First Wednesday of Advent–Saint Andrew

 


A quick word-association:  What do you think of when you hear Saint Andrew‘s name.  Hopefully you think “Apostle” or “martyr”, buy if you’re like me you probably think “Simon’s brother”.  Even the Ordo, the Church’s book of daily prayers, mass readings, and other helpful stuff for clergy says “Andrew, + 1st c.; brother of Simon Peter“.

 

We  can learn a lot from Andrew.  All of us live in someone’s shadow.  Whether it be a spouse or a sibling, someone in school or someone at work, there always seems to be someone who gets more recognition, more respect than we do, at least in our own minds.  Think of Andrew.  He’s the one who brought Simon to Jesus.  Yet, Jesus always seemed to favor Simon in spite of the fact that he was constantly messing things up.  It was Simon who Jesus called “Satan”.  It was Simon who cut off the centurion’s ear.  It was Simon who denied Jesus three times.  In spite of all his failings, it was Simon who Jesus put in charge of His new church.

What about Andrew?  He did his job.  He spread the Gospel just as Jesus had called him to do.  And he suffered a martyr’s death.  Twenty centuries later we remember Andrew, but primarily as Simon Peter’s brother.

It’s appropriate that Andrew’s feast day falls within Advent.  As we pray and reflect in preparation for the celebration of the Lord’s birth we can compare Andrew’s life with our own.  Who are the Simon Peters in your life?  More important, how do you interact with them?  Are you jealous or are you glad to have them in your life?  Are they positive role models?

Like I said yesterday, God made each of us to be unique individuals.  Rather than envy someone else’s accomplishments, embrace them and learn what you can from them to make yourself a better you.  I have four grown-up children.  Each of them is a unique individual.  Each one excels in different things.  I’m sure that at one time or another they’ve all felt like they were living in one another’s shadows.  But the reality is that each one is the wind beneath the others’ wings.

Today’s challenge is to think about the people in your life who seem to get all the attention.  What can you learn from them?  More important, how can you use the gifts God has given you to be a better “you” instead of an imitation “them”.

After 2,000 years we may think of Andrew as Simon Peter’s brother, but the thing is we’re still thinking about him.

First Tuesday of Advent-Innovation vs. Duplication

Have you ever noticed that every area of life seems to have one innovator and a host of duplicators.  Take computers as an example.  Apple is an innovator.  They invented the iPod, the iPad, and the iPhone.  There are other portable mp3 players, tablet computers, and smart phones, but none of them is as good (or as expensive) as the original.  Look at music.  In the ’60s the Beatles were the first British band to hit it big in the US.  They were followed by scores of others, but today, 50 years later, most of the others are just footnotes to musical history.  The Beatles were the innovators.

I watched a show on PBS Sunday, a performance by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Junior, the “Rat Pack”.  There had never been anything quite like them.  All accomplished singers, they weren’t afraid to do things differently and the crowds loved them.  This particular event was held here in Saint Louis.  The television special was part of another PBS fund drive.  If you signed up at a certain level you got tickets to see a concert by a team of “Rat Pack” impersonators.  These guys do make a living impersonating Frank, Dean, and Sammy which shows that there are always customers for an imitation, but I guarantee you they won’t pay the same price they’d pay to see the originals, if they were still alive.

“OK, deacon, that’s all well and good, but what’s it got to do with Advent?”  Here’s the thing.  God the father sent His only Son to redeem the world. That’s all. Just one.  That Son “will come again to judge the living and the dead.”  You and I are called to emulate Jesus’ holiness, but we’ll never be exactly like Him.  It’s just not possible.  He is unique.  He is an innovator.

We’re like Jesus because we’re all unique, too.  God’s will on earth has never been represented before by someone with your unique qualities; and it never will be again.  When He made you, He really did break the mold.  Through the millennia God has created millions of human beings.  Some were very public people, both good and bad.  In our own time we have the examples of Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, and many others.  They’re great examples of God’s will.  They’re innovators.  We can use them as positive role models, but we can’t be them.  They already exist.  God doesn’t need another John Paul II.  He doesn’t need another Mother Teresa.

In His infinite wisdom, God has created you and me to fulfill a particular role in salvation history.  He has created us to be the best version of ourselves.  He has created us to be innovators, not duplicators.  He’s created us to use the talents and skills we’ve been given to the max.  To do any less is to disrespect God and the gifts He’s given us.

In his book, Rediscovering Catholicism, Matthew Kelly suggests that we ask God every day, “Lord, what can I do today to be the best version of myself?”  How can I be the best “me” I can possibly be?  Perhaps that should be the start of our prayers every day this Advent.  But the question is useless if we don’t listen for the answer.  It might come immediately or it might not come until the end of the day.  But there will be an answer.

Won’t it be a shame if we aren’t listening when it comes?

