The Church of St. Timothy

Gathering in Faith, Giving Thanks, Serving the Least among Us

Weekly Reflections

From our Pastoral Associate, Sr. Ann Kane C.S.J.

July 13-14, 2019               Cycle C – 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time 

“There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, ‘Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How do you read it?’ He said in reply, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ He replied to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.’ … ‘And who is my neighbor?’”

Jesus the story teller portrayed the great message of the Good Samaritan. We are familiar with the man, the robbers, the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan. One had the courage to put the word of God into practice.

The person who asked the question already knew the biblical answer, but he was far from practicing it. The alien, the foreigner, the despised one, responded with the expression of love of God in all its aspects.

The law of the first testament of love of God and neighbor is like the coin in your pocket. It has two sides. Think of heads as love of God and tails as that love expressing our concern for the Christ in need. Paul tells us today that “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God…” He became human to show us His face, not just in Israel over twenty centuries ago, but in those worthy of His love present among us.

Reading the story of the Good Samaritan Jesus asks me too “How do you read it?”

July 6-7, 2019               Cycle C – 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time 

The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate life and offers us an opportunity to pause and be grateful for all we have as a country, founded on principles of equality and freedom. Truly, we have had an abundant harvest as a nation: supermarkets stacked to the ceiling with food; freedom of speech, press, assembly; blessings of resources, talents, strengths. At the same time we are well aware that not everyone shares equally in this abundance – we still face appalling poverty, ghastly prejudices, gross abuse of power.

In the face of this inequality, we ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us on how we are to respond. Today’s readings are wonderful reminders of who we are, who we have been called to be.

The very first symbolic action in the rite of Baptism is the invitation to parents and godparents to make the sign of the cross on the forehead of the one to be baptized. It is thru this sign that we have been called, sent and understand who we are.

It is the cross of Jesus Christ that creates all things new. It reorders our priorities; it refashions our identities; it sometimes puts us in opposition to the standards of the world. Because of the cross of Jesus Christ, we no longer judge success or failure by the abundance of our nations harvest, freedoms and resources. No longer do we separate people by gender or race or religious tradition. A new reality has been formed, with peace and mercy as its identifying characteristics.
It is the cross that marks us as followers of Jesus, reminding us that we are a new creation.

Both the first reading and the psalm give us a glimpse of what can happen when things are set right, when the words of Jesus are taken seriously. The city is renewed; the world is rejuvenated; the prosperity of God is enjoyed by all; those who suffer are comforted; the kindness of God fills the whole world.

Because we are marked with the sign of the cross, we can expect mixed blessings. Not everyone will welcome the message of the cross, not everyone will appreciate the new creation it brings. Because we do not live by the standards of the world, we may be judged as fools. It makes one wonder why anyone would take on such a life as we constantly move against the tide. Yet, if we are honest, we will admit that much of what the world promotes really goes against the grain of what is truly human. As we mature in faith we come to know that true fulfillment, true abundance, is only found in God!

June 29-30, 2019               Cycle C – 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time 

Today we begin the second half of St. Luke’s Gospel, “a gospel within the gospel.” Its focus is Jesus’ single hearted determination to go to Jerusalem for the purpose of fulfilling his mission; that is to die and rise, winning for all of us eternal life.

Every journey has a purpose. The journey of every Christian has one too, that is to deepen ones relationship with God so as to be with Him eternally in heaven. Processions are like mini-journeys – they lead us from one place to another. They always have a goal. During Mass there are actually four processions, each with its own goal.

Entrance Procession: The purpose of the Entrance Procession is to set the tone and open our Eucharistic celebration by giving everyone a single focal point. The hope is that our common experience will unify all those gathered for the common purpose of worship and transformation. Its intent is to move us from being individuals to becoming more the Body of Christ. This sense of unity will culminate when we all partake of the Eucharist, “many parts becoming one Body in Christ.”

Gospel Procession: The gospel is the high point of the Liturgy of the Word. That is why we stand, sometimes use incense, and why some communities (not St. Timothy) have a special book called the Book of Gospels. While the gospel stands for Christ himself, the procession with the gospel book is an opportunity for the assembled people to acclaim that Christ is present in his community through his Word. It is also a symbolic expression of our journey from hearing God’s word to putting it into practice.

Procession with the Gifts: The procession with the bread and wine (not yet the Body and Blood of Christ) and monetary donations symbolize the gift of ourselves presented to God for transformation into being more perfect members of the Body of Christ. As the gifts are placed on the altar we symbolically place ourselves on the altar and offer ourselves with Christ in sacrifice. It is symbolic of the ongoing journey of self-sacrifice that characterizes Christian living.

Communion Procession: The Communion procession symbolizes our journey to the heavenly banquet. It is at the altar that the sacrifice of the cross, the source of our promise of salvation, is made present under sacramental signs.
This procession then, most clearly proclaims this heavenly journey when the Communion lines actually move forward toward the altar.

Our own single hearted and determined Christian journey leading us to eternal life is nourished and sustained each time we go to Mass. Understanding what we are doing may be helpful for a deeper, richer experience.

June 22-23, 2019               Cycle C – Body & Blood of Christ 

The Eucharist is one of the seven sacraments and the “source and summit of the Christian life.” Today’s feast of Corpus Chirsti celebrates this sacrament. It was in the twelfth century, when great devotion to the Eucharist was prevalent, that we find the origins of this feast. Seldom partaking in Communion, the people expressed their devotion by “seeing” the consecrated host; the elevations at Mass come from this time, as well as the ever-popular Eucharistic processions.
In celebrating the Eucharist we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection; we celebrate our union with one another and God; we are nourished to live the Christian life and be the presence of Christ in the world.

The Catholic Church believed from its beginning that Christ is really present – both God and man – in the consecrated bread and wine. We believe that the bread and wine is substantially changed into the Body and Blood of Christ first, because Jesus promised this and second, because the apostles and those who have followed in the Church have experienced it to be so. Indeed, the Eucharist makes us who we are – the Church. As we eat and drink the Body of Christ, we continue to witness to and work on behalf of the Lord’s kingdom for the life of the world. We become the presence of Christ for others.

Under ordinary circumstances, we fast for one hour before receiving communion as a spiritual reminder of our hunger and thirst for the Lord. We put all other things aside so that we may focus on the sacred meal.

This feast offers a good opportunity to reflect on the purpose of the music we sing during communion. The General Instructions in the Roman Missal, our “bible” on the Mass, tells us that the purpose of the Communion song is to express our union through the union of our voices, to communicate our joy as we gather for the Eucharistic banquet, and to emphasize the communal nature of the Communion procession. We are further instructed that the song is to begin when the presider gives himself Communion and is to last until everyone in the assembly has received. One implication of these directives is that we are to be attentive to one another as we receive Communion. The song we sing is meant to lead us both to Christ and to all the others to whom we are becoming united through his body and blood.

