Third Sunday of Advent

Third Sunday of Advent

Gaudete Week

Our week begins with “Gaudete Sunday.” Gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin. It comes from the first word of the Entrance antiphon on Sunday. The spirit of joy that begins this week comes from the words of Paul, “The Lord is near.” This joyful spirit is marked by the third candle of our Advent wreath, which is rose colored, and the rose colored vestments often used at the Eucharist. The second part of Advent begins on December 17th each year. For the last eight days before Christmas, the plan of the readings changes. The first readings are still from the prophesies, but now the gospels are from the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke. We read the stories of faithful women and men who prepared the way for our salvation. We enter into the story of how Jesus’ life began. These stories are filled with hints of what his life will mean for us. Faith and generosity overcome impossibility. Poverty and persecution reveal glory. We prepare this week by feeling the joy. We move through this week feeling a part of the waiting world that rejoices because our longing has prepared us to believe the reign of God is close at hand. And so we consciously ask that any sadness be removed to make way for joy. Each morning this week, in that brief moment we are becoming accustomed to, we want to light a third inner candle. Three candles, going from expectation, to longing, to joy. They represent our inner preparation, or inner perspective. In this world of “conflict and division,” “greed and lust for power,” we begin each day this week with a sense of liberating joy. Our celebration of the coming of our Savior in history, is opening us up to experience his coming to us this year, and preparing us to await his coming in Glory. During this beginning of our parish’s anniversary year let’s know we are invited and urged to look for the joy that has been part of Immaculate Conception for 50 years. The joy of growth, the joy of relationships and the joy of challenges shared. Come, Lord Jesus. Come and visit your people. We await your coming. Come, O Lord. (excerpts from Creighton Un. Online Ministries) 

Second Sunday of Advent

Second Sunday of Advent

Advent means coming. During the Advent season we reflect on the past coming of Jesus into our world two thousand years ago as a little baby, the daily coming of Jesus through the Sacraments, through the Holy Bible and through the worshiping community and the future coming (Second Coming) of Jesus at the end of the world. Today’s readings remind us that the past, present and future comings of Jesus into the world are the fulfillment of the saving plan of God. Today’s Scripture readings deal with coming home – Babylonian exiles coming home, the shalom or perfect peace of coming home, our going home with Jesus at his Second Coming, and Jesus, the Savior, “coming home” into our lives during Advent. While Matthew and Luke start their Gospels by giving us a brief account of the conception, birth, and early boyhood of Christ and John begins his Gospel by pointing to the eternal life of Christ as the Word of the Father, Mark opens his Gospel with the preparation for Christ’s public life, in which the chief actor is John the Baptist. Th is wilderness prophet proclaims the “here-ness” of an event and person every Jew has been anticipating. “One more powerful than I,” John announces, “is to come aft er me....I have baptized you in water; He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.” Th e essence of the Baptizer’s message is “repent and return to the ways of the Lord.” John preaches that the appropriate behavior for those preparing “the way of the Lord” is to be baptized “as they confess their sins.” (Vatican News) In looking at our readings for the 2nd Sunday of Advent we can perhaps consider also, the beginning of our 50th anniversary year here at our parish. Our focus for this year is We Are Called… Disciples on a Journey. Our readings ask us to reflect back, then consider today and finally look forward with hope to the future. During this year, perhaps we can also consider where we have been as a parish in its beginnings, our founding parishioners, our first Pastors, then consider where we are today—who are those we minister beside, how do we welcome others and lastly to have hope that as we grow in faith and relationship with Jesus, we may come to a deeper prayer and a more profound love of the Body of Christ. Indeed we are on a journey because we were called. We are invited to look at our faith and relationships of the past, the now and the future. How has Jesus informed our lives? 

First Sunday of Advent

First Sunday of Advent

What are the key first steps to enter into Advent?

