Holy Ghost is now using Flocknote to enhance parish communications and to encourage parishioners to get more involved in parish life and ministry. I introduced Flocknote today in my homily at all three Masses, encouraging people to subscribe using their smartphones. We have 64 new subscribers.

Audio recording of today’s homily:

Homily – First Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which is also the first Sunday of a new liturgical year for the Church. It is a time of new beginnings as we turn our attention to the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

According to St. Matthew in today’s gospel, the certain coming of Jesus requires us to make a decision to watch for him. Any day, any moment could be the final coming of the Lord for you and for me. Advent is a time of preparation for this coming of the Lord. As St. Paul tells us in the second reading, it is time to awake from our sleep, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

Pope Francis reminds us all in a homily he gave at daily Mass this past week how important it is that we live a life of service, using our talents to serve God. The Holy Father asked this question. “Well, what will that day be like when I am before Jesus, when he will ask me about the talents he gave me, what I did with them?”

Advent is a time to reflect on what’s really important in our lives and to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus, to welcome him into our lives.

We should ask ourselves, “If I changed some of my habits or activities would this give me a bit more time to grow closer to God? Am I too comfortable in my current routine? Am I stretching myself to move out of my comfort zone in order to better serve him? Could I possibly make some room in my life to become a bit more involved in a ministry where I can make better use of the gifts he’s given me?

Sometimes we just have to make a small change in our routine in order to make a meaningful change in our relationship with God. Maybe consider giving up a half hour of television every evening so you can read and reflect on the day’s Mass readings and pray the rosary? Or maybe it’s getting out of bed a half hour earlier each morning? St. Francis de Sales once said, “Every one of us needs a half an hour of prayer every day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour,”

Maybe you could come to morning Mass a few days a week? You know we have a 6:30 AM Mass Monday-Friday that’s finished by 7:00. This would be a great way to spend more time with the Lord. This Mass is also followed by a Holy Hour with our Eucharistic Lord. There’s no better way to start your day than with Mass and adoration!

Perhaps you already have a fruitful prayer routine, but you feel that there is something else you should be doing to serve Jesus. In this time of Advent, this time of new beginnings, I’d like to challenge you to seriously consider stepping out of your comfort zone and taking the leap to become active in a new ministry where you can use your gifts to serve others. Maybe God is calling you to get involved in one of our many parish groups or ministries?

To help you to discern this call, we’re introducing today some new ways we’ll be sharing information about opportunities to become more active within our parish community.

The first is our new website. It has a fresh new look and, combined with our Facebook page, this will allow group and ministry leaders to share photos and information about what they are up to, in much more detail than is possible in the bulletin. I’ll soon be holding a training session for ministry leaders to teach you how you can use the website to inform the parish about your activities and share photos and more from your events. If you haven’t been to the website recently, be sure to check it out.

Another exciting communications tool we’re announcing today is called Flocknote. This web-based parish communications system makes it easy to communicate effectively using email and text messages with group members, without concern for bulletin deadlines, etc. We also plan to use it to send out a weekly parish newsletter. I’m really excited to begin using Flocknote at Holy Ghost and I’m asking you to sign up for the service today.

Some of you have already done this using the registration form on the website. If you have, bear with me for just a couple of minutes while we get everyone else onboard. There’s no need to sign up again.

How many of you have a smartphone with you right now? If you do, I’d like you to take it out and open your text message app. Go ahead…it’s ok. Really! I’ve cleared this with Father.

I’m going to give you a number in just a moment and I want you to send a specific message to that number.

If you don’t have a smartphone, you can sign up for the service on our website. Just browse to our site, holyghostknoxville.org, enter through the church doors at the bottom of the home page. There you’ll find the signup form at the top right side of that page.

OK, so now for those of you who have their phones out, here we go. Text HGKNOX to 84576. This will send back a link you can tap in order to sign up for our new communications service. Simply enter your first and last name and email address.

You’ll then be given a chance to sign up to receive information on various parish groups and ministries. Select those you are already involved in and select one or two others that you’d like to learn more about. Here’s a few you’ll be able to select from:

Bible Study – a great way to learn more about God’s word. It’s held weekly in the basement of the church
Knights of Columbus – mens’ group that meets monthly here at the church and sponsors a number of charitable initiatives throughout the year
CCW – the ladies of the parish who are having a wonderful Advent dinner on Tuesday
Van ministry – picking up parishioners with our van who can’t drive themselves to Mass on Sunday. You don’t need a special drivers license to do this.
Parish life – helping to organize parish social events
Homebound visitation – checking on and bringing communion to those who are homebound
St. Vincent de Paul – helping the poor and the homeless in the community
Parishioner outreach – inviting non-practicing Catholics back to church
Altar servers – we always need more boys and girls!
Readers – proclaiming God’s word at Mass
Choir – the choir would welcome your voice
Altar Society and more.

After choosing a couple of ministries, the last thing you’ll have to do is confirm your email address. You’ll get an email with a verification link. Click on it and you’re done.

So what can you expect to get after signing up? As I mentioned, you’ll receive a weekly email containing late-breaking parish news and reminders. I’m also hoping that leaders of our various groups will jump on this to communicate with their members. Imagine how useful it would be to get a text message if there were a change of plans for a meeting or event you were attending?

Finally, If you ever feel as though you are getting too much information you can easily unsubscribe from the service. Bottom line, you have nothing to lose by signing up and much to gain.

If you’re having any trouble signing up I’ll be out in front of the church after Mass. You can also call or text me at any time, I’m Deacon Scott and my phone number is on the front page of the bulletin.

I pray that you will have a blessed Advent and that you will really use this special season to prepare for the coming of Our Lord in a deeper way in your life.

Try to take a little more time to pray over the next four weeks before Christmas, asking God what he wants YOU to do with the many gifts he’s given you. Ask him when you receive communion today to speak to your heart about this.

You can be sure that when you hear and respond to his call you will experience the joy and happiness that only he can provide. By making an effort to do a little more for him, he will sanctify and bless all the other areas of your life.

May the Lord inspire each of us to use this Advent season to really consider how we might better serve Him so that we’re prepared to welcome him when he comes as the Holy Infant in the manger, and when he comes as our judge at a time we least expect.

Remember, give God what’s right, not what’s left. God bless you.