Advent 2020

ADVENT

Advent – “the coming” – refers to the four-week season of preparation for the coming of Jesus on Christmas Day and the anticipation of His coming again. Advent is a time to pray, a time to wait, and a time to hope. It is also a time to serve. Advent is a time to prepare our hearts to become like little mangers, waiting to receive our Infant King. With the Church, we observe this holy season with Advent wreaths, candles, calendars, and more!

THE ADVENT WREATH

The Advent Wreath symbolizes the roughly 4,000 years between Adam and Jesus, as the world waited longingly for its Redeemer. The wreath is a circle of evergreen branches, symbolizing the eternity of God, with four candles that stand for the four weeks of Advent. Three of the candles are a penitential purple, reminding us to pray and offer little sacrifices to help prepare the way for Jesus. The candle for the third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday – is rose-colored. “Gaudete” is Latin for “Rejoice,” encouraging us to be joyful as the birth of Jesus draws near.

ADVENT PENANCE SCHEDULE

Tuesday, December 1 at 6:15 p.m. in the church | Saturdays at 4-4:30 p.m. inside the parish office building or call the office to make an appointment.


THE FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT – November 29 – December 5

Advent Wreath

Light the first candle and sing Verse 1 of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. As you light the Advent wreath, say this prayer, “O Lord, long ago You promised to send us a Redeemer born of a virgin. When You were ready, You sent us Your Son, Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. Please help us prepare the way for Jesus to be born again in our hearts this Christmas. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Daily Prayers for this Week

Sunday, November 29

Reflection by Sister Carol

Scriptures for the beginning of Advent emphasize our ongoing need for return to stronger relationship with God and with our parish community: Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? The message beckons us to stay faithful and committed on our spiritual journey.

Advent weeks offer us a wake-up call that describes our heart’s yearning to change for the better:

We are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.

In prayer and in life experiences, we can prepare for a joyful Christmas by heeding the words of Jesus to us, His disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”

The response to Psalm 80 could serve us well as a daily Advent mantra:

“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

 

Monday, November 30

Reflection by Kathy Piccinini

Advent is the time for preparation. What are we preparing for and how are we preparing for it?

Consider this question: are you ready for Christmas? Sometimes we become caught up in the material and neglect the spiritual. In our hearts, we know Advent is the time to prepare ourselves for Jesus and celebrate His coming. Out of our lips comes, “Three more gifts and the tree to decorate.” We get caught up in the material.

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus cast His net to Simon Peter and Andrew. They stopped what they were doing and immediately went with Jesus. They were led by His teachings and actions so they could teach others the ways of the Lord, the way to live. The net has also been cast to ALL of us.  We can choose to be caught by Jesus as the apostles did. We can choose to do God’s work. God will put situations in your path to spread the word through acts of kindness, compassion, respect, and support for others. In this way, God casts the net through us.

We can use this time of Advent to accept God’s invitation and turn to the spiritual needs of ourselves and our community. Not neglecting basic needs, but in addition to them. Prepare for the coming of the Lord. Don’t worry about the tree.

 

Tuesday, December 1

Reflection by Mary Duffy

Is 11: 1 – 24, Ps 72: 1-2, 7-8, 12 – 13, 17 Lk 10: 21 – 24

Here, right at the beginning of Advent, we have these glorious readings that lead us to anticipate the Savior’s arrival on Christmas morning: our amazing, magnificent, longed for Christmas gift.

Isaiah tells us that from improbable beginnings–that from a sad small number of God’s chosen people, still faithful and yearning for Him, will come Our Savior. He will bring justice to the poor and comfort for the afflicted. He will be wise, strong, understanding. He will show us the right way to fear the Lord our God. God doesn’t need numbers so much as He needs lovers who yearn for Him as much as He yearns for us.

And how are we supposed to believe that this gift is the truth? The Psalm tells us to become that child with whom we are all familiar, that kid we used to be, who longs for Christmas morning. To be childlike in our hopefulness. When we could imagine, then, believe what is promised. Just like a baby with no prior experience will play with an adder and not be harmed or like a calf and lion cohabitating will be led by that curious and trusting child, then, we will find the Lord when we go looking.

Luke tells us that these gifts have not been given for the wise and learned to see. BE CHILDLIKE!  Let us unwrap our prejudices and cloak of cynicism, our fears and concerns. Let us see the world around us in a new light.

