How about Advent?  And what about Lent?

This year Advent will swoosh by even faster because the Fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve.  Yes, you may be going to church on that Sunday twice!  In any case, this give us only three weeks of Advent.  If you are like me, you are already reeling from preparations and arriving at Christmas exhausted.  How can we slow down, savor the season and appreciate the coming of Christ in our hearts this Christmas?  Consider the Best Advent Ever 


Also stay tuned for the Best Lent Ever 


The connection between being sent and being with - secrets of missionary disciples

There is a story about a synagogue in decline.  The baffled rabbi of this aging congregation sent emissaries to a famous monk for advice.  After hearing of their distress, the wise monk went off to pray.  The next morning when they returned, the monk whispered five words of advice - "The Messiah is among you." and bid them farewell.

The emissaries were not sure if they fully understood this message, but they were overjoyed by the promise and brought it back to their rabbi, each one wondering who the Messiah might be.  Almost imperceptibly, the promise that one in this community was the Messiah, changed the way they treated one another.

There was a new vitality in the group.  Worship grew in passion and purpose.  The congregation began to attract people who wanted to join in their ministries of caring and compassion, which touched people well beyond the community.  The secret to their success?  Simply a joy for God's presence, which was there all along.

What about us?  Are we not the body of Christ?  Are we not an Easter and Eucharistic people, who know that ALL people are God's people?  Any reading of the Gospel reveals that Jesus displayed a divine generosity and He spent most of his time with those least likely to be at church.  Hospitality is the hallmark of anyone moved by joy for the Gospel.

Joy for the Gospel is much more than right belief and right behavior.  It is an act of self-donation to God's merciful plan for all people.  Missionary disciples see the church, not as a refuge from the world, but as a campaign headquarters for a mission in the world.  Sabbath is when we pause and prepare for that campaign, which is either won or lost off church property.  Therefore, parish is not a building but a mission field.

A missionary people listens to the signs of the times.  They break open God's Word and give witness to their joy and hope at times, and in spaces, that are convenient and comfortable to outsiders and newcomers.  They gather to praise God before being sent out, two by two (Lk. 10) and establish small groups which, by design, receive and welcome newcomers.

When Pope Francis insists that we are either missionaries or imposters, he is calling our attention to these divine realities.  Do our catechists only address those who come to classes?  Do our homilies only echo in the hearts of regular church goers?  Does everyone at church see themselves as an ambassador of welcome to newcomers and visitors?  Do our youth ministers and campus ministers spend an inordinate amount of their time and energy with those who already belong, believe and behave as we expect?

The mission of those who are saved is to be sent (the definition of "apostle").  Missionaries realize that God has some that churches do not, and that churches have some that God does not.  Apostles are sent to be with those least likely to like us.  A delegation of this diocese will travel to Orlando in July in order to converse with over 3000 Catholic leaders about this connection.  What steps can you take at your parish in order to bring the joy of the Gospel to America? 



These sites are not an endpoint, but rather a first step toward welcoming Jesus into your life.  Read through these sites, reflect in prayer on what you see.  If you feel inspired, maybe you will wish to share them links to a close friend, then engage them in a fulfilling discussion about Christ's message. Conversations like this will bring you both to a furthered understanding about our Lord's teachings.