What is the Epiphany of the Lord?

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The word ‘epiphany’ comes from the Greek language “epiphaneia’ which means ‘appearance’, ‘showing forth’ or ‘manifestation’. So, we could say that we celebrate the manifestation of the Lord.

 The feast of the Epiphany originated in the third century to commemorate the first appearance of Christ (the infant King) to the entire world as Savior, symbolized by the visit of the three wise kings (Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar).  It is interesting to note that in the early Church, Christians, particularly those in the East, celebrated the coming of Christ on Jan. 6 by commemorating the Nativity, the Visitation of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ and the Wedding of Cana all in one feast of the Epiphany. By the fourth century, both Christmas and Epiphany had been set as separate feasts in some dioceses. At the Council of Tours in 567 A.D., the Church set both Christmas day and Epiphany as separate feast days on the December 25 and January 6, respectively, and named the twelve days between the feasts as the Christmas season. The solemnity of the Epiphany marked the twelfth day of Christmas and the end of the Christmas season.

 Over the centuries, the various celebrations were further separated in the West, and now the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Sunday after January 6, and the wedding at Cana is commemorated (by having the Gospel account on the Wedding of Cana) on the Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord. Both these commemorations are omitted this year.

 

 May God shower abundant blessings upon you throughout the entire year 2018.

 Monsignor John S. Mbinda

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph. On December 20, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI made the following beautiful reflection on the Holy Family:  "The house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

 

"The Holy Family is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth"

 

May God shower abundant blessings on each family in our parish. I wish you all a blessed and Happy New Year, 2018!

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Christmas Message 2017

Peace be with you all!

 

I take the opportunity to warmly welcome all visitors, returning parishioners and new parishioners as well as all regular parishioners. We are gland to celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord with you. May the Joy is this celebration fill your hearts “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” Those words of the angel on that first Christmas night directs our thought to what we celebrate. Christmas as a celebration of the fulfillment of God’s promises of salvation.

On this Christmas, as one great family of God who is most generous in His gifts and blessings, we offer gratitude to God for whatever blessings God has given us. Jesus comes this Christmas to complete those blessings with more blessings. Together we receive the gift of real peace and joy. Christ’s kingdom is one of peace for He is the prince of peace born for us this Christmas.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2018!

  Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Candles on the Advent Wreath

Next Sunday is the fourth and final Sunday of Advent. The time has gone that fast. Before the season is over I wanted us to go back to the Advent Wreath because it is a teaching symbol.  I would like us to reflect on the candles on the wreath and their symbolism. One of the basic underlying themes of Advent is light and obviously the candles on the wreath precisely symbolize light. But there is a deeper meaning of that symbolism.

Advent also reminds us that we are called to be light to the world as we reflect the light of God's grace to others (Isa 42:6). The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. This experience is based on the physical increasing of the light of the sun from day to day. The lighting of the candles over the four-week period symbolizes the diminishing darkness of fear and hopelessness; it also signifies the receding of the shadows of sin and falling away of darkness as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshipers that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lighted at Christmas, and worshipers rejoice over the fact that the hope and promise of long ago have been realized.

Halfway through Advent, on the Third Sunday of Advent, today’s Sunday, there is a noticeable shift in liturgical colors from purple vestments to desert rose. We also light the third candle which is rose color. This Sunday is called in Latin Gaudete Sunday, which means rejoice Sunday in anticipation of the joy of the coming of our Savior. The reading of this Sunday underlines the atmosphere of joy which is a very basic theme in the Church’s life. We cannot be light to others if we look sad and gloomy. Let us therefore live that joy of the Gospel even as we wait its fullness at Christmas.

 May your Advent journey be filled with God’s blessings,

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

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