Jesus is always there. Let us open our eyes to see Him, rub them, like we all did on Christmas morning in our childhood, and let us be childlike again. Anticipate and pray these four weeks for our magnificent gift.

 

Wednesday, December 2

Reflection by Lauren Sisolak

In today’s gospel, we learn about many miracles. First, we read of many disabled being healed. In the time the gospels were written, people with disabilities were very disrespected due to the belief that their disability was because of sin. When Jesus healed the handicapped, the crowds that had gathered were amazed. Seeing people cleansed of all their imperfections opened the eyes of many to the forgiveness of sin. As Catholics, we are called to receive Reconciliation as often as we can. We all make mistakes in our day to day lives, and by going to Reconciliation we are cleansed of our sins.

We also learn about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. This miracle is commonly seen as a foreshadowing of the Last Supper. Just as Jesus shared a meal with his twelve disciples, He also breaks bread with His people. John 6:54, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

Why are these miracles back-to-back? As we see in Isaiah 1:15-16, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean. Remove the evil of your deeds from my sight. Cease to do evil.” Jesus is specifically telling us to cleanse ourselves of all our sins before receiving Him. He wants us to be in full communion with Him without the barrier of sin. Going to reconciliation before receiving the Eucharist opens us up for a deeper relationship with the Lord.

 

Thursday, December 3

Reflection by Ray Dietz

Feast of St. Francis Xavier

This day celebrates the beginning evangelization of India, South East Asia, and Japan by priest-missionary, St. Francis Xavier.

Our own Evangelization Journeys here at SJE in Long Green Valley can look at St Francis Xavier’s actions as true inspiration for our own mission of “proclaiming the good news, and making disciples.”

My own personal journey has continued to be daily, elevated through our beautiful, patient, and loving parishioners. It motivates me to do all I can in evangelizing others, both in and out of our Community.

If I have learned one thing through this difficult year of 2020, it is that like St. Francis Xavier, we must always remember the words of today’s Gospel (Matthew 7:21, 24-27) to paraphrase – We must build Our Faith, Our Family, and Our Country on a ROCK that weathers all storms and that always must be there to HELP ALL who have fallen down.

 

Friday, December 4

Reflection by Mary Burns

Isaiah 29:17-24/ Psalm 4:13-14/ Matthew 9:27-31.

As we continue our Advent journey, scripture reminds us of God’s promise of restoration: On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.  Let us together humbly seek God for ears to hear His message of repentance and restoration; and eyes to see spiritually for He is Our Light and Our Salvation.

We wait for the celebration of the birth of Christ; Reflect on what this means to you individually and as a Faith Community.

Let it be done to you according to your faith.  Such powerful words from Jesus.  First the two blind men cried out to Jesus, then He healed them because of their faith.  Lord, let our eyes be opened; deepen our Faith.

 

Saturday, December 5

Reflection by Marilyn Donohue

Advent is a time to reflect on our own spiritual journey. Amid the hustle and bustle of the season, we need to slow down and focus on what the word ‘Advent’ really means –”coming.” Advent is a season focused on waiting — looking forward to the coming of Christ on Earth. This is our opportunity to put into action what we all yearn for on our own spiritual journey.

We yearn for strong relationships with other people in the bond of a loving community. We are St. John! We pray for an enlivened imagination that helps us contribute to the world in creative ways. Again, we are St. John. These are the experiences that help to guide us on our journey. We are a support system that helps each other along the path that God intended for us to walk — in the footsteps of His Son who will be coming soon. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Isaiah 40-1).


THE SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT – December 6 – December 12

Advent Wreath

Light the candle and sing Verse 2 of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. As you light the Advent wreath, say this prayer, “Dear God, thank You for sending us Jesus through Mary. Thank You for giving us Mary to be our mother as well. Dear Mother Mary, help us to feel Jesus’ love in our hearts and to follow His way this Christmas. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Daily Prayers for this Week

Sunday, December 6

Reflection by Theresa Konitzer

The Gospel of St. Mark 1 – 8 – The Second Week of Advent and the Feast of St. Nicholas

If one lines up the three synoptic Gospels of Mathew, Mark, and Luke side by side, the first notable difference is that Mark goes directly to setting the stage for the coming of Christ the Messiah in the very beginning of his gospel.  This is significant.  The other two gospels provide us with information about Jesus’ birth or his genealogy.  On the other hand, Mark gets right to the point that the Messiah is coming.  He refers to the Book of Isaiah where it is written that a messenger will be sent to prepare the way of the Lord.  That messenger is John the Baptist who preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin.  John further announces that there was to come one after him, who he is not worthy to untie his sandals.  This person is Jesus.