After Communion we are instructed to have a brief period of silence or sing a hymn of praise as we reflect upon and praise God for the gracious and wondrous gift of the Eucharist. Additionally, because of the depths of this mystery it is always appropriate to spend some other devotional time before the Blessed Sacrament, leading us always to lead lives more closely with Christ. This weekend is an opportunity to reflect more deeply on this great mystery of our faith.

June 15-16, 2019               Cycle C – Most Holy Trinity 

It might be tempting to think of this Sunday, Trinity Sunday, as a continuation of the Easter season since this solemnity comes immediately after Pentecost. We have been celebrating resurrection and new life for a very long time, fifty days. Today it is good to be reminded that our liturgical year is now in Ordinary Time, which began on the Monday after Pentecost. Notice that our baptismal font and paschal candle, which had been at the altar for the fifty days of Easter, are now gone. Decorations and vestments (now green) are different and simpler than those of the Easter season. The constant celebration has come to an end. It is now that we consciously take up Jesus’ mission of dying and rising. It is now that we begin to live what we believe.

At a fundamental level, the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity celebrates the many ways in which God communicates the gift of the Divine Self to us. Whether we reflect on the activity of God the creator, Christ the Redeemer, or the Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life, we are struck by the insistent ways God communicates who God is.
Today we remember that in our ordinariness, we are to carry on the work of the triune God; that is, to re-create our world in newness of life, to redeem our world from the evil that besets it, and to bring God’s glory and holiness to all we meet. Now we, the baptized, participate in the loving action of God on behalf of all!

On this Sunday we might take a moment to reflect on our great Christian sign of the Trinity, the Sign of the Cross. An act of self blessing we make this sign of the cross before all prayer. It finds its origins in Matthew 28:19: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” This is the baptismal command of Jesus. It connects us to our own baptism and also acknowledges our understanding of God as three persons. The sign of the cross has also come to be a “badge of membership of his Body.” It is an expression of faith, prayer, devotion and willingness to participate in the liturgy actively. The Sign of the Cross is our statement that salvation comes to us through the cross. When made slowly and deliberately, reverently and consciously, it clearly connects us with the whole triune mystery of God.

June 8-9, 2019               Cycle C – Pentacost 

It is impossible to overstate the crisis that the believing community faced as a result of Jesus’ death. It is the theological genius of the Fourth Evangelist to present the Paraclete as the solution to this crisis; Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension is not the end, but the beginning of a new era in the life of the believing community. The promise to send the Paraclete shows Jesus as one who will continue to support his followers for perpetuity. This promise stands as a testament to the reliability of Jesus and his love, because Jesus has not ignored the future of those who will live on after he leaves them. Jesus is indeed, the good shepherd who loves and cares for his own both in his death and beyond.

It is the Paraclete who makes it possible for all believers to share in the good news of the Incarnation, because the Paraclete makes Jesus present to believers, even though Jesus is now physically absent. What is critical to notice is that our loving God sends the Paraclete to the community, not to individuals. The Paraclete is not a private possession, nor is its presence discernible as an internal experience of the individual believer. The Paraclete is given to and known in the community. The Paraclete keeps the community grounded in Jesus’ revelation of God, not in an individual’s private experience of God. The Paraclete is thus the unifying mark of Christian community, because it gives all believers access to Jesus.

Today’s feast of Pentecost celebrates the coming of the Paraclete/Holy Spirit. We reflect upon that guiding presence moving the Christian community in a direction that will bring to fulfillment God’s desires for our world. No matter how bleak things look, we know that the Spirit is with us and will somehow see us through to the end.
This weekend our church is lined with banners depicting the many ways our parish is committed to doing good to build up God’s kingdom of peace and justice. Through the church, and the many people who work in the “trenches,” the Holy Spirit is alive and well. If you are not already involved here, maybe this is the time to get involved in the noble work of this parish…reaching out to our parish community and beyond to love, help and respect all of God’s world. For more information how you can become more involved here, please call Sr. Ann Kane at the rectory, 860-232-8594.

June 1-2, 2019               Cycle C – 7th Sunday of Easter 

Prayer reveals the deepest desire of our hearts and our truest selves. Today we have a glimpse of Jesus at prayer, a glimpse into the deepest desire of his heart – he loves us as God’s gift to him and he desires for us the same unity and glory that he and the Father share.

Ecumenism is the movement focused on achieving unity among all the Christian churches. In obedience to the prayer of Jesus proclaimed in today’s gospel, (“that they all may be one”) Christians of many churches have worked throughout this century to manifest greater unity.

The Catholic Church teaches that unity is a gift given to the Church by Christ. Its source is the Trinity, the union of God, one in three. The gift of unity does not mean uniformity. From its beginning, the Church has been characterized by a great diversity and liveliness. Yet for various reasons, including human sinfulness, the one church of Jesus has experienced deep divisions and separations (schisms) which weaken our witness in the world. The Second Vatican Council teaches that none of the churches are exempt from taking responsibility for the scandal of this separated condition.

The drive toward ecumenism began early in this century by non-Catholic Christians and was embraced by the Catholic Church in 1949 when we began to join our Christian brothers and sisters in the work of ecumenism. At the Second Vatican Council, ecumenism became one of the four principal goals of Pope John XXIII and with the publication of the The Decree on Ecumenism in 1964 the Church became irrevocably committed to this effort.

Does the Catholic Church believe, therefore that all churches are equal and the differences between them are unimportant? By no means. But, we do believe that the significant elements that build up and give life to the household of God can and do exist “outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church.” These endowments are, for example, the written Word of God, the life of grace, faith, hope and love, and interior gifts of the Spirit. Those who are born into separated communities are not personally responsible for their separation. All who have been justified by faith in baptism are incorporated into Christ, are brothers and sisters to us, and are rightly called “Christian.” Indeed, salvation can be experienced in Christian churches and communities outside the Catholic Church.

The ecumenical movement has impelled Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians to join together in prayer, good works, study and dialogue. Official dialogues among the churches have resulted in consensus in many areas of theological controversy, and in clarity about issues which continue to divide Christians. Scholarship, especially in biblical and historical studies, has benefited from ecumenical cooperation.

May 25-26, 2019           Cycle C – 6th Sunday of Easter 

“…and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” John 14: 23

The notion that God actually dwells within us has been part of our Catholic doctrine from the very beginning. In particular, the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) celebrate a divine love that is so great that God chooses to live within us and among us. In Baptism we are plunged into the mystery of Christ, dying to self so that we might rise to new life in Christ. We are sealed in Baptism with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and strengthened in Confirmation to live this new life. In Eucharist we are nourished by Christ’s Body and Blood and by eating and drinking so sublime a food we actually become what we eat – the body of Christ in whom God dwells in glory.