Have a blessed day!

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Today we begin a series of daily commentaries that will run through Advent.  This will be a test of my perseverance and your patience.  Enjoy!

The Entrance Antiphon for today’s mass is short and to the point:

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations;

declare it to the distant lands;

Behold, our Savior will come; you need no longer fear.

It’s from the book of the prophet Jeremiah and it says a lot.  First, we are to hear the word of the Lord.  During this time of Advent, our preparation for the coming of the Messiah, it’s especially important that we hear what God is saying to us.

Second, God calls us to share the word of God with distant lands.  That doesn’t mean that you should hop on a plane and fly half way around the world.  It does mean that we’re called to share the good news with everyone.  Of course, in this modern age, it is possible to share the Gospel with people in foreign lands from the comfort of your home via the Internet.  It’s what I’m doing right now.  But the key message here isn’t about geographical distance, it’s all about the sharing, even if our evangelization doesn’t extend any farther than our own homes.

Third, the prophet is assuring us that the Savior is coming.  We no longer have anything to be afraid of.  What a comfort!  No matter what happens in this life, we have the hope, through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that we can spend eternity in perpetual light.
Make it a blessed Monday.

The First Sunday of Advent

 

On Friday, October 28, our Saint Louis Cardinals walked of the field at Busch Stadium with the World Series trophy, an early Christmas gift for the citizens of Cardinal nation.  It really was like Christmas.  There were World Series parties, total strangers celebrated together, there was even a parade.  But the championship wasn’t won on October 28.  The Cardinals started winning the World Series way back in February when the players gathered in Florida for spring training.

 

They spent six weeks in Florida, then they played 162 regular season games, and three playoff series before they were able to claim the prize.  If they had just shown up on October 28 and said, “OK, we’re here.  Where’s our trophy?”, they’d have been laughed off the field.  Everything that’s good, everything that’s worth having, takes preparation.  And sometimes, it’s not easy.

 

Look at the Cardinal’s season.  Almost everyone had written them off by the end of August.  It would take a miracle for them to even make the playoffs.  But they did, on the last day of the regular season.  Then they had to play the Phillies, the best team in the National League.  They didn’t have a chance.  But they won anyway.  Then they had to take on the mighty Milwaukee Brewers, the best team in their division.  Again, they didn’t have a chance, but again they won.  They made it to the World Series.

 

The Texas Rangers were heavily favored, and the Cardinals fell behind in the Series.  It took them seven games, but they pulled it out.  They were world champions!  Nine months after they had first gotten together in the spring, all the preparation paid off.

 

In four weeks we’ll celebrate Christmas, the birth of the baby Jesus.  Jumping right into Christmas without spending time getting ready makes no more sense than expecting to win the World Series with no preparation.  We call this season of preparation “Advent”.  Today marks the beginning of Advent and it’s the beginning of the Church year.  You might think that the year should begin with Christmas.  After all, it IS the beginning of our faith.  Without the birth of a Savior, there couldn’t be any salvation.  But the Church, in her wisdom, begins the year with a four week period of preparation.

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus warns us to beware that our hearts don’t become drowsy.  He tells us we should be vigilant.  Next Sunday we’ll read about the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry from Mark’s Gospel.  John says, “One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of His sandals.”

 

The following week, December 11, Gaudete Sunday, we’ll read about John the Baptist from John’s Gospel.  He’ll tell us that John wasn’t the light but that he came to testify to the light.

 

Finally, on the fourth Sunday Luke will tell us the story of the Angel’s appearance to the Virgin Mary.  “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”  He tells her that she will bear a child.  As we all know, Mary said “yes” and the final nine months of preparation began.

 

That’s a lot to squeeze into just four Sundays, but it’s up to you and me to fill in the blanks.  We know the story.  We’ve heard it our whole lives.  But like anything familiar, there’s always a danger that we’ll take it for granted.  But this isn’t just a story, it’s OUR story.  Even if we think we know it like the backs of our hands, there’s always more to discover; more to learn.

 

Unfortunately, especially at this time of year, we’re being pulled in every direction.  The media tell us that we can’t be happy and fulfilled unless we buy the latest electronic gadget.  After all, isn’t Christmas the shop-‘til-you-drop season?  Buy, buy, buy.  Don’t worry about how to pay for it.  “No payments until 2013.  Easy credit.  Just use your plastic.  It’s easy.”

 

Meanwhile there’s work to be done.  Year-end deadlines are coming!  And don’t forget the parties.  There are office parties, and neighborhood parties, there’s even a church party.  You have to go.  You can’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

 

Face it, the next four weeks are busy, busy, busy.  And here’s the Church telling you to take time and reflect on the coming of the Savior.  Where am I going to get the time?