I like the directness of Mark.  He is telling us that our Lord and Savior is coming, and we need to prepare.  How do we prepare for Jesus breaking through the darkness and shining His light for all?  As a community of believers, St. John offers many opportunities to be the light of Christ for all to see.  Our families of faith are models where prayer, love, kindness, and forgiveness are lived.  At Mass, we unite in prayer, receive forgiveness, and share our resources with the less fortunate.

As we move deeper into the season of Advent, may we be blessed with the Spirit of the Christ to come.

 

Monday, December 7 

~ Choosing Peace ~

By Adele M. Gill

“I will listen for what God, the LORD, has to say; surely he will speak of peace to his people and to his faithful.” – Psalm 85:9 [New American Bible]

The Bible tells us that God promises to help us, bring us peace, heal us, shield and protect us, comfort us, provide for us, and save us. In fact, in so many ways, He already has! For God sent His Only Son, Jesus Christ, to do just that… We need to pray and choose inner peace right now, today, without delay. Pray that Jesus will replace your worry and fear with His presence and the peace that surpasses understanding.

For as you place your trust in Jesus, He will work all things out for good on your behalf as only He can in His own special time and way. We need to do our part, then step back and let Jesus fight our battles for us. For God loves each of us unconditionally, and beyond measure, far more than we could ever know or fathom. If you could know how much Jesus loves y-o-u, you would weep for joy!

“Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:7

 

Tuesday, December 8 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

~ Nothing Is Impossible for God ~

By Adele M. Gill

“…For nothing will be impossible for God…May it be done to me according to your Word.” – Luke 1:36-38 [New American Bible]

As a Catholic Christian, it is vitally important to understand, in a personal way, that “Nothing is impossible for God.” With that realization, we are able to put aside all worry and fear in times of adversity, replacing them with absolute trust in God, just as Mary did when the angel appeared to her. Her saying “Yes” to God showed unprecedented trust in Him; and the world was forever changed!

In this challenging time, as we endure the Covid-19 pandemic, and the associated quarantine and social isolation we are experiencing, it is easy to allow fear, panic, and even despair, to enter our hearts and minds. But, we must try to fight fear as the enemy it is. These negative feelings only serve to steal our God-given peace and joy, and our hope for a better tomorrow. At times, it may seem impossible to believe that our lives are squarely in God’s hands, but that is where our hope lies.

Perhaps we just need to be still and remind ourselves that everything in this life is temporary—even this pandemic. Our life is in God’s loving hands. We need to put aside our fears and ask Jesus, God’s Only Son and our Savior, to help us rise above our circumstances. For belief and hope in Jesus are never wasted, as we place our trust in Him.

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” – Luke 1: 30

 

Wednesday, December 9

Reflection by Debbie Carroll

Isaiah 40:25-31

Advent means “coming” in Latin.   Advent, a time of expectant waiting and a time for preparing for our Savior, is a time to remember the true meaning of Christmas.  It’s a time for patience. It sets you up to appreciate the meaning of Christmas on a deeper level.

Isaiah tells us there is no other like the Holy One, just like there is and always will be, no other like Jesus Christ.  The Holy One is sending us His only Son, born in human form.

He is sending Him to save us, to console and give us just what we need to make it through our trials. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:29-30

He is there during our happy times and our lonely and scared times.  As faithful members of our parish community, we celebrate this Holy Season at Mass, through our outreach to the needy, as well as by our caring patience during the world-wide pandemic. He will not leave us.  He will never tire of us, and, most of all, He will give His life for us, so that we may join Him in His heavenly Kingdom.

What wonderful things to contemplate during this season of Advent!

PEACE, HOPE, LOVE

And, with our waiting and knowledge of what is to come, we are so very thankful God sent His Son to be with us.  We give Him thanks for rescuing us from all of our trials and tribulations and from our sins and misdeeds. We offer Him perpetual praise and glory!

 

Thursday, December 10

Reflection by Colleen Sisolak

John the Baptist, the first prophet of the new Testament, was a man chosen by God, to foretell the coming of the Savior of the world, Jesus.

