Today we come to the end of the Christmas season with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord following the feast of Epiphany when Christ was revealed to the nations. He came to the poorest of the poor, first to the shepherds and in turn to the Wise Men who humbly presented their gifts to Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus. The church year bridges time and space today leaping to the adult Jesus who prepares to begin his mission. With the Baptism that Jesus submitted to by John at the Jordan, he bridges the Old and the New Covenants, and begins his own three-year public ministry.
Now that the Christmas season is coming to a close the volunteers will take down the outside banners, box up the ornaments from the trees, the Nativity figures, garland and wreaths, put them away for another year, and return to the green of Ordinary Time. Before we move ahead to Lent, we have one last opportunity to reflect on the questions: How have I experienced Christ this past Christmas or Advent seasons? This is the last Sunday to reflect and pray before the Nativity or crèche scene and reflect on; where do I find Christ in my life right now?
On this final Sunday of the Christmas season, we go back to the prophet Isaiah, who foretold specific preparation, “A voice cries out: …prepare the way of the Lord…make straight a highway … every valley shall be filled in…” in other words, be heralds of God’s Good News that we are God’s sons and daughters, who gives us many wonderful gifts. We are called upon to give back some measure of those gifts in acts of charity and generosity to others.
Last Fall, I invited you to consider an increase in your regular Sunday Offertory Contributions to Saint Anthony Parish. Over 53% of our regular donors chose to give an increase per week or year. That is an outstanding percentage of participation when compared to other parishes nationally. The usual percentage of participation is somewhere between 30 and 50%. For the six weeks of the “Grateful Living, Joyful Giving” campaign, parishioners stepped up to give. According to the commitment cards turned in, 137 households made a commitment. You joyfully agreed to increase your donations by an amount that works for you. In terms of raw numbers that turns out to be 137 households committed to give an additional $84,231.33 in 2019, which could average an additional $1,619.83 per week to support the ministry and mission of the parish.
I am exceedingly grateful that you took the time to reflect, pray, examine your financial situation and offer such a generous response. Saint Anthony Parishioners have always stepped up to give when asked. I am grateful for all of you who said “yes.” May God bless you with every good gift, every grace and blessing that can be yours in this New Year.