December 15, 2013

December 15, 2013 Column Father De Celles

Gaudete Sunday. Today is “Gaudete Sunday,” or “Rejoice Sunday.” It takes its name from the “Introit” of the Mass (the verse we say if we don’t sing during the entrance procession), taken from Philippians 4: “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Dominus enim prope est. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”

As we draw ever nearer to Christmas Holy Mother Church calls us to remember the true cause of our Joy: the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ into the world to save us from sin and evil, and invite us to share in his life of love, beginning in this world and perfected in the next.

Some people wonder, how do we “rejoice always,” when we so often have real reasons to be sad? What about, for instance, Jesus’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane or on the Cross, or the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross—they weren’t rejoicing then, were they? Or what about Paul’s exhortation: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” [Romans 12:12].

Of course, there are times when we’re going to experience sadness and even terrible sorrow. But in Christ we find something more than smiles and laughter. We find a deep abiding joy in Christ, knowing that the Eternal Creator and Redeemer of all things loves us and will never abandon us to evil. So that even when weighted down by grief and trials we find hope and the grace to remain steadfast in our faith and love.

Advent is a season calling us to make ourselves more open to, aware of and worthy of that joy. So we repent our sins and become more and more like the Christians Jesus calls us to be. Little by little, we act more and more as if we really do believe that God the Son really was born 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, and that he is still really with us now in so many ways—in His Scripture, His Church, His sacraments, His grace, etc. And that He will come again, in glory and in the flesh, at the end of time to restore perfect justice, peace and love to the world.

This is “indeed” cause to rejoice. And this is what we should be seeing ever more clearly every day in Advent, as we pray, study, and meditate, go to Mass and confession, and live a life of charity with others.

Moreover, we should be sharing this joy with everyone we meet. Not an irrational joy that ignores the real pain around us, and in us, but a joy in the truth of God’s infinite and personal love for us—for each of us. Do we tell others about this? Do we, as we read in today’s first reading at Mass:
“say to those whose hearts are frightened: ‘Be strong, fear not! Here is your God…’”?

Two weeks ago Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, promulgated his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium—The Joy of the Gospel. In this letter he calls all Catholics to become true Christian missionaries in the world, to take every opportunity to tell everyone we can about the good news of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection—the cause of our joy.

Have you been missionaries for Christ this Advent? Have you shared the Joy that comes from the amazing truth of the Coming of Our Savior, and the love he offers to all—and the invitation to love him in return?

Of course we begin doing this by the example of our lives—living virtuous lives, following the Commandments and showing charity to all around us through patience, kindness and generosity. But also, by actually talking to people about Jesus, and why he’s so important to us. This can be hard for all of us: we are afraid of being ridiculed, or rejected, or worse yet: having people expect us to help them to come to know more about Jesus. But we can do it. “Be strong, fear not!”

And there are lots of simple ways to do this. For example, instead of giving presents that no one will remember next year, give them something to bring them closer to Jesus. Maybe a Bible, or a copy of the Catechism, or a Rosary, or even a Nativity Crèche. Or maybe tell them about how much you enjoy all the celebrations of Christmas especially, Christmas Mass—and then invite them to join you at Mass!

There are a million ways. Spend some time this week praying and thinking about this. Ask the Lord to inspire you, to tell you what you can do. And He will. If only you will listen. And then, who knows? Maybe you’ll introduce or re-introduce someone to Jesus, and the real joy of Christmas, have even more reason to “Rejoice!”

Last Sunday’s Snow and Ice. I hope none of you was too adversely effected by last week’s inclement weather. Thank the Lord there was no damage to the church or rectory, but the storm did cause us to cancel several events in the parish. [Please remember our policy that if Fairfax County Public Schools cancel “all activities,” so does the Parish: no parish office hours, no CCD, no prayer meetings, no group meetings, etc….. The only exception is that “regularly scheduled Masses” will never be cancelled.]

The first thing canceled was Lessons & Carols on Sunday evening. I want especially thank our choir members for working so hard rehearsing for this, and I share your disappointment in not being able share the beautiful music you had prepared for us. But I look forward to hearing you sing some of those hymns and songs either before or during the Masses over the next few weeks.

We also cancelled confessions for our Religious Education kids on Monday afternoon. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to schedule another time for those, but I remind parents that there are lots of opportunities throughout this week to bring them to confession.

Finally, faced with a power outage on Monday evening, I had to cancel the 7pm Mass for the Immaculate Conception, for fear of folks hurting themselves as they tried to walk through a pitch dark church. I’ve never had to do that before, but since it was neither “a regularly scheduled Mass” nor a holy day of obligation this year, I felt it was the only prudent choice. But I didn’t like doing it, and I apologize to all who came looking for Mass and were disappointed. I’m working on plans to have some emergency lighting in place in the future so that this will never have to happen again.

Confessions. At least two priests will be hearing confessions every evening this week from 6:15 to 7:00. Please take advantage of these or the regular Saturday and Sunday confession times to better prepare yourself and your children for Christmas.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles