December 16, 2018
The Third Sunday in Advent – Gaudete Sunday
Dear Parishioners of our Beloved St. Paul:
Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary His Most Holy Mother! We come today to the Third Sunday in Advent- Gaudete Sunday meaning the Sunday of Rejoicing. Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I say Rejoice! Thus did our Father and Patron St. Paul write in his Epistle to Philemon. And we too follow his command as we rejoice today because our salvation is so near.
Immediately on this Sunday we notice that the priest and deacon have put away the somber violet for just one day and wear instead the lighter color rose. The candle of the Advent wreath is also rose. It dramatically reminds us that the Lord is near and in merely ten days we will see His glory as we kneel once more at the manger and behold the Light of the World, a light which no darkness will ever extinguish. Even nature itself will assist us, as we see at Christmas time the light return unconquered as the days begin to get brighter and longer.
What a wonderful time then to contemplate the wondrous light that Our Blessed Mother brought to the very center of the New World on December 12, 1531.
There once was a civilization that lived in a world apart. To their north was a great desert which no one had ever crossed. To their south was an enormous and endless jungle through which no one ever emerged. To their east and west lay the vast expanse of the Ocean Sea. These people were the Aztecs who inhabited the modern nation of Mexico but they called themselves the Mexica.
Perhaps because they were so isolated, the evil one enslaved them and the ancient enemy of our race, the prince of darkness and the father of lies (we never use capitals when writing of the devil) was openly worshipped. And he demanded what he always demands, human sacrifice. Ancient Mexico had become a river of human blood. In 1488 when the Temple of the Sun was dedicated, over 20,000 men were offered in sacrifice in three days’ time. But amidst the horror of their surroundings the people prayed that a River of Light would flow into their darkness. Their own prophets had foretold that one day the Mother of the True God would come to their rescue and stop the human sacrifice.
Although the Spanish had conquered the Aztec Empire by 1521 (having first arrived in Mexico in 1519), only the Immaculate One would conquer their hearts and souls. On December 9, 1531 (the day of the winter solstice because the Gregorian calendar had not yet been inaugurated) the Light burst into their darkness. Our Lady appeared on the Tepeyac hill to Juan Diego and asked that a Church be built on that very spot where, as she said, I will demonstrate, manifest, and make known my love and mercy for all who live united in these lands. In the course of four days Our Lady appeared five times to Juan Diego and on Monday, December 12, 1531, she revealed herself as the Virgin of Guadalupe (a name which means River of Light). On that day her miraculous image formed on the tilma of Juan Diego and it is enshrined in the great Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is a continuous miracle because it is an image not made by human hands but given to us by God Himself. In merely 10 years (from 1531 to 1541) twelve million of the Aztecs were baptized through Our Lady of Guadalupe.
May the Holy Virgin enlighten our darkness and bring us to the true Light of the World. For this weekend please pray before the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe (La Guadalupana) and St. Juan Diego. They will be in the Church on Saturday and Sunday.
Please be sure to save the Christmas schedule so that we may all make our Christmas confession. You will notice there are many hours for confession and it is my fond hope that very many will come to confession so that we may greet the Christ Child in humility and love.
I hope you have noticed the enhancements to our manger scene and the shrine of Our Lady. Let Christmas be a time of joy for us all. Let it be a time of grace. Pope Francis has a sign on his office door: È vietato lamentarsi! Roughly translated it means, No Complaint Zone. Literally it is It is forbidden to complain. So many dedicated parishioners have worked so hard to make our Church beautiful. Let us be grateful for their tireless effort. If there is a white poinsettia where last year there had been a red one, please do not be upset, please do not be outraged. As your pastor I am very used to complaints; it goes with the office. But I am saddened when people criticize the hard and selfless, dedicated work of their fellow parishioners who decorate the Church and grounds each year. Let the sweetness of the Holy Infant imbue our hearts and soul. Let the toxic poison and criticism of the devil be far from us.
Today I will be speaking at all the Masses about the great enterprise that we have all taken up for God’s greater glory. At long last our Church restoration will begin on December 27th of this year. This great project in which we all share has been a long time coming. As we remember our founders, we restore our Church fifty years old, and we renew it for the future generations. Things are coming to a new beginning. Our cleaned and enhanced Church will certainly manifest God’s glory.
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda