Testify To The Light
The Third Sunday of Advent invites us to cry out with joy – for the day of the Lord’s coming draws near! It is with great joy then that I have the honor this week of announcing that we as the community of Good Shepherd have an additional reason to rejoice as well. For not only is it our privilege every week to celebrate the presence of Christ to His people in the Eucharist, next week we will return to our Church for the conclusion of Advent and the Celebration of Christmas. Through the generosity of all of our donors, the hard work of our Eidos Architects, Palace Construction and its subcontractors, the dedicated talent of all of our parish advisors on this project and, barring any unforeseen glitches, it is our plan to celebrate mass next Saturday, Dec. 23rd at 4:00 p.m. in the Church itself. We will also celebrate the masses of the Fourth Sunday of Advent on Sunday, Dec. 24th, at 8:30 and 10:00 a.m. in the Church as well. Please note that for this one Sunday only, we will not celebrate the 7:00 a.m. mass, due to the number of masses which we will be celebrating later that day as we begin the Christmas Season. The masses of Christmas begin at 4:00 p.m. on the afternoon of the 24th. Please make a note as well. Some of our parish children present the Christmas story in a small drama before mass begins. So the official start time for this mass is 3:45 p.m. The Church may most likely be full by that time and any seating after that time may not be able to happen. Due to fire codes we have limits on the amount of occupancy which we can have in the Church. We ask you to help us to honor those limits and plan accordingly. We will have beautiful Christmas music and the blessing of the infant Jesus from your home nativity scene at all of the masses. During our construction process we prepared for the day when we will be able to provide seating for our overflow crowd in the basement of the Church and be able to have both video and audio broadcast of the mass from the Church. This year we just have not had the time to complete all of the pieces to make this happen; but it will be a possibility beginning next Christmas. I remain forever grateful to all of you who have made the sacrifices to make this happen and who have remained faithful to our weekly masses in the Parish Center. Sixty four years ago, in December of 1952, Catholics celebrated the first mass in our newly constructed Church. Sixty four years later we return this historic neighborhood Church to the service of the Lord.
Throughout this period of the reconstruction of our Church, I have often made reference to our journey to the Parish Center as our time of ‘exile’. Of course, the small inconvenience of not being able to have mass in our parish Church is of little consequence compared to the exiles of peoples forced from their homelands by ethnic cleansing, famine and war. It certainly does not compare to the tragic period when the people of Israel also walked in the darkness of exile to a foreign land during the Babylonian Captivity. But it is often good to find images from our faith as a way of reflecting upon our daily life experience. And the image of exile is always worth remembering.
The longest exile of all is the state of the human community banished from the Garden of Eden because of sin. All of human history unfolds now as a time of awaiting our return to the promised land of God’s Kingdom. The news of everyday life reminds us of this state of exile: violence, the glorification of drugs as a source of happiness, inappropriate sexual behavior by people in all walks of life, privilege and status when humans associate as groups, a lack of civility in our public and private conversations, and a diminishment of the value of human life from conception to natural death. But there is something new under the sun and it is this which gives us reason to rejoice. Into this world of exile God’s kingdom has come. From the lips of Jesus himself we hear that the Kingdom of God is now present in our midst.
It is present not in its fullness. It is present as Jesus begins to heal the broken human community by restoring us to right relationship. Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John; to their company he adds the tax collector Matthew; to their company he adds women and men of all ages, sinners and saints. The community formed by Jesus, now called the Church, is God breaking into our world of exile, calling us out of our selfishness and sinfulness, and imparting to the world through our life together a living sign of what life can be lived in right relationship with God and each other. We as a community of believers our Witnesses to the dawning of the kingdom. And so as we light our Third Advent Candle, cry out into the darkness “Witness!” “I promise to be a witness for God!” I will stand in the community that praises Him at the mass for it is here that my journey in exile ends. I will accept the responsibility of being a part of this living community of faith through my time and talent and treasure. I will commit myself to growing in a greater knowledge of God through study and prayer and to serving the poor as a way a living. John the Baptist came to testify to the Light. Today we the community of Good Shepherd reaffirm our choice to do the same!