“Yet, the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

These words remind us of how great we are. Not in a prideful way, but as chosen, children of God and followers of Jesus. We are promised heaven.  Jesus died the death of a criminal, fought the devil and won, for each of us to be able to join Him in His Father’s Kingdom.  According to Jesus, that means each of us, upon entering heaven, is greater than John the Baptist. Wow!

During this Advent, how are you preparing for the return of Christ? How are you living to show that you are desiring to join Jesus, the Christ, in heaven?

Be the face of Christ for others. Show His love and mercy, and live knowing that you are so loved by God that not only did He send His only son, Jesus, to model for us how to be children of God, but that Jesus will return again so that we all may be united with Him.

Amen.

 

Friday, December 11

Reflection by Patrick Perriello

Today’s readings give us much to reflect upon. The first reading from Isaiah and the responsorial psalm make clear that if we follow the commandments, we will prosper and “have the light of life.”

Matthew’s Gospel reading reminds us that we are often criticized no matter what we do. John the Baptist fasted and was said to be “possessed by a demon.” Jesus ate and drank and was called a “glutton and a drunkard.”

How do we know what God wants of us? Even the commandments do not make clear what we should do in the daily challenges we face in our lives.

We have support from friends and family. We have the grace of being part of our parish community. We can draw on our own personal relationship with the Lord.

But we must also turn to our Lord in prayer.

Lord we seek to follow You. Show us the way. Give us Your “Wisdom” that we may be able to know Your will and do it.

 

Saturday, December 12

Reflection by Ted Hartka

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

On this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Gospel tells the familiar story of the Annunciation.  God sent his messenger, the angel Gabriel, to ask a young virgin named Mary, in the town of Nazareth, to conceive and bear His son, our redeemer, Jesus. The ultimate chapter of our salvation began with Mary’s Words “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” While this was Mary’s specific response to Gabriel’s request, it is the model of what our relationship to God should be. We hear Jesus say the same in His agony in the garden; “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”

By the world’s standard, Mary was facing complete disgrace and a ruined life.  As a consecrated virgin, bearing a child out of wedlock would make her anathema in her society. At a much higher level, Jesus was facing a brutal and degrading death on a cross. Yet, they both responded to God, “Thy will be done.

None of us will face such cataclysmic choices, but we will often face situations where we need to choose between God’s will and our own desires or the expectations of others. The expected effect of acceding to God will often be an inconvenience but may sometimes mean a major disruption in our life. How are we to find the strength to say “Yes” to God? Listen to what Our Lady of Guadalupe said to Juan Diego when she appeared to him on Tepeyac hill near Mexico City in the year 1531:

“Listen, and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son; do not be troubled or weighted down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? Is there anything else you need?”

Of course, this is just the echo of Jesus’ words in John 14:27: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

The next time that the Holy Spirit gives you the opportunity to express your faith in word or action, don’t be afraid of embarrassment or ridicule. Just remember that both Jesus and Mary have told you that you do not have to be afraid.


THE THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT – December 13- December 19

Advent Wreath

Light the candle and sing Verse 3 of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. As you light the Advent wreath, say this prayer, “Dear God, Joseph and Mary trusted and obeyed You even when they did not understand. You rewarded their obedience. Help us also to obey even when it is difficult. Help us trust that You are working everything out for our good. Then we will know Your peace and joy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Daily Prayers for this Week

Sunday, December 13

Reflection by Nicole Andrejow

“I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.” This weekend we celebrate Gaudete Sunday–a reminder amidst the season of Advent to rejoice as we look forward to the birth of Jesus. What reasons do you have to rejoice and be joyful this season?

In the Gospel, John provides testimony to announce the coming of Jesus, the light of the world. He reminds us that our Savior is among us already, leading us to action to prepare for the promise of salvation. As Christmas draws nearer, we can easily be distracted by to-do lists of gifts to buy and food to prepare, but John’s testimony calls us to look inward and reflect on what we need to do to get ready for Jesus.

We can look to today’s readings to guide our preparations. What areas of our spiritual life can we improve in anticipation of Christ? Do we need to focus on developing our prayer life? On serving our communities? On turning away from evil? On giving praise in all circumstances?  By following God’s will and allowing ourselves to be transformed by His grace, we will be able to rejoice in the true joy that can only be found in Him.

