Growing in Faith Through Suffering and Adversity: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Growing in faith through suffering and Adversity, St Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Reading I: 1 Jn 4:7-10

Responsorial Psalm: 72:1-2, 3-4, 7-8

Alleluia: Lk 4:18

Gospel: Mk 6:34-44

Liturgical colour: White.

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today we commemorate the Memorial of an extremely Strong woman, who firmly hung onto and even strengthened her faith, despite much suffering and adversity in her life. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who is my name saint within the Order of preachers Independent, this St Name was bestowed upon me (Sr Lady Elizabeth),  due to the fact that my order Prior (and Presiding Bishop) felt that there are many similarities between the life of St. Elizabeth  Ann Seton and that of my own life. I feel so blessed and humbled, to be granted this strong faithed saint as my name saint.

All Throughout Biblical history and even in the times in which we live today, we sometimes tend to come across people who have endured so very much suffering and adversity within their lives and who, regardless of that fact, the person remains strong and devout within their faith and even sees their faith strengthened by the sufferings they have endured. Today we remember St Elizabeth, whom is one such person from whose life, heart and sheer devotion to the Lord in her strength of faith, which we can all take inspiration and to try to emulate such within our own spiritual lives.

Elizabeth was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be Canonized to sainthood.

Elizabeth was born as Elizabeth Ann Bayley in New York city on the 28th August in the year 1774, and she was a child of the Revolutionary war. She was raised Episcopalian which was the faith of her parents.

Elizabeth married at the  tender young age of only nineteen years old, to a man named William Magee Seton. He was a young but wealthy merchant and together they parented a total of five children.

Elizabeth had a very deep devout faith and concern for the poor even as a  very young woman and she shared this devotion with her sister-in-law,  who was Rebecca Seton, and with whom she became very close friends. Together, Elizabeth and Rebecca undertook various missions for the poor and for the needy of their region and they adopted the name of the ‘Protestant Sisters of Charity` for their mission works.

Elizabeth’s life changed after only the short time of four years of marriage and her life became rather burdensome in nature. Elizabeth and her husband were left with the responsibility for seven half-brothers and sisters of William’s father when he died in the year 1798.

Elizabeth suffered even further in the year 1801, when her own father with whom she had a  very close relationship, especially since the loss of her mother at aged only three,   himself passed into the care of the Lord.

Then yet again she suffered after only another two years, when both her husband’s business and his health failed. Filing for bankruptcy, Elizabeth and her husband sailed to Italy to help his health and to try to revive his business.

Whilst in Italy, Elizabeth suffered even further, as William’s condition worsened. He was quarantined and subsequently died of Tuberculosis in December of 1803. Elizabeth remained in Italy for several months after his death and during this time, was more fully exposed to the Catholic faith.

Elizabeth returned to New York city in June of 1804, only to suffer yet again with the loss of her dear friend and sister-in=law, Rebecca Seton, in the very next month.

At only the young thirty years of age, Elizabeth had endured the loss of so many who were close to her and she seemed to have the weight of the world upon her shoulders. Even so, throughout all this, Elizabeth still remained fervent in her faith.

The months ahead were life-changing for Elizabeth and she seemed ever more drawn to the Catholic faith and to the Mother Church, much to the horror of her friends and her remaining family who were firmly Protestant.

Elizabeth Ann Seton was received into the Catholic Church on the 4th March 1805. Her conversion cost her dearly in the areas of her friendships and in the support from her remaining family.

Elizabeth relocated to the Baltimore area and there she established a school for girls. She also founded a religious community along with two other young women and she took vows before the Archbishop Carroll as a member of the Sisters of Charity of St Joseph. From this time forward, Elizabeth was known as Mother Seton and she left a legacy of care and education for the poor. She even established the first free Catholic school of the nation.

In so many ways, the journey into the Catholic faith, helped Elizabeth to much more appreciate and to embrace her faith even more profoundly. Elizabeth was willing to endure all things to follow Christ. In her journal, she even wrote, ‘If I am right Thy grace impart still in the right to stay. If I am wrong Oh, teach my heart to find the better way’.

Many of us who have chosen the Catholic faith have experienced some setbacks and have had to endure issues with relationships, but for this brave and devout woman of faith, the cost was even greater.

Elizabeth died aged only 46 on January 4th 1821 from Tuberculosis and she was Canonized on September 14th 1975.

