Category Archives: Advent

Third Sunday of Advent – A reflection by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

imagesAt a time that stood in the shadow of notorious papal scandal and other church corruption, a time of great distrust of the church, a saint came along to who would change some of this. This man had a great desire to counter these feelings of suspicion and a lack of trust, and replace them with a love of the Lord. If you were walking around Rome in the 16th century you might have spied him, perhaps standing in a piazza or on a street corner. He might stand out because he was frequently seen wearing absolutely ridiculous clothing and sometimes with half of his beard shaved off. What a sight! It was in this way that St. Philip Neri helped to change the course of church history, and bring many souls to know Christ.

While Neri is known for his extraordinary evangelizing, it was this offbeat approach that helped change lives. By joyfully using his extraordinary sense of humor, St. Philip left a huge imprint upon the church and the world. All this was accomplished by engaging others in conversation. These conversations might start with distrust or simply mere curiosity. Then they would eventually turn to laughter, which would become moments of conversion for many.

Introducing others to Christ came naturally to Neri, and in the most joyful way. In fact he once remarked that, A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.”

quote-a-joyful-heart-is-more-easily-made-perfect-than-a-downcast-one-philip-neri-72-67-49Joy is our theme today, the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. The word Gaudete comes from Latin and it means rejoice. It is in our rejoicing that our hearts are made more perfect as we prepare a place to welcome Jesus, our Emmanuel.

But wait, we are to prepare a place? What place? And we are to prepare a place with joy? What joy? In our culture, the broader call of these weeks is to prepare for Christmas. You know, by spinning ourselves dizzy with cards, cooking, baking, shopping, socializing and more. However, this day is a marker on the Advent path that directs us to the heart of our joy, reminding us to keep the focus on the Lord.

Each year I vow to practice a quieter and calmer Advent. Honestly, I like to think that I will do such a thing, but I rarely achieve it. This Advent has me busy, but I have attempted to trim some of my activities, resulting in the creation of a bit of needed space. This is a mirror of our liturgical season, so that a place for the newborn Lord might be prepared in my heart. That tiny space is like a manger in my heart. It’s not the best spot, but it will do.

If we can keep our preparation focused on our hearts, rather than on our tasks, and we can also be focused on joy, we might be able access new places. Now the birth of Christ might be anticipated with the silent, patient, hopeful waiting of this season. This is joy to be had now, not postponed. Joy that is only increased as the child is born. This is the joy that helps bring our hearts to perfection.

Yet, in the midst of this, I am aware that it is dangerously easy to make religious practice into a dry and somber act, one that is certainly not joyful. How can we prepare this barren place for new life with joy?

rejoiceJoyfulness is the core of the words of the prophet Zephaniah in the first reading, which tells us to shout for joy, sing joyfully. We hear the message to “be glad and exult.” We are also told not to be discouraged. We should not be discouraged because God is in our midst. God is in our midst, a mighty savior who wants to rejoice over us in gladness; God in our midst having removed all judgment against us. Suddenly I imagine St. Philip, with half a beard and funny clothes, telling people about the promise of Christ in their midst!

In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul repeats the same message – rejoice! As if he understood that we might be skeptical, or outright disbelieving, and as if he knew that we would lack joy, he repeats himself, “I shall say it again: rejoice!”

What don’t we understand about this? The Lord is near, and the Lord offers of the peace that is beyond our understanding. This is what is available to us through Christ – a kind of joy not known before. “A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.” St. Philip reinterprets St. Paul who said it first, using different words.

6e8f4a10eca3c8570802ad461dbe4ed7Why then, is this so hard to integrate into our lives? I ask myself this question! Although I make my way, I stumble. I am trying to muster some joy and gratitude, some hope and some recognition of the God that is already in my midst. That God is healing, forgiving, loving, reconciling and is right here, right now.

I don’t know about you, but here we are, less than two weeks before Christmas, and despite all of my words, I’m not there yet. Just what do I find in my midst? I find anxiety over shopping, money, unfinished work on my desk, and not being good enough for God. Yet it is God who is in my midst, who is in our midst – bringing us that joy in great abundance. We are not asked to manufacture joy, we are asked to respond to it in kind.

So now what? That all sounds well and good, but what should I do? This is the question at the heart of Luke’s Gospel for today, “What then should we do?” John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord, is drawing attention to himself by baptizing and preaching. Unlike St. Philip who often used levity, John the Baptist is very serious. Make no mistake however; they have more than a few things in common.

People want something, but they do not know what to do, so they ask him. John minces no words. Give more. You have two tunics? Good, give one to someone else! If you have anything, share it. Even the despised tax collectors want to know what to do, and John is as clear with them; do not take more than you are supposed to take. Sounds easy enough, but that went against the standard of the time. Of course, we must stop to consider this; John is addressing us as well. Can we do this?

slideshow_advent_3-1And how is this joyful? It is if we stop confusing joy with happiness, and begin to understand the state of our hearts when they encounter Jesus. When we encounter and stay with Christ, we find the heart of joy. We come to discover that God is in our midst, and we are forgiven. This God in our midst, this God-with-us, has given deep peace. This God, our Emmanuel, has come to save us in the form of the Christ child. That is at the heart of our joy.

