Dear Brothers and Sisters,
HAPPY NEW YEAR! I know it’s only the first week of December, but in the liturgical calendar of the Church, we begin a new year. During this new year, we shall listen to the Gospel of Mark (we just finished listening to Matthew). We begin the new year with Advent, which helps us to be vigilant in expectation to the coming of Christ. He first came as a baby 2000 years ago, as we shall celebrate at Christmas, but He will also come again in Glory. In order to help us to be in expectation, I would like to share with you a message from Pope Benedict on the first Sunday of Advent in 2010.
Today, the first Sunday of Advent, the Church begins a new Liturgical Year, a new journey of faith that on the one hand commemorates the event of Jesus Christ and, on the other, opens to its ultimate fulfilment. It is precisely in this double perspective that she lives the Season of Advent, looking both to the first coming of the Son of God, when he was born of the Virgin Mary, and to his glorious return, when he will come “to judge the living and the dead”, as we say in the Creed. I would now like to focus briefly on this evocative theme of “waiting”, for it touches upon a profoundly human aspect in which the faith becomes, so to speak, completely one with our flesh and our heart.
Expectation or waiting is a dimension that flows through our whole personal, family and social existence. Expectation is present in thousands of situations, from the smallest and most banal to the most important that involve us completely and in our depths. Among these, let us think of waiting for a child, on the part of a husband and wife; of waiting for a relative or friend who is coming from far away to visit us; let us think, for a young person, of waiting to know his results in a crucially important examination or of the outcome of a job interview; in emotional relationships, of waiting to meet the beloved, of waiting for the answer to a letter, or for the acceptance of forgiveness.... One could say that man is alive as long as he waits, as long as hope is alive in his heart. And from his expectations man recognizes himself: our moral and spiritual “stature” can be measured by what we wait for, by what we hope for.
Every one of us, therefore, especially in this Season which prepares us for Christmas, can ask himself: What am I waiting for? What, at this moment of my life, does my heart long for? And this same question can be posed at the level of the family, of the community, of the nation. What are we waiting for together? What unites our aspirations, what brings them together? In the time before Jesus’ birth the expectation of the Messiah was very strong in Israel – that is, the expectation of an Anointed one, a descendent of King David, who would at last set the people free from every form of moral and political slavery and find the Kingdom of God. But no one would ever have imagined that the Messiah could be born of a humble girl like Mary, the betrothed of a righteous man, Joseph. Nor would she have ever thought of it, and yet in her heart the expectation of the Savior was so great, her faith and hope were so ardent, that he was able to find in her a worthy mother. Moreover, God himself had prepared her before time. There is a mysterious corre-spondence between the waiting of God and that of Mary, the creature “full of grace”, totally transparent to the loving plan of the Most High. Let us learn from her, the Woman of Advent, how to live our daily actions with a new spirit, with the feeling of profound expectation that only the coming of God can fulfil.
This Tuesday, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is called Giving Tuesday. Traditionally, people take this day to give back to their communities after some shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. For us Chris-tians, every opportunity we have to help someone, is always a blessing first to ourselves. It's an occasion for us to thank God for the many gifts he has given us. One of these gifts is our parish. Please consider do-nating to the Fire Restoration Fund for Giving Tuesday as we still need to cover the expenses of some of the upgrades we did after the fire, like the new lighting, the new flooring, and the pews. We are adding a new way of contributing monthly, weekly, or one time giving through text-to-give. This will be a new way in which we can contribute also for the offertory going forward. You can do it directly through your phone and it goes directly to our Church account. That said, I must say that I'm always edified to see your generosity in your weekly giving and other forms you have contributed. So thank you for all you have done.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We as Catholic Christians are called to help each other. In addition to our response to the latest develop- ments in the Roe Amendment, I also wanted to speak to you about the importance of our pastoral response in:
1. Acknowledging the pain of abortion that effects so many people today; 2. Sharing how we can take action to help those who are hurting heal; and 3. Preventing further destruction of lives by helping people chose life.
