Thursday, December 5, 2019

There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; 
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, 
as water covers the sea.
Isaiah 11:9

Have you ever been looking for something...and found something else?  Something you forgot you had? Something you treasured?

Let’s say you were looking for a Christmas cookie recipe you clipped last year.  After searching everywhere you go to that one place you were trying to avoid - the dreaded junk drawer at the end of the kitchen cabinet.  You know, the one where we stuff everything we’re afraid to get rid of. The one we neaten only when it is stuck shut due to the overflow.

You empty about two thirds of the drawer, and there it is!  Not the silly cookie recipe but your grandmother’s chestnut stuffing recipe - the one that you’ve been thinking about for years.  Your heart leaps as you see her beautiful handwriting on a yellowed index card.

Serendipity?  

A collaboration of St. Anthony and the Holy Spirit?

A few weeks ago I was searching the 21st century version of the dreaded kitchen drawer - the hard drive of my computer.  I typed “advent cycle-a” into the search bar and waited hopefully. What I wanted never showed up. What I received was far better.

It was a copy of this column from the Second Sunday of Advent 2016. The year is significant because today is the first time we hear these readings since then. 

In it, I used the image of God’s holy mountain in today’s first reading and offertory song to introduce the newly-formed Social Concerns Ministry.  Here is part of what I wrote: 

In January St. Mary’s will be forming a social concerns team.  We will be looking for ways that we can actively work toward the building of Christ’s kingdom here in Nutley and beyond. 
As you hear and sing Isaiah’s words in today’s offertory song please consider reaching out to me via e-mail or at the parish center to be part of this social concerns effort.
In three years our list of volunteers has swelled to just under 100 people.   
What began with our participation in the Nutley-Belleville care kitchen has grown to include other on-going and one-time efforts.  
We’ve just completed our first year of the We Are St. Mary’s social gatherings on the first Sunday of each month and are considering expanding in the coming year. 
We’ve attracted a coordinator, Bruce Segall, who helps St. Mary’s stay at the forefront of the Church’s efforts to be a Community of Salt and Light.
So what about you?  Will the words of Isaiah move you to be a part of our efforts?
All it takes to start is a phone call (973) 235-1100 or an Email b.mauro1@yahoo.com.

Blessed to be in ministry with you at St. Mary’s,

Bruce

Sunday, December 1, 2019

“The Advent mystery…
 Is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ.”
                                   Thomas Merton

I have been planning the advent season since early October.

Isaiah’s image of God’s holy mountain never fails to inspire. The melodies written in the somber yet hopeful tones of the minor mode move me.  Song ideas and their places in the liturgy come easily.  

But then I am confronted by today’s gospel.    

Two men out in the field. Two women grinding at the mill.  In each case, one accompanied Jesus to the Kingdom. The other was left behind.   I can’t help but extrapolate two church musicians playing at Mass......

Why?  Is this the advent mystery to which Thomas Merton refers?

The answer seems to be contained in Jesus’ command to stay awake.

Stay awake.  What does this mean?  I’ve been thinking about this for the past week. 

Maybe the people in today’s gospel were so busy doing they failed to hear Jesus calling.

This might mean that the whole idea of preparation is not a verb but an adjective. 

Not about what I am doing but my state of being.  

Maybe Advent is about being mindful of the presence of Christ around me and being open to his call. 

One of the acclamations I’ve included this year is “Prepare ye, the way of the Lord.” The cantor will sing the first part and all will respond with the second part. I’m sure you will know the tune.

I’ve purposely planned periods of quiet instrumental music around the singing to allow for a time of being within this time of doing.

Blessed to begin this Advent season with you at St. Mary’s,

Bruce

There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;  for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,  as water covers the...