On this your special day, St Elizabeth Ann Seton, Pray for all of us who follow your pathway of faith. Pray that we likewise to yourself will say yes and will accept all that will come to us in the years ahead, and to allow our earthly endurance to further our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

The Holy Innocents ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: 1 Jn 1:5—2:2

Responsorial Psalm: 124:2-3, 4-5, 7cd-8

Gospel: Mt 2:13-18

Liturgical Colour: Red.

Today, we as a church remember The Holy Innocents, those infant boy martyrs all  aged 2 years and under. This liturgical season has such a huge contrast. Only 3 days ago, we were celebrating the joyous celebration of the birth of Our dear Lord and Saviour, Jesus. Then the very next day, our thoughts turn To st Stephen and his Martyrdom for Christ. Now, we are remembering these Innocent young child martyrs, and how they were slaughtered on the orders of King Herod.

Let us first look at The Gospel reading for today of  Mt 2:13-18:

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search  for the child to destroy him.”

Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,     Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious.  He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.  Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,  sobbing and loud lamentation;  Rachel weeping for her children,  and she would not be consoled,  since they were no more.

It’s  extremely difficult to imagine that anyone could see a little baby as such a great threat, yet that is exactly what is  recounted in our gospel today. When Jesus was born, the shepherds and magi see in the Christ Child a Lord and  Saviour. King Herod, however, sees the baby Jesus as merely a rival that has to be feared and to be  eliminated. The “Holy Innocents” we celebrate today are all those little babies that Herod had murdered in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill this child Jesus. Sadly, this event is not the first such occurrence of this nature in the Scriptures. When the Israelites grew numerous in Egypt, Pharaoh also sensed a rival and thus ordered all the babies to be thrown into the river. Despite this attempt, Moses, like Jesus, escaped the plot against them. The important point in these stories is that we need to recognize that God’s plan was brought about even in spite of these murderous efforts to thwart it. Many babies died in Egypt and Bethlehem and yet Moses and Jesus remained safe and sound. God’s plan was accomplished.

The readings tell us today about  light and about darkness. The magi are in darkness, and yet they see the star and follow the guiding light it which it shines. They are willing to go out of their way, to change their lives to conform to God’s guidance. The magi find their way to that light. We too are often given the choice between being in  light or in  darkness.

This day which commemorates the sad slaughter of so many innocent children in Bethlehem is somewhat ironically also a feast day on which is for celebrating. Whilst we remember the horror of the deaths of these little babies, and the traumatic suffering their families obviously suffered by their slaughter, We also celebrate the fact that King Herod’s plan failed. Not only did Jesus survive, but the lives of the little babies were not snuffed out eternally  as Herod had planned. Rather, these children now live forever in God’s  heavenly Kingdom, where they intercede for us. Yes, we rejoice to see that God’s plan is triumphant even in the face of great opposition and evil. Light will always be triumphant over darkness. The only question that remains is, will we live in the darkness of this world, or will we follow the light and live in the Lord our God and Saviour, and he in us?

Let us pray:

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod.  Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims;  and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the union of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Feast of the Holy Family…and us ~ Milan Komadina, Novice

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas. In many churches worldwide in this Christmas season we can see pictures or icons of the holy family of Jesus. In catholic and some traditional protestant churches we can also see some Christmas pictures but mostly we can see the statues of Mary, Joseph and a baby Jesus. In some protestant denominations where icons or statues are not popular people usually imagine this holy family while reading the Bible story of the Jesus` birthday. What is very beautiful about this holiday is that ALL Christians regardless of their denomination are celebrating Jesus` birthday. Even people who are not religious traditionally celebrate this holiday by giving gifts, decorating their houses, preparing delicious food and enjoy gathering with their family members.

And here we come to this very sacred word – Family. This is the topic of today`s sermon and there are many things that we should learn about the importance of the family. This is the first lesson that Jesus taught the world, even though he was just a new-born baby not even knowing His mother tongue. Yet His birth is a big lesson to all people. He was born in a byre surrounded with animals and hay. He was not born in a luxurious palace even though He is a King of Heaven. His place of the birth teaches us that material treasure is not the most important thing in this world. As we read in the Bible he got gifts from wise men: gold, myrrh and incense.