In discussing the sanctity of human life we look to Pope St John Paul the Great who was a champion for life. Pope Saint John Paul II speaks in Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life): “.... I would like to say a spe- cial word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision.” (EV, 99)
I would like to make you aware of two ministries of The Archdiocese of Boston Pro-Life Office.
First, Project Rachel which is a confidential ministry of the Catholic Church that offers hope and healing for women (and men) in pain from past abortions. Project Rachel takes both its name and mission from the Old Testament passage of “Rachel Weeping” (cf Jer 31:15-17) – Rachel weeping for her children “who are no more”. In the Scripture passage, the weeping Rachel encounters the merciful love of God who wipes the tears from her eyes and offers her the promise of hope for her future.
Today, through the Church’s Project Rachel ministry, God’s tender love and mercy is offered to those expe- riencing post-abortion pain, regret and grief. Project Rachel offers both one-on-one and small group oppor- tunities for healing. For more info please go to: https://www.projectrachelboston.com or call 508.651.3100, email: email@example.com.
I have asked Mary Jo Kriz to assist in writing this letter as she has served in the Project Rachel Ministry and presently is a nurse in one of the three Pregnancy Resource Centers sponsored by the Archdiocese - Pregnancy Help (Brighton, Brockton, Natick), https://www.pregnancyhelpboston.org
“In my work with Project Rachel, I witness firsthand the depth of physical, mental, emotional and spir itual pain and suffering that the women have indured for years. They come to the retreat and through the Sacraments and stories of others who have obtained healing, experience a Resurrection. This is life-giving and lifesaving. If they chose, they may continue with the support group that is offered.”
“Pregnancy Help serves anyone facing crisis pregnancy situations. Our staff of nurses and case work ers is trained to give individualized care to help those in need through this difficult time. There is much pressure on a woman to have an abortion. She is often alone, overwhelmed and frightened. When I receive a call, I invite her to come in for a pregnancy test and to talk about her situation and how we can help. If appropriate I also take her for an ultrasound to see the baby’s heartbeat and gestational size. 90% of our clients after hearing how we can help and seeing the baby’s heartbeat choose to continue the pregnancy. They often leave saying “I now have hope and confidence. Once the baby is born they are given the option of staying on as parenting clients for up to three years.”
Please visit the website upholdingthedignityoflife.com which offers information on how you can help with this most tragic situation of abortion.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The other day I watched the movie “Just Mercy.” The movie is based on the true story of Bryan Steven- son, a defense attorney, who works to free a death row prisoner wrongly condemned to die. In the movie, the character of Herbert “Herb” Richardson, has two striking lines that I would like to reflect with you this week. As he is getting ready to face his death sentence, he says to his attorney, “More people asked me how they can help me today than in my whole life.” Then he adds how strange his day had been by saying that “Most people don’t get to sit all day and think about being their last day alive.”
Looking at Mr. Richardson’s first line, it may strike home to us as sometimes we pass by people without stopping to acknowledge their presence. I certainly understand that this could be explained by the “New England culture”. I was raised in a similar culture where you greet people, but move on quickly. Maybe a more striking image is when a person stops to talk to each person. There was a TV show I watched a while back in which the main character stopped to talk to each employee in the organization he worked for. I apologize for not remembering the name of the show, but I do remember the scenes, in which a high -ranked person asked the names (and remembered them) of those people that “did not matter.” Quickly he was liked by everyone, because he treated everyone equally, from the meanest person to him to his closest friend. In other words, he treated everyone as they deserved, he treated them as persons. Some- times, we can easily cross paths with other people and smile, nod our heads, or say a quick “hey, how are you?” but only out of social etiquette, without caring much for the other person. I would like to invite you to engage other people, not out of “obligation”, but OUT OF LOVE. Whether a simple meaningful “good morning,” a gentle gesture at the grocery store, or stopping to ask how people are doing, let’s love as Christ has loved us (Jn 13:34). I understand that with Covid, this can be more challenging, but nonethe- less, we are still called to LOVE! Imagine what the early Church faced during the Roman persecutions in the first Century, where they were risking their lives serving one another. And it was by their testimony, that many people, saints and martyrs, were converted, but how they loved one another. Let’s ask the Richardson’s in the world how we can help them.
Moving on to the second sentence from Herb, it helps us to stop for a moment to reflect on our lives. In the 21 Century, everything is fast paced, quick, and immediate. When we were on lockdown, it seemed that life was in slow-motion. There were many “memes” and jokes in the internet how those two months seemed to be like years. All of a sudden, we realized how long our days are, when we are not “rushing through life”. The character in the movie spent his whole day thinking that he was living his last day. He reflected upon his life, both the good and the bad. This is an exercise that is good for all of us. Instead of focusing on the bad that we hear every day, and how life can be difficult, or even what is missing in our lives, let’s focus on what we have. Let’s remember the good that was given to us throughout our lives. The Jews always say that the wise man is the one who counts his blessings. Let’s stop now for a moment to think about our days. Let’s savor our days like a child who savors his favorite dessert. My mom would get upset with my brother and I, because we would eat our desserts with those mini coffee spoons. We would lick that tiny spoon 10 times, because we were enjoying it thoroughly. Even though we may be currently in a difficult moment of our lives, God always gives us something good. As you stop to think about your lives, appreciate the lives of those near you while we can. We don’t know if it will be our last day or the last time we see our family member. If you get together with your family in this Thanksgiving, take advantage to en- joy their presence. Reconcile with one another if necessary. Don’t let the individualistic society convince us that it’s all about us. “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34)
We are all familiar with the famous line attributed to the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, “there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet.” We are in this life TOGETHER, so let’s take care of one another. We are all our brother’s keeper! Let’s put the talents that God has given us to good use, lest, he should remove it from us. There are many people facing great needs, whether, financial, emotional, spir- itual, physical, among others. Let’s do what we can, to help them in their needs. No need to judge them, or worse, to condemn them, let’s LOVE ONE ANOTHER, AS HE HAS LOVED US! (Jn 13:34)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
After a long presidential political campaign, we were all expecting to know who the next president would be by Wednesday morning. I heard of some people who spent the whole night watching TV accompanying vote by vote and checking different status. Now there is news indicating that there will be a long legal battle before a new president can be announced. In other words, we will need to wait a little longer. Looking at this scenario, this weekend’s Gospel is very opportune to help us focus in that which is really necessary, staying vigilant in order to be saved. The parable of the ten virgins shows us the need first to have the oil, and secondly, to be vigilant.
The virgins, a little bit like election day, had a life-changing event that was about to happen. In order to be ready for that moment, they prepared themselves to be vigilant. They acquired enough oil to be vigilant as long as it was necessary. The saints interpret their action as being de- voted to God alone. They rejected the world and any earthly affection, they were not careless with the matters of God, nor did they give their whole love or passionate devotion to the heavenly Bridegroom (St. Maccarios, the Great). The oil that they acquired is understood to be the graces of the Holy Spirit. Saint Gregory the Great exhorts the people of God to have not a superficial re- pentance to be seen by man, but a real repentance that will last through the night. Part of the problem is that the virgins needed more oil than they had. He concludes his sermon by quoting St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians “Behold now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.”
Having enough oil to be vigilant, they waited the whole night for the bridegroom. Back in those days, they would spend hours dealing with the dowry, and the negotiation of the terms of mar- riage. One would never know when the groom would arrive. The element of vigilance was essen- tial for them to enter the wedding banquet. It could be a short waiting period, but it also could take hours. We heard in other parables Jesus exhorting us to be vigilant waiting for the day of the Lord. At the garden of Gethsemane, he tells the apostles to stay vigilant, awake and pray!
As we accompany closely what will happen to our country, I invite you, brothers and sisters, to be solicitous with our salvation. One may say that there is still time for Trump to concede, or to turn around and win, but I say, there is still time to forgive and be forgiven. Our next president will have a term of four (or eight) years, but our salvation and our soul is eternal. Let’s get ourselves full of the oil of gladness, filled with graces of the Holy Spirit, and await until the day the Lord calls us to heaven, where the fullness of joy will be given to us. Everything passes, but God. There- fore ,let’s focus in what is eternal, while being diligent and prudent dealing with what is earthly.
Father Steven Clemence