December 1, 2010 // Local

Journey through Advent with hearts and minds focused on Jesus

Bishop celebrates Masses in Decatur, New Haven
DECATUR, NEW HAVEN — “‘Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.’ These words of Psalm 122 are fitting as we begin this new liturgical year and the four-week journey of Advent,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades told the faithful in the homilies at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Decatur and St. John the Baptist, New Haven, over the weekend.
Bishop Rhoades made pastoral visits to each parish celebrating the first Sunday of Advent. At St. Mary Parish, Bishop Rhoades blessed a monument of the Ten Commandments.

Bishop Rhoades encouraged the faithful, “ I invite you, as we begin this season of Advent, to be resolved to journey through these four weeks with your hearts and minds focused on the Lord Jesus and His coming among us so that when Christmas comes, you are indeed ready to welcome the Word who became flesh for our salvation.”

Although Advent is a busy season with preparation of Christmas — shopping, Christmas cards, decorating the house, preparing for parties and dinners, Bishop Rhoades noted, “The pace of daily life through the year can be pretty frenetic, and it can get even more frenetic in December. The Church, with her Advent season, may seem a bit out of sync with contemporary culture at this time of year.

“The Church and her liturgy focus not on busy activity, but on prayerful expectation,” he added. “The Church calls us to be detached from too many worldly concerns and to focus on the coming of the Lord. The Church calls us to be devoted to prayer and good works during these weeks of Advent, to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord.”

Bishop Rhoades said, “I invite you today to think about how you will prepare for Christmas these next few weeks and, in the midst of many busy activities, to set good priorities, especially being attentive to your spiritual lives and to the true meaning of this holy season. I speak also to myself as I preach this homily, because I too experience the frenetic pace of my life as a bishop and also feel often that I do not have enough time for all I need to do.”

He said, “Advent invites us also to reawaken our expectation of Christ’s glorious return at the end of time. Jesus speaks of this in the Gospel today when He says: ‘you do not know on which day your Lord will come.’ He calls us to be prepared, for at an hour we do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Each one of us, at a time known to God alone, will be called to account for his or her life,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Our lives as believers are a continuous and vigilant waiting for His coming. Today, the liturgy invites us awake from our sleep, to be prepared and to keep watch. The Church reminds us that our Lord will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

He encouraged, “Today, I invite you to think about how you will spend the season of Advent and encourage you to make time for God who makes time for us. I encourage you to spend time in prayer, to go to Confession, and to do some work of charity for the needy. Don’t allow yourselves to be consumed by the materialism around us, nor fall into a superficial observance of Christmas increasingly evident in the growing secularism of our culture.”

Bishop celebrates Mass on Thanksgiving
FORT WAYNE — “Though today is a special day for us and all Americans, a national holiday, for us as Catholics, ‘thanksgiving’ is part of our daily life of faith,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades told the faithful gathered for the Thanksgiving morning Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne.

In his homily, Bishop Rhoades said, “The center of the Church’s life is the Eucharist, a Greek word which means thanksgiving. Our greatest prayer, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection, is a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation and for our redemption in Christ. ‘Through Christ, we offer the sacrifice of the Mass in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful and just in creation and in humanity.’ — CCC 1359. We express our gratitude to God for all His gifts to us, especially the gift of our new life in Christ.”

He spoke of the history of Thanksgiving celebrations.

“Though not all Americans observe this holiday as a religious feast,” Bishop Rhoades said, “your presence here in our cathedral this morning shows that you choose to celebrate this day like those first Pilgrim settlers of the Plymouth colony in the year 1621 who gathered with the native Americans to give thanks to God for their plentiful harvest. Festivals of Thanksgiving were celebrated in many of the original American colonies, some even before the pilgrim feast in 1621. Spanish Catholic settlers in Florida celebrated days of Thanksgiving decades before the pilgrims of the Plymouth colony.”

He spoke of how, in the early years of the nation, Thanksgiving was celebrated as a religious feast.

Bishop Rhoades said, “In 1789, President George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving Day, declaring that ‘it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.’”

Bishop Rhoades added, “In the following century, in the year 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, not long after the Union victory at Gettysburg, proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, and ever since then it has been an annual national holiday on the fourth Thursday of November.”

Bishop Rhoades recalled from the day’s Gospel how Jesus healed the 10 lepers, but only one returned to give God thanks.

“We kneel before the Lord during the Eucharistic prayer,” Bishop Rhoades said. “We fall at Jesus’ feet to thank Him. We thank the Lord for so many blessings and favors. We thank Him for our life and our faith, for our families and our friends, for our creation and redemption. As we say at every Mass, ‘it is right to give Him thanks and praise.’”

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