Today’s gospel follows up from last Sunday with John the Baptist at the Jordan River proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People’s hearts are touched and moved to ask over and over again a question that we are invited to make our own today: “What should we do? What should I do?”   I hope these are questions we can honestly ponder this third week of Advent.

As a baptized Catholic and a disciple of Jesus Christ, what should I do in my life right now to follow Jesus more closely; to conform my life to his?

Another way to ask this question is, “What do I need to change in my life so that I can follow Jesus more closely?”

I’m going to suggest that, if you have a worship aid, turn it over and write down what you feel the Lord Jesus is asking you to do to follow him more fully, with more conviction, with more dedication and more heart.

I have another suggestion. If you have your smart phone with you, please take it out and go to our parish app. If you don’t have our app, go to your app store and type in Saint Michael Parish and our SMP logo will come up and you can download it in less than 30 seconds.

Now as they are doing that, if you don’t have a smart phone, then simply follow along with me. It will be easy, because you’ve heard me talk about this before.

I want to simply offer some practical ways of answering this question, “What should I do” this Advent season to grow closer to Jesus and deeper in my faith. I do this in conjunction with our six elements of discipleship as a parish: grow, worship, serve, give, connect, and share.

Now if you have our parish app, you’ll notice that the home page has the six elements of discipleship. This will make it easy to follow along.

Grow: as a disciple of Jesus Christ and a member of Saint Michael Parish I’m committed to grow in my faith by praying daily. If you open the “grow” tab, you’ll see Catholic prayers among other opportunities to grow in your faith that we offer as a parish. In these final days of Advent, commit to spending time in personal prayer alone and with your family. “Five and five,” prayers before and after meals, prayers before bedtime. I will come back to this at the end.

Worship: M.A.S.S. — make all Sundays sacred by attending Mass each week and making sure your family does. Take the opportunity this Friday evening or Saturday afternoon to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Take time during this week before Christmas and after to visit the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration.

Serve: how am I reaching out to others? This tab has many opportunities – serving in pastoral care and spiritual support, our parish school, liturgical ministries and community outreach ministries.

Give: as disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to share our financial treasure to build up the kingdom of God by financially supporting the ministries of Saint Michael Parish. “What should I do?” If you haven’t filled out a pledge card for this coming year, please do so today. You can stop by the office after Mass and Dolly would be happy to help you. If you go to the “Give” tab, you can quickly set up online giving. With our Financial Peace University classes you can be given the tools you need to free yourself from debt and tell your money what to do rather than the other way around. You can also look through our annual report.

Connect: as a disciple of Jesus Christ and a member of Saint Michael Parish, I commit to reaching out to others in hospitality and welcome. That’s what this tab is about. Each of us, and all of us together are hospitality ministers. “What should I do?” Creative a welcoming environment by offering a smile and greeting others in the parking lot, the Gathering Space or as you find your seat. Do not be afraid to introduce yourself to those who sit close to you week after week. 

Join the “move to the middle” movement. By this I mean offering hospitality to others by choosing to sit in the middle of the row and not on the ends, blocking people, especially families with children or the elderly. This will be so important at our Christmas Masses. You are the ones who will make them feel welcome. Please read this week’s Pastors Notebook in the bulletin on this topic.

Connect to being part of a small group, a place where you break open the Sacred Scriptures and meet Jesus Christ in the Gospels and one another.

Share is our final element of discipleship. Share your faith lovingly, graciously and without apology when the opportunity arises. Don’t shy away from what might feel uncomfortable. Think of inviting someone to share Mass with you during the Christmas season. Arrange to pick them up, bring them and then maybe take them out to breakfast afterwards.

Consider inviting and accompanying someone to our next Alpha gathering which begins on Sunday evening January 13 after Life Teen Mass. It is an invitation to a simple meal, a video and sharing of thoughts in a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere. This is an easy way to invite someone who has no church home or who has been away to return and consider faith in Jesus Christ.

My final thought is very practical. If you want to reduce stress, anxiety, worry, discouragement and feeling overwhelmed then do as St. Paul tells us in our second reading: 

“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

In other words, pray. And pray some more. And some more. Make your needs known to God. And them over to Jesus. Lay them at the foot of the cross. Bring them to adoration. Pray and keep on praying.

And pray together. That’s when Jesus gave us the Church, his community of faith and that we don’t have to do it on our own. We are meant to be on this journey together.

Know that I pray for you daily and in these final days of Advent will deepen that prayer so that together, we might preach the good news to one another and to all the people.