THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT



My surgery to remove the upper right side of my lung will be on December 19th. Please remember me that day in your prayers. I should be home by Christmas Eve.
Decorating Sunday is December 23. Please come and help decorate our church on that day. Remember, many hands make light work.
The sign-up sheets for the ministers of the word and ministers of communion and altar servers are in the sacristy. Please sign your name if you belong to these ministries.
Rehearsal for the Christmas Pageant is on December 22 at 10:30. If you wish to be in the play, please attend this rehearsal. It is the only one.
Christmas Masses
Christmas Eve – 5, 7, 9:30 and midnight
Christmas Day – 9:30 and 11:30

New Year’s Masses (Please remember that New Year’s Day is a holy day of obligation for all Catholics)
New Year’s Eve – 5
New Year’s Day – 9:30 and 11:30

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I regret not being with you this year, but the surgery is important and needs to be done as soon as possible. There will be many more Christmases after this one. So, have a good one this year and I will see you soon!
Why did thousands come out to hear John the Baptist preach? And what was so unusual about his message? When John the Baptist appeared on the public scene and began to prophesy the whole nation of Israel took notice. It had been many hundreds of years since a prophet had spoken out and performed signs in the land of Israel. John broke the long silence with the sudden announcement that the Messiah (God's Anointed One) was about to appear. God had long ago promised his people through the patriarchs of the old covenant (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), and through the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, etc.) and rulers of Israel (Moses, David), that he would send them a Redeemer who would save them from their sins, free them from oppression, fill them with the joy of his presence (Zephaniah 3:17), and bring them his everlasting kingdom of peace and righteousness. The people recognized that John was an extraordinary man of God and a true prophet who spoke in God's name. They came out to hear the "good news" (Luke 3:18) which he preached to them. And they willingly submitted to his baptism of repentance at the River Jordan where he preached. John's task was to wake people up from spiritual sleep and indifference, and to turn them back to hear God's voice and obey his commandments. John wanted the people to be in a good place to receive the Messiah and follow him.
Luke mentions two groups in particular who came to John for spiritual renewal - tax collectors and Jewish soldiers who belonged to the Roman peace-keeping force. Both groups were regarded as being spiritually unfit and unclean by the Jewish authorities and were treated as outcasts. John welcomed them with open arms along with all the multitude of people who came to hear the "good news" and be baptized in the cleansing waters of the River Jordan. John's message of renewal and repentance was very practical. He told the people three things: First, every follower of God must share what they possess (their personal goods and resources) with their neighbors, especially with those who lacked the basic necessities of life. John recognized that this was a key duty for every individual and an outward expression of the great commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself (Leviticus 19:18).
Second, John pointed out the sacred duty to give each and every person what is their due and to not take from them what rightfully belongs to them. God commands that each person be treated with respect and that honor be given where honor is due. John told the tax collectors that they must not coerce people to pay more tax money than what was rightfully due. (Tax collectors often made handsome profits for themselves by overcharging other people.) John instructed soldiers to not abuse their authority or power to compel people to give or do things for them beyond what was rightful and their due. (It was not uncommon for soldiers to abuse their position to force people to carry their heavy equipment for them or to rob them of their goods.) John did not tell them to leave their profession, but to be good, honest, and respectful soldiers.
And thirdly, John exhorted his listeners to be content with what they had and to avoid coveting (wrongfully desiring or acquiring) what belonged to others. John basically called the people to turn back to God and to walk in his way of love and righteousness
John's baptism was for repentance - turning away from sin and taking on a new way of life according to God's word. John said that the Messiah would "baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Fire in biblical times was associated with God and with his action in the world and in the lives of his people. God sometimes manifested his presence by use of fire, such as the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses. The image of fire was


also used to symbolize God's glory and his protective presence, his holiness, his righteous judgment, and his wrath against sin. John expanded this image with the illustration of the process of separating wheat from chaff. A winnowing fan or shovel was used for tossing the wheat in the air. The heavier kernels of wheat fell to the ground, while the lighter chaff was carried off by the wind. The chaff was then collected and used for fuel (see Isaiah 21:10). In the New Testament, the image of fire is also used of the Holy Spirit who comes to cleanse us from sin and make us holy (Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3). God's fire both purifies us of sin and it inspires in us a reverent fear of God and of his word. And it increases our desire for holiness and for the joy of meeting the Lord when he comes again. Do you want to be on fire for God and for the return of the Lord Jesus when he comes in his glory? Our baptism in Jesus Christ by water and the Spirit results in a new birth and entry into God's kingdom as his beloved sons and daughters (John 3:5). Jesus is ready to give us the fire of his Spirit that we may radiate the joy of the Gospel to a world in desperate need of God's light and truth. The word of God has power to change and transform our lives that we may be lights pointing others to Jesus Christ, the true light of the world (John 8:12).  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Jesus Christ. Do you point others to Jesus Christ in the way you speak and live? (Servants of the Word)
I hope you all have a good Christmas!

