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Mark Jacks

4th Sunday of Advent & Christmas

John 1:23

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Full Gospel Passage: John 1:1-18

For Christmas Day

Isn’t it a little crazy: Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, and yet we are busy giving gifts to everyone else but the birthday boy. Did you ever wonder what Jesus wants for his birthday? I think he may want Time. It is a special gift that, in a way, can only be given once. At the same time – no pun intended – that is the gift he has already given to us.

In the Gospel reading for Christmas day, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.”

Not only did God create time itself, but God gave us his own personal time. When God the Son took on our human nature and was born in Bethlehem, he was giving us 33 years of his presence on earth. Are we willing to give to Jesus our time? Are we willing to volunteer, pray, worship, and spend time at St. James? Are willing to give Jesus a unique gift of Time for his birthday?

- Fr. Paul Stein

Reflection

  • What does Jesus truly desire for His birthday? Consider if you’re ready to present Him with the precious gift of your time.
  • Besides time, what is Jesus’ silent wish for you to give for His birthday? Sit with Him and contemplate how you can gift Him more through prayer, worship, and service.

Reminder:

We get to go to mass twice this Sunday! About every six or seven years (a leap year might extend the interval) the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve fall on the same day. As Catholics, we are obligated to attend and participate in the mass on Sundays and other days designated as holy days of obligation, like Christmas. So this Sunday, like our regular obligations, we must attend mass for the 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve. A lot is happening but lets make sure to remember why we prepare, gather, and celebrate: the birth of our lord Jesus Christ.

Third Sunday of Advent

John 1:23

I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord

Full Gospel Passage: John 1:6-8, 19-28

In today’s gospel reading, the “Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites” to ask John the Baptist, “Who are you?” Didn’t they know he was John the Baptist?

They knew his name but wanted to know if he was one of the three persons whose arrival they were anticipating. In the first century AD, the Jewish people expected:

  • A Davidic messiah figure, the Christos, to fulfill God’s promise to King David that one of his descendants would always sit on the throne (2 Sam 7:11-13): (2 Sam 7:11-13): “Moreover, the LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you: when your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom. He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever.”
  • That Elijah (who never died but was taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire – 2 Kings 2:11) would come back and prepare the way for the Messiah (Malakai 4:5): “See, I am sending you Elijah the prophet before the day of the Lord comes, that great day, greatly to be feared.”
  • There will be a prophet like Moses who will explain and clarify the law (Deuteronomy 18:15-18): “A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kindred; that is the one to whom you shall listen… I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kindred, and will put my words into the mouth of the prophet; the prophet shall tell them all that I command.”

While John was not the messiah/Christ, Elijah, or the prophet, Jesus identified him as a figure like Elijah (Matt 11:14), preparing the way of the Lord.

- Fr. Paul Stein

Reflection

  • Amidst Advent’s anticipation, do you approach prayer with openness to the unexpected ways God acts? How can this expectancy deepen your connection with Him?
  • Reflecting on John’s preparation, how might your Advent prayer create space for Christ’s presence, shaping a welcoming heart for His arrival?

Second Sunday of Advent

2 PETER 3:9

The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance

Full Gospel Passage: Mark 1:1-8

“The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

Peter reminds us of the important meaning of this time of repentance and preparation, the season of Advent; firstly, the Lord’s desire for us, and secondly, our interior disposition as we prepare.

The Prophet Isaiah uses very earthy language which can be applied to our hearts: “In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.”  (Isaiah 40:3).

Confession is a fruitful way to prepare for both Christmas and the Second Coming of the Lord. There is a necessary humility in confessing our sins in the sacrament, but a powerful grace comes in a good confession. It is the opportunity to make a fresh start and receive the Lord’s abundant forgiveness. There’s a scene in John Powers’ delightful novel about growing up Catholic in the 1950s Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect up? in which the author leaves church and returns home after going to confession. In his head, he hears these joyful words – Free from sin! Free from sin! Free from sin!

