Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near!
I have a good friend who is a priest and lives in Indiana. He is about six and a half feet tall! He tends to stand out in a crowd… especially when he wears his clerics. He usually comes to visit once a year or so. While in town, we often go hiking because we do have some amazing trails. So to get a little exercise, I decided it would be good to try climbing Camelback mountain. If you have never hiked this mountain, I have to say it is a difficult climb. My friend let me know that it is especially difficult for a guy with size 15 shoes! Hiking with skies for feet is hard enough but my friend is not all that coordinated either - as he reminded me all the way up the mountain! Actually, I was nervous for him! There were lots of obstacles along the path and crevices and sheer cliffs. He kept reminding me that there was a shortage of priests and perhaps we should turn back!
He seemed to enjoy the hike but coming from that flat terrain around Indiana, he admitted that it was especially challenging since he was not used to such rocky terrain. Once we made our way off the mountain on to a paved parking lot, I could take a deep sigh of relief. We could walk normally and he didn't have to focus on where his feet were at each step of the way.
Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent or Gaudete Sunday. After entering into this penitential season and rooting out sin that obstructs our way (perhaps by going to confession at our Reconciliation Service on December 18th at 7pm in the main church), we can begin to walk a little more confidently because we are less worried about those things that tend to trip us up.
One of the signs of the penitential nature of Advent is the purple vestment that the priests wear during Advent. But on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, we pass the midpoint of this liturgical season and the Church lightens the mood by saying "Rejoice!" The priest has the option of wearing a rose-colored vestment (It looks like pink so a priest may stick with the option of wearing purple!). We also light the rose candle on our advent wreath. This color change encourages us to persevere on our hike with the Lord and most particularly to be joyful along the way! For no matter how hard life gets, Jesus is with us - always.
Since we have made our way through most of the Advent Season, we make another shift in our focus. This is the time to begin to focus on Jesus' first coming in Bethlehem. I will be doing some last-minute Christmas shopping this week I'm sure. I love that I am able to wear my clerics while shopping. It's not to show others that I am a priest. Rather, it's for myself… it challenges me to be joyful and kind even as I wade through the crowds who are not always kind. Perhaps it would be a good time put a cross or a religious medal on the outside of your shirt as a similar reminder for yourself as well. How different are you from the throngs of shoppers who are just about creating a secular Christmas and do not know Christ? Know that Our Lord is with you every step of the way!
The Mass schedule for December 24th/25th is straightforward. The Christmas Masses begin on December 24th at 5:00pm, 5:15pm, 8:00pm and 11pm and then on Christmas Day, December 25th Masses are at 8:00am and 10:00am. Please pray for the priests and all the other Mass ministers! I hope you will come and pray Holy Mass with us! If you are traveling, then may your journey be filled with laughter and love.
To be continued…
Fr. Don Kline, V.F.