Advent Hope

One day, while filing away papers, the secretary of President John F. Kennedy found this note, written in the president’s own hand. It read: “I know there is a God—and I see a storm coming. If He has a place for me, I believe that I am ready.” Our Lord’s warning this weekend to be ready, and President Kennedy’s readiness to serve, invite me to ask: “How ready am I to put myself at God’s service for whatever God may ask me to do?”

Today begins Advent: a new season and a new Liturgical Year. It is a short season, often cut off from a full four weeks by the secular calendar. It is as if there’s such a thing as “Lent Lite,” since it asks us to do penance and fast in preparation for the great Feast of Christ- mas.
Of course, one nod to the world around us and the media that frame it, and you would believe that this is the season for shopping, decorating, and even baking. None of those is bad in itself. But if any of it robs us of some quiet time for reflection and prayer, then we have wasted Advent time.

In fact, this First Sunday of the season traditionally pulls us away from thoughts about the annual celebration of Christ’s first coming to make us reflect on His second one. That is very much an unknown entity, even though it is inevitable.

The whole point of Advent is not to exclude our pre-Christmas fun, but to remind us of life’s serious side. It’s time to get ready for the next life as President Kennedy believed himself to be.

Nor does Advent ask us to pretend that Christ has not already come to us. It is rather telling us that Christ wants to come closer to us. One day in the unknown future, framed in the Book of Revelation as one of fire raging and trum- pets blaring, Jesus will come back as He promised He would, to judge us all and decide our eternal fate.

In the meantime, we are asked to remember the fact of His wanting to come closer to us. In fact, we should desire to be one of His points of entry into the world, always being attentive to what’s coming, rather than just to opt for a set- tled and comfortable life. This means that we actually facilitate the coming of God’s world into our own that began some 2,000 years ago with Christ. Now each of us has a part to play. In other words, each of us must so live that it doesn’t matter when the end comes because our whole life is a preparation for it.

In this context, it is remarkable what insight comes to us by way of that twenty-something Little Flower who is Saint Therese of Lisieux. Once she wrote this: “Let us go forward in peace, our eyes upon heaven, the only one goal of our labors.”

God love you and give you His Advent peace!

Reading I: Isaiah 63: 16-17, 19; 64: 2-7
The prophet quotes a psalmist who cries out like a despairing man, and implores God’s intervention. He admits that God has abandoned the sinner to his guilt.

Reading II: I Corinthians 1: 3-9
Paul declares himself to be an authentic apostle by virtue of his calling. Using his regular salutation signifies God’s goodness and His many gifts. He thanks God especially for His gifts to the Corinthian community.

The Gospel: Mark 13: 33-37
“Not knowing the day nor the hour” is Mark’s reason for exhorting vigilance. Jesus expands His meaning to go past the pending destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple to include all Jews and Jewish Christians.

The Feast of Christ the King

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Kings are more than cards in a deck or pieces on a chessboard. We know them as the linchpins for many an historical account and their lives intersect with those of many revered saints. As time passed, they gradually changed from being staunch persecutors of Christianity to royal purveyors of it.

While we proudly live in a democratic republic, many of us remain fascinated by anyone who wears the crown in other nations. Here at home, the title can denote a chief company executive or a country’s heroic founder; a master spirit, or an otherwise noteworthy person, at least of superior importance.

Recall when Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, amid the tension of their Good Friday encounter, whether or not He was a king. Jesus answered with another question: “Is this your opinion or have others told you of
Me?” This followed by a reassurance to the nervous procurator: “My kingdom is not here.”

So we know He is a king by His own strong admission. As we believe Jesus unconditionally, it is easy for us to add to today’s feast its complete title for Christ, namely “King of the Universe.” A corollary of that last has to be that His coming judgment of us all on the Last Day is momentous. We should be keenly aware of how to get ready.

Like so many aspects of our relationship with God, that readiness is simple: habitual practice of good deeds done to our neighbor. And this presumably from a pure and loving heart. That’s it. No need to make read- iness more complex. Look no further.

