In our family, a wedding is a big deal. My dad’s side of the family is Sicilian, and all of them live in Texas. A Sicilian Texas wedding reception has become more Texan than Italian: After the church ceremony, there is a barbecue brisket buffet and kegs of beer, followed by dancing and visiting. Lots of food, LOTS of beer, and then it’s time to dance and party. My mom was from Belgium, and I’ve had the privilege of attending a few family weddings there. They were much more elegant, but the principle was the same: gourmet dinner, fine wines, and then dancing.

When I lived in Colombia as a newly ordained priest, wedding receptions went on from Saturday evening until Sunday evening, usually, unless it was a three-day weekend—then the party went on until sometime Monday. Loud music, dancing, and lots of aguardiente were part and parcel of any celebration. The wedding parties we North Americans usually throw are very subdued in comparison.

In Jesus’ day, there was no equivalent to the “church wedding.” Marriage was in three stages: First, there was the contract between the bride and groom, or their families. (This is the stage at which it seems Joseph and Mary’s marriage was at the time of the Annunciation.) Then, sometimes several years later, the marriage is “consummated”; for the first time, the couple have sexual relations. At this point the couple emerges from the bedroom and the feast begins. It would go on for days.

Our gospel passage this weekend occurs at this third stage, during the wedding feast. People have been feasting and rejoicing, because the bride and bridegroom have been united. Lots of wine has been drunk. And then the unthinkable occurs: They’ve run out of wine! This would be a great embarrassment for the groom and his family, who were the hosts of the feast. Jesus, though, at the urging of his mother Mary, remedies that, in a story that we all know and love. It is one of the three “epiphanies,” (along with the arrival of the magi and Jesus’ baptism) that the Eastern Churches celebrate as one, and we Catholics separate into three special moments when God is made known.

It is really quite radical to think that God is made known in allowing a groom to save face and a party to continue, and a beautiful way to enter into this liturgical season of Ordinary Time. God is there in our parties. God is every part of our lives. Elsewhere in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that he came in order that we may have life and have it to the full. The 13th century poet Hafez says to stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive. I think Jesus would agree. I pray that we all may live all the days of our lives.

Speaking of life, I imagine you know of Fr. George Beaune’s birth into eternal life. Let us rejoice in thanking God for his many years of service to the parish, to the Church, and to all God’s people, in so many different ways. I am quite sure that he is now at the great wedding banquet in the Kingdom. St. George, pray for us!

-Father Maurice

The older I get, the faster it seems that time passes. Whereas when I was a child, weeks and months went by so slowly, and now as an adult they race along. I find it hard to believe that I’ve been here at Assumption for over six months now!

It seems like the same thing with Jesus: for the last few weeks we’ve been looking at Mary’s pregnancy, then Jesus’ birth and the arrival of the magi… and now he’s an adult, being baptized by John! In fact, the gospel readings for the weekday Masses beginning this past Monday have already focused on the adult Jesus’ preaching. So why have we passed so quickly through his childhood?

Partly, the Church turns to the adult Jesus because there, in his ministry, we find his teachings and learn about what he wants for us. And partly, it is because the early Church focused much more on Jesus’ life and ministry than on his birth or even his resurrection appearances. As the Letter to Titus tells us in this weekend’s second reading, God’s grace is “… training us … in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly.” Note that it is God’s grace that trains us. And our own baptism is often our first encounter with God’s grace.

We believe that, Jesus, as both God and human, is already the fullness of God. Yet in another sense, he, the second Person of the Trinity, is made complete at his baptism, when he receives the Spirit and hears the affirmation of the Father. It is in that fullness of the Trinity that Jesus begins his ministry. Luke tells us that as Jesus was praying after his baptism, “… the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” How could Jesus not go forth and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom after hearing those words from the Father?

And now, from our own baptism, we, too, are commissioned to go out and live by the values of the Kingdom… because we, too, are God’s children; we are beloved. In us, God is well pleased!

Happy New Year! For most of us, this is a time of winding down from the hectic and emotionally charged days of Christmas, with its festivities and gatherings. I hope that all of you reading this will have had wonderful celebrations of Christmas and the start of the calendar year, which coincides with the feast of Mary as Mother of God. This feast predates the ones many of us hold most dear, that of her Assumption and her Holy Name. It is actually a statement about Jesus: his divinity and his humanity
can never be separated. If Mary gave birth to the human Jesus, in that very act she also gave birth to her Creator, the Most
High God!

And so, we come to today’s feast, the Epiphany of the Lord. The One who we celebrate as the newborn of Bethlehem, whose divinity and humanity were completely united from the moment of conception, is now revealed to the nations. Epiphany comes from the Greek for a revelation. For the Orthodox, and deeply rooted in our own Catholic tradition, the Epiphany consists of three moments: the arrival of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus by John, and the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana.

In more modern history, we Catholics separate these three moments, but they all point to one and the same reality: there are
moments when Jesus is revealed to be more than just a little boy, or any other person getting baptized, or any wedding
guest. He is also our Lord and Saviour, our very God—right in our midst!

The early Church was emphatic that Jesus was the forerunner of what we ourselves are. Last week, as we celebrated the Holy
Family, we heard it proclaimed that we are God’s children. That is perhaps the hardest part of my faith for me to accept: each
one of us is a child of God. It is easier to believe that God can be in the host, or in the consecrated wine than to believe that he is in me!

In this time when so many of us make resolutions and try to get off to a fresh start, perhaps we should all add the resolution of today’s epiphanies, that of finding God hidden away in our own day-to-day lives.

Merry Christmas!!! Even though the commercial world is moving on from Christmas to the next spending opportunity (Valentine’s Day?), in the Church world, we are just beginning our Christmas celebration. In fact, until January 1, we are in the Octave of Christmas, which is all one day liturgically—even though we celebrate various feasts in this time as well.

This weekend the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Holy Family. We recognize that when God chose to come into this world as one of us, he did not come in isolation. Jesus did not just “appear” as an adult. Instead, he was born (as we celebrate at Christmas) into a family. He was the child of Mary, and Joseph raised Jesus as his very own Son. We know he had cousins.

A few weeks ago I attended our annual family reunion; every year the descendants of my grandparents get together on the first Saturday of December. As I looked around on those who were there, I was impressed by the variety. We Restivos are a pretty dysfunctional family! The family hosting this year was incomplete: one of my cousins doesn’t speak to his brother, so he and his family stayed away. I have divorced cousins, gay cousins, those who are deeply committed in faith and involved in their parishes, and others who haven’t darkened the door of a church in years. There are single parents. We are a multi-racial family.

So, how do we measure up to the Holy Family? At the risk of sounding really scandalous, I think we do a pretty good job. Although I am convinced that Jesus’ relationship to both Mary and Joseph was amazingly close, I know there were difficult moments. Mary makes it pretty clear that when the 12-year-old Jesus stays behind in the temple, she is quite upset! Joseph seems to disappear from the scene early on. And, only having one child in that culture would have been shameful to a woman, yet that is what our faith tells us about Mary. In other words, when God chose to come into this world, to become part of human history as one of us, he actually became one of us! He did not live in a perfect bubble, where he never got dirty or sick or tired or anything else. The crucifixion was not his first experience at pain or difficulty.

This weekend’s second reading, from the First Letter of John, sums it up quite nicely: somehow, through Jesus being born in the flesh, we ourselves have become children of God. People didn’t always recognize that in Jesus. They don’t recognize it in us. Yet, John says, “…that is what we are”! May we always remember that, and recognize it in others.

Christmas is upon us! Shortly we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus into our world. For some it is a joyful time, full of festivities and families, old memories and the making of new ones. For others, it is a difficult time, one that reminds them of past hurts, of loneliness, of failings and shortcomings. For yet others, it is a time filled with so much stress and running around and indebtedness that there is nothing spiritual about it.

And yet, Jesus comes. He was not only born into this world some 2000 years ago, but he also comes into our hearts today—wherever we are, however we feel, whatever we’re experiencing. Jesus comes to you, and to me. When Mary goes in haste to the hill country of Judea to see her kinswoman Elizabeth, she is already bringing Jesus to another. I think that is one of the great tasks of the Christian: to bring Jesus to another.

