Pastoral Themes

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Dec. 03, 2017
Advent is a time of waiting—a time of reliving Christ’s first coming and anticipating His second. It is a sacred time of prayer, penance, and remembrance of those who go without. It is also a time to prepare for the Christmas season and the beautiful celebration of Christmas liturgies.
During Advent: Pray and Invite  
Pray! Pray! Pray! Start praying now for those you hope will return to Christ and His Church. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the courage to invite family or friends to attend Mass with you. Many people are simply waiting for an invitation . When you do extend the invitation do so with sensitivity and tact. For example, say, "Our family is planning to attend the 4PM vigil Mass at St. Mary's. Would you [and your family] like to join us?"
At Christmas Mass: Smile and Move In  
Christmas is the celebration of the great mystery of the Incarnation-the gift of God becoming man. When you encounter those who may not be "regulars," smile. Be a model of joy! Another way to be welcoming is to move to the center of the pew so that others may easily find a place to sit. Go even further by inviting people searching for seats to join you in the pew!
After Christmas: Gather and Celebrate  
Many people find themselves away from home or perhaps struggling through difficult family situations during Christmas. Invite them to join you for your traditional Christmas celebrations when appropriate. Continue celebrating throughout the Christmas season by sharing in family and parish gatherings. It is a common custom to keep Christmas lights on until the celebration of the Magi's arrival before the infant Lord on January 6th, the "Epiphany" or "Little Christmas." This is also a way of observing the "Twelve Days of Christmas." Remember that your witness may well inspire a deepening sense of God's love and invitation. 
This Advent let's look again at what Pope Francis taught us very early in his Pontificate-be joyful Catholics! First, let's renew our own encounter with Christ. Then we can help others encounter Him this Advent and Christmas season, and beyond.  
Excerpts from Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)
Pope Francis, November 2013
A joy ever new, a joy which is shared The great danger in today's world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God's voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. Th is is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God's will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ. (2)
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since "no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord." The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: "Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my
covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace". How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another "seventy times seven" (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards! (3)
(8) Thanks solely to this encounter- or renewed encounter-with God's love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others? (8}
The delightful and comforting joy of evangelization The Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane, but with no less intensity: "Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of
communicating life to others." When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment. For "here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what mission means." Consequently, an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that a delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow ••• And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ." (10)