FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

This Week’s Message
Emmanuel, God With Us!

By Cliff Garvey

In the Gospel for the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass, Saint Matthew shares with us that Joseph is worried about taking Mary as his wife because she is pregnant. But an angel appears to Joseph in a dream, counsels him to be not afraid, and says: “For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-21).” The evangelist then quotes Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23).” In the end, Joseph follows the angel’s good counsel and welcomes Mary into his home.

These days, we have so many high-tech ways of connecting with family, friends, and colleagues: e-mail, facebook, facetime, skype, snapchat, texting, and tweeting. Alas, each of these communication tools lacks something important. That something is intimacy. There seems to be less and less true intimacy, less and less personal interaction, and less real time spent together with friends and loved ones. There seem to be fewer and fewer real life encounters like sharing a family meal or a friendly mug up with a neighbor or co-worker. In our hearts, we know that these are and always will be the best ways to build strong and lasting relationships. God knows this, too. Throughout salvation history, God seeks intimate connections with his children. In the scriptures, we read about how God speaks to his people: beckoning, calling, and pleading with us to return to him and love him. And in the lives of the saints, we read about how God enters into intimate relationships with those holy men and women who experience profound conversions, make miracles, and lead lives of deepest faith and holiness.

Just last weekend, Pope Francis made reference in a homily to a passage from the Book of Zephaniah: “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love (Zephaniah 3:17-18).” Pope Francis then said: “Yes, God loves us so much that he even rejoices and takes pleasure in us. He loves us with a gratuitous love, a love without limits, and without expecting anything in return. This merciful love is the most striking attribute of God.” Again and again, century after century, God reaches out to us with great intimacy: in friendship, love, and mercy. God desires to be with each and every one of us, no matter who we are or where we find ourselves on the journey of faith.

Sadly, we often fail to respond. We break the commandments. We gossip. We treat each other with contempt and disrespect. We look for mistakes and shortcomings in others and exploit them for some benefit. We tear down rather than build up. We search for other gods and idols to worship like money or sex. We treat addicts and orphans, lonely people and sick people with judgment or neglect. We pollute our planet. But God is not discouraged. He continues to reach out to us. He continues to reach out to each and every one of us with love and mercy and friendship and true intimacy. God offers us his hand, he begs us to take it, and he calls us to walk with him through the greenest pastures and the darkest valleys.

Matthew’s Gospel on Christmas Eve and John’s Gospel of Christmas Day remind us that God (creator of heaven and earth and master of the universe) sent his Only Son not to condemn us, not to judge us, but to love us, to walk with us, and to save us. At Christmas, we are called to celebrate God’s decision to become one like us (except for sin). We celebrate Emmanuel, God with us, God’s presence among us, God’s coming in the form of a child born naked and poor in a stable. At Christmas, we can truly see God face to face in the eyes, smile, and miraculous beauty of a newborn child. By becoming Emmanuel, God with us, God comes to know us even more intimately than ever before. He truly knows and understands our hopes, fears, successes, failures, good works, and sins because He is Emmanuel, God with us.

On Christmas Day, God’s great gift of intimacy, love, and mercy is not meant to be unwrapped, cooed over, then forgotten and placed on a shelf or in a drawer like so many other presents. Instead, God’s gift of Himself is meant to be shared with those we love: spouses, children, grandchildren, godchildren, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow parishioners, strangers, and even people with different faith traditions. God’s gifts of intimacy, love, and mercy are meant to be shared even with those we find it so difficult to love and forgive. Indeed, we are called to be ambassadors of God’s love, bearers of God’s mercy, and instruments of God’s peace: today, tomorrow, and always.

In these final days before Christmas, let us pray for the greatest gift of Emmanuel, God with us. Let us pray for the courage to take God’s hand and to walk with him. Let us pray for the grace to enter more deeply into a personal and intimate relationship with him. And let us pray for the spirit that helps us to share this greatest of gifts with others through acts of charity and words of encouragement, with open arms and open hearts. O Come, Emmanuel! Come, Lord Jesus!

May the Lord give you peace at Christmas and always!
Cliff

Cliff Garvey, Associate Minister
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
Contact: cgarvey@ccgronline.com

CCGR Weekly Bulletin (12-20-15)
Bringing Home the Word (12-20-15)
Assisi Project Christmas Raffle

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Our Christmas Mass Schedule
Come Home for Christmas!

The Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport at Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish cordially invites you and your family to “come home” and join us for Holy Mass in celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. During the upcoming Christmas Holy Days, Masses will be celebrated according to the following schedule:

  • Christmas Eve
    Thursday December 24th
    4:00pm       Saint Ann Church
    4:00pm       Our Lady of Good Voyage Church
    6:00pm       Saint Ann Church
    Midnight     Our Lady of Good Voyage Church
  • Christmas Day
    Friday, December 25th
    8:15am        Saint Ann Church
    10:00am      Saint Joachim Church
    11:45am      Our Lady of Good Voyage Church

Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome! On behalf of our pastor, senior priests, deacons, and pastoral team, we hope and pray that you and your family will join us for Mass and enjoy a very Blessed and Merry Christmas! All are invited! All are welcome! May God bless us, everyone!

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Pastor’s Note
Calling Young Disciples!

As we begin to reimagine and rebuild our youth faith formation programs, it is important to remember that all children and teenagers are invited to participate in the life of our parishes: as altar servers, as players in our dramatiza- tion of the Epiphany, and as singers or instrumentalists in our Youth Choir. These are not just seasonal events but formative opportunities for children of all ages to gather in prayer, to learn about the teachings and traditions of the Church, and to live their faith in a true spirit of prayer, fellowship, and service. For more information about youth faith formation in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, please contact Fr. Jim at frjim@ccgronline.com or Betsy Works at bworks@ccgronline.com.

Feast of the Epiphany Youth Pageant
Saturday, January 2nd

During the Season of Christmas, the Catholic Church will celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord during the weekend of January 2nd-3rd. Traditionally, the Epiphany commemorates the coming of the Magi from the East who pay homage to the newborn Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. These wise men paid tribute to the Lord by bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

As part of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport’s celebration of the Solemnity of the Epiphany, we invite the children of our parishes to participate in a dramatization of the coming of the Magi during the 4:00pm Vigil Mass on Saturday, January 2nd in Saint Ann Church. We are seeking children for the roles of angels, shepherds, the Magi, and the Holy Family. If your child or grandchild would like to participate in this annual holiday tradition that celebrates the Adoration of the Magi, please contact Sue Demetri at sdemetri2000@yahoo.com. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!

CCGR Youth Choir
Tuesdays at 5:00pm

The Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport’s Youth Choir meets for practice and rehearsal every Tuesday afternoon at 5:00pm in Saint Ann Church. The Youth Choir, along with an ensemble of talented young instrumentalists, sings every weekend during Mass at one of our three churches: Saint Ann Church, Saint Joachim Church, and Our Lady of Good Voyage Church. The Youth Choir welcomes new members (ranging in age from kindergarten through eighth grade). Singing in the choir is a great way to make new friends and participate in the life of our parishes! For more information, please contact Patty Natti at pnatti@comcast.net. All are welcome!

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Our Lady of Good Voyage
Grand Annual Collection
Goal: $40,000 | Donations: $23,754

Each year, we ask all parishioners to contribute what they can to Our Lady’s Grand Annual Collection. This collection is a vitally important component of our annual budget. It helps us balance our budget by bridging the gap between the weekly offerings and our financial obligations. The Grand Annual Collection helps us to pay for the benefits and salaries of our priests and pastoral team. It helps us to pay our insurance and utility bills. It helps us to maintain our historic buildings and plow our parking lots. It helps to fund essential parish programs like adult and youth faith formation. All contributions to the Grand Annual Collection go directly to Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. If we do not achieve our goal, then it becomes almost impossible for us to balance our annual budget! So far, we have received approximately 59% of our goal! Although we have much work to do, we still hope to reach our goal of $75,000 by the First Sunday of Lent. Please pray that each of us, according to our means, will give generously to Our Lady’s Grand Annual Collection! For more information, please contact Father Jim at frjim@ccgronline.com.

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About Us

Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Our worship sites include Saint Ann Church in Gloucester, Saint Anthony Chapel in Gloucester, Saint Joachim Church in Rockport, and Our Lady of Good Voyage Church in Gloucester. We are a Roman Catholic faith community united in prayer, fellowship, and service. For more information about becoming a member of one of our parishes, please contact Father Jim at frjim@ccgronline.com. Please join us! All are welcome!

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