The Symbolism of the Advent Wreath

 

The Advent Wreath comes from an old European tradition. It was mainly a way to involve little children in learning about spiritual preparation for Christmas.  The main symbolism of the advent wreath is the coming of Christ, the Light into the world and our hearts. The gradual lighting of the four candles, one on each Sunday of the Advent season, combined with the liturgical colors of the candles purple is the penitential color used during Advent and Lent. The desert rose color used only on the third Sunday of Advent Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice Sunday) helps to symbolize not only our expectation and hope in Our Savior's first coming into the world, but also in his Second Coming as Judge at the end of the world.

As a family tradition, the wreath itself is also symbolic. The circle of evergreen in which the candles are placed represents everlasting life. The seedpods, nuts and cones used to decorate the wreath are symbolic of resurrection, and fruits represent the nourishing fruitfulness of the Christian life. On the first Sunday of Advent, you may sprinkle the wreath with holy water and bless it before the first purple candle is lit. On the second Sunday two purple candles are lit; the third Sunday, two purple and one rose; and all candles are lit on the fourth Sunday. On Christmas Day, all the greens and decorations are replaced with fresh ones, and four new white candles, symbolizing Christ, replace the colored ones and are burned throughout the Christmas season.

In the family, children who are old enough can take turns lighting the candles every Sunday at the beginning of the dinner meal. The littlest ones can blow them out at the end of the meal. If you use the wreath at mealtime, it is helpful to place it on a tray or platter so it can be moved, and to protect the table from candle wax. The Advent season is a good reminder to pray and watch. The family may pray the Angelus at the lunch and dinner family meals.

Please do not forget our Parish Advent Retreat with Fr. Philip Chircop, SJ this Monday and Tuesday with Penance Service on Wednesday at 7 PM each day.   

                                    I wish you all a blessed Advent Season.

                                              Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Advent: The Reason for the Season

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The focus of the entire season is twofold: 1) a preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent; 2) the anticipation of the return of Christ the King. Advent helps us to reflect on the mystery of how God, in his divine providence, prepared the entire human race for salvation through God’s gradual revelation of Christ, born in history of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As we prepare to remember this event, we relive that history and prepare ourselves spiritually. We relive in expectation of the birth of our Savior. The Advent days help to prepare us spiritually for the coming of Christ.

Thus, Advent is a spiritual journey that we as Christians take, through the truths of Scripture that point to the birth of the Messiah. The themes we will meet during the four weeks of Advent are: Hope, Peace, Joy and God’s love for his people. The readings of Advent in a special way prepare us for the journey towards Christmas. On the first Sunday of Advent the Gospel from Mark underlines watching and waiting. The Second Sunday of Advent the gospel will draw our attention to the preaching and ministry of John the Baptist who came to "Prepare the Way of the Lord."  On the Third Sunday, (Laetare Sunday), the Gospel from John will speak about John the Baptist as being a witness to the light, while the first and second readings convey the joy that Christians feel with the increasing closeness of the nativity and our salvation. On the Fourth Sunday, the Gospel from Luke will focus our attention on the Annunciation to Mary, who by her saying “Yes” to God, the Savoir comes into the world.

 

May you have a blessed and fruitful Advent journey. 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda 

Plan your Christmas Ahead

Important Notice

Christmas is a day of obligation.  This year is a little complicated. Christmas Eve is on Sunday evening with Mass at 6PM and 12:00 Midnight.  For those who attend the Sunday 6PM Mass regularly, this Mass will not fulfill your Sunday obligation since it will celebrate Christmas Eve.

To fulfill your Sunday Obligation (4th Sunday of Advent), please plan on attending one of the following Masses:

Saturday, December 23, 5pm Mass

Sunday, December 24

5am – Misa De Gallo

7am – Sunday Mass

9am – Sunday Mass

11am – Sunday Mass

 To fulfill your Christmas Obligation, please plan on attending one of the following Masses:

December 24, Christmas Eve Masses

6pm – Christmas Family Mass (fulfills ONLY Christmas Obligation)

12:00 – Christmas Midnight Mass

December 25, Christmas Day

7am, 9am and 11am ONLY.  NO 6PM MASS

 I hope the above information is useful. May God bless you abundantly this Thanksgiving weekend and throughout the Advent Season which begins soon.

By:  Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Gratitude for God's Many Gifts

As I said in my homily last Sunday, I strongly believe that stewardship is living each day with passion and purpose. We do so by being grateful to God for the many gifts God continues to pour out into our lives. In gratitude we offer to God our time, talent and treasure, because God first gave us our life and all we possess. “What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor 4:7).

Stewardship is returning a portion of what God in his superabundance has given us each day, each month and each year. The gifts we return are our time, our talent and our treasure. We return these gifts not because God or our Church needs them but because we feel an overwhelming need to show our love and gratitude to God. Our deep awareness of how generous God is towards us moves us to respond by giving back to God in time, talent and treasure. We cannot outdo God in our gratitude for all we have in the first place come from God.