On this our First Sunday of Advent, how will we prepare to welcome Jesus on December 25? We can all slow down. We can all breathe more deeply. We can all begin to trust that this will be a blessed time. Then, when we let ourselves be who we are, and hear the Scriptures, we can begin to quietly pray, “Come, Lord, Jesus.” We might expand that prayer, in quiet moments of our days ahead, “Come into my life. I trust you don’t mind if it is still messy. I believe you love me, because I need your love. I don’t fear you can’t find the way to my heart. Come and fill me with peace and the love only you can give.” Some of us will want to open our hands on our laps or hold up our arms in the privacy of our rooms and say out loud, “Come, Lord, Jesus, come into this house, into my family, into our struggles. Come and heal us, and give us join again. Come and unite us and let us experience, each in our own way, a bit of the joy you are offering me now.” And, before a single decoration goes up, we have prepared for Christmas’ message with the foundation of faith, with the mystery of Advent’s gift. God wants to be with us. Advent is letting God’s will be done in our hearts and in our everyday lives. 

-from Creighton University 

Letter from the Pastor...

Letter from the Pastor...

Dear Parish Community:

As you know, I serve not only as the Pastor of Immaculate Conception, but too, as the Director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Richmond. My responsibilities and schedule with the Office of Worship takes me to Richmond for various meetings and appointments. Sometimes, this work takes me away from our parish when Daily Mass is offered, and unfortunately, Daily Mass on those days is canceled. Finding a substitute priest to celebrate a Daily Mass is near impossible with the reality of today’s priest numbers. I know, however, many in our community still have an interest in gathering for prayer. Therefore, to fulfill this desire, the staff and I have discussed the option of offering Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours in place of Daily Mass on those days when my schedule takes me away from the parish.

If you are unfamiliar with The Liturgy of the Hours, it also known as the Divine Office and is the daily prayer of the Church that marks the hours of each day and orients that time to prayer. The Hours are a meditative dialogue on the mystery of Christ using scripture and prayer, and much of the scripture in the Hours is taken from the Book of Psalms. One of the most important Hours is Morning Prayer (the other being Evening Prayer).

The first opportunities to celebrate Morning Prayer in place of Daily Mass are Wednesday, March 22nd and Thursday, March 23rd at 8:30 am. The time in prayer is approximately 20 minutes. If you have never tried this prayer or are a veteran, please consider joining the community in the Daily Mass chapel. This is a wonderful opportunity to become acquainted and comfortable with this ancient prayer form.

I appreciate your understanding and continued patience with me as I serve our community as your pastor, and too, serve our Bishop as his Director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese.

Enjoy this Lenten Season, and know always of my prayers and gratitude!

-Fr. Prince

Lenten Reflection 2017: Third Sunday of Lent

Lenten Reflection 2017: Third Sunday of Lent

In this week’s Gospel passage, we learn a valuable lesson about blessings from unlikely sources. Tired from the day’s journey, Jesus sat down at Jacob’s well where he encounters the woman from Samaria. She had come to draw water from the well. It is high noon, the hottest time of the day. No one else should have been there at that time—or so she thought. Jesus is at the well and he asks her for “a drink” of water. And so begins a very unlikely scenario according to the societal norms of the time. Jesus was a Jew and she a Samaritan. Jews despised Samaritans and considered them heretics and apostates. They had nothing to do with them.  Second, she was a woman alone at the well and men did not speak with women without their husbands present. Finally, she was a woman with a “past.” She’d had five husbands and was currently living with a man who was not her husband. And yet, Jesus chooses to offer her the blessing of “living water.” She doesn't refuse him, but she wonders aloud why he would go against the social norms to ask her for a drink. In doing so she almost misses the blessing offered to her.  Thankfully, Jesus does not give up and He continues to reveal himself to her. Ultimately Jesus' encounter at the well of Samaria ends with the woman's growing awareness that Jesus is more than just "a prophet" but "the Prophet" whom the Samaritans (and Jews) saw as the Messiah who was coming. She becomes the first person in John’s Gospel to whom Jesus openly reveals himself as the Messiah.  She then returns to her town and she becomes the unlikely source of blessing for her people. “Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word the woman…testified.” She, a woman, a woman with a shady past, a Samaritan, This passage speaks powerfully to our project of evangelization today. It reminds us that the Good News of God in Jesus is meant to overcome ancient hostilities and cross-cultural barriers. The gift of God in Jesus is meant for all who thirst for God. Perhaps we are the ones who are thirsting and in need of the “living water.” 