The challenge, of course, is that these sacraments remain, not simply special celebrations when we receive them, but dynamic ways of living. This is the reason why coming to Mass each week is so important– so that we remember Jesus’ words and deeds. One practice that might help connect our life with our faith – and over the years bare real spiritual fruit– is to take home from Sunday’s Mass one thought that leads to action. A question to ask might be, “in my busy life this week, how will I need to live, work or play in ways that witness to the fact that God actually dwells in me.”

In today’s gospel Jesus tells his followers that they need not be afraid or troubled (of anything). He is sending down the Holy Spirit who will protect, guide and bring his peace. It is because of this powerful presence living within them, and us, that we are able to move though life full of confidence, unafraid or troubled about anything. When was the last time you were aware of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you? When was the last time you felt God’s peace? Share those times with a young person this week.

May 18-19, 2019           Cycle C – 5th Sunday of Easter 

Today, as we continue hearing and reflecting on scripture readings from Acts, we find Paul and Barnabas retracing their steps to encourage the communities of faith to be strong. For the most part, these new Christians were enthusiastic and alive with the Holy Spirit. Paul and Barnabas were there to remind them that, though life has its ups and downs, God will always be with them. Through this reading, we are also reminded that as life goes on, we too find God in our midst.

Our Second reading from Revelation also stresses that despite life’s difficulties – some which take on apocalyptic scope in our perspective– good will never be overcome. The New Jerusalem of God’s Reign on earth continually promises “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.” The old order has passed away. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has made all things new.

Both the first and second readings prepare us for the Gospel. The God of Great Love gives us a new commandment. We are no longer people of the old order. We no longer ascribe to loving only those who love us, but, rather, we are people of the new order, called to love all our “neighbors.” Each day is new; each day we are called to find new ways of loving our “neighbor” as God has loved us.

Who in our lives is a challenge to Love?
Let us make our prayer this week, “God, help me find a way to love this neighbor.”

From our former Pastoral Associate, Pat Piano

May 11-12, 2019           Cycle C – 4th Sunday of Easter 

This Sunday’s passage unfolds during the Jewish Feast of Dedication which is more commonly called Hanukkah. This feast commemorates the victory of the Jews, over Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 B.C. That evil ruler had made the practice of Judaism illegal and punishable by death. The unspeakable suffering devout Jews endured is described in the First and Second Book of Maccabees. Epiphanes inflamed Jews when he set up a pagan altar in the Holy of Holies of the Temple to offer sacrifice to the Greek god, Zeus. This was an outrage because, for Jews, the Temple was and remains, the visible sign of the presence of God in their midst. There was no holier place. Thus, the desecration of the Temple was a grievous offense. The Jews rebelled, defeated their enemies, and purified the Temple. The re-dedication of the Temple on the 25th of Chislev, 164 B.C., was a cause of great joy. God could dwell among the people again.

Against this background, Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel claims, “I and the Father are one” (10:30). According to St. John’s gospel, the temple’s function as a visible sign of God’s presence is replaced by Jesus. Jesus tells Philip, to see God, one need not go to the Temple. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (14:9).

The oneness of Jesus and the Father is suggested in another way in this gospel. The protection Jesus provides for his sheep means that “no one can take [the sheep] out of my hand” and “no one can take them out of the Father’s hand” (10:28-29).

It is as Shepherd that Jesus cares for the sheep his Father has entrusted to him. And so, Jesus, the protector, leader and compassionate provider, instructs the sheep to “hear my voice” and “follow me”…and you will have life in my name, eternal life.

May 4-5, 2019           Cycle C – 3rd Sunday of Easter 

On the Occasion of my Retirement

Thank you for 16 years of life enriched by serving this community of faith.

I thank the clergy I have worked with since I came in 2002: Fr. Cody, Fr. Frascadore, Fr. LeBlanc, Deacon Dennis and Deacon Thermer for their encouragement and giving me a voice in a church dominated by male voices.

I thank each of you for allowing me to share in your faith journey, from preparing parents for the Baptism of their babies and for the times we have come together to prepare to say good-bye to a loved one and for everything in between.

I learned a few things along the way:

That you are a talented, intelligent and well travelled peo-ple who find in the church, despite its faults and frailty, meaning and support for this crazy, busy, anxious life we all lead.

Knowing you has helped me to grow and appreciate my own gifts and talents, to know and own
….my dark side (people tell me they see that side of me on my face when things don’t go well) and
….my gifts and talents…I have loved being your teacher and sharing my own faith journey as I wrote for the bulletin, lead scripture study and welcomed so many into the fullness of the Catholic Faith Tradition. Connect-ing life and faith has been the cornerstone of my ministry. Putting flesh on what we believe!

Finally I want to leave you with this one reminder:
You are the Church, the people of God.
Take ownership of that awesome calling begun at your Baptism by becoming an active, vibrant member of this faith community. Join the choir, be part of the team that welcomes new members, knit shawls for the sick be part of our social justice ministry, be a catechist…the opportunities are endless. Such involvement only leads to a richer, fuller understanding of who we are and why we are followers of Jesus.

Third Sunday of Easter

Today we continue our Easter celebration and the church’s deliberate attempt to unpack for us the meaning of Easter. On this, the Third Sunday of Easter, the Gospels proclaim a post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus in which he shares a meal with his disciples. The theme is Eucharistic…Jesus remains with us, is real and always present, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, the “source and summit of our faith”. Today’s account from the gospel of St. John, not only proclaims Jesus’ resurrection ~ he is alive! ~ but it also reminds us of the many ways Jesus is present to us. From the witness of early disciples, Jesus was encountered many times after his resurrection when he not only spoke with them but ate with them and even called them to be his followers. Today, too, Jesus is really present to us in abundant ways.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy is a Vatican II document that acts like a blueprint for the liturgy and gives the theological and pastoral principles that connect the vision of Christ for his Church regarding the liturgy. It explicitly mentions four liturgical ways Jesus is present when we celebrate Mass: in the presiding priest, in the proclamation of the Word, in the Eucharistic bread and wine, and last, but not least, in the people gathered. It is all of us, gathered in Jesus’ name, who become the visible Body of Christ, the risen presence of Jesus in community. It is that presence that is then called to go out and be, in everyday and simple ways, the loving, forgiving and merciful presence of Christ in our world. When we reflect on the many good works that continue to be done as part of the mission of St Timothy Parish as well as many of the good works that are done but not announced, we can say with authenticity that Jesus Is Alive!!!!

Apr 27-28, 2019           Cycle C – 2nd Sunday of Easter 

About our Liturgy

On this, the Second Sunday of Easter, we continue to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This time of celebration is called the Easter Season and is celebrated for 50 days or eight Sundays, ending with the Feast of Pentecost (this year it will be celebrated on June 9). During this time

… the first reading will deviate from the norm of being taken from the Old Testament and come from the Acts of the Apostles, recording for us the faith of the early Christian community, how they received the Spirit and then were empowered to carry on Jesus’ mission. We will hear about this in the readings how the new life of Jesus’ resurrection re-created a people

…The Easter gospels are a marvelous progression:

  • the first three Sundays of Easter are appearance accounts of the resurrected Jesus;
  • the fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday when we are assured of Jesus’ continued care and love;
  • the fifth through the seventh Sundays of Easter prepare us to be disciples who receive the Holy Spirit and carry on the ministry of Jesus; and
  • the eighth Sunday is Pentecost on which we celebrate the giving and receiving of the Holy Spirit.