Our second reading this weekend, from the Letter to the Hebrews, has a line that has always intrigued me: “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; …” On one level, the sacred author is speaking of your body. It may be young or old, healthy or infirm; it may have led you to sin, or brought you to holiness. Regardless of circumstances, God has prepared a body for each one of us; God gave each one of us our body. In coming as Jesus, God has embraced all of human history and raised our lowly bodies to an incredible dignity. And, God then asks us to use our bodies to bring the good news of salvation to others. The Incarnation of Jesus means that we can be God-like in our very physicality. It is such a privilege, and such a challenge. It is why we worry about the physical beings of others; why we serve the poor, help refugees, and take care of our families. Our bodies are God-given!

As we celebrate these sacred days, be assured of my thoughts and prayers, and those of all the staff here at Assumption. May the Christ child coming into the world fill you with blessings and grace.

-Father Maurice

You are amazing! The parish’s response (that means your response) to our call to help reunite a refugee family from Senegal was spectacular. Through your generosity, we raised $6742.05! I never expected that much. That pays for their airfare, and helps to get them settled into their living situation. In addition, many have volunteered for the various tasks necessary for all of this to happen. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Assumption parish is indeed a special place. In the midst of our own problems and worries, we have reached out beyond our usual circle of attention, and helped to reunite a family of God’s children. Please continue to pray for this mother and her three children (two adolescents and a young adult) as they get used to each other again and learn the ways of their adopted land.

I am so impressed by the timing of this generous response. On Tuesday, we officially began the Year of Mercy. And our readings this weekend give concrete examples of how to live out mercy: When the crowds asked John the Baptist what to do, he answered, “‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise’” (Luke 3:11).

The scriptures this weekend also tell us to rejoice. I assure you that your generosity helps me to do that—although, if truth be known, I already rejoice at the privilege of being here with you. The Psalmist tells us, “…great in our midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Another translation puts it this way: “…among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” May our eyes be opened this Advent to recognize the great and Holy One… right here in our midst, even with our foibles and dysfunctions and weaknesses! God has chosen to be with us!!! May we always recognize that.

Happy New Year!!!! At this beginning of the Church year it is appropriate to look back from whence we have come, and look forward to where we are going. This has been an eventful year for Assumption parish, one filled with difficulties and challenges. Closures of buildings are never fun. We have memories attached to the places where we have celebrated baptisms and communions, where we have gathered week after week, and from where we have buried our loved ones. And now we are here. We look forward to building up our parish community, so that we are strong and stable and united. We move ahead in faith, that somehow or another, God wants the best for us.

Advent, though, challenges us to flip these two activities: first, we look forward; later, we look back. This first Sunday of Advent looks forward to the end times, and asks us to be ready. Then we look back, at the events that happened around 2000 years ago, when Mary said “Yes!” to God’s will, when John the Baptist announced Jesus’ coming, leading us to a celebration of that birth.

It is in this spirit that I encourage you to look forward, as to what we can do to make the world a better place. Both Pope Francis and Bishop Fabbro have asked us to respond, in whatever way we can, to the refugee crisis. I remain convinced that in reaching out beyond our usual day-to-day boundaries, we grow in faith, in love, and in joy. Therefore, next week we will have a special collection to help reunite a family from Senegal. I encourage you to prayerfully consider what you can do, and to be generous. If you are able to drive them around, or help set up their house, please call the parish office and speak with Sr. Lise.

May the God who is coming fill each of you with blessings and joy in this sacred season.

This past week the news has been filled with stories of Paris, and the tragic terrorist attack there. Apparently one of the terrorists had entered the country as a refugee from Syria. This has prompted many states in the US to deny entry to any Syrian refugee. Images of a dead little boy washed up on the beach fade quickly when a friend and ally becomes the victim of an attack. Part of the tragedy of this response is that the huge majority of refugees are fleeing the very situations of terrorism and war, fleeing the same organizations that perpetrated the attack in Paris. Yet we are still called to respond, as Christians. Joseph and Mary were Middle Easterners, sojourners from the North (Galilee) and couldn’t find anyplace to stay.

