This Third Sunday of Advent has traditionally been called “Gaudete” Sunday. “Gaudete” is Latin for “rejoice”. The rose colored vestments and rose candle on our Advent wreath reminds us that we are halfway through the Advent season. As we light the third candle on our Advent wreath, we are reminded that the Christmas season draws closer each day. For many of us this Advent of 2020 we might not feel like rejoicing. While the approval of a vaccine against the COVID-19 virus seems imminent, we are also daily faced with the reality that thousands of people here in the USA and throughout the world have been infected. And the sad reality is far too many have died.
I continue to find it hard to believe that so many of our fellow citizens and others throughout the world continue to deny the reality and danger of this disease. Medical science has given us some ways we might slow down or prevent this disease. Through wearing masks, staying away from large crowds, washing our hands frequently and keeping appropriate distance from others have been proven to help slow the spread of disease. But too many people have ended up politicalizing these simple but effective solutions so that we have again seen in the past few weeks a sharp increase in the disease.
As a Catholic and one who believes in Jesus, I am reminded of the Lord's words to all of us of his call to follow him by living the Gospel. For does Jesus not call us to not only love God but our neighbor also? How many times throughout the Gospels Jesus reaches out to those who are sick or hurting with his healing touch? In the whole history of the Church from the time of Jesus down to our present day we see the Church in the forefront of healing, of establishing hospitals or ministry to the sick and hurting.
So what do we have to rejoice in in this time of the world-wide pandemic? I believe in the midst of this time of fear and uncertainty we are called to reflect more deeply upon the Christmas event. For while Christmas trees, shining lights, presents, cookies, Santa and many other things are a part of Christmas, we too often forget what Christmas is really all about. God become flesh like us. God comes down as a defenseless infant to teach us how to live. Born in the most humble of circumstances in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago Jesus grew in wisdom and grace through the guidance of Mary and Joseph.
As this Advent 2020 quickly moves along, I encourage you to be sure and take some time for quiet in your life to reflect upon the great mysteries we celebrate at this time of the year. Because we humans have been celebrating Christmas for these many years, I fear we have fallen into the trap of not really stopping to reflect upon the great gift God has given to us....that of eternal salvation. That Good News was announced to the shepherds and their flocks on a hillside in Bethlehem years ago. That Good news led the Wise Men to follow the star to the infant who would teach all humans how to live, if they but follow him.
Perhaps the "rejoicing" we need to do this Advent is in the midst of uncertainties and fear, in the face of financial concerns and a troubled world, of not knowing exactly how we should celebrate Christmas this year, we might rejoice in what Christmas promises us......... God has become one like us........ God comes in innocence and as a child to remind us that he is among us. This Advent season and Christmas listen again with open ears, an open mind and a loving heart to the words of the angel to the Shepherds so long ago. Listen to those words that are not just pious platitudes meant for another time but are meant also for us who live here on planet Earth in 2020.
"Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were strck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David as savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord" (Lk 2:8-11)
That is why we rejoice on this “Gaudete” Sunday. That is why we celebrate. That is why each one of us who say we are Christian are called to follow Jesus....... even in the midst of a pandemic. For as surely as the angel told the shepherd over 2,000 years ago....that same message is given to us today.... "Do not be afraid!"
I remind you that because of City and Archdiocesan virus and health safety restrictions we will NOT be able to offer Penance Services during Advent as we have in previous years. Beginning tomorrow, Monday, December 14 we will have two reconciliation rooms and two priests available for confessions. Please note these special opportunities for Confessions. Confessions are scheduled Monday-Saturday from 10:30am until 3:00pm the week of December 14-19 and from 10:30am until 3:00pm from December 21-23. Please note there are no confessions scheduled for December 24. If you plan to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation at St. Peter's during Advent be sure to mark these days and times in your calendar.
On December 24 the church is closed for cleaning and decorating for Christmas. Christmas Masses are on December 24 at 4:00pm and 7:00pm. On December 25 Masses are at 9:00am and 11:00am. For the safety of everyone at all Masses in church at this time, we are restricted on the number of people who may attend. To reserve a place at one of the Christmas Masses please call the church offices.
If you are placing a nativity scene in your home I have enclosed below a Blessing Prayer (from the US Bishops’ Conference) that might be said with your family members gathered around your Nativity Scene.
God of every nation and people,
from the very beginning of creation
you have made manifest your love:
when our need for a Savior was great
you sent your Son to be born of the Virgin Mary,
To our lives he brings joy and peace,
justice, mercy, and love.
Lord, bless all who look upon this manger;
may it remind us of the humble birth of Jesus,
and raise up our thoughts to him,
who is God-with-us and Savior of all,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen
© USCCB, 1989
May you have a blessed Advent week and let us continue to pray for those suffering because of the COVID virus. Keep in your prayers all First Responders, essential workers and all care givers who are doing so much for those in need.