 

The good news is that you do have time.  As busy as we all are, we just need to set some priorities.  There’s nothing more important than our eternal salvation.  There are only so many hours in the day, but eternity is forever.  It’s definitely worth a few minutes each day to get ready, and we’re here to help.  In the vestibule of church there are an assortment of Advent books.  There are three different titles and three different authors.  Each one is a little different, but each one is a selection of daily prayers to help you through the Advent season.  Take one or more of them with you when you leave today and make a promise to yourself that you’ll spend a few minutes each day getting ready for the Lord’s coming.

 

It’s a small commitment that will make a big difference in your life.  When December 25 rolls around you might just say “Gee, I’m glad I took the time to get ready.

1st Sunday of Advent

St. John Nepomuk Chapel

1625 South 11th Street     Saint Louis, MO 63104

http://saintjohnnepomuk.org

Deacon Mike Buckley, Director                                                                     Confessions ½ hour before Mass

Sunday Mass  9:30 a.m.                                                                        Saturday Mass for Sunday 4:30 p.m.

           Phones Rectory: 231-0141 and 231-2484

Rectory Hours:  Monday-Friday 8:00 AM-2:00 PM

New members of the community: Please register at the Rectory

Mass Intentions

 

Saturday, November 26                            4:30 p.m.               Michael Tallent

Sunday, November 27                                 9:30 a.m.            Jerry Kroupa

Saturday, December 3                          4:30 p.m.                  Deceased of Koester and Remes Families

Sunday, December 4                             9:30 a.m.                 Joe Eichner

November 27, 2011
1st Sunday of Advent

“O Lord… we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.”  – Isaiah 64:7
When we realize that it is God who formed and blessed us, we must also realize that we have an obligation to share our blessings as God intended when He created us.  It is not a matter of pointing fingers and asking what others are doing.  We need to search our own hearts and ask what we are doing to fulfill God’s plan for us.

Stewardship of Treasure: Last Weekend:  Envelopes $885.00; Loose Change $282.00; Improvement Fund $170.00; Campaign for Human Development $67.00; Retired Religious $40.00; School Fund $55.00; All Souls Day $25.00.

Total $1,549.00                   Thank you for your generosity!

Evangelization thought of the week: “The rediscovery of the value of one’s baptism is the basis of the missionary commitment of every Christian, because we see in the Gospel that he who lets himself be fascinated by Christ cannot do without witnessing the joy of following in his footsteps… we understand even more that, in virtue of baptism, we have an inherent missionary vocation.”
- Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus October 29, 2006

 

We would like to welcome our visitors who are here for the first time. You are always welcome to the historic Church of St. John Nepomuk-the first Czech Church in the New World.  Come back again soon.  If you’d like to become a member, call the rectory during business hours or see Deacon Mike after mass.  For more information, see our web site: http://saintjohnnepomuk.org.

 

The Jesse Tree is up at the front of church.  Please take a tag or tags and return an unwrapped gift for our less fortunate brothers and sisters.  Remember, God can never be outdone in generosity.

 

2012 Sunday Envelopes are on the tables in the vestibule.  Please pick yours up today.  If you don’t find a box with your name on it, please call the rectory and we’ll see that you get them.

 

Saint John Nepomuk Christmas cards are available in very limited quantities, 10 cards and envelopes for $5.00.  See Deacon Mike after mass if you’re interested.

 

Oplatki-traditional Czech Christmas wafers are available today after mass or at the rectory.

 

Breakfast with Saint Nicholas will be held at the Czech Center on Sunday, December 4.  Breakfast will be served from 9:00-11:00 am.  There will be a Children’s Boutique where little shoppers can pick up gifts for the adults in their life.  There will be a toy walk, bake sale, and each child will receive a gift from Saint Nicholas.  It’s open to everyone, not just Sokol members.  Questions?  Call Nancy at 314.704.5164

 

Due to our Christmas party on December 3, there will be no hospitality breakfast in December.

 

Deacon Mike:  Happy New Year!  Advent is here, the beginning of the Church year.  It’s time to prepare for the coming of the baby Jesus.  Unlike Lent, which is a season of penance, Advent is a season of hope.  We await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Every Sunday we light the candles of the Advent wreath to remind us just how close we are to the celebration of His coming.

 

In the secular world it’s a time for hustle and bustle, for shopping and parties, all things that make many of us anxious and edgy.  Holiday planning, travel, and year-end deadlines at work can try the patience of a saint.  Lucky for us, the Church calls us to take time each day for prayer and reflection.  In the vestibule of church you’ll find three different booklets of Advent reflections.  Please take one or more for your use or to share with a friend or loved one.  Let’s encourage one another to take a few minutes each day to encourage one another in our preparation for the blessed day and season of Christmas.