- Fr. Ed Pelrine

Reflection

  • How will you actively align your Advent with the Lord’s patience and desire for repentance (2 Peter 3:9)? Take a specific step, like praying in adoration, today to foster repentance and preparation recognizing it as a key aspect of this season.
  • What concrete action can you commit to experiencing the grace of confession? Consider going to confession at St. James on Thursdays and Saturdays, or scheduling a confession as a tangible step towards a renewed spiritual journey this Advent.

First Sunday of Advent

MARK 13:33

Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.

Full Gospel Passage: Mark 13:33-37

Can you believe it? It is only 21 days until Christmas; so much to do, so little time. Thank God Amazon delivers. While Advent is a busy time in which we prepare for Christmas by cleaning, decorating, and shopping, perhaps we should also prepare… just in case Jesus comes back. Can you imagine Christmas morning, Jesus knocking on your door and saying: “I heard you are having a party for my birthday, mind if I join you?” While it may seem far-fetched, we truly don’t know when Jesus is coming back.

He tells us in today’s gospel: “You do not know when the time will come.” If Jesus did come, would we wish that we had more time to prepare? More time to volunteer, more time to help our neighbor, more time to pray, read the bible… anything to prepare for his coming? I doubt we would wish that we had watched more episodes of our favorite TV show or YouTube and TikTok videos. I bet we would wish that we had given Jesus more of our time. We can start by giving our time here at St. James.

- Fr. Paul Stein

Reflection

  • In the midst of the Christmas bustle, what specific actions or changes can you incorporate into your daily routine to ensure that you are allocating meaningful time to volunteer, help your neighbor, and engage in prayer or scripture to grow your relationship with Jesus?
  • Reflecting on Jesus’ return, what adjustments can you make in your priorities to align more closely with what you would value if Jesus were to arrive unexpectedly, such as dedicating more time to prayer, reading the Bible, and serving your community?

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

MATTHEW 25:45

I say to you, whatever you did for one of the
least brothers of mine, you did for me

Full Gospel Passage: Matthew 25:31-46

In the Sistine Chapel in Rome, where the cardinals meet to choose the next pope, there is a monumental painting of the Last Judgment by Michelangelo. One of the reasons that painting was put there, back in the late 1500s, was to remind the cardinals that they would have to answer to God for the choice they make of the next pope. We too are going to have to answer to God for how we use the gifts he has given us: for self-indulgence, or self-giving.

Our choices and efforts in life matter to God; they have a lasting impact, for good or evil; they do mean something.

One of the greatest theological minds of our time, Cardinal Francis George, gave a famous saying before he died. He said, “The only thing we take with us when we die is what we have given away. The only things that endure are our relationships with God and with each other.” As we conclude the liturgical year, let each of us reflect on how we are living our life remembering the words of Jesus, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, you do unto me.”

- Fr. Michael Grzesik

Reflection

  • How might the powerful symbolism in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment inspire you to bring your choices and responsibilities before God in prayer or seek guidance through Eucharistic adoration?
  • Consider the gifts you give away. How could these offerings deepen your connection with God and others, perhaps finding guidance in the Church’s teachings?
  • Reflect on living out Jesus’ words, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, you do unto me.” How can you bring this self-giving spirit to prayer, Eucharistic adoration, or contribute to the mission of the Church?

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

MATTHEW 25:21

Well done, my good and faithful servant.

Full Gospel Passage: Matthew 25:14-30

In the parable of the talents from Matthew chapter 25, we hear the familiar lesson from Jesus about the master who gives his talents (money) to three of his servants. He gave them responsibility over very large amounts of money. Two of the servants were good and prudent stewards who invested the money, but the third buried his treasure out of fear. We are all given treasures by God, who may be asking us through this parable to seriously consider what we are doing with that gift.

Time, talent, and treasure are abundant gifts from a generous God. What does our stewardship look like? Are we imitating God’s generosity in building up others and the Church?

- Fr. Ed Pelrine

Prayer for Reflection

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve as you deserve, To give and not to count the cost, To fight and not to heed the wounds, To labor and not to seek to rest, To give of my self and not ask for a reward, Except the reward of knowing that I am doing your will.

- St. Ignatius of Loyola
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