I invite you to respond to our own opportunity to help reunite a family of refugees. Instead of Syria, these come from Senegal. The Sisters of the Holy Names have been working on this case. This weekend the Pastoral Council and I will present you with the details. I hope that we accept this challenge to facilitate the reuniting of a mom and her teen-aged children. Everything from airfare, gift cards, rides, and more will be needed. There is something each of us can do. I think it is a Christian response to the dire situation that many in the world are facing.

This weekend we as Church celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. The contrast of Jesus with the royal family of Britain is stark. Jesus states that his kingdom is not of this world. In this world he is the outcast, the one about to be put to death as a criminal and a subversive. All of us would open our doors for this world’s royalty. Will we do the same for Jesus?

One day when I was studying French in Belgium, where my mom was born, I was on my way to an uncle’s house when I noticed a sign that pointed to a World War I British cemetery (in Flanders). I decided to take the detour. The first thing that greeted me as I walked through the gate was a plaque with the words of the poem “In Flanders Fields” inscribed on it. It was summer, and poppies were in bloom in that somewhat uncared-for place. I have always remembered that day. I think we have to remember, so as to be able to better prepare for the future.

Our liturgies at this time of year focus on priorities. We need to be ready for the Lord, at whatever time he may come. Remembering the past, as we did on November 11, helps us to realize where we can return if we do not learn from our history. We remember that people have sacrificed and have taken risks, and that this brings about life. This past Sunday we heard of sacrifices and risks: The widow of Zarephath gave her last bit of food to the prophet Elijah, and a widow in Jerusalem put all she had to live on into the temple treasury.

At one point, we each are called to make sacrifices and risks, for our good and the good of others. At the Masses I preached last weekend, I mentioned that four of us from Assumption attended a conference in Baltimore. Following is a reflection by Agnes Szczesniak about that, the Matter.15 conference:

On November 4th, the Church of Nativity in Timonium, Maryland, welcomed us and 500 other parish leaders from across the US and Canada. What took us to the conference was the realization that many Catholics are not going to church and those that are going are often not excited about it. We have the “good news” and how do we as Our Lady of Assumption share that? We attended different workshops on welcoming, leadership, music, youth ministry and making the message matter. Personally, I started by reading the book Rebuilt by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran, and getting excited about how positive changes impacted their parish and brought back the dechurched. I want that for us at our Parish: to become a vibrant and welcoming faith community. We have come back with some S.T.E.P.S. to engage our parishioners and those in the larger community: S-Serve, T-Tithe, E-Engage, P-Pray and practice the sacraments, and S-Share. This is an exciting time to be a Catholic Christian. Pray with us 1 Chronicles 28:20, and stay tuned as we move forward and take the next steps.

Back when I was in college, credit cards were something you had to apply to have; there weren’t people at the Superstore
asking you to get one, or banks sending you applications through the mail. I remember when my roommate’s dad applied
for one. The application had a space for writing in annual income, and Lee’s father wrote“ENOUGH!”. He was not about
to let anybody but his personal banker know how much money he earned.
Although my college roommate’s father’s reaction is probably exaggerated, I think it reflects pretty accurately how most of us
feel about money: “It’s mine, not yours. How much I have and what I do with it is none of your business.”
As Catholics, we rank low among Christians in how much money we give to the Church. Part of it may have originated in
the reality that in North America, Catholics were often in the lower rungs of the economic ladder. We earned little, had big
families, and very little left over to give to the Church. Today the situation is often quite different.
Yet, the Church asks us to give. Scripture is clear that we are called to set aside some of our time and our income and direct it to God. Sometimes we call it tithing; sometimes we call it stewardship. Whatever name we want to use, this weekend’s
Scripture readings point out the value and necessity of giving—of truly giving, not just of tossing in some pocket change and
going on about our lives. In the end, it’s about becoming disciples. Jesus called people to follow him, to be his disciples. That requires some kind of commitment that actually costs us. It means being generous with our financial contributions, offering our talent, and being even more generous with our time contributions.
Time after time, it has been shown that parishes made up of people who are in the habit of giving generously of their time,
their talent, and their finances—both to the church itself and to outside causes—are parishes that are alive and thriving. Soon
we will be presenting a plan to help with a response to the refugee crisis. I encourage you to be generous. And I encourage
you to be generous to Assumption.
-Father Maurice