Reflection Question: 

During this Lenten season, am I the one thirsting and in need of “living water?” Is Jesus reaching out to me via an unlikely source?

Prayer

Father, thank you that Jesus doesn't leave us at the surface, but probes until he can lead us deeper. Help me to be open to the unlikely ways that Jesus is calling me to drink deeply at the well of your Living Water! Help me to never take your Holy Spirit for granted. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Lenten Reflection 2017: Second Sunday of Lent

Lenten Reflection 2017: Second Sunday of Lent

Our first Scripture passage on this 2nd Sunday of Lent tells the story of the call of Abram. Abram is told to leave the land of his birth, trust God and travel into the unknown—“to a land that I will show you.” His is part of a broader story, found throughout the Bible, of movement and change as people and nations grow, mix, take on various characteristics and new relationships are formed. This is the gift of community. For example, in the Old Testament, the people of Israel, including Abram, find themselves wandering and sojourning in many places. In the midst, Israel is told to remember the sojourners and treat them with justice and compassion, as their own ancestors had been in the same situation. And in the New Testament, Jesus, the incarnate God, became a refugee while still an infant, fleeing with his parents to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath.  As an adult, Jesus became an itinerant preacher, wandering with his disciples from place to place, living at times by gleaning from fields those extras that the ancient law ordered left for such sojourners.  The culture and history of the people of the Bible led to the presence of a stranger being seen as an opportunity—an opportunity to let God lead them into new relationships. Hospitality was the norm as was the sharing of one’s home and resources with strangers or sojourners. But it was also much more than that.  Hospitality was an attitude of the heart, out of which such generous actions naturally flowed. This is the radical hospitality to which Jesus calls us. He calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, including those we might otherwise stereotype as enemies. While this active, inclusive hospitality involves significant costs and risks, Jesus asks us to accept those as part of the cost of discipleship. However, we ought not to do it out of fear, but out of the love that drives out fear. 

Reflection Question:

This Lent, who is the stranger whom God calling me to welcome into my heart? 

Prayer:

Lord, help me to courageously love the foreigner, sojourner, and even the enemy. Trusting in you, I am willing to let you lead me into new relationships.

Lenten Reflection 2017- First Sunday of Lent

Comment

Lenten Reflection 2017- First Sunday of Lent

First Sunday of Lent

We are often tempted by indifference.  What day goes by without news reports of refugees in crises, immigration turmoil, crime in our cities near and far…the list goes on.  What can we do to avoid being caught up in this distress and powerlessness?  

Comment

Rev. Robert "Bob" French Funeral Arrangements

This past week, we received several updates from the funeral home and American Embassy in Norway on the status of Fr. French's body returning to the United States. I am happy to pass along that Fr. French's body is scheduled to return to the United States on Sunday evening, September 4th into Washington Dulles. A representative from R. Hayden Smith funeral home will be at Dulles to pick-up Fr. French's body and bring him home to Hampton. We are now able to confirm the following funeral arrangements:

The funeral liturgy will be held at:
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
2150 Cunningham Drive
Hampton, Virginia 23666

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
    6:00 pm to 7:00 pm - Visitation
    7:00 pm - Funeral Liturgy
    Reception to follow in the parish commons

Fr. French's obituary is scheduled to run in the Daily Press and the Virginian Pilot, on Sunday. In addition, the Catholic Virginian ran an article in it's latest issue on Fr. French's priestly ministry and life in the diocese. The online version of the article can be found here.

Finally, over the last weeks, many of you have shared many stories and memories with me. In an effort to encourage Frenchie's family and friends, as well as the parish community, to continue sharing your stories and memories, we have setup an online memorial blog through the Immaculate Conception website. Please consider leaving a comment, memory, or story for other's to read. 

May we continue to keep Fr. French, his family, friends, and this parish community in our thoughts and prayers.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.

Peace, and God bless,
-Fr. Prince