Reflections from the Shrine ...
TO BE FAITHFUL TO OUR RESPONSIBILITIES IS TO SHARE IN THE MASTER'S JOY
It has been about thirty five years since I finished a language course in Spanish in Cochabamba, Bolivia and then began my mission work in Argentina. I am glad to report that I have kept up my knowledge of Spanish. I used it frequently in Massachusetts where I worked at our La Salette Shrine. Now here, for example, I have been asked to help with a Spanish Mass tomorrow in Manchester.
I vividly remember the first time I had to celebrate Mass in Spanish alone. I had been working for a few weeks with another more experienced missionary who had taken the lead in the celebration of Mass. But then one day he said: "Now you take the Mass and I will go to visit another community." I remember thinking: "Who Me? I just finished language school. I am not ready yet." But the Mass went fine. Many also asked to go to confession to me in Spanish perhaps because they knew in those early days I would only understand half of what they were confessing. That was the beginning and quickly the joy grew as I took on more and more responsibility in serving the Argentine people in many different settings.
That is why I found I could relate to the first two servants who were very faithful with the responsible use they made of the talents given them by their master. It is easy to imagine the delight they must have felt when the master said to them: "Well done, my good and faithful servant…..Come, share your master's joy."
What happened to the third servant? He let fear take over in his life. He was afraid or too lazy to even invest the money in the bank so that he could earn interest in his deposit. He was not responsible to use the talent that had been entrusted to him. instead he hid it in the ground where it did nothing for him or the master. Where there was no responsibility, there was also no joy in the sharing of what he had been given.
Every person in this Church has some talent. It is not important how many talents we have, be it one or ten. What counts is that we use our talents to serve God and others. We are called to be responsible to make life a little better for the people around us by a helping hand, a word of encouragement, or simply a smile - small gestures that can go a long way. Then we too can celebrate when we hear the words of Our Lord deep in our hearts: "Come, share your master's joy."
In the name of the La Salette staff and Associates, we want to wish each of you a blessed Thanksgiving. If you are alone, I suggest you attend the dinner at Sacred Heart Church hall on Thanksgiving day at noon. The information is in the bulletin. Also, a week from tonight is opening night for our Festival of Lights starting at 4:15 PM.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
ADVENT - A TIME TO
WATCH FOR THE PRESENSE OF CHRIST IN THE PEOPLE AROUND US
When I went to the Holy Land seven years ago with four good friends, we spent the first week of our journey in northern Israel where Jesus grew up and began his public ministry. But the second week we spent in Jerusalem, principally in the Old City. I remember how eager I was to watch for those old walls and spend time where Jesus actually walked, suffered, and died and then rose from the dead.
Advent is a time of waiting and watching for the coming of Jesus. In the Gospel, Jesus is clear from the opening lines: "Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come." Then he repeats himself: "Watch, therefore ; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming…." The very last words of today's Gospel are: "What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch.'''
But what are we looking for? Why so much vigilance? It is not so much "what" but "who." We are watching for Jesus himself - his presence, not just on the altar in the beautiful Sacrament of the Eucharist - but in the people around us every day. They could be family, friends, or perfect strangers. Jesus is present in these people in his own mysterious way. We are all images of God. It is so easy to forget, to get caught up in the daily rush of life, that we treat one another with impatience, quick judgment, or worst of all, ignoring the person altogether. We also so frequently overlook the presence of Christ in ourselves.
"Be watchful! Be alert!" Be more aware of the opinions and feelings of others and not just our own. The color of this season is purple. It is a reminder that it is also a season of penance. It is an opportunity to say : "I am sorry," whether it be to God in confession or someone we have offended in our own selfishness or eagerness to pursue only our own interest. That is a lack of watchfulness.
The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah has a very powerful line: "Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people; all our good deeds are like polluted rags." That seems to be a wake-up call; to truly watch ourselves and see how we are treating others. It means really "waking up and smelling the coffee."
However Advent is not just a time of repentance and watchfulness. It is also a time of profound hope, of new beginnings. I love the Scripture readings for this time of year. Again, Isaiah expresses it so well at the end of the first reading: "Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands." Isn't that a consoling thought?