 

Psychologists tell us that it takes three weeks to form a habit.  If we determine to spend more time each day of Advent in prayer, by Christmas we will have established a habit that will serve us well now and in the future.

 

Have a Blessed and Prayerful Advent!

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Of course we know what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel.  He’s the bridegroom.  The wedding feast is heaven.  And the ten virgins are you and me.  When He comes again, some of us will be ready and some of us won’t.  The point is that we don’t want to be one of the unready ones.  The difference between Jesus’ story and today is that if half of us were ready, that would be a big improvement.

According to many surveys, only thirty percent of Catholics attend mass on a regular basis.  That means that seven out of ten people who call themselves Catholics are going to be standing around with empty lamps when the Bridegroom shows up.  But, we’re doing better than other faiths.  According to Gallup, only 20% of all Americans attend church on a regular basis, in spite of the fact that 92% of Americans say they believe in God.  That’s a lot of so-called Christians sleeping in on Sunday morning.

If you and I are called to bring others to Christ, and we are, then it seems like we have an almost impossible task.  But, it’s like the story of the little boy who was walking along the beach, picking up starfish, and throwing them back into the water.  A man stopped and asked him what he was doing.  “I’m saving the starfish”, he said.  At that the man said, “You know, you’ll never be able to save them all.”  The boy picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea and said, “I just saved that one, didn’t I?”

The first reading reminds us today that wisdom comes to those who seek her and those who love her.  Wisdom is a gift from God.  The little boy in the story is wise beyond his years.

You might wonder why the wise virgins in Jesus’ story didn’t share their oil with the others.  Aren’t we supposed to share what we have with others who are less fortunate?  We are.  But the wise women had brought just enough oil for themselves.  We’re asked to give up a lot of things for the salvation of others but we’re not asked to sacrifice our own salvation to save someone else.  A better question might be, “Why didn’t the wise virgins encourage the others to go buy oil before it was too late?”  I imagine that Jesus asked them that question at some point, just as He’s going to ask you and me what we did to help others.

I have to admit I don’t have as much wisdom as I’d like to have.  I wish I was able to understand more about my faith and the world I live in.  But, frankly, there are just so many things that I just don’t get.  How can it be that nine out of ten Americans believe in God but eight out of ten of them don’t go to church?  Exactly what is it that they believe about God?  Do they think He was kidding when He said to remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy?  When God the Father sent His only Son to establish a Church and to save us from our sins didn’t He expect us to say “thank you” by coming to worship Him once a week?  And for those of us who DO come to church, doesn’t He expect us to bring some of the 90% with us?

You and I are blessed to have a beautiful, historic house of worship here at Saint John’s.  Visitors here are almost overwhelmed with this holy place.  Just last week, we had a bus tour from the Czech Genealogy Society.  These were people from all over the country who’ve heard about this church their whole lives.  We may not realize, I know I didn’t, how important this community has been in the history of the Czech people in the United States.  Every Czech Catholic church in America has a connection to Saint John Neopomuk.  It was like the visitors had “come home” even though they’d never been here before.

I’m telling you this because you and I have been called to preserve this heritage for future generations.  Whether you’re of Czech descent or not, you have a great blessing in this place and with the blessing comes a responsibility to share it with others.

You can imagine that after the wise virgins were admitted to the party, the ones left outside had to be asking, “Why didn’t they tell us?  We didn’t understand.  It would have been so easy for us to go buy oil if only we knew.”

So, what should we do?  One obvious answer is to evangelize, especially among friends and relatives who have fallen away from the Church.  Our chapel holds about 600 people.  That’s 1,200 people for two masses.  On a good weekend we’re at about 10% of our capacity.  Don’t be afraid to bring a friend with you.  There’s plenty of room.  In it’s hay day, Saint John Neopomuk had a thousand member families.

Saint Francis famously told his monks to preach the Gospel always and if necessary to use words.  In other words, our actions speak volumes.  Let everyone see how much you love your faith.  Don’t be afraid to speak up about controversial topics.  Everybody you know should know that you’re a proud member of the Roman Catholic Church and that you believe what She teaches.  I was raised in the Baptist church but a lot of my friends were Catholics.  We didn’t sit around and discuss religion, but everyone knew who was a Catholic.  We know more by what they did than by what they said.  I spent many a Friday night waiting for the clock to strike twelve so my Catholic friends could eat pepperoni pizza.

Finally, pray for our brothers and sisters who have gotten out of the habit of going to mass.  Jesus told us that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed we could move mountains.  Remember that Jesus started with just twelve Apostles and today His Church has over a billion members.  At the time His plan must have seemed crazy, even to those closest to Him.  But it worked.

We have our work cut out for us.  When should we start?  Tomorrow?  Next week?  No, we’d better start today; right now.  How much time do we have?  Only Jesus knows and He’s not telling.  Like He said, “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”