Waiting with Mary and Joseph

Sunday, November 28th is the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new liturgical Church year.  Our Parish theme for Advent 2021 is Waiting with Mary and Joseph.

Staying awake can often be a challenge, especially when we are exhausted. Life’s demands have a way of zapping every last bit of energy out of us. When we are tired it affects us not only physically, but psychologically and spiritually as well. All of our senses are dulled and diminished. We can overlook details, become disinterested, lethargic and apathetic, and detached. Getting sufficient physical rest only helps so much. We need to be rejuvenated, refreshed, and reenergized in other ways. If we are psychologically exhausted, we need to understand what is draining our emotions and taxing our relationships. If we are spiritually tired, we need to find the necessary “shot in the arm” to put us back in touch with God. Unfortunately, exhaustion is seldom limited to just one part of who we are. When we lack energy and zeal it is usually the case that everything suffers. We not only are affected physically, but psychologically and spiritually as well. In short, when we run out of gas the engine stops.

And yet, our Lord’s directive is clear, “Be vigilant at all times.” Even Jesus knew what “the anxieties of daily life” can do to us. One day pours into another and time quickly flies by. Any one of us can take a moment and reflect on how many wonderful, creative opportunities we miss because there is always so much “stuff” to do and so little time to do it. Usually these are missed moments of love, and if we are missing love encounters we are also missing God. Sleepwalking through life, we check the boxes next to our list of “must and have to dos” and justify it all by convincing ourselves that tomorrow is another day and there’ll be more time. It may surprise us, but tomorrow is here, and time is running out. While we may like to believe that we have an “eternity” of time to do all those things that require the focus, energy, and desire we do not currently have, we don’t. We’re on a limited ride and time is short.

Jesus is also clear on another point. “That day [will] catch you by surprise like a trap.” If we are going to be judged on love and so easily justify not having all that much time to do so, then it seems we must shift focus a bit. St. Teresa of Calcutta tells us, “We desire to be able to welcome Jesus at Christmastime, not in a cold manger of our heart, but in a heart full of love and humility, a heart so pure, so immaculate, so warm with love for one another.” Getting to this place doesn’t “just happen.” It requires vigilance and discipline both with a knowledge of what is really of importance and what really needs to be the focus of our energy and time. Pray, starting now and not tomorrow, that we can stay alert, be strengthened in our faith, and prepared for whatever will come. Don’t miss another opportunity to love.

Give Thanks!

The pumpkins you see decorated and displayed on the windowsills with words of thanks are the creative idea of our Faith Formation 6th and 7th grade teachers: Sylvia Snigier and Joan Ricotta.  Their students designed and decorated these pumpkins with words of gratitude and love.

Thank you, students and teachers, for sharing this beautiful project with all the parishioners.

The Gift That Cost Us

“I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.”

 I have been a freelance reporter for regional and community papers for the past ten years. The majority of my work has been researching and composing human interest pieces, and those assignments have allowed me to witness and learn about the efforts of extraordinary people who are devoted to making their own corner of the world more beautiful, more just, and more loving.

 Many of these pieces, naturally, have focused on individuals of means who use their wealth to help others. But in contrast, I’ve also had the pleasure of writing about very ordinary people — those who really have no wealth to offer at all, or who are actually giving of themselves in spite of a scarcity of resources. Oftentimes the story I write has centered on their volunteer or community fundraising work, but sometimes it simply highlights a single act of sacrifice or kindness.

 The contributions of the wealthy people I have written about are noble, and I was (and am) very happy to highlight them. We should admire and emulate any act of charity or philanthropy. But if I’m being honest, theirs are not the names that linger in my memory. Theirs are not the stories that challenge me to look in the mirror and ask myself: am I giving until it hurts?

 When I wake up at the beginning of a long, demanding day, I usually feel completely unequal to what I know God will be asking of me. I have so little to give, I think. I have so little strength. In these hopeless moments, it is easy to explain away the obligation to give anything at all. Surely God doesn’t expect it of me. Surely He knows it would be too much to ask — too much love, too much patience, too much effort.

 In these moments, I call to mind the gifts I’ve written about that really cost the giver — and I almost never remember the million-dollar donations.

I remember the father who forgave his daughter’s murderer — not because it brought him peace, he told me, but because the murderer himself needed forgiveness. I remember the graphic designer who left the business he helped to found because of his partner’s insistence on taking an abortion clinic as a client. I remember the autistic man whose ministry offers fellowship and counsel to other autistic Catholics, even in the face of his own anxiety. I remember the young deacon with a stutter who found it difficult to preach but did so anyway because the Gospel must be shared, and he had a duty to share it.

And I always, always remember the families of our country’s veterans — the ones who came home and the one who did not.

 Today’s readings remind us that the gifts we offer to God from our poverty are far more precious than those we offer from our abundance. We can be talking about a poverty of money, a poverty of time, a poverty of patience, a poverty of goodwill, or even a poverty of faith. Whatever it is, we think we don’t have enough, so we think we have nothing to give. But how precious are the gifts that really cost us — the ones that we fear we cannot afford.

 How precious was the “small cupful” of the widow’s water, and the “bit of bread” she offered Elijah. How precious were the two small coins the widow gave at the temple. How precious was the last drop of blood that fell from the side of Christ as he hung from the cross. These were the gifts that meant everything.


Colleen Jurkiewicz Dorman