Those three gifts have their meaning. Biblical scholars tell us that gold represented value, dignity, authority and everlasting kingship. It is a gift for a king (or a queen of course). Today, many of us yearn for a greater sense of value, dignity and authority in our own lives. Myrrh was an anointing oil used as gifts to kings in the Eastern cultures. The anointing of oil was an act that symbolized holiness. Holy in Hebrew means “set apart and different from all others.” In the Hebrew culture it began as a practice for priests, but was later accepted for prophets and kings. And incense. For the Jews, incense was to be a symbol of prayer, as David says, “May my prayer be set before you like incense” (Psalm 141:2). Incense is still used by priests within the Eastern Orthodox Church.

In the modern time that we live, I believe that it is still important to give the definition of what the family is because some people like to use this term to discriminate certain groups of other people. The traditional family is certainly the family of straight couple and their one or more children. Jesus` family was an example of the family that only looked as a traditional one but he was actually adopted son of Joseph, since we know that Joseph was not biological father of Jesus. So the families are also those families with adopted children. The family can be a family of same-sex partners and their adopted child. Or even if some couple cannot or do not want to have their biological child, they are still family. The family is about love not gender, biological characteristics or sexual orientation. But what I believe is one Family that is also important or the most important to all of us is the Family called The Church. Since all of us believe that we have our one heavenly father, God we believe that we are all children of God. And this is a very special blessing and a gift. We call each other brothers and sisters and this is a symbol that in a spiritual sense we are brothers and sisters. The importance of Our Heavenly Family is emphasized by Jesus when he was twelve in one interesting story from the Bible from Luke 2, 41-52 when Jesus went to Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover. He stayed in the town even though His parents had been going back home. They literally lost Jesus. But after three days they had finally found Him in the temple when Jesus replied to his step-father and mom: ”Did you not know that I must be in my Father`s house?”. This doesn`t mean that if our parents are not religious or they seem to be careless or for any other reason we should not be obedient to them. Jesus was an obedient child, He only wanted to teach us about the importance of Heavenly Family. This means that the Father`s house is an important place and to all of us as through Jesus we can also call Him Abba father, as it is written. What we also read in this chapter is that Jesus came to Nazareth and was obedient to His parents. So children should always be obedient to their parents.

In Colossians 3. 18-21 Bible gives us some instructions on how one healthy family members should treat each other. Partners should dedicate to each other, love each other and not to be harsh to each other and do what is fitting in the Lord. If they have children, they should obey parents in everything. But parents should not embitter their kids, or they will become discouraged. These are good pieces of advice given to our nuclear families but what I would like to put my focus to at the end of this sermon is our spiritual family. The family containing of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Especially when we grow old and if our parents died or if we lost our spouse or partner, people become aware that the family can be lost. But The Church is one big family and Christians will never be alone. They will always have millions and millions of Christian brothers and sisters worldwide and this is how beautiful our faith is. In Colossians 3: 12 -14 God is giving some instructions on how should we behave as being parts of the Big Family. It is written: ”Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Let us thank to the Lord for giving us this treasure called family. Thank Him for our biological nuclear and extended family. For our parents, sisters, brothers and cousins. And also let us be thankful for the big spiritual family which is called The Church. Be obedient and love our biological family like Jesus did and also love and care for our spiritual family like Jesus did. Let He bless us all. Amen.

He Is Born!

Luke And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Leap for Joy! The Rev. Frank Bellino, Novice

LK 1:39-45 Charles Spurgeon was quoted as saying “And when the Lord Jesus has become your peace, remember, there is another thing: goodwill towards men. Do not try to keep Christmas without goodwill towards men.”

My family of God, I welcome you to this last Sunday before the awaited day of Christmas. Today we are asked to take Christ to others; To bring others to experience Christ by our helpful actions as our mother Mary showed in that generous and selfless visit to Elizabeth her relative. May you jump with joy in God’s presence today and always.

Today’s readings remind us that Jesus is reborn every day in ordinary people living ordinary lives, who have the willingness to respond to God’s call and the openness to do God’s will. They suggest that Christmas should inspire us to carry out God’s word as Mary and Jesus did, in perfect obedience to His will, in cheerful kindness and unselfish generosity.

Contrary to the belief of many that Christmas is a time to show off how much we have, a time of partaking in various forms of pleasurable and luxurious living or social activities, the readings of today’s highlight what should characterize everything we do in this period and that is taking Christ to others. A time we bring people to experience Christ by our way of living; this is the most important of all and the true spirit of Christmas. It does not matter whether you are an important person or not, God wants to use you to bring Himself to others.