Perhaps then, out of that heart of joy, we can find the ability to both prepare a place for the Lord and also to give what we have away. We can do this because of one joyful fact; the more we come to know Christ and give everything away, the more He comes to live in our hearts. Now that is cause for rejoicing! And it is in that rejoicing in Christ that our hearts, perhaps not joyful at first, might be turned to Him.


Hungry_and_you_fed_meThis was first published in 2012 as part of the Homilists for the Homeless project in the book, Hungry, And You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C, by Clear Faith Publishing. To date, in excess of $100,000 has been donated to various charities as a result of the sales of these books. As an original contributor, and as someone actively involved with this project, I remain humbled to be a part of it all.

Please visit our website. In addition to that charitable project, we also offer other books and items, such as works by liturgical composer David Haas, and prolific author and priest, Fr. Bill Bausch, among others. Also featured are calendars, cards, and a book by Bro. Mickey McGrath OSFS. Proceeds from these books benefit the ministers and their various ministries. Please like and follow us on Facebook if you have not done so already. Local Albany people can also find the book at O’Connor’s Church Goods in Latham.



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Advent Reflection for December 10, 2015 by Bill Thornton

st-john-the-baptist-iconToday is not the feast day of John the Baptist, but it is a day when the readings at Mass celebrate the person who is often thought of as the last Old Testament prophet and the first prophet of the New Covenant. As it was said of so many of the Old Testament prophets, it was said also of John, “The word of God came to John.” (Lk 3:2) And like so many of his predecessors, John called for the people of Israel to return the their Lord. “Repent [or turn your life around],-for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt. 3:2) Or as Luke put it, “He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John used the direct language of the prophets, he called the Pharisees and Saducees “You brood of vipers!” He criticized them for relying on their lineage from Abraham. He told them Continue reading

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Prayer to San Juan Diego for December 9, 2015 – by Doreen Salse

olg_juandiego_wPrayer to San Juan Diego

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

Most humble and obedient Juan Diego held in esteem by no one,
you called yourself a nobody, a small rope, a tiny ladder
and the tail end.

Help us as we travel through our lives, mirroring your journey into the light. Be with us as we wake each morning in the chilly darkness of uncertainty. Walk with us, the aging, the forgotten, the poor in money, the poor in spirit, we who are fearful of taking the steps that take us to do the will of God.

Let your quiet acceptance lead us to do those seemingly small deeds within our reach; acts of kindness and charity that blossom into a mantle filled with roses. Remind us that together in Christ we can make burdens light. Remind us that our reward will be to find our own rest.

Show us, Juanito nuestro, that this Advent season is a journey out of darkness into the brilliant presence of a God, who loving us beyond understanding, sent his Son who humbled himself to share in our humanity.


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Say yes to God today

Say yes to the difficult.2011095540marys_fiat_2_inside

Say yes to the challenging.

Say yes to the improbable.

Say yes to the absurd.

Say yes to love.

Say yes to peace.

Say yes to hope.

Say yes to mercy.

Say yes to God.

Buck the trend, upend the world as God’s radical partner, God’s unlikely choice, God’s mysterious candidate, unknown to the world, but made for great things.

Be the gateway to promises kept. Be the portal to astonishment. Be the opening to wonderment. Be the way to passage to love. Be the door through which mercy flows.

On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, look from one side to the other, by saying yes to sin and death, by saying yes to a clean heart and eternal life.

On this opening of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, say yes, even if it means an almost imperceptible shift of your inner being, barely a crack where light can pass through. Say yes to it all, however timidly and however small.

Say yes today.

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Advent Reflection for December 7 by Charles Burre

adventcandlemotionweek2Advent Reflection – Joyful Journeys

Meditation on the readings for December 7, 2015
Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalms 85: 9-14; Luke 5: 17-26

The passage from Isaiah is the perfect passage for Advent. If we fill in the other side of Isaiah’s metaphors with personal struggles in our lives that have been resolved through God’s mercy and love, then we can claim the joy of the season for our own. What lands of ours that were once parched have come into to full bloom? Have our hands and knees that were once feeble been made strong? Were our hearts frightened (and whose aren’t today) before we heard the words “Fear not”?

Perhaps our struggle is ongoing. Then, like the paralyzed man in the Gospel’s, we need friends that will carry us the the feet of Jesus where we can ask to be healed. And don’t be surprised if he says to us, “Your sins our forgiven.” If we reflect on this, we may realize that our paralysis is due to some unforgiven sin. Unforgiven because we have not asked to be forgiven or we have been in denial of its existence. Once we come to know that our God is a forgiving God, the healing can begin. Not only will we recover our ability to walk, we will be able to “leap like a stag” singing and praising God all the way home.

The message of Christmas should give us such joy and hope. When Simeon held the Christ child in the temple, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that through this baby salvation had come into the world so that the people of all nations could be healed. The psalmist declares that God has proclaimed peace to those who put their trust in Him. Isn’t that what the angels proclaimed to the shepherds?