In these gospels we move from celebrating the resurrected Lord to being given the power (the Holy Spirit) to do the works of Jesus.

Yet, our seasonal focus is not simply on empty tombs or images of the risen Christ, but on the experience of resurrection, that of the early Christian Community, as well as our own. New life in dead places, that is our story. Ordinarily we think of death as a once in a lifetime experience. But in actuality, death is a rule of life. Before we breathe our last, we will have a whole series of dying experiences: a parent or a friend dies, we lose our health, our dream, our home, our job, our marriage ends sadly. Everyone knows what constitutes real tragedy and everyone knows that in tragedy, life as we have known it passes away. Not a complete dying, but, in the midst of tragedy we FEEL like death. The rest of life loses its flavor and one is overwhelmed by what has been taken away. Out of such tragedy two things are certain: we recognize that life will never be the same again, and we either remain dead or choose to become more alive than ever before. These life experiences prepare us for our final dying when we believe that death will not be the end of our story, that we will live forever! We call this cycle of dying and rising the Paschal Mystery and it is the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

Gracefully the Church gives us seven full weeks of images and stories that encourage us, challenge us, to have HOPE. When your life, or the life of another, looks like it is “dead,” look for life. It is out of such experiences that we personally, and as a community, decide not to live like we are dead but to be more alive than ever before, a taste of eternal life, God’s gift to us through Jesus.

Apr 20-21, 2019           Cycle C – Easter Sunday

Today is Easter Sunday.

The unconditional and overwhelming love of God, made visible in the person of Jesus, does not disappear and fade with his death on the cross. That passionate love of God for each of us is deepened in his death on the cross and transcends the tomb in his resurrection from the dead.

The chains of death are truly broken. Just as the divine nature took on our humanity (in all things but sin), so too the resurrection of Jesus was accomplished in a real human body. The Risen Lord is not a ghost who returns to haunt the disciples, nor some sort of resuscitated corpse. The resurrection of Jesus is passing over from death into a new life, a new existence; it is truly a glorious mystery that we strain to find words for.

How are we to bring expression to the conquest of death and our washing in Baptism that has joined us to God’s own life? Since the earliest days following Jesus’ rising from the dead, it has been through the Church’s words, metaphors, icons and chains of images which invite us into a deeper understanding of that mystery.
The liturgy for today is filled with music and prayers full of the word “alleluia.” An unusual word that is not native to the English or even the Latin liturgical vocabulary. As a matter of fact, it sounds less like a meaningful word than the babbling of a child. When it is sung with many notes for the final vowel, this impression becomes even stronger.

“Alleluia” does of course have a meaning. It is a Hebrew word, and down the centuries the church has brought it with her, un-translated, as a product of the Jewish soil from which she herself sprang. The word is a cry of jubilation meaning “Praise the Lord,” and occurs frequently in the psalms.
Could it be that the church chose and retained this word from the Hebrew language of prayer in order to express her (and our) inadequacy. That is, in the face of the mystery of our redemption, our usual intelligible vocabulary is inadequate. When faced with the superabundant mercy of God we can only stammer in amazement like children.

That is how it is with us Christians: As we gaze at the Son who has risen high over the darkness and cold of our Good Friday, all well-chosen words are useless. We can only stammer out our Alleluia of wonder and jubilation. Let us pay attention to the words, images and metaphors today, and during the entire seven weeks of the Easter Season, which ends on Pentecost, (which this year is Sunday, June 9). Let them become for us doorways into the mystery that is Easter.

Apr 13-14, 2019           Cycle C – Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Today is Palm Sunday

This day begins the most solemn week of the year – the final, intense days of Lent and the great days of the Triduum. This week, called “holy” or “great” by our ancestors, calls us to focus all our attention and energy on the observance of the dying and rising of Jesus, the Paschal Mystery. It is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. This week is more than a remembering of past suffering and of a painful cross. Precisely because these faith-anchoring events are historical, they cannot be repeated or “reenacted.” What the paschal Triduum actually celebrates is mystery, not history. It is not a celebration of what once happened to Jesus but what is now happening among us as a people called to conversion, gathered in faith, and gifted with the Spirit of holiness. It celebrates God taking possession of our hearts at their deepest core, recreating us as a new human community broken like bread for the world’s life – a community rich in compassion, steadfast in hope, and fearless in the search for justice and peace.

The church begins these holy days by recalling Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Traditionally, pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem for great festivals were greeted by strewing palm branches in their path while singing psalms that expressed hope for the coming of the “one” who would make of Israel a great nation. “Riding on a colt,” Jesus comes as the “one,” but his intent is peaceful. His entry explicitly contrasts with the nationalistic expectations of the people and conforms instead with the prophecy of Zechariah (9:9) in which outcasts are gathered.

The Triduum begins on Holy Thursday with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, reaches its high point at the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. A sense of the unity of these days is found early on in the Church. St. Ambrose (d.397) writes, “We must observe both the days of the passion and resurrection, so that there may be a day of woe and a day of joy, a fast-day and a feast-day. This is the holy Triduum”. At the time of Ambrose, the three days were considered to be Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But by the seventh century, a liturgical celebration had been added on Holy Thursday and from then to now, the Triduum began with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday night.

The unity of the Triduum is obvious in that it is one liturgy extended over three days. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins with procession and song and closes in silence. Good Friday begins and ends in silence. It is not until the closing of the Easter Vigil on Saturday night that we will leave the church with procession and song. Please join us for the whole story of Jesus’ dying and rising, the celebration of the entire Paschal Mystery.

Times: Holy Thursday: 7:30 P.M. Church remains open until 10:00 P.M.
Good Friday: 3:00 P.M.
Holy Saturday: 8:00 P.M.
Easter Sunday: 8:30 A.M. and 10:30 A.M

Apr 6-7, 2019           Cycle C – 5th Sunday of Lent

The world is filled with what we call wild; those places where things go wrong because they are out of control. Remember the Wild West; and how about wild animals, wild flowers, wild teenagers, wild relatives and, yes, if we are honest, our own wild selves.

Those things and places we call wild can teach us something about God’s mercy. Take the lowly wildflower, coltsfoot. It appears each spring along wild unkempt roads, in construction sites amid heaps of dirt and stone and even litter. From such places you would expect nothing beautiful, yet each spring, their sunny button-like yellow heads appear, transforming places that completely lack beauty.