As we gather this week around the family table for our annual American Thanksgiving Day, there are myri- ad reasons to think and thank before we eat. One of the major ones is to remind ourselves that Jesus our Lord, our King, is loyal to, and loving of us, His sisters and brothers. All He asks is our return of the favor.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, the great British writer, philosopher and lay theologian once wrote this: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

God love you and give you His peace!

Sunday Reflections

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

Ronald Wayne would draw personal meaning from today’s parable. Who is he? Ronald Wayne is the little known third Apple founder who sold his 10% stake for $800. Apple shares hit an historic $1 trillion market cap value last August. Owning 10% of Apple right now sounds like a dream. But Mr. Wayne knows what it’s like to watch that opportunity slip away.

Wayne joined Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, who were 21 and 25 at the time, to provide the new company with so-called “adult supervision” and to oversee mechanical engineering and documentation in exchange for a 10% stake in the business. While both Jobs and Wozniak were young and broke, Wayne had assets, including a house, and feared that the financial burden would fall on him if the deal ever went south. So after spending a mere 12 days with Wozniak and Jobs, Wayne had his name taken off the contract and sold his shares back to the cofounders. Today a 10% stake in Apple would be worth $95 billion. It would make Wayne one of the richest people in the world. Google the rest of his story and discover what he thinks of his decision.

If He were preaching in person today, I believe Jesus would have used this story of Mr. Wayne in a retelling of His original parable. We read there about the three reactions that the servants had to the gifts given them by the “man going on a journey.” How we pity servant number 3 for his foolish choice. Talk about the need in life to balance prudence with wisdom! But the parable also stresses the importance of using one’s gifts and talents to serve others, especially the poor.

This Sunday just happens to be World Day of the Poor in our Church calendar. It is the fourth one of these “Days” having been established by Pope Francis in 2017. Here are some of the thoughts in Pope Francis’ inaugural Message given at that time and still relevant:

“Over these 2,000 years, how many pages of history have been written by Christians who, in utter simplicity and humility, and with generous and creative charity, have served their poorest brothers and sisters. The most outstanding example is that of Francis of Assisi

…He was not satisfied to embrace lepers and give them alms, but chose to go to Gubbio to stay with them. We may think of the poor simply as the beneficiaries of our occasional volunteer work, or impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience. However good and useful such acts may be for making us sensitive to people’s needs…they ought to lead to a true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life.

…The Body of Christ, broken in the Sacred Liturgy, can be seen, through charity and sharing, in the faces and persons of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.

…Saint John Chrysostom’s admonition remains ever timely: ‘If you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when we see it is naked; do not honor the Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments, and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness.’”

God love you and give you His peace!

Sunday Reflections

Vigilance is a profit center. Oh, not in the financial sense of course, but in the beneficial list of behaviors. Note how vigilance has been the common message of various authorities during this pandemic.

If a person lets down his/her guard, or lacks vigilance, the virus quickly steps in to increase its victim tally. One side effect is that we have citizens ready and eager to be reporters of any violators of the ever-changing mandates.

I must note a certain discrepancy in the way such promulgations are made, because churches have more stringent rules applied to them than casinos and “Big Box stores.” Is this proof that “the smoke of secular- ism” has wended its way into legislative chambers?
Be that as it may, there is no doubt or confusion about where Jesus stands on the matter of staying vigi- lant. He knows what happens to us with the passage of time and how we tend to be nonchalant about our lives and the things that really matter.

This weekend’s parable may mystify us a bit as we note the strange marriage ritual in the background. Be at ease: the same thing teases good biblical scholars. But knowing that the ten virgins represent us as disci- ples is all we really have to know to understand Jesus’ point.
Living as we do in a culture that prefers to sideline God and all things supernatural, it is quite difficult for us to be vigilant. Take God out of the picture and why be concerned about an ultimate account of our
lives? The judge’s bench is empty. That being so, we have permission to ask: “Who cares how I behave? As long as I’m not harming anyone, I can decide what’s right for me and what’s not.” Of course that kind of thinking has its built in dangers. Inconsistency is one of them.