Fr. Phil

SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT


Well I have finally had some good news. The brain scan and pet scan, (full body scan), proved that there was no cancer anywhere else in my body. The right lung is the only place! Good news indeed. I will find out this Thursday what the treatment will be, including surgery, and will let you know next week. Please keep praying for me.
Decorating Sunday will be December 23 after the 11:30 Mass.
Please come and help out!

Christmas Mass Schedule:
Christmas Eve – 5, 7, 9:30 and midnight
Christmas Day – 9:30 and 11:30 AM

New Year’s Mass Schedule: 
New Year’s Eve - 5PM
New Year’s Day – 9:30 and 11:30 AM

Sacred Scripture
Do you recognize the voice of the Lord speaking to you when you listen to the word of God in Scripture? Luke the evangelist tells us that the "word of God came to John in the wilderness" (Luke 3:2). Who was John the Baptist and what is the significance of the word which he received and delivered to the people of his day? Luke tells us that John was the son of Zechariah, a priest who served in the temple at Jerusalem. John stood at a pivotal juncture in the history of God's dealing with his people. He bridged the Old and New Testaments, also known as the Old and New Covenants which God made with his people. John's prophetic calling and mission preceded his conception and birth. The angel had announced to Zechariah that his barren wife will conceive a son, and "you shall call his name John," and "he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:13,15).  When John received his name shortly after birth, his father prophesied that he would be "called the prophet of the Most High who will go before the Lord to prepare his ways" (Luke 1:76). John was called to be a prophet, a spokesman for God.
In dramatic fashion Luke tells us when John appeared on the world scene. Luke lists a few of the key reigning rulers in John's era, including Tiberius Caesar of Rome (Luke 3:1). These rulers pale in reference to the man who now stood at the door of a new era of grace and salvation for the world. John's mission was to prepare the way for God's Anointed King who would come to establish God's rule above all other kings and authorities. Luke emphasizes the universal call of the Gospel to all peoples without distinction. He quotes from the prophet Isaiah that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Isaiah 40:5; 52:10).
How did John prepare for the coming of the Anointed (Messiah) King and Savior of the world? Luke tells us that "the word of God came to John" when he was dwelling in the wilderness of Judea (Luke 3:2). John was called from an early age to devote himself to prayer and to the word of God. John not only took the Scriptures to heart, he molded his life according to them, and made himself a servant of the Word of God. John was led by the Spirit into a barren and lonely place away from the noise and distractions of everyday life. There God taught John in the solitude of the desert and prepared him for a prophetic ministry that would turn the hearts of his people to receive their long-awaited Messiah.
In the ancient world when a king decided to tour his kingdom, he first sent his courier ahead to prepare the way. John is the courier and great herald of the Messiah King who proclaims to all the peoples that the impending reign of God is now very close at hand. Isaiah had long ago prophesied the role of the Forerunner of the Messiah (Isaiah 40:3-5). John undoubtedly took this word to heart as he searched the Scriptures and reflected on the word of God in the wilderness. When John began his public ministry, he traveled throughout the region of Judea and preached a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Luke 3:3).
How can we, like John the Baptist, prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus Christ - today and everyday and when he comes again to bring us fully into his everlasting kingdom? John the Baptist tells us that the first step is conversion and repentance (Matthew 3:2; Luke 3:7). Conversion involves receiving God's word into our heart and mind and allowing his Word to change our attitudes and wrong ways of thinking and judging. Repentance is the deliberate turning away from sin (wrong-doing) and turning to God to receive his pardon, healing, and strength to do what is good and reject what is wrong.
John saw from a distance what Jesus the Messiah would accomplish through his death and resurrection - pardon for our sins, healing and restoration, and eternal life for all who would believe in the Lord Jesus. (Servants of the Word)
I hope you are enjoying the Advent season.

Fr. Phil

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT



I have had my treatment appointments this week but they came after the bulletin was released. I will let you know what they are next week in my column. Please keep me in your prayers.
Thank-you to the dream team and all those who helped to make the Pasta Dinner so successful. A good time was had by all.
The lighting of the tree and evening with Santa is this week. I will very much miss this event as it is one of the highlights of the year for me. I hope you have a good time singing, eating, playing games and socializing with one another.
The decorating Sunday will be on December 23rd at 1:30pm in the church. Please come out and join your fellow parishioners in beatifying the church for Christmas.
The giving cards from the giving trees will be returned by Dec. 15. Please make sure all cards are returned by then.
First Sunday of Advent
How good are you at reading signs, especially signs which God sends our way? The people of Jesus' time expected that the coming of the Messiah would be accompanied by extraordinary signs and wonders. Jesus' first coming was clouded in mystery and surprising wonderment. Even though he was the rightful heir to the throne of King David, he was born in obscurity in a cave at Bethlehem, near the place where David had watched over his father's sheep some 1000 years before. A choir of mighty angels chose to announce the good news to a small band of lowly shepherds keeping their night watch nearby. Learned magi from the East, who recognized a great omen in the heavenly sky, followed the star until it led them to Bethlehem. They alone found the child with his mother and paid him homage as the newborn king of Israel. When Jesus humbly submitted to baptism at the River Jordan, the heavenly Father spoke audibly for those nearby who were willing to listen, "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."
Jesus told his disciples that his final great sign would be his return in glory at the end of the age. He would come this second time as Judge and Merciful Redeemer to vindicate those who accepted him as Lord and Savior and to punish those who rejected him. Jesus declared that this last sign at the end of the world would be unmistakable. All would recognize and "see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (Luke 21:27). The title which Jesus most often used to describe his Messianic role was the expression "Son of Man". This title comes from the Book of the prophet Daniel, chapter 7. The image of a "Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" was given in a vision where the prophet Daniel saw heaven opened before the throne of God (Daniel 7:13-14). In this vision God showed Daniel a royal investiture of a human king before God's throne. This king was invested with God's authority and was given power to judge and rule over the whole earth. His reign would last for all ages.
The prophet Jeremiah foretold the day when God would send his Messiah King to "execute justice and righteousness in the land" (Jeremiah 33:15). Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise and every promise which God has made. The Lord Jesus, through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, assures us of his abiding presence and the promise that he will return again. His Holy Spirit gives us supernatural hope, and the strength to persevere with joyful confidence until the Lord comes again. What kind of hope does the Lord offer us? He gives us the hope of heaven, seeing God face to face, sharing in the fullness of his glory and everlasting life. When the Lord comes again as our Judge and merciful Redeemer he will right every wrong, vindicate every person who has accepted him as Lord and Savior, and remove all sorrow, pain, and death itself (Revelations 21:4). The world around us is plagued with greed, envy, strife, and uncertainty. It has lost hope in God and in his promise to restore the human race and all of creation when the Lord Jesus comes again.
Jesus' prophetic description of the end of time and the day of judgment was not new to the people of Israel. The prophets had foretold these events many centuries before. "Behold the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger to make the earth a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it" (Isaiah 13:9-13; see also  Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18). Jesus speaks of the second coming as a known fact, a for certain event we can expect to take place. This coming will be marked by signs that all will recognize; signs which will strike terror in those unprepared and wonder in those who are ready to meet the Lord. When the Lord returns he will establish final justice and righteousness over the earth by overthrowing his enemies and by vindicating those who have been faithful to him. The anticipation of his final judgment is a sign of hope for all who trust in him.
What can keep us from recognizing the signs of the Lord's presence and his action today? Indifference and the temptation to slacken off – to become passive and lethargic or to fall asleep spiritually. It is very easy to get caught up in the things of the present moment or to be weighed down with troubles. The Lord knows our shortcomings and struggles and he gives us the strength to bear our burdens and to walk in his way of holiness. But there is one thing he doesn't tolerate: an attitude of indifference, being passive, not caring, and doing nothing when we could be actively seeking God and his kingdom! God is ready to give us 
fresh vision, hope, and grace to walk in his ways. He wants to work in and through us for his glory. That is why he expects more of us than we can do by ourselves. His grace enables us to actively watch for his action in our lives, and to actively pray for perseverance and endurance when we face trials and difficulties. The Lord gives us his strength to overcome temptation, especially from apostasy - the denial of the Lord Jesus out of fear or pride. God is ever ready to fill us with his strength and divine power. Is your heart hungry for God or is it weighed down by other things?
Many churches in the East and West, since the early first centuries of the Christian era, have marked special seasons to celebrate the central truths of the Christian faith. The Advent season which precedes Christmas and Epiphany reminds us that we are a pilgrim people, aliens and exiles in this age who long for our true home with God in his heavenly kingdom, and who await with joyful hope the return of the Lord Jesus at the end of the age. When will the Lord Jesus come again? No one but the Father in heaven knows the day. But it is a certain fact that we are living in the end times, the close of this present age! The end times begin with the first coming of Jesus Christ (his Incarnation which we celebrate at Christmas and Epiphany) and culminates in his final return on the Day of Judgment.
I hope you have a prayerful Advent Season.

Fr. Phil