Our annual stewardship commitment is an opportunity for each family to express their gratitude to God for the many blessing of the past year, and to re-commit themselves for another year to give to God of their time, talent and treasure out of gratitude. This is what inspires me in my own stewardship. God has given me so much that I cannot but give back to God a portion of what God gives me. If you commit your family to giving to God of your time, talent and treasure, I can assure you that God will bless you and your family in many ways.

I take the opportunity to thank all who have already returned their completed cards. I thank the clergy, staff, volunteers, ushers and other liturgical ministers for their help over the last weekend. If you have not yet done so, please do send it in the mail or bring it to Mass and place it in the offertory basket. We will continue to remind you as this is very important that we all sign the commitment card. 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

My Personal Journey of Stewardship

 

“How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me?”  (Psalm 116:12). This past Sunday we listened to a most engaging testimony by Alexis Salvador on her stewardship journey. Alexis’ journey reminded me of my own journey too, especially how my own mom influenced my stewardship journey that I want to share with you this Sunday as we go through our fourth Stewardship Commitment Sunday.

My family had more property than any family in the village. When my dad died, my mom gave one part of the adjacent property to the Catholic Church and the other part to the Protestant church. She saw that both churches needed the land and she simply gave. For me this was the first lesson of stewardship from my mom. She told us that God had given our family so much and she wanted to share with the village what God had given us.

As I grew up, every Sunday mom would remain at the church the whole afternoon for various meetings. She was the treasurer of the church and attended many meetings. The first time I heard the word “tithing” was from mom. She would never miss giving the first fruits after the harvest to the church as part of her tithing. Mom would always give us coins for the Sunday offertory collection.

During my seminary years, stewardship never featured in my life. Since my ordination in 1968, I was convinced that as a priest I have given my entire life to the Church and therefore there was no need to give more to the parish. I was wrong. My conversion experience started in 2013 when I decided to register as a parishioner. Next, I signed up on WeShare, our parish online giving web site and now give my life more consciously as a steward. Stewardship has made me a better priest: setting time to pray for the needs of parishioners and more time to deepen my faith in order to nourish you better. I have become more generous with the treasure God gives me, by giving more than 10% of my gross income to the parish offertory. What really transformed my life was a stewardship conference in Wichita, KS, February 2014. Speaker after speaker led me to realize that as pastor of my parish I had to live stewardship before I could give homilies about it.

Msgr.  John S. Mbinda

What is Commitment Sunday?

This will be our fourth experience of stewardship commitment Sunday.  This article helps to understand what Commitment Sunday is, and why it is so important. On Commitment Sunday, some parishioners will have already received a beautiful Renewal packet in the mail that contains a Ministry Catalog and a time, talent and treasure Commitment Card.  What will happen next Sunday which is our parish Commitment Sunday?

 

Commitment cards and pens will be in the pews. If you have already received your family card by mail and you have it with you, you do not need a second one.

At the beginning of Mass, the presider will announce that it is Commitment Sunday. 

The pastor will give the homily highlighting stewardship, and then he will guide parishioners as they fill out the Commitment Cards in the pews.  A suitable instrumental music may be useful at this time.

Completed Commitment Cards will then be collected by Stewardship Council members and ushers. Only your Commitment Card and pen will be dropped into the basket (not your offertory). After all Commitment Cards have been collected, the ushers will then come around for the regular offertory collection, and Mass will continue as usual with the offertory procession.

After mass, the cards will be placed in a secure box and carried to the office.  From the office, all Commitment cards will be sent to CSC in Georgia for analysis and preparation of a complete result. After that analysis is done, all cards are destroyed and all the parish gets is a tally of the results that help to see our performance.

If you have not yet signed a commitment card before; if you are new to our parish, take a step forward and sign one and commit yourself, your family to give to God what God has given you in time, talent and treasure.

Thank you all for your commitment to God and your parish. May God bless you abundantly.

 

By: Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Stewardship Purpose Driven Game Plan

Stewardship Purpose Driven Game Plan

In this catechesis, I would like to reflect on the purpose of our stewardship as a way of life. Our stewardship journey is purpose driven with intentionality. Everything we do is planned around our vision and mission. Our stewardship journey is transformative. From 2014 when we began this journey, stewardship became an instrument of transformation. Intentionally we moved from the way the parish had always been (status quo) to embracing change; from retreat to advance; from resistance to accepting change; and from disenchantment to engagement.