Delusion is another. Soon the fabric of society starts to fray. The world turns upside down, just as it would if we were ever to foolishly imple- ment a policy to defund our police.

In the debate that ensues here we have to admit that both sides cannot be right. St. Paul tells us today who and what we can really trust. In so doing, he reflects the wisdom that describes herself in the First Reading.

Meanwhile we have to admit that secular history offers multiple examples of who not to trust. Since I began with reference to profit centers, here is an apt closing on the matter of trust from the business world. Once a leading economic expert, Professor Irving Fisher of Yale had this to say about the bright future of the stock market and the American economy: “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” His statement was spoken in early October 1929, just a couple of weeks before the stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression.

God love you and give you His peace!

Reading I: Wisdom 6: 12-16
Here we find an exhortation by the author to seek Lady Wisdom. “She” is easily accessible and also “hastens to make herself known.”

Reading II: I Thessalonians 4: 13-18, or 4: 13-14
Paul uses an early Christian creed to reassure his readers who wonder about the fate of their dead. This creed is the foundation of his own hope in the coming apocalypse.

The Gospel: Matthew 25: 1-13
Thematrimonyceremonialheredescribedismysteriouseventobiblicalscholars. Forsure,thetenvirginsrepresentthedisci- ples as expectant believers. The delay of the groom’s coming brings the danger of love growing cold. Jesus’ point is to keep vigilant.

Reflections by Rev. Leonard Peterson

After counting the racks of birthday cards, I believe the next largest display of cards for purchase are found in the “Congratulations” section. I’m certain the same holds true for those popular electronic greetings. Why is that do you suppose?

One simple answer is that you and I have a birthday each year. But in the course of our lives certain special events come along that we celebrate as high points, often one of a kind.

So there are congratulatory cards for engagements and weddings; anniversaries and graduations; new babies, new jobs and new homes; yes even for retirements. The cards can be spiritual or silly, but at best they mark the event as significant enough to call for a card.

Only God can congratulate us for living the way He thinks we should. This idea is at the heart of the familiar beatitudes that we read on this All Saints Day. Jesus is saying “Blest” or “Happy” or “Fortunate” are those who can look beyond the measures of this world to realize they are headed for a great reward in heaven.

So the poor in spirit, the mourners and the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers and the persecuted, the inheritors and those athirst for holiness will attain that goal. Even those who suffer insult and persecution for being Jesus’ followers have every reason to hope in God and trust His Word.

Who then are these people from all over the globe that we call saints? They are no more nor less than people who lived like everyone should but who did it better than most of us. I think we’re justified in adding to the official Church list the names of holy people we knew well even though there may never be a side altar dedicated to them. Some of them might even be from our own families. You could say that we saw them as “living holy cards.”

Once upon a time a Protestant minister came up with the clever slogan that these eight statements of Our Lord express the “Be-Attitude” in life. True enough. But equally true is the fact that if we wish to dwell in the “house of many mansions,” then we must make our reservations well in advance.

God love you and give you His peace!

Reading I: Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14
Here we have two distinct visions of John. In the first, 144, 000 are observed “sealed on the forehead” with God’s name for their fidelity to Him. In the second, an uncountable group from all nations wear white robes cleansed in the Lamb’s Blood and they hoist the palm frond of victory.

Reading II: I John 3: 1-3
This is an exhortation to the Johannine community that God’s love for them makes them “children of God.” They sing in response, because they believe they will become divinized. They also believe that God demands of them that they be as pure as possible.

The Gospel: Matthew 5: 1-12a
The famous “Sermon on the Mount,” encompassing the next two chapters in Matthew, begins with Jesus’ eight beatitudes. A beatitude is defined as “an exclamation of congratulations that recognizes an existing state of happiness.

Love Thy Neighbor

In reply to a question put forth by a scholar regarding what’s the greatest of the commandments, Jesus rein- forced the commandment of love of God.