In the Gospel, Luke tells us how two insignificant women met to celebrate the kindness and fidelity of God. It shows us how sensitive Mary was to the needs of Elizabeth, her older cousin who had miraculously become pregnant in her old age. For Luke, following Jesus consists of hearing God’s word and then doing it, (talking part) and Mary does both, to become the most perfect disciple. “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? – St. Theresa of Calcutta said, “Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern.”

We need to carry Jesus to others as Mary did. Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing his rebirth within us. Once Christ is reborn in us, He enables us to share his love with all whom we encounter by offering them humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate, caring love. Let us take the time to visit others this during Christmas season, especially the sick and shut-ins, to bring some inspiration into their lives, and hopefully to bring them closer to God.

We need to bless and teach the younger generation. Elizabeth exhibits the responsibility of the older generation to motivate the young generation. Grandparents, Godparents and clergy have the responsibility of encouraging those around them. By complementing and encouraging one’s spouse, children and friends, let us make them know how valuable they are to us and to God.

God is faithful to His promises. The first reading from prophet Micah gives assurance to the Jews that God is faithful to His promises and that from the unimportant village of Bethlehem He will send them the long-expected ruler. From something insignificant, God brings out something significant. It does not matter how insignificant your virtuous deeds are, God always treasures them and makes something meaningful out of them. Anything you do for another, in this period of Christmas, is being Christ-like. The second reading encourages to be thanks to Christ who offered the sacrifice of perfect obedience that liberated us from sin. At Christmas, we celebrate that unique sacrificial gift of Christ to the world. May our lives be sacrificial in this period of Christmas to give back God’s gift of himself to us.

May you and your family leap for joy as Christ enters your home this Christmas period.

As always you all and your families are in my prayers.

Gaudete!!! ~ The Rev. Frank Bellino, Novice

We lit the pink candle today, and as you can see, we wear rose vestments the third Sunday of Advent. The pink candle is identified as the “Candle of Joy.” Our lighting the candle is our prayer that God may replace our sadness with joy.

The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for rejoice. In the readings today from the third Sunday of Advent the words ‘joy’ and ‘rejoice’ appear twelve times and used in place of each other. One can, rightly, call the third Sunday of Advent “Baby Jesus Shower Sunday” since we are in the mood of joyful anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The first reading is a prophecy of Prophet Zephaniah to the people of Israel when infidelity to God was exceedingly high. The worship of God was at an exceptionally low level. However, there was a remnant who remained faithful to the worship of God. The prophecy was a prophecy of hope and encouragement to the remnant faithful.

There are too many desolate people who are going through various kinds of crisis that stifle joy in their life and leave them sad most times. May the prophecy of Zephaniah come to fulfillment in their lives. May God, in his infinite mercy, replace their sadness with joy. May God remove the judgement against them and turn away their enemies. May they no longer be afraid or discouraged. May they be renewed in God’s love. May they shout for joy and sing joyfully to God. May they exult with all their heart.

In times of crises and desolation, let us keep faith, and remain close to God. The psalmist says, “To be near God is my happiness” (Psalm 73:28). As we remain close to God, St. Paul prays for us in the second reading, “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard [our] hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Our reflection on the importance of spiritual preparation for Christmas continues today. The Advent season offers us three major spiritual invitations: (1) invitation to prayer, (2) invitation to repentance, (3) invitation to charity.

St. Paul highlights the invitation to prayer in the second reading. He says, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make requests known to God.”

In the Gospel, John the Baptist emphasizes invitation to repentance and invitation to charity. John the Baptist said to the crowd, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” This is an invitation to charity. We are the crowds. John the Baptist invites us to help, support and be charitable to those in need. Our acts of charity make us instruments of joy to others.

John the Baptist said to tax collectors, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” This is an invitation to repentance. We are the tax collectors. John the Baptist invites us to repent from dishonesty and greed.

John the Baptist said to the soldiers, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” This is an invitation to repentance. We are the soldiers. John the Baptist invites us to be self-content and not bear false witness or accuse anyone falsely.

As our Advent journey continues and as we approach the celebration of Christmas, may the joy of the Lord be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

You Have to Do Your Part ~ The Rev. Frank Bellino, Novice

A soap salesperson and a priest were walking together down a street in a large city. The soap salesperson casually said, “The Gospel you preach hasn’t done much good, has it? Just observe. There is still a lot of evil in the world, and a lot of wicked people, too!” The priest made no reply until they passed a dirty little child making mud pies in the gutter. Seizing the opportunity, the priest said, “I see that soap hasn’t done much good in the world either; for there is much dirt still here, and many dirty people are still around.” The soap man said, “Oh, well, soap only works when it is applied.” And the priest said, “Exactly! So, it is with the Gospel.”

