A NEW YEAR BEGINS. . .
We are now halfway between two New Year celebrations: December 1 as the beginning of the Church year and January 1 as the beginning of the calendar year. Thus, it seems a fitting time to share to provide an update on the parish as part of our ongoing stewardship conversation.
As you know, under my direction, Michael Rayfield presented a financial update to the parish, as the chair of the Finance Committee, in late September. During that presentation, he spoke of the “opportunity” the parish has to define what sort of parish it would like to be. He asked you to make your wishes known through your contributions and desire to participate in ministry.
The response has been positive. Though there is always more we can do, parishioners have responded well with time, talents and monies as well as many comments to me. Based on what I have heard from you, I am happy to inform you of two exciting developments that are now being implemented:
The first is the addition of a new full-time Social and Community Coordinator position. The focus of this position is to do a better job at following through with everyone who comes through our doors with a particular focus on those in the surrounding condos and the people who come for marriage, RCIA and other sacraments. This is a response to what I have heard since I arrived: St. Basil’s is wonderful about hospitality, but like all parishes, we have struggled with the follow through. Especially now that I am the only full-time priest at the parish, it is necessary to have help with this aspect of parish life.
The second development is the installation of a new sound system. I have heard a frequent and regular litany of complaints about the sound in the church. Consultants have confirmed these difficulties, and so we are installing a completely new system. After all, our role is to proclaim, which we cannot do very well if we don’t have the right tools to do so.
So let me express my gratitude since both of these improvements are a direct response to your voice and deed. I ask that you continue your support knowing that we strive to be active and careful stewards of the gifts you give. Please continue to share your concerns with me, knowing that I will do all I can to respond. Lastly, please continue to pray for me as I certainly do for each of you.
A Harvest of Good Fruit
By Emily VanBerkum
Today’s Gospel presents John the Baptist as a desert preacher declaring the imminence of the Kingdom of God. But there’s a catch. Because the Kingdom of God is at hand, we are invited to respond by heeding Isaiah’s call to “prepare the way of the Lord” in a special way. Preparing the way of the Lord involves repentance for sin in the waters of the Jordan. However, to be cleansed in the Jordan River requires more than simply being sorry for one’s sins. Baptism demands a reorientation of one’s heart and life. Water forgives sin, yet the power of the Holy Spirit and fire produces an eternal harvest of “good fruit.” Good fruit is the result of genuine repentance for sins that do not properly reflect the awesome beauty of God’s Kingdom or hopefulness for the coming of the special healer promised by John.
John’s prophecy of the “one who is coming after me” implies that those who anticipate the coming of the Kingdom with joy and hopefulness will experience the full, complete power of Christ’s incredible gift of salvation. Throughout this Advent season, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about how you will “prepare the way of the Lord” in a way that is meaningful to you. You could move on from past sins and turn to the hopefulness of the future. Or, maybe you will spend some time thinking about making a change of heart that reorients your life as a continual harvest of “good fruit.”
By Lucinda M. Vardey
Advent with its short, dark days, is a period for preparation. While Christmas tunes are piped through the malls, and gifts are being bought and wrapped, it takes discipline to focus on what we are really preparing for. Baking seasonal cookies with a friend, we could be one of those two women in today’s gospel, “grinding meal together.” It is a busy time, but as American monk, Thomas Merton, noted busyness can be a disguise for laziness.
St. Paul reminds us not to turn our attention to personal gratification and desires, but to be cognizant of what it takes for each of us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus instructs us to be spiritually alert, aware of what distracts us from focusing on what matters most. Just as he asked the sleeping apostles in the Garden at Gethsemane, he asks the same of us: “Keep awake and pray.” (Mark 14: 38)
Prayer helps us keep awake to God’s presence and to grow in God’s love. The Lord can then “teach us his ways .. that we may walk in his paths….”(Isaiah 2:3)
By being vigilant towards what matters most, we are more able to recognize how God is directing us, shaping us and providing for us. Being awake to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we keep open the doors of our hearts, prepared for the surprise that Jesus’ coming will bring.