The commandment to love God was not anything novel in Jesus’ time.
Faithful and devout Jews prayed the Shema, the prayer based on Deuteronomy 6, which Jesus often quoted and which the Jewish people recited in their morning and evening prayers to remind themselves that they are called on to love the Lord God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength.

Those testing Jesus would’ve been very familiar with the command to love God since they would’ve prayed the Shema twice a day.

But in responding to the scholar’s question, Jesus goes further and also reminded those present of the second of the greatest commandments, that you should love your neighbor as yourself, which
Our Lord quoted from the book of Leviticus. Again those listening to Jesus should have been familiar with this commandment also. The law of love is two-fold and hierarchical.

Together, the love of God and the love of neighbors form the basis of the whole Mosaic Law and the core and heart of Christ’s life and teaching. Both commandments must be put into practice and lived out in their proper order.

Man must love God first, and then he must love his neighbors.
A person can’t love either God or neighbor, he cannot love one while excluding others.

No! A person is required to love both God and neighbor; love is not an either/or proposition. The person who truly and genuinely loves God must also love others, as all people are the summit of God’s creation, made in God’s image and likeness, and this is where our human dignity lies: to be created in the image and likeness of God.

It is such a profound thought that we’re created in the image of God! As followers of Christ, Our Lord and King, who is the perfect image of the Eternal Father, our love for Christ Jesus fulfill the twofold command of love as He is true God and true man.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is our God as well as our brother, and with this in mind and heart, make Christ the love of your life, and He will be the life of your love.

God bless you,

Father Perez

Parking Lot Update

Dear Parishioners:
The above photos speak volumes about the excellent work that has been completed in our parking lot. We think you will agree that Running Rhino, LLC, has done a remarkable job.
We now have 23 marked spaces, three designated handicapped spaces, and the circle is a fire lane. The fire lane is for loading and unloading only. Those using the handicapped-accessible parking spaces may enter the church through the sacristy entrance (the door closest to the handicapped spaces) if that is more convenient.
In the event more parking spaces are needed, feel free to park in the rectory driveway.

Parish Update

Update on Projects

Our Lady of the Valley remains focused on and committed to good stewardship of our build- ings and grounds. To that end, we are reporting on in-progress and completed projects.

Two (2) dehumidifiers have been installed by Mountain Valley Home Comfort and are operating.

The parking lot is being sealed. Painting the spaces is contingent on weather conditions. The Harrisonburg Parking Lot Striping Company will complete as weather permits.

An AED (automated external defibrillator) has been purchased and will be installed next week. A qualified nurse will train ushers and any interested volunteers.

We are also looking into security cameras. More on that in a few weeks.

The new parish giving program will be rolled out in the next few weeks. This is online program will be a time saver for our offertory counters and be cost effective and time efficient for parish staff.

Our sincere thanks to our Parish Council, Finance Committee, and our generous parishioners for making these projects a reality.

