Week 2 down…

So um, still behind on the Advent Retreat. And falling moreso…BUT.

We made it to that all-important Holy Day of Obligation Mass. I emailed Jeff that morning and told him that if God-willed it, it would happen. Mass was an hour after work and it’s about 30 minutes from work home to get the boys and then like 20 minutes back to either of the closest parishes. We made it with four minutes to spare. We got a parking space and seats (which kind of bummed me out, but I hoped the earlier Mass and the Vigil were fuller). We weren’t at our parish but, we made it to Mass. The joy cannot be understated.

This was after I managed to throw together a last minute St Nicholas Day together for the kids that they all ended up being thrilled with.

So, Confession. I had to get it in at least once this Advent. And so we came to Saturday. Confession at 3 or 3:30 depending on the parish. We had plans to visit my mother-in-law out of town. We ended up leaving a little late, making more and longer stops than anticipated and stayed longer. Then, on the way home, we encountered multiple detours due to a Christmas parade. Joseph was getting nervous in the backseat and I was thinking, here we go we can’t go next weekend, we won’t make it :(. That’s when Jeff suggested dropping us off at the next parish (known as parish 2 of 3, with our parish being 1 of 3…we were at 3 of 3 for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) that also has a Perpetual Adoration chapel and he would pick us up in an hour.

So we got there within 10 minutes of the start time and were #2 and #3 in line. I can’t speak for Joseph but I had a wonderful Confession. The priest gave me, for my Penance, to pray and meditate on the 1st Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: The Annunciation. Joseph and I went to the Adoration Chapel and I prayed the entire Joyful Mysteries but I did spend extra time on that First Mystery. After finishing, I opened my copy of Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI.  When what to my wondering eyes should appear…but the section on the Annunciation of the Birth of John immediately followed by the Annunciation to Mary. I don’t believe in coincidence, but the Holy Spirit has more than proved itself to me many times.

As I read, I was jolted by Papa Benedict’s speaking of John as much an Old Testament as New Testament “character” as it were. He mentioned how Zechariah and Elizabeth were not unlike many previous couples in the Bible, infertile and promised a son. He quoted God speaking to Sarah in Genesis:

Is there anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?

Genesis 18:14

It so beautifully mirrors Gabriel’s response to Mary as she wondered how “this” was to be:

“…for nothing will impossible for God.”

Luke 1:37

I almost laughed out loud. Of course we made it to Mass, of course we made it to Confession. We were striving for what was holy and trusted God and of course!!!  The Holy Spirit has the most amazing sense of humor. I kept on reading.

And the Holy Spirit showed up. Again. I read how instead of the typical Hebrew greeting of “Shalom,” Gabriel greeted Mary instead in the Greek “Chaíre” or “Hail/Rejoice.” And being that we were fast approaching the vigil for Gaudete Sunday…

And now we’ve celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe. Well, this Advent might not be one where I accomplish all I set out to, but it certainly is a fruitful one nonetheless.

So, a week in, how are we doing?

So either Saturday night or Sunday you lit the second candle on the Advent wreath (if you’ve got one because I know life isn’t always perfect). How are we doing? Did we take on too much? Are we still feeling disconnected?

Around here, things are going pretty well. Advent music plays, prayer is the name of the game and fasting is fantastic :).

Seriously though, last week sometime I saw Elizabeth Foss on the Blessed is She instagram story and she said the one measure of her Advent she was paying close attention to was the Advent candles and if they were burned down as this would show how many times they had sat down as a family at the dinner table. So far, by that measure, we’re having a great Advent, despite the fact that I am not at the dinner table most nights of the week (because: work). Jeff and the kids are meeting there, praying grace, enjoying each other and lighting those candles.

I am online shopping for Christmas this year, so, the thing where people say, “Buy ALL the gifts before Advent, ” didn’t happen but that’s totally okay because my kids gave me lists and they were all pretty reasonable requests so I’ve finished or nearly finished everything. (Except Shelby because she is so all over the place, I will have to go into a brick and mortar store for her.) Because of a weird quirk in school system payroll and scheduling, I will have a paycheck before Christmas though so I’m not super stressed about what I haven’t bought yet.

We started our Jesse Tree on the First and Joseph did that entire long reading from Genesis by himself and I was completely impressed with his reading and his and William’s understanding of what was read. We’re a little behind but will catch up tonight. I came down with yet another cold last week so I can’t get too upset that I am a bit sluggish on weekends when I actually can be. Sometimes.

I met with our DFF Sunday to talk how Advent was going and we had a great talk. I felt refreshed and happy leaving. Next Sunday after Mass, the boys and I will attend a new Young Families group at our parish. This is our first time attending and their second meeting. It will focus on St Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Since, aside from “Taco Tuesday” we’ve never done much for either feast (for shame!) I am excited the boys will get to learn more about them.

I’m feeling a little guilty because we aren’t doing a big “St Nicholas” day here this year but the boys said they were fine with just their stockings on Christmas and…maybe I’ll surprise them with a small something.

I am behind on the Pray More Retreat and hope to somewhat catch up this week (we’ll see how that goes). I also am behind on my reading (I have started Jesus of Nazareth the Infancy Narratives) but I refuse to beat myself up over that. I knew the additional reading would be a lot but I’m okay with that.

Things are getting to that wonky time of Advent as they do each year and I think it’s a little exaggerated because we have an entire week the 4th week of Advent this year before Christmas. I have ten days left of school, Jeff and the kids have eight. I’ve already spent most of my last paycheck between Christmas presents, bills, and an oil change. I get another check the 20th but that has to last six weeks…this is the time when it feels like everything is taking forever.

Kind of like the last few weeks of pregnancy…hmmmm

 

My Favorite Miracle of Jesus

Remember the angst of a few years ago (or for some a few days ago, like at Sunday Mass) when we changed the Liturgy and some of our responses at Mass. Remember how for at least a year parishes had the new wording in the pews? Almost all the priests I know personally still pull it out during the Nicene Creed. And, far less frequently now but it still happens, I sometimes still say “and also with you” instead of “and with your spirit.”

Well, while it wasn’t as troublesome as I though it might be (I imagined being much older than I am now and still using all the wrong responses), it took a while to get used to, for sure. I remember discussing it with my parents one  Sunday and they both agreed that, for them was this, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the Word, and my soul shall be healed.” That was changed from, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the Word, and I shall be healed.” I disagreed and voiced my personal problem remember the word, “consubstantial” vs “one in being with.”

I was, at that time moreso than now, one of those Catholics who did not really “know” her Bible. I’m better now, but trust me, baby steps. It was shortly after that conversation that a friend invited me to Bible Study Fellowship’s study of the Gospel of St Matthew. It happened to be the last Cycle A year prior to this one. Perfect timing, but as I’ve come to learn, the Holy Spirit really has perfect timing ALL.THE.TIME. When we studied the 8th chapter of Matthew, I was shocked to read those words I prayed weekly before receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. They were right there. In the Bible. In St Matthew’s Gospel. And they were spoken, by a Centurion. A Roman. Not a faithful Jew. The BSF teaching leader  talked about this fact. The following Sunday, knowing the context (we Catholics REALLY need to read and learn our Bibles) I prayed it as I had never before. With a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

This is by far my favorite miracle of Jesus’. And that’s for a lot of reasons. For one, the Centurion. Jesus used him and his faith as an example for the faithful. Not a Pharisee. Not a Chief Priest. A Roman Centurion. Someone who did not go to the Temple. It would appear that Jesus could not have picked a worse example to hold up to the people of this time, but it was the Roman Centurion. Because God uses unlikely vessels to bring us the good news.

Did I mention this was a Roman Centurion? Matthew and Zaccheus might have been tax collectors and publicans, but at least they were Jews. This nameless dude? He was Roman. He was most definitely not one of God’s chosen people who had been praying for the Messiah or even knew to look for Him. This is important because it would show that Jesus came for all humanity, not just a select few. It would be much later that He would explicitly spell this out but it’s right there, Jesus is for everyone no matter birth or circumstance, color or ethnicity. He is Lord of ALL.

We see the power of intercessory prayer. The Centurion had the benefit of Jesus being physically alive and present right then and there. We don’t have that benefit so it’s all about prayer for us. When we are struggling we ask others to pray for us. I’ve thrown out the prayer requests on social media and friends, some who share my faith and some who do not, generously respond. They are acting as the Centurion in that moment. And then there are the times when I don’t come right out and ask and people offer prayers. The way the scene in Matthew 8:5-11 plays out it doesn’t appear the servant asked the Centurion to seek Jesus out and ask for his healing. The Centurion recognized Jesus (despite not having the years of prophecy and teaching the Pharisees and Sadducees had) and went to Him asking for his servant whose suffering he recognized. When friends share they have been praying for a situation, I realize that I have been feeling those prayers all along. They are making a difference, whether the pray-er realizes it.

 

The Centurion admits to his own unworthiness before professing His faith. He asks but he also acknowledges his shortcomings. Blogger Christine Johnson recently remarked on Snapchat (okay, recent might be overstating a wee bit, it might have been in like September, or even August) about going to Mass at a different parish than her own with her daughter and being surprised about “how they do things around here…” in a manner of speaking. She went on in subsequent snaps to remind everyone that whether you have Gregorian chant or the My Little Pony Gloria at Mass, Jesus still comes. Jesus is still present at the Eucharist whether we are ad orientem or versus populum. And none of us deserves Him. Like the Centurion, none of us are worthy. We are, and always will be in this lifetime, fallen, sinful humans. We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness or mercy, but He still offers them freely if we ask. His grace is there if we are open to it but our sinful nature causes us to close ourselves off and we forget that God loves us anyway and if we truly want to be united with Him, reconciled to Him, we should ask because He is never a God of justice and vengeance because He gave us His only begotten Son. We, by our own strengths and merits are not worthy, but He can make us so.

Jesus met many people in his brief years on Earth.Not all of them are recorded in the Bible but this one was. This interaction between a Centurion and our Lord has survived all this time because it reminds us, ever so gently to be humble. We are not greater than God. We cannot command illness to leave. We must be totally reliant on Him. And we must remember we are truly unworthy of the entirety of what He has given us, but His love for us makes it all so.