In today’s readings we meet two people who have lived what we might term on the wild side; Paul, once a wild persecutor of Christians and a woman whose life, for some reason was reduced to wild living. Yet God does not seem to condemn the wild in them but transforms it with his ability to make all things new. With God’s mercy, Paul’s passion is transformed for the good and it makes him one of the greatest Christian evangelizers. With God’s mercy a woman walks away from a wild life that could have had her stoned to death, hopefully turning to a life that is forgiving because she has been forgiven.

On this the Fifth Sunday of Lent, let us ask God to do something new in us. May we experience God’s mercy to be a wildlife sanctuary, transforming the out-of-control, wild side of our hearts/lives into something passionately beautiful; good for ourselves, our family, our church, even our world. Take some quiet time this week to reflect on the following:

When have you experienced an attitude, habit or behavior that is wild and out of control being transformed in to something that is good?

What is your experience of God’s mercy in your life?

What holds you back from allowing God to do something new with you?

Mar 30-31, 2019           Cycle C – 4th Sunday of Lent

Repentance: “Coming to his senses”:

Repentance, announced so urgently in last Sunday’s parable of the barren fig tree, is illustrated more tenderly in this Sunday’s familiar parable of the “Forgiving Father.” It is dramatized geographically as returning home from a distant country, metaphorically as being found and coming back to life and psychologically as “coming to his senses.”

This last expression, “coming to his senses” (15:17) in Greek is “he came to himself.” It implies that the son’s disdain for his father’s property, his departure from home, his foolish management of the funds, his “life of dissipation,” and his employment herding swine (according to the rabbis, a forbidden profession) results in alienation from himself. Today we might say that he’d lost his identity, his sense of self. Moreover, as he himself acknowledges, he no longer deserves to be called his father’s son. Cut off from self, father, family and homeland, his alienation is complete. What we have here is really a rather good existential description of sin.

When Luke the storyteller informs us that “he came to his senses (himself) we are at a dramatic turning point. Though he no longer has any financial, legal, or moral claim on his father, and though he has abandoned his ties of kinship with his community, he realizes that his father is the kind of man who might mercifully hire him as a servant. No longer worthy to be a son, “he comes to himself” as a servant. But the God that we rejoice in on this Laetare Sunday, the midpoint of Lent, is a God who does not desire our return as slaves,( to sin or death) but to life lived in our truest sense of self, as God’s own sons and daughters. It is this God that we rejoice in today. It is this God that invites us back with God’s whole heart. It is this God who teaches us how to love tenderly.

Mar 23-24, 2019           Cycle C – 3rd Sunday of Lent

On the first two Sundays of Lent, all three years of the lectionary cycle focus on important events in the life of Jesus: the temptations in the desert and the transfiguration. However, for the next three Sundays each year has a particular focus. This year, C, looks at penance and reconciliation. Today’s readings reveal a God who is merciful and forgiving, patiently calling us to conversion.

Catholicism, like Judaism, believes that something of the nature of God has been revealed to us through God’s actions in history, chronicled in the pages of sacred scripture. For example, God discloses the divine name to Moses, saying “I am who am.” This is not exactly a name. And yet how does one identify utter mystery? A burning bush that does not burn up is the phenomenon that attracts Moses. A name that is not a name discloses and reveals a God who is mystery and compassion. This God is faithful to the promises first made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and will save their descendants from slavery and bondage.

In Jesus we find the full revelation of a God who is merciful and forgiving. The very name Jesus, means, “God saves” in Hebrew. In delivering Israel from slavery into the promised land, God not only brought them out of Egypt but also saves his people from sin. All salvation history is recapitulated in Jesus. Indeed, the only son of God, the Savior, epitomizes divine mercy and kindness.

Today’s gospel contains a parable illustrating the kindness and mercy of God. Jesus himself has been described as “the parable of God” among us. His teaching and preaching, his life and death, point to the loving God who “is always ready to forgive” even though “time and time again” the covenant was broken. God does not abandon sinners. The Church proclaims the mercy of God praying, “through your Son, Jesus our Lord, you bound yourself even more closely to the human family by a bond that can never be broken.” (Preface, Eucharistic Prayer for Masses of Reconciliation 1, Roman Missal.)

Indeed, every time the Church gathers to celebrate, it is gathered by the loving kindness of God and frequently recalls this initiative of God in the Introductory Rites. Thus, the Penitential Rite of the Mass is less focused on our sinfulness and need for penance and more directed toward a proclamation of the mercy, love and newness of life achieved for us through Jesus.

Today’s Good News is that God, like the vinedresser in the Parable of the Fig Tree (gospel), our God is a God of second chances. By caring for and nourishing our spiritual lives we come to know more clearly the mystery that is the God who never gives up on us! Let us make this Lent a movement forward to seek the mercy and forgiveness of our God.

Mar 16-17, 2019           Cycle C – 2nd Sunday of Lent

Each year on the Second Sunday of Lent the gospel tells of Jesus’ Transfiguration.   Jesus takes his disciples Peter, James and John to the mountaintop and becomes radiant in a way that pre-figures his post resurrection glory. We participate in that glory for the first time when we are baptized. We take on God’s life in our new found life of grace. Lent is our time to step aside and reflect deeply on what it means to be a mature baptized member of the Body of Christ. It is a time calling us to change? Or, is it a calling to be transformed?

We already know a lot about change. We know we have changed; hair, skin tone, weight. And, we know we haven’t changed at all; still working on many of the same imperfections we had when we were younger. We know everything has changed, yet in so many ways nothing has changed. A characteristic of change is that it can sweep us along so we have a sense of powerlessness calling us to “hang on” so we can adapt.

Transformation on the other hand, is not mere adaptation but implies a new way of being that comes from deep within. It is about freedom, not powerlessness, a deliberate act of choice that leads to growth.
During Lent we reflect on who we are as Catholic Christians, what that means and how well we live like we actually believe in the faith we profess. It is not a call to change, to be swept along without any power over the process but a call to transformation, a time to make deliberate choices to live more fully the life of grace given us at Baptism. This call to transformation is not a demand. “Clean up your act! Or, pull yourself together!” More, it is an invitation of the Beloved to the lover: “Come join yourself to me and from our togetherness there will come forth a new creation.”

On this Second Sunday of Lent we continue our ritual of placing a banner on our Lenten Cross with the following prayer:

Prayer for the Second Sunday of Lent 2019

Gracious God,
today we confess that we are often colorless, lukewarm disciples.
We cling to the conventional, the safe, the familiar.
We do not look to set out like Abraham for a foreign land,
or to receive a mountain top vision.
Focused intently on the everyday,
we forget to listen for the many promptings of your Spirit.
As we place this colorless band–representative of our spiritual laziness and neglect—on the Cross,
we affirm that, as Christians, we are called to “a holy life, not according to our works
but according to Your own design.”
May Your saving grace provide us the strength and courage
to listen intently for Your voice
so we may grow as authentic followers of you and your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Question for the Second Sunday of Lent:
What keeps me from listening for God’s voice in my life?