We handed out the Rejoice books for out Advent study, to prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord and Savior, it only works if you read the material!

What is Advent? Why is it important? Lent is obvious: as Jesus makes His way to Jerusalem, to His trial and Cross and tomb, we travel with him with quieted voices, almost shameful faces, wearing the color of his bruises. Prayer, penance and alms giving come naturally to us in times of shame and grief like Lent.

But Advent’s time is different. First thing it is only half as long. And what comes at the end of our waiting is not a death but a birth. Whatever its challenges, pregnancy is not a period of despair. And even if we focus on the other aspect of Advent, the Second Coming, when Christ “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,” we joyfully greet this prospect with excitement, indeed we pray for it.

Our Advent readings today lack the gloomy mood of Lent. “Take off that dress of sorrow and distress,” says our First Reading, “and put on the beauty robe of God’s glory; wrap the cloak of God’s integrity around you; put the diadem of God’s splendor on your head” (Bar 5:1-9). Likewise, our Psalm promises those who go out ‘full of tears’ that they’ll come back ‘full of song,’ singing Advent carols. Hearing about the countless office parties and new year’s celebrations there is not much hope of Lenten sobriety in this country in any case. But what is it the liturgical calendar asking of us at this time of year?

“Wake up, take the high ground, look East,” says the Prophet, look towards the sun, because something wonderful is coming. “Purify yourselves in preparation for the Day of Christ,” says the Apostle (Phil 1:3-11). “Prepare,” says the Precursor (Lk 3:1-6). The mood of Advent is preparedness, excitement, eagerness: because something important is going to happen soon. So significant that Baruch says, “God has commanded the flattening of the mountains and the filling of the valleys.” So important that John the Baptist cries in the wilderness: “Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight… so all may see the salvation of our God.” The Christmas decorations may hang up early in our city and with mixed motives; but the urge to announce the coming of the Lord is a sound one.

Excitement, about Christ’s coming at Christmas and return at the end of ages, fine: but readiness? Are we ever ready? How could we prepare for such a thing? Well, Jesus once told a story that helps us understand. A king held a wedding feast for His Son, but those who He first invited would not come (Mt 22:1-14). He asked repeatedly. But they stuck to their own concerns and treated the King’s messengers badly, even killing them. It is a parable, of course, about God’s repeated invitation to Israel to join the party that is life in His Kingdom. Finally, in frustration, the King invites strangers “both good and bad” from the streets and what we would consider ghettos – in other words, the less than holy Jews and even the Gentiles. But then we get a strange variation in the story: one guy has come to the feast dressed in flip-flops, a T-shirt and dirty old shorts. The King has had enough of all this disrespect. So, he gets the police to throw the guy out. You understand, even vagrants in the Kingdom of God are expected to put on their Sunday best. Though we might never be completely ready for Christ’s coming at Christmas and at the end of time – or our coming to Him at the end of our lives – we can at least do our part to prepare ourselves to join at the feast. Even the poor shepherds in the field, received a little teaching from the Angels and though they had no gifts to offer, they brought their lambs, carols, and adoration.

Which is why God sends us John the Baptist as an invitation card today. It is to let us know the party’s happening and tells us to prepare. “Prepare a way for the Lord,” he pleads to us in Advent. “Repent and believe the Good News – for the forgiveness of sins.” Straighten out the sins in your life-story through confession, prayer, the sacraments; remove the obstacles of your vices by conversion and the cultivation of virtues in their place; make a straight path for God in your hearts. Prepare yourselves for the wedding feast coming, not in a tuxedo or wedding gown, but with integrity and godliness, as our first reading proposed, ready for what God has waiting for us.

How do we change to what really matters? Paul’s prayer for us today is “that your love for each other may keep increasing, and your knowledge [of God], and your perceptiveness so that you can always recognize what is best.” That, he says, is the way to “prepare yourself for the Day of Christ,” to ready yourself and observe the Advent ways. Our hearts are made for caring, our brains for thinking, our senses for identifying so, all three come natural in the world for us; yet how easy it is for our cares to go astray, our minds to be confused, our vision to be distorted. Hatred, prejudice, egotism, indifference – you name it – these things block us for Christ’s coming, put-up barriers, hills and ravines. But knowing, loving and serving God and His divine image in our fellows: these things ‘straighten out’ the way for Jesus.