We have a journey to make and we will pass through desserts, times of sickness, and times of fear along that journey. Perhaps we have come a long way along that journey or perhaps we have just found someone to show us the way to go.The scriptures assure us that God will accompany us on that journey with His mercy love and peace. The message of Christmas is that we do not have to make that journey alone, that all we have to is to walk in His footsteps.

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Wait for the Lord

Today, a short post. This music was in my head, so I am sharing it here as we all come together to pray and wait in Advent. Wait for the Lord by Taize. If this is a busy day for you, may this be 5 minutes (almost 5 minutes!) of peace for you. Advent waiting sometimes means carving out little moments where we can, as we wait for the Lord.

Please join us at St Edward the Confessor in Clifton Park, NY tonight, December 4, 2015, for Lessons and Carols. This promises to be a prayerful and joyful evening – all are welcome!

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Evangelizing and Advent – by Bill Thornton

2006_the_burning_passion_of_st_xavierToday is the feast day of St. Francis Xavier. What does that have to do with Advent? Well, St. Francis was a great missionary to Asian people, and I want to make the case that Advent is a time to evangelize everybody, including but not limited to Asians. I am drawing this conclusion from the readings for the days of the first week of Advent and from other ideas associated with those readings in my rather unorganized head.

If you want to learn about Francis Xavier, you will find that he left his native Spain and went to study at the University of Paris. There he met a man of his own age (about 19), and shared a room with him. This was Peter Faber (Pierre Favre). Later the two brought a third student into their room, Ignatius Loyola, and these three and a few others were involved in the founding of the Jesuit order. Faber was canonized on December 17, 2013. Faber went to Germany to preach to Protestants with considerable success, apparently not from the force of his intellect, but by the strength of his love for his neighbor. According to one source,
“As a lone Jesuit often on the move, Faber never felt alone because he walked in a world whose denizens included saints and angels. He would ask the saint of the day and all the saints “to obtain for us not only virtues and salvation for our spirits but in particular whatever can strengthen, heal, and preserve the body and each of its parts”. …. He sought support from the saints and angels both for his personal sanctification and in his evangelization of communities. Whenever he entered a new town or region, Faber implored the aid of the particular angels and saints associated with that place.”

I like to connect with the saints of the day each morning. While I am no Peter Faber, I like to have the intercession and enlightenment of the saints each day. [Two sources: 1. Google “Roman Martyrology”, for a sixteenth century list of saints of the day used in connection with the liturgy of the hours. Often based more on legend than fact; and 2) and click on “About Today”. Most days, this talks about the saints of the day, many times more modern saints with a heavy emphasis in English and Irish saints and martyrs.] But I digress.

The only two days that are saints’ feast days this week are today (St. Francis Xavier) and last Monday (St. Andrew the Apostle). While we do not know much about St. Andrew’s ministry, tradition says he established the diocese of Byzantium (Constantinople/Istanbul) and preached in Greece. And we know that Jesus said that he would become a fisher of men. According to tradition, Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross.

St Francis Xavier SJ in Japan

St Francis Xavier SJ in Japan

We know more about Francis Xavier. He left for the missions in 1541 when he was 35 years old and died eleven years later in 1552. During those eleven years, he preached the gospel in Goa, India, Southeast Asia, Japan and briefly China. He traveled on foot and by sailboat. Wherever he went he had to learn new languages that were nothing like the Latin-based languages he knew from Europe. And yet wherever he went he taught the people there about Jesus.

I think that the last clue from the liturgical events of this week that points to the need for evangelization is the Gospel reading from Saturday’s Mass. The reading from the 10th chapter of St. Luke’s gospel is about the mission of evangelization of the 72 disciples. The gospel of the dayis sstrictly speaking about the disciples return from their mission, but I would like to expand the discussion to refer to the context in Luke 10:1-24.

What originally caught my eye in this reading was the 21st verse, “At that very moment he rejoiced [in] the holy Spirit.” The idea of Jesus sitting down with six dozen of his closest friends and rejoicing because they were all cooperating in spreading the word of God just made me smile as well. How do I add myself to the group of people sitting around Jesus when he is rejoicing in the holy Spirit?

Jesus’ plan for evangelization is spelled out in Luke 10. First, He send us to places and people that he intends to visit Himself. V. 1. Next, He says “No distractions.” V. 4-8. He says that he will give us what we need to do our work, i.e. “cure the sick.” V. 9.

Then he tells us what to say. ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ V. 9

He warns us that we may be rejected, and if we are rejected he says that we should still say, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand.’ V. 11.

Notice the difference. The message to those who accept the word is ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ To the others, only ‘The kingdom of God is at hand.’ One way it is a promise, the other way a warning, if not a threat.

So the first week of Advent gives us two missionary saints, and an example of evangelization from the Gospel to follow, complete with instructions. And when the “plan comes together” we see Jesus rejoicing with us in the Holy Spirit. And finally, don’t forget that Jesus says that we should not rejoice because of our evangelistic efforts on his behalf. Rather we should “rejoice because [our] names are written in heaven.”

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