From 2014 to 2017 we have followed an intentional purpose driven game plan whose purpose has always focused on spiritual formation of all parishioners through the various gatherings: staff, leadership, ministries and parish-wide events. That spiritual formation is achieved through an intentional process: praying our stewardship prayer at the beginning of all our meetings; bible sharing by reading and sharing the gospel of the following Sunday. At staff and stewardship council meetings, we have an ongoing book study with each member reading before the meeting and sharing some thoughts during the meeting. Only then do we have the agenda  for the meeting. At the end of the agenda, we recite together our “Mission Statement” which is currently replaced by our capital campaign prayer. That intentional process has been implemented for the purpose of transforming the parish so we may get “to the next level of stewardship as a way of life.” Every year, we have a parish-wide stewardship retreat guided by a priest chosen by the Catholic Stewardship Consultants (CSC). We also have a leadership gathering in preparation for the Annual Stewardship Renewal (November 1). Then we have a lay witness weekend during which one parishioner shares his or her journey of stewardship in order to inspire other parishioners (November 4/5). The following Sunday (November 11/12), we have our parish Annual Commitment Sunday guided by the pastor at all Masses. For the last three years (2014-2016) there is observable significant change in our parish. Our ministries have increased from 51 to 61. Our parish has grown in numbers too. Between 2014 and October 2017, we added 443 households. That is why we need the One Community Center (our #1 priority in the 2015 pastoral plan.)  We have become a more vibrant parish community, thanks to our dynamic liturgical celebrations each Sunday.

 Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Our Parish Vision and Mission

Welcome to our new parishioners, visitors and all regular parishioners. In the coming Sundays, our catechesis will focus attention of stewardship as a way of life. We begin by affirming our vision that describes and affirms who we are: “We are a Catholic Christian community striving to get to the next level of stewardship as a way of life.” A clear vision-mission driven timeline with purpose and intentionality is necessary to guide us on every step on the way. As we strive to get to that level of stewardship, we will continually be driven by our parish vision and mission. In other words, stewardship as a way of life fuels our parish activities daily. To get to the next level of stewardship, we need a strategy, that is, a clear mission statement.

A mission statement responds to a deeper question. How do we get from where we are as a stewardship parish to the next level? What is our game plan? Our game plan is found in our mission statement that we publish every week on the front page of our bulletin. As part of our game plan, very intentionally we have devised a process for all parish meetings: a) we begin with our stewardship prayer; b) followed by scripture sharing (using the gospel reading of the following Sunday); c) the agenda; and d) conclude with our parish mission statement or currently our prayer for the Capital Campaign. Our mission statement becomes part of what we do in our parish. I encourage all parishioners to read our parish mission statement again in order to discover its richness and the very intentional purpose for being here in Mililani as a parish community. The very purpose of our being here is to share our faith in Jesus Christ with those who do not know him, and to bring back those who have known him but fallen astray. Now that is evangelization, the fourth sign of a dynamic Catholic. Be bold, be Catholic and be a dynamic Catholic who is not afraid to reach out to share the faith with others in the community.

Msgr.  John S. Mbinda

Confirmation Makes us Stewards of the Gospel

The Sacrament of Confirmation prepares the baptized to take on the role of missionary disciples – stewards of the gospel. With the reception of this sacrament, we are as it were commissioned to take up active ministry in the life of the Church. Confirmation should therefore prepare the candidates to encounter Jesus Christ profoundly so that they become more dynamic witnesses of the good news of Jesus Christ. Part of that good news is God’s incredible mercy and compassion which is greater than the total sum of our sins. The journey of stewards of the gospel has never been easy as St. Paul reminds us. “Let no one look down on you because of your youth, but be a continuing example of love, faith and purity to believers.” I Timothy 4:12

St. John Paul II had very inspiring words for the youth at the 1993 Denver World Young Gathering. “Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the "path to life" (Ps 16,11)… Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life! Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for Life is already decided, even though the struggle goes on against great odds and with much suffering.”

The pope went on to say, “Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (cfr. Rm 1,16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (cfr. Mt 10,27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern "metropolis". It is you who must "go out into the byroads" ( Mt 22,9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father” (John Paul II, Address, World Youth Day, Denver, August 15, 1993).

 Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Sacrament of Confirmation

“I have baptized you with water; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”. (Mark 1:8)

The New Testament shows how the Holy Spirit was with Christ to bringing the Messiah’s mission to fulfillment.  On receiving the baptism of John, Jesus saw the Spirit descend on him (see Mk 1:10), and remain with him. He was led by the Spirit to undertake his public ministry as the Messiah, relying on the Spirit’s presence and assistance.He later promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would help them to bear fearless witness to their faith, even before persecutors (see Lk 4:17-21).

By the Sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized are strengthened by the gifts of Holy Spirit in order to bear witness to Jesus Christ. The Sacrament of Confirmation is administered by the laying-on of hands and anointing with chrism accompanied by the prayer: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The chrism is blessed by the bishop and the bishop or a priest delegated by him administers the sacrament. All baptized persons can and should be confirmed.

In the Sacrament of Confirmation, we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and sustain us in fulfilling our calling. We receive seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and the fear of the Lord. Confirmation deepens our baptismal life which calls us to be missionary disciples of Jesus Christ in our families, neighborhoods, society, and the world. Our faith life is deepened and becomes more intense with greater emphasis given to the person of Jesus Christ, who has become our Lord and Savior.

By:  Monsignor John S. Mbinda

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