When a religious makes profession of their vows or a new priest is ordained, the Provincial or Bishop uses St Paul’s words from our epistle today: “May the Lord who has begun this good work in you bring it to fulfilment.” But Paul wrote this prayer for everyone. If we live with integrity and godliness, desiring to know, love and serve God and His people, we are living for God – between now and Christmas, now and the end of our lives, now and the end of time, the God, who has begun this good work in us, will bring it to conclusion.

Happy New Year! ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

So…  Happy New Year!   

What?  You say to me, “Bishop, did you skip Christmas altogether?”  Nope.  Today marks the beginning of the new liturgical year.  Do, please, allow me to explain:

Within the calendar year, there is another year:  the great cycle of the liturgical year, revolving around the life and ministry Christ.  Each season of the liturgical year has its own focus, feasts, words, and colors, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus, his life, and his commission to His people to be a light to the world. words, and colors, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus, his life, and his commission to His people to be a light to the world.

Since the 900s, Advent has marked the beginning of the church year, and is a season of great anticipation, preparation, and excitement, traditionally focusing on the Nativity of the Christ Child, when Jesus came as our Savior.  During Advent, we as Christians also direct our thoughts to His second coming as judge.

The word Advent is from the Latin adventus, meaning coming,” and is celebrated during the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. Advent always contains four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, (November 30) and continuing until December 24. It blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event.

Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000-year-old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture readings for Advent reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment of sin, and the hope of eternal life.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for holy living, arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s    people.     As the church celebrates God’s Incarnation in the physical presence of Jesus Christ, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning, awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

We celebrate with gladness the great promise of Advent, yet knowing that there is also a somber tone as the theme of final judgment is added to the theme of promise. This is reflected in some of the Scripture readings for Advent, in which there is a strong prophetic tone of accountability and judgment of sin. This is also faithful to the role of the Coming King who comes to rule, save, and judge, the world.

Because of the dual themes of judgment and promise, Advent is a time of preparation that is marked by prayer. While Lent is characterized by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s   prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light (Isaiah 9).

As we prepare ourselves for the coming Christmas season, let us also remember that we are in Advent, preparing for the coming of Christ, our King.  May all of you have a meaningful, blessed, and holy, Advent.

Giving Thanks ~ Br. Milan Komadina, Novice

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States and Canada. It is a special holiday when people should celebrate. In both Canada and America, family and friends gather for a feast on Thanksgiving. Traditional fare in America often includes turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Parades and football games also have long associations with the holiday. Since I grew up and live in South Eastern Europe I remember the time when I was studying English as a kid. Sometimes we had lessons called – Thanksgiving Day. I was sad because we in Serbia do not have this holiday. Yet I also understood how important deeper meaning of this holiday is. How important is to think really deeply about all the things we are thankful for. To think about all blessings and everything that God has done and is doing in our lives.

When I started preparing this sermon I was investigating a bit how many thanksgiving verses we have in the Bible and I found that there are more than 100 of them. In Psalm 95:1-2, King David wrote” I will enter and give thanks to the Lord”. In 1 Chronicles 16:34 it is written “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever”. More than 10 years ago when I was living in an Orthodox Christian monastery trying to become a monk for many months I was reading orthodox Christian books in order to learn as much as I can. Even though I declare myself as an old catholic since 2016 when met father Michael, I remember that there are some good things I learnt from Orthodoxy. One thing is Thankfulness. If you ever go to Holy Month Athos in Greece where only monks live you could hear very often them saying ”Slava i hvala Gospodu” which means “Glory and thank be to the Lord”. Also one important thing that I learnt I would like to share here with you. As a young man, when I was in my early twenties I spent two years learning Greek language, I also worked in tourism sector in Greece. I remember one very important word that we all use in Christian churches. This word is Eucharist or in Greek – Evharistia. This word actually means – thankfulness. In Greek language evharisto means thank you. So, it is very important to make this relation between Eucharist and giving thanks to God.

