is the evidence of this? Well, if you want to be a happier person, have increased sense of wellbeing, live with positive feelings, have an increased sense of your own value, then live in gratitude. The social scientists tell us that this is true.
If you want people to like you, have more romance in your life, be closer to your friends, enlarge your circle of friends and strengthen your closeness with your family, even in stressed times, then live in gratitude. If you want to have a more optimistic outlook, to improve your spiritual outlook, to increase your generosity, and to move beyond materialism, then live in gratitude. If you want to manage your home and business more effectively, to move beyond impatience, to find deeper meaning in your work, and to improve your mental outlook while at work, then live in gratitude. If you’re trying to move beyond depression, to improve your blood pressure numbers, to have better sleep, to have more energy for exercise, and to improve your general health and wellbeing, then live in gratitude.
All of these benefits of gratitude are amply tested and proven in one study after another.
1998 - 2021
Saturday, December 4, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
Griffin Family Funeral Home
1935 - 2021
Friday, November 19, 2021
5:00 to 8:00 pm
Griffin Family Funeral Home - Camarillo
Saturday, November 20, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
Burial will be in Wisconsin
Two days at the beginning of this month set the tone for our spiritual practice. On November 1, All Saints’ Day, we celebrate all those who have gone before us rejoicing in the Lord’s presence, interceding for us, and giving us an example of how to live holy lives. We also call to mind the saints among us who are still living who also pray for us and with us, and inspire us. The next day, November 2, we commemorate All Souls, praying for God’s infinite mercy on all those we have lost.
The church’s focus on death and resurrection, and on the last days of creation before the Second Coming of Christ permeates the Scripture readings at this time of year as well. In today’s readings, we first hear in the reading from Daniel that there shall be “a time unsurpassed in distress” but that “your people shall escape”. We are told that “the wise shall shine brightly… and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars…” Then, in hopeful faith, we sing from Psalm 16 “You are my inheritance, O Lord”.
In Mark’s gospel, we hear a lot of apocalyptic imagery juxtaposed with reassurance. Jesus tells his disciples of tribulation and cosmic disturbances, but “then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky…when you see these things happening, know that he is near…”
I don’t know about you, but I feel an uneasy tension in all these readings between the warnings and the reassurances. Many have grappled with the question of God’s infinite mercy vs. God’s infinite justice. I am not aware of any that have resolved the question definitively. Like much in our faith, there is mystery here. What can we do but try to embrace it? What can we do but trust in God’s mercy while we do our best (and repeatedly fail anyway) to become holy, to become just? It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that even the saints were not perfect.
The second reading from Hebrews tells us “But this one [Jesus Christ] offered one sacrifice for sins…For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.” We are told earlier in the letter to the Hebrews (proclaimed at Mass a few weeks ago) that Jesus, our High Priest, is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses.” Why? Because he “has similarly been tested in every way, yet
And, brothers and sisters, we have each other. It is in community that we “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” and yet with assurance.
1942 - 2021
Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
Burial following Mass
Santa Clara Cemetery
Dear Parish Family,
Today’s readings remind and challenge us to be generous, all is given to us by our God. When we share what we have (time, talent and treasures), our Lord blesses it once again, and multiples it.
In the first reading a widow shares what little she has with Elijah, and she is rewarded with abundance. In the gospel, Jesus observes the poor widow who generously gives what little she has to the treasury. What is giving and generosity all about? Is it about how much money we have? Certainly not, it's not about the monetary value of what we give, but more of the value of which we ourselves give it.
The two coins the widow gave may be insignificant in monetary value to most, but for the woman, it is all she possessed. This is why it was much more valuable than those who gave of their excess.
The reminder to be generous is not just about money; we are to give of ourselves too in our time and in our talents. What is our contribution to building God’s Kingdom? When we give and do for others we are doing it for our God. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matt. 25:40
Let us think of some of the great saints’ lives as an example, such as St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who gave her life to Christ in countless small ways. She lived within the walls of her convent and had little interaction with the world. Therefore, from a worldly perspective, she gave very little and made little difference. However, today she is considered one of the greatest doctors of the Church thanks to the small gift of her spiritual autobiography and the witness of her life. Doing little things with great love.
The same may be able to be said of us. In our busyness with what seems to be small and insignificant daily tasks, like cooking, cleaning, caring for the family and the like occupies our days. Or perhaps our employment takes up most of what we do each day. We may feel we have little time left for “great” things offered to Christ. The question is really this: How does God see our daily service?
Even if we feel that we are not called or able to do “great things” from a public and worldly perspective, or may not even be visible within the Church. Yet God sees the daily acts of love we do in the smallest of ways. Embracing our daily duties, loving our family, friends and neighbors, offering daily prayers, etc., are treasures that we can offer God every day. He sees these and, most importantly, He sees the love and devotion with which we do them. So do not give in to a false and worldly notion of greatness.
Do small things with great love and you will be
giving an abundance to God in service of His holy will.
Let us be generous like our God is generous with us.
Faith Formation Minister