Mar 9-10, 2019           Cycle C – 1st Sunday of Lent

About our Liturgy:

Historically, Lent is the season of final, intense preparation for those preparing to receive the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation and for those preparing to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. . (This year we have one catechumen who wishes to be baptized, Yvonne Uherek.) During Lent we join her conversion process as we take time to renew our own identity as Baptized members of the Body of Christ, as sons and daughters of God.

Why do we do this each year?
“Somewhere in between my baptism and my daily life, my power like unto God’s became scattered. I forgot my original union with God. And as I grew, I chose
good and evil, light and darkness, life and death, grace and sin. With my baptism lost I began to live my life fragmented, standing on the edge of my baptismal powers, blind to their presence in the depths of my soul.”
– Macrina Wiederdehr

Lent is surely a season for us to renew our Baptismal commitment to live as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Today, the First Sunday our gospel is the great story of Jesus as he faces the temptations of the devil in the desert. We too face temptations to live in ways that do not reflect the God who abundantly loves us.

As has been our Lenten practice over the past many years, we will begin Mass each weekend of Lent with a large Lenten Cross. The priest will begin Mass with a short reflection based on Sunday’s gospel and a family will place a banner of color on the cross to signify our need for reconciliation. (The prayer will also be printed in the “Lenten Box” which you will find each week in our bulletin and on this website.) It is our hope that this effort will help us focus on those areas of our lives that have left us fragmented and scattered in ways that are not of God.

Prayer for the First Sunday of Lent 2019
Gracious God,
we know we live in a culture driven by the values of
fame, power and wealth, and are often caught in
the entanglements of our powerful consumer society.
We buy more than we need and measure ourselves and others by the criteria of the kingdoms of this world.
On this First Sunday of Lent, 2019, our gospel reminds us of Jesus’ steadfast response against these temptations, always putting the will of his Father first.
Placing this royal blue band on your cross,
Let us ask ourselves:
How do I fail to put God first?

Mar 2-3, 2019           Cycle C – 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and begins the Holy season of Lent.  Over the years I have begun this season by asking God to show me my sinfulness. Be careful what you ask for Pat. It is not long into the season that God is very clear where I have some work to do!!!! This practice not only helps me admit where I am wrong, and thankfully helps me to focus on God’s abundant mercy.

With all that is going on in life, one wonders why I don’t focus on that mercy all the time, for we are reminded of God’s mercy every time we attend Mass as the priest says: “Coming together as God’s family, with confidence we ask the Father’s forgiveness, for he is full of gentleness and compassion.” These words, and the silence that follows, begin the Penitential Rite, and allows the gathered people time to recollect themselves for an examination of conscience. There are three forms for this Rite which can be clearly seen at #167 in our Blue Hymnal. The medieval Confiteor, “I confess” is a clear expression of the communal dimension of repentance. Each of the forms start with the experience of our radical dependence on God – either in the form of a plea for mercy or else as a thanksgiving for that mercy. All three forms are wishes and requests, petitions for pardon. None are formulas for absolution and none is a substitute for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The emphasis in all three is on God’s mercy.

The Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy), which immediately follows, is a song to acclaim and praise the Lord and implore God to be merciful. As often as possible it should be sung, but, if not sung, it should always be recited. During Lent we will sing it.

Next Sunday, the First Sunday of Lent, and on each Sunday thereafter, we will preface the Penitential Rite with a communal examination of conscience. Our hope is that by exposing particular areas of sinfulness that exist today we might widen our sense of, and need for, God’s mercy. The examination will take the form of a prayer. The text will name the sins that are evident in that Sunday’s readings and encourage us to ask for God’s grace to turn away from sin and return to God with all our heart. Each week there will be a band of color that will be carried in the entrance procession and placed on the cross as a sign of our noticing each particular sin and our effort to remove it from our lives. The words prayed by the priest will be in the bulletin each week for your continued reflection.

During the entire season of Lent, the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered every Monday night from 6-7 p.m. in the church and on Saturday from 2:30 -3:30 p.m. or by appointment.

Reconciliation with God’s Church:
As Pope Francis and bishops from around the world return home from their meeting on the Sexual Abuse Scandal, I found these words of Jesuit Fr. Walter Burghardt most encouraging for me personally and thought all of you might appreciate them as well.  “…and yet, I love this Church, this living, pulsing, sinning people of God. …Why? For all the Christian hate, I experience here a community of love. For all the institutional idiocy, I find here a tradition of reason. For all the individual repressions, I breathe here an air of freedom. For all the fear of sex, I discover here the redemption of my body. In an age so inhuman, I touch here the tears of compassion. In a world so grim and humorless, I share here rich joy. …In the midst of death, I hear here incomparable stress on life. For all the apparent absence of God, I sense here the real presence of Christ.”

Feb 23-24, 2019           Cycle C – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings for this Sunday continue the schooling of the followers of Jesus as they are fashioned into true disciples. The overarching theme is similar to one found in the readings for last Sunday. It is the deceiving character of outward appearances. These readings insist there must be some kind of integrity between one’s speech and one’s actions.

Last week, as my husband Dan and I watched and read the news each day, I was taken by how many times people were accused of doing or saying something “wrong” and their reply was that it was false, they were innocent, they did not lie, they did not do anything to be accused of. It seemed that some those folks were extolling their ability to deceive others, to lead them on for their own advantage.

It is unfortunate that we do not always value the integrity of speech. Today we cannot take people at their word, not even those who hold positions of trust, such as politicians, newscasters, lawyers, ministers, even parents. Often, it seems to me, that our society does not honor truthful speech, but we all recognize the havoc dishonesty of any kind can play on our world, no one wants to be a victim of dishonesty.

The Wisdom lesson for today addresses the question of integrity. We have learned from the experience of life itself that honesty is not merely the best policy, it is essential if a society is to survive and thrive. We recognize that there must be a measure of integrity between speech with which we communicate and the values that motivate us. There must be a measure of integrity between our speech and our deeds. It is not by accident that the Hebrew word dabar means both “word” and “deed.” Words identify our deeds, and our deeds are expressions of the words that are formulated first in our minds and then on our lips.

The responsorial psalm for today is a hymn of praise. It describes the life of the righteous ones, those whose integrity cannot be questioned. It declares that it is by a righteous life itself and not merely through prayers of praise that God is glorified. “The glory of God is the human person fully alive (St. Irenaeus).

Feb 16-17, 2019           Cycle C – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Living the Paradox: This Sunday’s passage from Luke is the first of three consecutive Sunday gospels which present the “Sermon on the Plain” (Luke’s equivalent to Matthew’s more famous “Sermon on the Mount”). It begins with a series of four blessings followed by four corresponding “woes”: poor-rich, hungry-filled, weeping-laughing, despised-esteemed. This unexpected reversal of fortune is a favorite Lukan theme already encountered in Mary’s Magnificat: “He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty” (1:52-53).