 

Monday, December 14

Reflection by Linda Rodriguez

Reading 1, Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Gospel, Matthew 21:23-27

Fear of Losing Control

The chief priests and elders questioned Jesus’ authority because they did not want to submit their authority to that of Jesus and did not want to lose their control. As I read this, I began to think about my own desire to control my own life, which continually battles against my spiritual desire to surrender and trust God, especially when life doesn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.

Jesus could have not only told, but also demonstrated to the chief priests and elders His true authority in a dramatic spectacle of power that would have made their hardened hearts tremble in fear.  Christ, however, desires more. He desires our love, and true love cannot be coerced, but must be freely given and received. The answer to how I can surrender control and trust my life to Christ can be found in the simplicity of profound and amazing love!

This Advent, Christ is seeking and inviting us to know, love and trust in Him in a much deeper way.  He wants to comfort and assure us that a Father who proved His unfathomable love for us by giving us His greatest treasure, the gift of His Son, certainly won’t withhold from us anything else, and can surely be depended upon and trusted with all our concerns and our life!

 

Tuesday, December 15

Reflection by Carol Calvert

Advent is a time to look into our heart and to make the right decision — the way the first Son did after contemplation, as noted in today’s Gospel reading.

Shopping and Christmas decorations are a distraction and must be put aside, maybe even cut back in order to make room for the greater importance of honoring our Father and doing His Will.

It’s time to look inside ourselves, to see what our hearts and our minds need to get ready for the gift of baby Jesus.

We are called to obedience.  We are called to repentance.  We are called to praise God.  Thinking of others is a way to do that.  What can I do for St. John’s Community to prepare for the birth of Our Savior?

 

Wednesday, December 16

Reflection by Phil Miller

Luke 7: 18 – 23

Friends, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is presented a very simple question from two of John the Baptist’s disciples.  “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”  True to form, Jesus avoids the very simple, direct response: “Yes, I am He.”

Jesus knew that anyone, even an imposter, could have said, “I am he.”  So how did He respond?  He said, “Go tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” No one other than Jesus could have made this claim.  John would understand without a doubt the authenticity of Jesus.  John would also recognize the reference to Isaiah as mentioned in Luke 4: 16 -19.  “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor . . . .”

So what might be the message for us as we walk our faith journey?  Yes, these miraculous deeds prove to us, as they did to St. John, that Jesus is our Lord, the one who is to come.  But looking a little deeper, we see another very important message for guiding our efforts as we spread the Good News. Our own proclamation of faith through our words is important, and a great first step.  But our actions and loving deeds do so much more to drive home Christ’s message to those around us.  Anyone can say, “I believe” but it is our actions that prove the point.  “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

 

Thursday, December 17

Reflection by Alexander Mirarchi

All families have a lineage to trace back to, from children to parents or grandchildren to grandparents, etc. Behind every family is a rich lineage of how the grandparents were and how the children come to be. With this rich history, there are times of good and bad; both are fundamental in developing the character of each family member (Romans 5:3-5).

Jesus Christ has a family lineage, and an important one, too. He comes from a family of prophets, saints, and sinners. Jesus has shown through His lineage that He comes into a world of sin through peoples of sinlessness and sinfulness; yet, He has come into the world to save all from sin and death.

Even the prophets of Jesus’ lineage prophesied His coming and salvific mission. A neat thought I had while reading Jesus’ lineage is how my family members and I recollect what our grandparents did in the past. And, the prophets have this same experience with prophesying Christ’s mission, but they recollect into the future? How this is possible, only God knows, and I struggle to find the words. But the closing of this thought is how Jesus Christ recollects the importance of the prophets, too. This means both Jesus and the prophets converse with each other, and how we all can converse with Jesus as well!

For this Advent, where we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ, let us continue to converse with Jesus, let Him enter into our hearts, and enjoy the company of our family, friends, and community at St. John the Evangelist.

 

Friday, December 18

Reflection by Maria Miller

Matthew 1: 18-25

During Advent, I am drawn not only to the story of the birth of Jesus, but especially to Mary’s fiat…her “YES.”  However, do we ponder Joseph’s acceptance of God’s will?  Joseph–a simple carpenter, a quiet man, a righteous man dedicated to his Jewish faith and traditions–is betrothed to Mary and finds that she is with child.  Being a compassionate man, he does not want to shame Mary but to divorce her quietly.  Imagine the hurt, the disappointment, but Joseph thinks only of Mary and what is best for her and her child.