This coming Friday, December 8th, is a Holy Day of Obligation, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Consequently we will have a Mass at 6:30 that evening. The Santa program will follow immediately afterwards. We also have a full weekend of activities as part of the Festival of Lights. On Saturday we have the North East Catholic College who will be playing at 5:15PM and then also at Mass a week from this evening. On Sunday we have the Seven Stars Ensemble performing also at 5;15 PM. We hope to see you there at such memorable functions.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT A KINGDOM OF POWER BUT OF SERVICE
There has been much in the news lately of women coming forward who have been abused emotionally and even physically by men who had authority over them. The women were afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs. But recently so many women have had the courage to come forward, we finally may be coming closer to the day when there will be equality between women and men in the work place and in our society. The abuse of the power of men over women is slowly changing to respect, as women are treated as persons and not as objects.
That is clearly connected to the Feast Day we celebrate today: the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Jesus is a king like no other. He comes not to dominate or control others as many do who are in authority or in positions of leadership. Rather Jesus comes to serve instead of being served. It is so beautifully symbolized at the Last Supper in John's Gospel when Jesus washes the feet of his own disciples as a common servant would do.
The Last Judgment that is described in the Gospel shows how Jesus wants us to treat the poor and those who live on the margins as subjects in their own right and not simply as objects. He speaks of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the ill, as persons who deserve our compassion. The stranger and the person in prison merit our attention and concern because: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me." We cannot separate our faith and love for Jesus from our respect and trust in those persons who are often considered almost invisible in the eyes of our contemporary society.
It comes down to transforming the power to criticize or dominate others into the power to love and encourage those around us, be they family, friends, or even perfect strangers. So much is expressed in the words of Jesus: "I come not to be served, but to serve." (Mark 10: 45).
Psalm 23 in today's readings gives us a healing image of the faithful shepherd who provides for the needs of his sheep. "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want." Let us be aware that the Lord calls us into one flock: old or young, weak or strong, woman or man.
Now that we have begun our Festival of Lights, we encourage you to bring your children and your grand children for Children's Day tomorrow with the Christmas Story, ornament making, and Santa's visit. Next week end, Father Pat will be here, Saturday, December 2nd, for two concerts at 3:15 and 5:15 PM. He will also be the main celebrant for the Mass one week from this evening.
On the theme of service, having just celebrated Thanksgiving, we are grateful too for the many parents who served their children and the many adult children who served their elderly parents in the spirit of such a family centered holiday.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
LET US NOT JUST WAIT FOR THE LORD TO COME BUT THIRST FOR HIM ON A DAILY BASIS
This past spring I finally climbed Mount Cardigan with a friend. When you hike up a mountain you need comfortable boots , warm clothes as you come closer to the summit, and especially water. The climb takes effort and perspiration. When you reach the top you are really thirsty. That first mouthful of water tastes so good and is so refreshing.
The psalm response for today says: "My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God." It is combined with the parable of the ten virgins waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom to begin the wedding celebration. It is an obvious reference to one day, Christ the Bridegroom will come to share with us the Church, the People of God, His glorious wedding banquet. Are we prepared?
I suggest that we not be like the five foolish virgins passively waiting with their lamps. Let us rather be like the five wise virgins so thirsting to celebrate with the Lord that they bring an extra flask of oil to be sure they have enough for the festivities.
The extra container of oil symbolizes the gift of wisdom that is so beautifully described in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom: "Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her." Wisdom is personified as a woman who wishes to color our relationships with God and others with vitality and variety. It is not just a gift to the intellect but more to the will, to a person's heart. As a result the person seeks to do God's will and not simply their own. That is why wisdom is eternal as love and God are eternal.
The five wise virgins had developed a virtuous life which made them thirsting for Christ, the Bridegroom, while also eager to celebrate with others who also loved the Lord. That is why they could not share their oil with the foolish virgins. Each of us is called to personally develop virtues in our own lives which we cannot give to someone else. Each person must work on the discipline that is required in their own personal life.
To simply wait for the Lord's coming can be such a passive attitude. But to thirst for the Lord is an activity, an act of the will, that calls us to pray well and reach out frequently to those around us with the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy.
With that attitude, together let us pray and thirst for a true spirit of welcome and hospitality for the hundreds of people to visit our Shrine during the Festival of Lights that begins in less than two weeks.
Father John Sullivan M.S.