Brothers and Sister:

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thes 5:16-18)

12 December 2020
Our Lady of Guadalupe

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday, is a special day. It reminds us to pause, rejoice, and celebrate what is right around the corner – the celebration of Christmas and the light that came into the world to dispel the darkness.  This Sunday, John the Baptist gives testimony to this light. He rejoiced in his mission by preparing for the Savior’s coming. He desired deeply for the people of his time to also rejoice in the upcoming encounter with this light who’s sandals he does not feel worthy to untie.

John spent time in the desert preparing for his mission to proclaim the coming of the Christ, and he will be the one to identify him when he comes. During these past weeks of Advent we have been preparing to identify the presence of Christ when he is with us. Today we are reminded to rejoice in the many ways that Christ is present in our lives and to have the courage to point that presence out. Especially during this pandemic, how important it is that we rejoice in Christ’s presence to bring faith, hope, and love into a very uncertain world. Many people feel anxious or fearful about the uncertain times and the rise in Covid-19 cases. Not only are people concerned about this, but also their families, work, finances, and much more. By realizing with joy the “active” presence of Christ, we lighten those burdens.

After this Sunday we intensify our preparations for the great celebration of Christmas, celebrating the two-fold reality of His coming in history and His return in glory. I encourage you to reaffirm your preparation for this mystery of our redemption. Take time to pray, reflect, and give thanks for this great mystery. Do not let this time pass you by. Notice the Christmas trees, the bright lights, the nativity scenes, and listen attentively to the spiritual carols. Enjoy the time with family and friendships that bring Christmas cheer. There are so many experiences around us to encounter the Christmas mystery and experience Christmas anew.

Once again, I encourage you to reflect upon your participation in the Christmas celebration. There is much concern about crowding at in-person Masses. Please use your best judgement. While some parishes will only provide virtual Masses, other parishes are taking reservations due to limited space. Many pastors are trusting that their parishioners will use their best judgement and follow parish guidelines regarding Mass attendance during the pandemic. The bishop and pastors from around the Diocese are all encouraging their parishioners to reflect upon the option of gathering with their families at home and celebrating the Christmas Mass virtually together, uniting yourselves with the community through spiritual communion. This is a responsible way of protecting yourself and others during the pandemic and minimizing the risk of spread and exposure. Each parish will have their own virtual Mass for Christmas. Please prayerfully reflect upon this option.

These are incredibly challenging times for all of us. We must think from a different perspective, and safety must be our priority over tradition and personal preference. As you know, although I had no symptoms, I became part of  the Covid-19 infection statistics in early November. I’m sure by now each of us knows someone who is also part of the statistics. Please do your part not to become part of this unfortunate group. Make wise and thoughtful decisions regarding your health and the health of those around you.

As we move toward this great holiday and a new calendar year, let us be unceasing in prayer for our brothers and sisters who are sick. Not only should we pray for those fighting the Covid-19 virus, but for all the sick,  their families, and their caregivers. Let us also give thanks for the blessings that God has bestowed upon us and our parish community. It has been a tough year for all of us and the world. Through prayer and giving thanks we can rejoice in Emmanuel – God is with us.

Advent Joy!!
Fr. Workman