Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for your generosity to the retired religious of our nation and the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province.  Your contributions help to ensure that the elderly religious who served the church so faithfully in the past can be cared for in the future.

This week we will celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Tuesday, December 17 at 7:00 pm, and Wednesday morning at 11:00 am.  It is our community’s way of preparing together this Advent for Christ’s coming.  Each of us is different from the last time we went to confession.  Even if it was years ago, God, the Father of the Prodigal Son, stands waiting for us with loving, open arms to forgive us for whatever poor choices we have made in our lives.  Please join us in this great sacrament of God’s mercy and love for us.

On this third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, we rejoice as the birth of Christ draws near.  Not to state the obvious, but this means Christmas is right around the corner and for all of us “regulars” it means that we’ll be welcoming many guests.  Some of these guests are simply our family members who are home from college or visiting from other parts of the country.  Some of these guests are the lost, fallen away, or even un-churched, who may come simply because they like the music.  What might our responsibility be to those who visit us?  More specifically what might our attitude be toward all these visitors?  If we maintain a “lost vs. found” attitude, it could mean that we snarl at these visitors because they’re taking up our regular space.  But what if we look at those who come as an opportunity for us to evangelize and witness to our faith and love of Jesus through our celebration of the Eucharist?  Might our behavior be different?   How can we welcome all who come to us on Christmas so that they want to return the following Sunday?

In attempting to reach the “lost,” Fr. Michael White, the pastor of Nativity Parish in Maryland, writes in his book Rebuilt,  “Lost people aren’t evil or immoral or even bad.  They’re just mixed-up about God.  And in this confusion or misunderstanding, lost people might pursue the world and what it offers.  Lost people come to believe that the way to have a great life is to try to control it themselves.  Lost people can think that money or sex or power or pleasure or sports will somehow fill the ache in their heart, the hole in their soul for God.”

Jesus understands the heart of the lost and offers them the gift of God.  Let us be like Jesus and welcome our guests and visitors so they may experience the gift of God; through our hospitality, our full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy, through the music we sing, and the homily we friars preach.  I trust the Holy Spirit will work through our efforts as the Body of Christ.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark