Welcome to 2022; times here on earth sure flies, doesn’t it?
On January 1st every year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, who is also the patron saint of the Americas. The name “Mother of God” has some history, as the early Christians wrestled with the idea of calling her Theotokos, meaning “God bearer”. Or was she was just a simple vessel to deliver a child who then became the God of the Universe? Anyone who is Catholic would hopefully accept this fact, but our protestant/evangelical brothers and sisters struggle with holding her in any place of honor.
We, as Catholics, do need to get something straight: We do NOT worship Mary, but we give her a very high place of honor, because she gave the angel Gabriel her unconditional “yes” to bearing Jesus and raised him to an adult like any other parent would. She watched him grow and knew more about him than any other human, other than Joseph. Mary knew Jesus was the Savior of the World, yet she gave him the love that only a mother could give. Why would we not want to honor her?
Should we hold Mary in such high esteem? (We even give her the title of Queen of Heaven.) This has been debated over the entire history of the Church. The Holy Spirit has led us to answer that question with a resounding “yes”! On a personal note, I give her many of my prayer requests every morning and trust she will take each of them to her son. I also truly believe Jesus loves his Mom so much that he has a hard time saying no to anything she asks of him. She is the one I hope to see first when I take my last breath here on earth, and I hope she takes me to her son in all his glory!
We have reached the day of great joy – Christ (which means the “anointed one”) has come to earth to be one of us, to deal with daily struggles, pain and suffering; but most of all, to love. Jesus is the greatest example of love – unconditional love for everyone! Of course, as humans we cannot (or at least we have great struggles) loving everyone unconditionally. There are some whom we have struggles with and to love them no matter what is beyond us. We thank God for coming to earth as Jesus, the Savior of the world and we celebrate this day and this season we are now in!
There is no greater time than today to thank so many different people for the privilege of simply knowing them and for the help they provide to me. First, I thank the staff here at Prince of Peace: from Fr. Ryan, Deacons Bill and Dennis, to my co-workers here daily. There is so much talent, so much dedication and so much wanting to serve God and all of you. I am so very grateful for each of you!
Next, I thank God for all of the incredible volunteers here at Prince of Peace. Every one of you – and there are many hundreds of you. I am so very grateful for all that you do for God, this community, our world and for me! You change so many lives by the selfless giving of your time and talents, and for that I be forever thankful!
Most of all, I want to thank all of you: each and every member here at Prince of Peace. You have blessed me in so many ways that I cannot begin to express my deep appreciation for all of you! As I look back at the last 2 years, 8 months and 13 days (who’s counting?), you have shown me a way to love and care that I did not know or understand before; I am so very grateful!
Mary and I, along with our family: Son, Ryan, our daughter-in-law, Ashley, grandchildren: Jacob, Henrik, Olive, William and Charles, and son, Tyler and our future daughter-in-law, Annie wish you a most blessed Christmas with our love!
- Deacon Jeff
We have now reached the Fourth (and final) Sunday of Advent and next weekend, we will celebrate the great Solemnity of Christmas – God coming to earth as one of us. This is a really good time to reflect on if and how we have prepared our hearts to celebrate during this Advent season. A couple of key items: Have you experienced the Sacrament of Reconciliation? If not, this would be a great time to experience Jesus’ incredible forgiveness. If you cannot find a priest this week, please let me know; I will help you! Second: Is your focus entirely on Christmas
preparations? Is an Advent wreath part of your home? It should be visible until Christmas Eve as a reminder of the season we are still in. There are many wonderful readings available to prepare yourself for Jesus’ coming. A few I recommend are Isaiah Chapter 40, and Luke 1:26-56; they are great, thought provoking readings to get ready! I am sure in some people’s eyes, all that I continue to say about Advent is my way to be a “Scrooge” in a season of joy. But in reality, the Christmas season begins next Saturday and continues all the way to Baptism of Jesus on January 9. I hope you won’t lose the “Christmas spirit” during that entire time!
- Deacon Jeff
At this halfway point in the Advent season, we celebrate Gaudete (joyous) Sunday this weekend. For some, this time of Advent is truly joyous as we approach Christmas soon. Preparations for the coming of Jesus continue and homes are filled with Christmas decorations.
Yet, in the midst of all this joy, I would like for us remember those who struggling so mightily in their lives right now. We did a whole lot for those in need with our Paul’s Pantry drive at Thanksgiving and by filling nearly all the tags on the needs tree in our Gathering Area. In some small way, we all hope and pray that someone’s life is changed for the better by our actions. But what about those struggling with health issues? Instead of a Gaudete Sunday, this time of year only serves to make them feel more isolated. What about those who are missing loved ones – those who won’t be home for Christmas and those who lost a loved one in the last year or are still missing someone they lost in years gone by? The pain of missing someone you love is only deepened by this joyous season.
Is there a solution to all these issues? It is very hard to relieve the physical or emotional pain of others. Let us begin first with prayer. If you could, pray daily for these people, and if there’s someone specifically you know, make it a point to tell them you are praying for them. If there’s an opportunity to visit someone who is struggling, take the time to be with them. There may be nothing you can say to really ease their suffering, but simply being there and spending time with them may help them in ways you may never know.
It is my sincere hope and prayer you will experience hope and joy on this Gaudete Sunday and in the days to come. If you cannot experience this joy for some reason, know you will be in my prayers every day. May Emmanuel be with you!
Our wonderful, hard-working at Prince of Peace came up with an Advent theme several months ago: Prayerful Patience. It certainly fits for this season of penitence and preparation as well as for so many other situations in our lives.
When we request something of God, whether it is for ourselves, someone we love, or someone we’ve been asked to pray for, it seems to me we always expect an answer immediately or very quickly. Anyone who has been on this earth for some length of time knows this is not the case. It makes us wonder: Does God hear our prayers? Does God not care about me or my re-quests? Does God have the power/ability to answers prayers in the first place? The answer to all three questions is a resounding “yes”, but let’s understand a bit more about God.
If indeed God created us (I hope you believe that), then God also loves us and wants the very best for us! Unfortunately, we live in a broken world that we continue to break through our sinfulness. Along with that, there is illness, accidents, and many other things out of our control that we question. Also, please re-member this: God hears every one of our prayers and does answer them (yes, every one of them) in his perfect time and will. That, my friends is the hard part and none of us will understand this until we get to hopefully see God face to face.
In the meantime, Prayerful Patience is necessary, not only in this Advent season, but always!
- Deacon Jeff