As Mary was visited by an angel, so was Joseph.  An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and assured him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  She will bear a son and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel commanded him.  This was his “YES,” his fiat.  What faith, obedience, and love Joseph showed to his God.  He took Mary as his wife and, when she bore a son, named Him Jesus.  He spent his life loving and caring for Mary and Jesus.  They are our example of unconditional obedience.

How often do we say “YES?”  As I look at our family at Saint John, I continually see parishioners responding, “Yes”:  groceries donated to St. Elizabeth Parish; casseroles donated to Our Daily Bread; our brothers and sisters in Haiti educated, fed and loved by our donations; our Advent Giving Tree surrounded by gifts.  “Yes” was the answer Mary and Joseph made to their God, unconditionally and throughout their lives.  Our “Yes” is shown daily through our faith, unconditional care, and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Like Joseph, we are doing as the Angel of the Lord commands us.  “Here I am, Lord, I come to do Your will.”

 

Saturday, December 19

Reflection by Robert Swinski

The Gospel for December 19, 2020, Luke 1:15-25, is the Announcement of the Birth of John. His father, a priest named Zechariah, and wife Elizabeth were righteous in the eyes of God. But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren and advanced in years. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah who was troubled, and fear came upon him. But the angel said: “Do not be afraid Zechariah, because your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you shall name him John.”  Doubt crept into his thoughts: “I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

In this reading, I perceive four factors that are vital to spiritual life:  Faith, Perseverance, Patience, and Discipleship.

Faith is the cornerstone of our religion and trust in God’s word. Do you believe Zechariah or Elizabeth ever lost their faith?   Even though Zechariah and Elizabeth were both advanced in age, they continued to pray for a miracle, a gift from God–a child. Remember what the angel Gabriel said: “Your prayers have been heard.”

Perseverance—The bible tells us to pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ. Even though Zechariah and Elizabeth were both advanced in age, they continued to pray for a miracle, a gift from God–a child. Remember what the angel Gabriel said: “Your prayers have been heard.” Continue to persevere in prayer. God is always listening, your prayers are always heard.

Patience— In today’s hectic world of technology, we want everything to happen yesterday. We have become a society of instant gratification. Be patient in prayer.  Zechariah and Elizabeth most assuredly were.

Discipleship—The significance of the birth of John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. God designated John to be the forerunner of Jesus to preach repentance and to baptize with water. We, children of God, are all disciples. You are thinking, “I am not worthy to be a disciple of God.”  John felt the same way, he said he was not worthy to untie the straps of Jesus’ sandals, and yet he was theologically a significant figure in the preparation of Jesus’ arrival. Become a disciple of God. Pray about it and ask the Holy Spirit to bless you with His wisdom and direct you to the path of discipleship. One thing to remember, God will never let His disciples fail.

 


THE FOURTH WEEK OF ADVENT – December 20 – December 24

Advent Wreath

Light the candle and sing Verse 4 of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. As you light the Advent wreath, say this prayer, “Dear God, the time of waiting for the birth of Your Son draws to a close. Very soon we will rejoice in Him. Is there room in my heart for Jesus? Help me to prepare by spending more time in prayer and by offering sacrifices for others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Daily Prayers for this Week

Sunday, December 20

~ Prayer & Gratitude ~

By Adele M. Gill

“I will sing of your mercy forever, LORD proclaim your faithfulness through all ages.” [New American Bible]

Feeling overwhelmed and stressed?  Prayer and gratitude to God are the remedies for the weary. We need to pray daily to God, asking Him to heal our unbelief and fears. When we pray and choose to put aside our negative feelings–and it is a choice–we are far better able to rejoice in Jesus’ love, and appreciate His divine mercy, grace, peace and presence in our lives. Heartfelt prayers of petition and gratitude are the key to finding peace in Christ. As you embrace Jesus’ holy love and care for you, you are far better able to trust that He is in control, acting on your behalf, regardless of the adversities that you face.

Through prayers of thanksgiving to God, we can actually watch our angst dissipate and melt away, healing us, and helping us, to press on unencumbered in any situation. Trust that Jesus will help you, and you will not be disappointed!