God bless you,

Father Perez

A Different Kind of Political Engagement

Election Day is November 3. In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (www.faithfulcitizenship.org), we and our brother U.S. bishops noted, “Unfortunately, politics in our country often can be a contest of powerful interests, partisan attacks, sound bites, and media hype. The Church calls for a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convic- tions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable. … We are called to bring together our principles and our political choices, our val- ues and our votes, to help build a civilization of truth and love” (no. 14).
To grow in holiness, a question each one of us must answer is: How will I respond to this call for a different kind of engage- ment? This question is key as we approach Election Day, as well as every day before and after it, as faithful citizens.
In a pre-election letter on voting decisions we issued last year, we offered three main points:
Many issues are important.
Not all issues have equal weight. Protecting life is paramount.
As bishops responsible for the pastoral care of the faithful in our two dioceses, we re-offer these points here for your continued prayerful consideration, as an essential framework not only for the critical voting decisions that must be made each year but also for the vital prayer and advocacy that must be done on a constant basis.
Whenever human dignity is at stake for any of our brothers and sisters in the human family, we must be attentive and engaged. “[R]espect for the dignity of every person … is the core of Catholic moral and social teaching” (Faithful Citizenship, no. 10).
Our moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts – which are “always incompatible withlove of God and neigh-
bor” (Faithful Citizenship, no. 22) – “has a special claim on our consciences and our actions” (no. 37). Of these, abortion is the “preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and be- cause of the number of lives destroyed” (Faithful Citizenship, Introductory Letter). Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, there have been more than 61 million abortions in our country. Other issues of grave moral importance “undercut the dignity ofthe human person” (nos. 22, 23). Our priority must be to protect life to the fullest extent possible.
For more on the principles involved in voting with a well-formed conscience, we encourage you to read paragraphs 34-37 of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (www.faithfulcitizenship.org). For a side-by-side comparison of what the two major-party Presidential candidates have said or done on a wide range of issues of importance to Catholics, visit www.vacatholic.org. The side-by-side comparison was compiled jointly by a number of state Catholic conferences, including the Virginia Catholic Conference.
On November 3, please vote. Every day, please seek and live out the “different kind of political engagement” that will provide a clear example to others of the civility and consistent concern for the common good we are all called to embrace.
Faithfully Yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge
Bishop of Arlington

Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout
Bishop of Richmond

Gospel Reflection & Parish Updates

This weekend’s Gospel, the Parable of the Tenants, helps us understand how we, the tenants of the Vine- yard, should behave and how we should follow Jesus and heal the world.
Jesus once again speaks to the priests and elders with a parable about the Vineyard; a theme from the two Sunday’s prior gospels. In this parable, the landowner leases his Vineyard to tenants and sends his servants to collect the portion of the harvest that the tenants owe to him.
The servants are often sent to collect a payment, and each time they are beaten and killed by the tenants. Fi- nally, the landowner sends his son to collect his rent. The tenants, believing that they will inherit the Vine- yard if the landowner dies without an heir, plot together and kill the landowner’s son.
After telling the parable, Jesus questions the chief priests and elders about what the landowner will do to the wicked tenants. They all agree that the landowner will kill the wicked tenants and give the land to new ten- ants who will pay the rent.
In telling this parable, Jesus is drawing upon Isaiah 5:1-7, which is today’s first reading and one that the priests and elders would have known well. Jesus doesn’t have to explain the symbolism of the parable; the Pharisees would have understood that the Vineyard represented Israel, the landowner represented God, the servants represented the prophets, and the bad tenants represented the religious leaders.
Yet Jesus nonetheless explains the parable’s meaning: The Kingdom of God will be taken from the unbe- lieving and given to the faithful. The chief priests and elders have condemned themselves with their answer to Jesus’ question.
Matthew names the religious leaders as Pharisees and chief priests. Clearly, this Gospel shows the tension that was mounting between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders who thought that his message was dangerous.
Matthew’s Gospel was written about 70 years after Jesus’ death and reflected the conflicts and tensions found in the Christian community at that time. Conflicts and tensions that are, sadly, still with us today in our modern-day Vineyard.
This Gospel reminds us of the importance of listening to God’s word. In many ways, God speaks to us through Scripture, through our Church tradition, in our Church’s teaching, and through modern-day proph- ets. Are we attentive and receptive to God’s word to us through these messengers? Are we tending to His Vineyard with an eye toward everlasting life?
(Excerpt from Loyola Press Oct 2017)
Continuing with the theme of being good tenants in our very own Vineyard, please know that, thanks to your generosity, we have accomplished (or are in the process of accomplishing) the following projects:
1. Dehumidifiers installed in the Church basement to alleviate moisture and mold potential.
2. Parking lot lines of demarcation for parking spaces, handicapped spaces, and delivery/fire lane spaces will begin the week of October 12th.
3. Moving the parish office and personnel out of the Rectory and into the existing confessional space.
4. Starting an online parish giving system; details to be announced.
5. An Automated external defibrillator has been ordered.
Enjoy this beautiful Fall weather and keep your Vineyard in a manner that will be ready to welcome Jesus.

God Bless You,
Father Perez