Luke’s Beatitudes are reminders of Old Testament themes found in several different but related traditions. The Book of Wisdom speaks of two paths (the way of the wise which is righteousness, and the way of the foolish which is wickedness) and the Book of Deuteronomy speaks of retributive justice. At the risk of oversimplifying, this view held that righteousness brought blessing, wickedness brought woe; the converse could be inferred: a cursed life was due to one’s sin while a blessed life was evidence of a righteous life. Similar notions were also found in Hellenistic religious thought in which “poor” described this wretched earthly life, and “rich” referred to eternal life with God. Elements from all three of these traditions come together in the first reading from Jeremiah. The prophet presents two paths in life: trust in God which leads to blessing, or trust in humans which leads to curse. Jeremiah’s image of the barren and fruitful trees appears in this Sunday’s responsorial psalm as well: the wise find fruitfulness and life in God’s Law but the foolish perish without God.

To the point: Jesus, diverting from a long biblical tradition, sets up a sharp paradox delineating two ways of life. Walking in God’s way we are blessed even if we are poor, hungry, or sorrowful; not walking in God’s way is a life of woe even if one is rich, full, or content.

Thus, Jesus’ words in today’s gospel turned this expected order upside down. We can only imagine how shocking it must have been for his listeners. The kingdom which Jesus was inaugurating reversed all common expectations, setting the stage for the greatest reversal of all – death leading to life. Today we are invited to consider our life’s path and think more about where we stand with our relationship with God.?”

Feb 9-10, 2019           Cycle C – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s readings, Isaiah, Paul and Peter, all have an experience of the divine, the presence of God. In each case, this extraordinary experience is life changing and gives meaning to the rest of their lives. Isaiah becomes a great prophet, Paul fully cooperates and becomes one of God’s greatest apostles and Peter leaves everything to become a “catcher of men.”

We too have experiences of the holy and those experiences have the potential for changing our lives. But, if we look for shaking door frames, billowing smoke and large catches of fish as mentioned in today’s readings, we will probably be disappointed. Although these powerful experiences of God can happen around a significant event in our lives, for the most part, if we watch closely, they often happen in our everyday putting of one foot in front of the other. Speaking with our R.C.I.A. team and catechumens in the past, I have heard wonderful stories of how they experienced an extraordinary closeness to God through the ordinary experiences of life. One mentioned fishing with her father. Another shared an occasion of being forgiven as a teenager. One remembered a deep sense of contentment, happiness and usefulness with the work that she does, and another how being out in nature, with its many wonders, wakes her up to something much bigger than herself. What was striking, as one after another shared, was the realization that their personal “theophany” always led to a deeper understanding of who God is and moved them to do things they never thought possible, like facing the death of a loved one, finding time in an already busy schedule to reach out to someone in need, welcoming new members to our Catholic faith through involvement on the RCIA team, speaking up in a situation that was volatile. Each of their personal experiences of holiness, or closeness to God, was not a private affair. Armed with such experiences they felt empowered to do things they never thought possible on their own.

Summoned to greatness by the Lord, Isaiah, Paul and Simon Peter stand out in today’s scriptures, not because of their excellent qualifications or suitability for their respective tasks but because of the miracle of God’s grace, God’s life, made manifest in them. God calls each of us to greatness. When we choose to embrace those grace- filled moments then God has the material needed to raise us up to become all that we have been created to be. Take some time this week to notice where God seems especially present in your life. How does that experience move you beyond your “comfort zone?”

Feb 2-3, 2019           Cycle C – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Many are aware of not always liking what they hear as they listen to God’s Word. It may be asking them to go beyond where they are, or where they want to go. It may question the status quo and nudge us to serve God in a way we think beyond us. This Sunday we meet the prophet Jeremiah, who hears God’s call to service as well as a warning: “be prepared for the uphill battle this call will bring.” His is a disinterested and resentful people needing reminding of the honor due God. (Jeremiah is one prophet who does not mince on words about the suffering his call caused him.)

In today’s gospel, Jesus meets with the criticism of his own neighbors after having given what some have named his inaugural address (last Sunday). In it he announced plans to do the work His Father has asked him to do “…bring glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” Remembering that the time in which Jesus lived, many considered the poor, the sick and the oppressed living out the consequences of their own or someone else’s action, His hearers believed these actions aroused God’s displeasure. Jesus too had an uphill battle as he proclaims a new way of living.

This weekend Barbara Carpenter, our Parish Council President, will ask us to consider spending some time in our new adoration chapel. It could be well spent time reflecting more deeply on the mystery that is God! Our internal voice may try and convince us that we are too busy to do even one more thing! Our internal voice may remind us of how tired we are. It might even speak words that make us question whether time spent in silence will even make a difference in light of the many problems our world faces.

Do not listen to those voices and please consider being part of the many who faithfully spend time in this sacred space. Take some time to Gaze on Life Through the Lens of Silence. Most of us aren’t called to preach the Good News “professionally.” All of us, however, because of our baptism, are called to hear the Good News and preach it by the way we live our lives, letting it lovingly shape our everyday choices and responses. Please consider making a decision to listen for God’s Word spoken in the silence of our new adoration chapel. (Chapel is located thru the double doors next to the sacristy and down the hall first door on the left.)

Jan 26-27, 2019           Cycle C – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Whenever families gather in reunion inevitably they spend some time sharing old family stories. In their telling and re-telling, they are aware of how powerful these stories are. Sometimes very funny, sometime very serious, they all contain elements, details, that speak of who we are, where we come from, and the values we hold that may point us in the direction we choose for life’s journey. I call these stories our “yada.”

When we come to Mass on Sunday we hear God’s “YADA”, the story of God’s family contained in the Bible. During the first part of the Mass called the Liturgy of the Word (First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading, Gospel, Homily, Creed and Prayers of the Faithful.) God speaks to us through these ancient stories. Through them we hear how, over the centuries, God created, loved and saved a people as God’s very own, guiding them with his merciful love and gave them a vision to live by.

In today’s first reading the prophet Ezra comes before the assembled people and reads from the ancient book that held God’s words for them. They listened attentively and were so touched by it that they “bowed down and prostrated themselves before the Lord.” Some were so moved, they began to cry! Would that our experience of the Liturgy of the Word do that for us!

What is our experience during this first part of the Mass? How many times have we been so touched by the words that we hear, either in the proclamation of the Word or in the homily, that we are emotionally moved in a lasting way? Because we sometimes drift off, thinking about other things, here are a few tips that just might make these great stories (God’s Word) come alive for us as they did for the Israelites in Ezra’s time.

Get a source that will give you the readings for each week of the liturgical year.  (We have them periodically in the back of the Church for free.)

  • Pick a quiet spot and decide that you will spend some time there each week preparing for the upcoming Sunday’s readings. Be realistic about the length of time and when (morning or evening).
  • Read the scripture with an open mind first.
  • Read the passage again, this time, try and be a person in the scene.