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act…” – Psalm 37:5 [New American Bible]

 

Monday, December 21

Reflection by Melanie Hecht

As I think over my nine years as a parishioner at St. John, my biggest memories and joys (and some frustrations!) come from serving in the various ministries.  Two years ago, I was asked to bring Holy Communion to the Glen Meadows community.  My immediate response was an absolute no way!  This was totally out of my comfort zone.  Through prayer, and a little American Ninja Warrior (they had a t-shirt on the show that said, “Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable”), I said yes.  T

his ministry helped me to grow in ways that I could not foresee.  I had the blessing to know some amazing men and woman and to see how important the Eucharist was to them.  It was not easy, but pushing myself into being uncomfortable filled me with so much joy and heartbreak. I share this story in light of today’s Gospel, where Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  This is the second Joyful mystery of the Rosary, the Visitation.  Mary had to be very uncomfortable to be traveling while pregnant, and then to go care for her cousin.  My “uncomfortableness “ in visiting Glen Meadows could in no way match our Lady’s suffering and service.  I am so thankful for her example.  Without her, I would not push myself to say “yes” and strive to serve others in whatever way I can.

 

Tuesday, December 22

Reflection by Bryan Nichols

In today’s reading from Luke 1:46-56, Mary speaks about the way her faith is, “My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Now today, only three days from Christmas Day, this level of faith is something we can all deeply desire, and hope to achieve daily.

Part of the glory of Christmas is the hope that our souls will be “proclaiming the greatness of the Lord” like Mary’s. We have spent the days of Advent preparing and readying ourselves for this.

In the last few days before Christmas Morning, we can remember and hold the excitement in our hearts and in our souls. We can hope to remember, like Mary did, that “the Almighty has done great things for me.” And be ever grateful for the gift that God gave us on Christmas.

 

Wednesday, December 23

Reflection by Dale Edmunds

Who would have believed that a husband and wife as old as Zechariah and Elizabeth could have been blessed with a new baby son. God is so merciful and gracious to have let this happen. When the time for circumcision came, we all went joyfully to their home to celebrate this amazing event. Imagine how astonished we were when Elizabeth told us that his name was going to be John, which means God is gracious. While this was a very appropriate title, this simply isn’t done, as no one in either family has ever been named John. Zechariah remained silent as he had for the past nine months; so, one of us wrote a sign asking him what he would name his newborn son. Can you imagine the astonishment we all had when he wrote on a tablet that the child’s name would be John! As soon as he wrote this, his ears opened, and he regained his speech. This was truly a sign that God was greatly pleased. We all wondered what special path the new baby John would take.

Take a moment each day to remember all the times that God has been gracious to us. When we do take that moment, do we celebrate those times by doing the things God wishes us to do? When Zechariah did God’s will by naming his new born son John, he regained his voice and then proclaimed the greatness of God to all with the beautiful Song of Zechariah (Luke 1 67-79). Take a moment right now and ponder all the wonderful and gracious things that God has done for you and, then, take to heart the mission statement of St. John the Evangelist parish to “Love God, love others, proclaim the good news, and make disciples” everywhere.

 

CHRISTMAS EVE – December 24

Advent Wreath

On this holy night, light all candles and sing O Come, All Ye Faithful then say this prayer, “Dear Father, thank You for sending us Your Son, Jesus, to be our Savior, our mighty God, and the Prince of Peace. Help us to adore You and thank You always for Jesus! We love You! In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Thursday, December 24

Reflection by Deb Edmunds
Christmas Eve
Gospel – Luke 1:67-79
Zechariah, after nine months of silence, praises God and prophesies about the future. The first words out of his mouth are praise to God for what He has done and will do. This is the miracle of our salvation.

We often underestimate the magnificence of the plan of salvation that originated in the mind of God. The plan of salvation which the Bible teaches is completely unlike any other plan of salvation that we find among man. ​Only a God like ours could have thought it up and have brought it to pass.

I can’t help but think that to prepare for the salvation that God has promised us, we must prepare by praying, being a witness of Christ to friends and family​, and giving our gifts at St. John the Evangelist Community. In my faith journey, since being at St. John, I have been nurtured by my Pastor and the parishioners in my faith community. By example, I learned the importance of sharing my gifts with others.

Reflect, today, upon how God wants you to imitate the faith and perseverance of Zechariah. As we reflect on this Christmas Eve, let us give freely of ourselves and think about how Jesus gave up His life for our salvation.


A BLESSED ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Excerpts taken from “Prepare the Way! Advent Prayers and Customs” published by Autom (c) 2012