When we participate in the holy Eucharist we also participate in thankfulness for the salvation that Jesus had given us though his the most holy sacrifice. When we eat brad and drink vine, we eat Jesus` body and blood. We show thankfulness to his sacrifice, we are thankful for His most holy body that is given to be sacrificed for the sinful humans and when we drink his blood we show thankfulness to God for the purest blood that was given to wash away our sins of everyone who believes and accepts Jesus as his or her savior.

Another definition of the biblical meaning of thanksgiving is that Thanksgiving means to respond to God’s goodness and grace with gratitude. The word for giving thanks in the Old Testament means to raise hands to God in gratitude. We can show gratitude through Eucharist but we can also show our gratitude through our prayers. From time to time it is really useful to all of us to think about all the things that we have and to become aware how blessed we are. Usually when we pray we ask God to do something. We pray for success at work, we pray for good health, we pray for better salary, we pray for many things. But I personally believe that the most powerful prayer is not to request anything from God. Just stay in His presence and say one sincere “Thank you. Thank you for all the good things that you gave me. And thank you even for allowing bad things to happen because those might be lessons and I may learn something from those. Thank you God for everything, for every breath I take, for every heart bit, for giving me this life, for giving me love, for allowing me to get to know Jesus. Thank you for the gift of salvation, for the love, the hope and the faith. Evharisto!”

I remember one old school friend when I was in my Secondary school. That friend unfortunately always lived in a very bad financial situation, as many people in Balkan do. And she always kept asking every single person for some small money. We were all helping her, sometimes when we could and as much as we could. But after some time, we were trying to skip seeing her in the school. All students knew that this girl would be complaining about her finances and ask for some financial help if you stop her to say hello. Students started seeing her not as a true friend, but as a material person who always asks for some material help.

I often remember this situation when I pray. I know it is written that we should ask for many things in our prayers but it is also written that Our Heavenly father is giving food to birds and water to flowers in fields and He knows what we need even before we ask for it. But human nature is strange, it seems that we always want more and more. My prayer for today on this Thanksgiving is let us all to stand for a moment and not to ask for anything new in our prayer. Let us just pray to good with the mouth full of thanksgiving. Let us think about all the things that we have already and let us be thankful for these.

In Philippians 4:6-7 there is a verse saying: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This does not teaches us that it is not good to have requests. We can have requests for our God. But those requests should be there with thanksgiving. God loves when we show gratitude and when we say:” Thank you, God”. As a result he can grant us more than we ask him to. And there is one more Bible verse talking about that. In Luke 17: 11-19 it is written: “Out of the ten lepers Jesus healed, only one went back to thank Him. This man, completely free from illness but full of faith, knelt at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for showing mercy. Because of his gratitude, God healed him far deeper and more than the other nine men were”. With this story in our minds and hearts let us all be thankful on today`s Thanksgiving Day, and let us celebrate thanksgiving every day in our hearts. Thanks be to God forever. Amen.

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe! ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of  Universe.

Reading 1:Dn 7:13-14

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 93:1, 1-2, 5

Reading II: Rv 1:5-8

Gospel: Jn 18:33b-37

Liturgical colour: White.

Today we come together to honour Our King and Our saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus is the One and true King of all heaven and of all the earth. There is no one who Jesus is not the ruler of, whether such person be an Earthly King or Queen, a President or a Prime minister of a country, Jesus still is the ruler and the King of all. Earthly kingdoms and offices of power are just that, earthly.

Jesus has His true Kingship of all, not by elections or by earthly processes, but by election of God. From his resurrection from the dead and from his installation in heaven at God’s right hand. When our dear Lord rose from the dead, after paying for all our sins upon the cross, God the Father exalted Him and gave him a “name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow.” and this includes everyone, ourselves, and all the rulers of the earth. Jesus lives today and rules over us from his heavenly Kingdom with the Father. Jesus doesn’t rule with evil or hate, or with earthly wants, policies and pride, but rules with love, mercy and forgiveness and who loves and accepts each of us where we are as long as we love him. We have a King that loves us so much that he suffered human death upon the cross for all of our sins, so that we could have a chance of eternal life with Him. What a wonderful Lord and King we have indeed!

Lord Jesus, you are the King of Kings!!

Let us pray:

O Divine Saviour and King of all, transform us into that which is pleasing to yourself. May our hands be your hands. Grant that every faculty of our being may serve only to glorify you. Above all, transform our Spirit, our will, and our affections so that they become those of you, our Lord and King. We pray that you destroy all within us that is not of you, our King of all. May we live in you, by you, and for you. Amen.