Notice how you feel, your questions, your experience in general.
Read the passage a third time and just listen to anything God may be trying to say to you. Remember, silence is God’s first language!

Jan 19-20, 2019           Cycle C – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Formerly when a young girl or boy entered religious life and became a novice he or she received a new name. This change of name accomplished two things. First, it gave the novice someone or something holy to emulate. Second, the change of name indicated a new identity; the novice left everything behind and became someone else – someone seeking sole dedication to God. Today, in most religious congregations there is no longer a change of name because the Church now believes that there is only one change necessary: that change happens at our Baptism when we are invited to be a disciple of Christ and to follow Him with our whole heart.

This weekend we will celebrate all those who have been baptized in the last year with a special blessing at the 10:30 Mass.

For those of us baptized as infants or even as adults, as we begin a new year, it might be a good time to check on our spiritual identity and see if it is on track. Are we still trying to faithfully follow Jesus with our whole heart? I humbly offer the following suggestions for your evaluation.

First, listen for God. As Fr. Frascadore often mentioned, God’s first language was silence. Culling out some quiet time for ourselves is important so that we can hear God speak to us. Our world is so filled with chatter and noise that we can’t even hear the birds sing! Turn off the car radio, take a walk or ride a bike. Turn off your cell phone for an hour. Just be and listen to what God has to say…today and every day. Stop by the church as you roam the town on errands. Our church is open every day from 7:00 A.M. until at least 5:00 P.M. and now we are blessed with a new chapel for Eucharistic Adoration available every Wednesday from 8:00 A.M. until 6:00 P.M. (The chapel is located beyond the double doors near the sacristy, down the small hall, first door on your left.)

Second, remember that we may need another person or event to help us hear God’s voice, God’s invitation to fuller life, God’s call to do something special. There are many scriptural references of persons inexperienced in the ways of God who needed guidance, for example it was the high priest Eli who helped Samuel identify God’s voice as the one speaking to him during his night watch in the temple. For us, seeking out a wise person that you believe is working on their own spiritual life is often a good choice when looking for direction. A member of the clergy, spiritual director, wise friend or relative can help us discern God’s voice, God’s desires for us.

Finally, be ready to meet the challenge of accepting change. If we are open to God working in our lives, drawing us closer to God’s self, be ready to make what might seem like big changes. An openness to that challenge is letting go of needing to be in control of our lives and letting God lead us to those places that promise our greatest happiness, our greatest fulfillment. Life could begin to feel very different. Are you ready for that?

Pulling ourselves away from our busy lives for prayer and reflection is a very real challenge. But like most things, we do make time for things that really matter.

Jan 12-13, 2019           Cycle C – Baptism of the Lord

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the hinge Sunday marking the change from the Christmas season to Ordinary Time. This solemnity stands as a turning point moving us from the infancy narratives proclaimed during the Christmas season and looking ahead to readings that bring out the complexity and richness of Jesus mission and identity. Jesus is God’s beloved Son, anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, and humble servant sent to “bring forth justice to the nations.” Son, anointed, servant: this describes who Jesus is and also who his disciples are to be.

Baptism incorporates the believer into the mystery of Christ, it joins one to the Church, and provides for us a share in the mission of Jesus. A key phrase, developed by the Council of Florence (15th Century) tells us that baptism is the gateway to life in the Spirit. Thus, baptism marks a new beginning, whereby the person is regenerated and made whole by this sacrament, made ready by the gift of God for a new life which will be lived in the Spirit. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213)

The term itself, “baptism” comes from the Greek word for “plunge” or “immerse,” which refers to the use of water, the main symbolic element which conveys the sacrament, along with the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” That triple plunging or immersing into the depths, where the body of the baptized is overwhelmed by water corresponds symbolically to being born as a new person in Christ (CCC 1239-40)

St Gregory Nazianzus (d.390 A.D.) reflected on the sacrament of baptism, writing, “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship” (Oratio 40, 3-4, PG 36, 361C).

Thus, as re-born members of the church, those who are baptized are responsible for witnessing to the faith and participating in the mission of the Church. The Second Vatican Council described this as the “priesthood of the faithful.” Saying, “The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated …to bear witness to Christ and give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope of an eternal life that is theirs. The priesthood of the faithful is not the same as the ordained priesthood, although as the Church teaches, “each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ. The whole Church – ordained priest and the priesthood of the faithful- is called in baptism to live, through sacraments, prayer, holiness of life, and active charity the mission of Christ. Bearing witness to Christ in our world is our task. Strength for that task is to be found in the Eucharist. Today, we remember our own baptism and next Sunday at the 10:30 Mass all those baptized in the last year will celebrate that sacred occasion with a special blessing.

Jan 5-6, 2019           Cycle C – Feast of the Epiphany

The Christmas season reaches an apex today, with the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The word epiphany derives from a Greek term that means “showing forth, manifestation, making public.” According to the account of the Epiphany in Matthew 2, magi or wise men from the East (perhaps Persia or Babylonia) came to Israel to pay homage to the newborn King. This feast then, is a commemoration of the “making public,” of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, to non-Jews. From Matthew’s gospel, the most Jewish of all the gospels, we learn that Jesus, the Messiah, is not only the fulfillment of God’s promises made to Israel through Abraham, David and the prophets, but is the fulfillment of the longings for salvation that dwell in every human heart. Matthew’s gospel, from its first page onward, is clear that through the particular Jewish historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, membership in the people of God has been extended beyond the limits of ethnic Jewish belief to all the peoples of the world. In fact, this gospel ends with the risen Jesus’ command to his apostles to make disciples of all nations.

Today’s readings remind us of our identity as the “catholic” church. The word catholic means “universal, worldwide, all over.” We are rooted in ancient Israel and yet open to all peoples. We come from a particular history, yet are open to all the nations of the world. All peoples who long for authentic life and meaningful human community share in God’s promises to Abraham. Neither an ethnic group nor a sect, we are universal, that is, a catholic church. From Matthew’s gospel, even in this early episode in the life of Jesus, we read of the breaking down of many walls dividing races and cultures. A new world is being born.

Pope Francis wanted us to understand more clearly what that new world might look like. I believe it is his hope that we learn to more deeply appreciate God’s magnanimous and undeserved mercy toward us, all of us, the human community, those of faith and those without faith. To realize that Jesus is that mercy; made flesh for the salvation of this world, warmly welcoming us when we have been less than our best selves. He patiently waits for us as we decide to enter into a deeper, more intimate relationship with him, never moving away from us even when we have moved away from him. To know Jesus as the perfect representation of God the Father, who never puts up walls of separation but always greets us with open arms.

The Second Vatican Council called the church the “people of God.” That’s us!!! This week, as we reflect on this great Feast of the Epiphany, where are we “as members of a church universal?” Do we need to allow God’s mercy to heal us? Will we then, soaked in God’s mercy, reach out, and be church, be God’s mercy, attending to those places in our lives that prevents mercy for all, even those we believe are not one of us!