Conviction from
the other side.

“Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

This Lent we are focusing on the theme of God’s conviction. Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would come to convict the world – clearly declaring our guilt.

Recognizing the Holy Spirit’s conviction, we have a choice. We can acknowledge and accept our guilt and flee to Jesus. We can declare our faith in him, admit our sin and conviction, and make Him the Lord of our life. In doing that, all sin is forgiven and we have access to the rich treasury of grace and mercy won for us by Jesus.

On the other hand, we can ignore or self-excuse our conviction. We can bury it, and try to fill our lives with the kinds of noise that shuts out the work of the Holy Spirit. When we do that we grow deaf to God’s call. We condemn ourselves to the coldness of outsider status.

For those who accept God’s conviction, who put their faith in the Lord, something amazing happens. They move from the conviction of guilt to a conviction in righteousness. This is what happened 120 years ago.

In 1897, a group of church goers moved from the hopelessness of external faith to the deep conviction born of a declaration of faith in Jesus alone. Today we celebrate and recognize that day.

The Christian conviction they experienced, their acceptance of the Lord over “going along” transformed their hearts. They moved from an outward conformity – casual agreement and compliance with their Church’s religious rules – to a deep conviction in what God promised them.

People can casually agree or conform with a lot of things and not be fully convinced of them or even believe any of them. People can go for many years living a lie, being deceived about what they believe and what they practice. It isn’t until they face the winds of affliction that the truth of their beliefs is tested. That is when they find out whether their house is built on the Rock or it was built on the sand.

The faithful of 1897 found Christian conviction built on salvation in Jesus. With that revelation, they faced the onslaught of the enemy, of persecution, trials, and affliction standing on the Rock. They found out that their old conformity could not carry them.

As they did, we must do. The Lord knows our choice. Our challenge is to examine ourselves to see whether we are in Lord. If we have accepted our conviction and live true conviction we, like they, like the Apostles, saints, martyrs, and heroes of the faith, will move mountains, change the world, bear much fruit, and be truly victorious.

He will come to convict the world of sin, to show the world what has God’s approval, and to convince the world that God judges it.

St. John relates Jesus’ last words before his arrest. Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit is coming to convict all of us. We should be thankful! This conviction by the Holy Spirit serves two purposes. It is a starting point and an ongoing call. The Lord convicts those who are His children. It is proof that we belong to God. A believer’s conviction leads us to continuing repentance and to seeking closer union with God. Let us start Lent right, let us plead guilty, repent, and live God’s life more fully. If we recognize what the Spirit is doing for us we will be ready to truly rejoice at Easter.

Join us this Lent as we walk with Jesus so that we, together, may rejoice in His resurrection. Check out our great Lenten events, participate in directed giving, reflect during our devotional exercises, go on retreat with us, order some Easter food, and look at other great events for the months ahead.

You may view and download a copy of our March 2017 Newsletter right here.

Hurry
up.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste

Reflecting on this team of shepherds we see some amazing things happening.

For the shepherds, their meeting an angel and seeing the whole heavenly host would be amazing enough. Hearing that the Messiah had been born – for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Messiah – represents a promise that had become a dream that for them had now been fulfilled. Amazing to have one’s dreams fulfilled in an instant.

We have several choices when we encounter something amazing. We might stand there with our mouth open. We might jump for joy. We might, after the initial shock, begin to question whether it was real. Would we leave everything, would we abandon our entire life, for that amazing thing?

Throughout faith history we encounter amazing things happening. An elderly barren couple becomes the progenitors of God’s chose people. The people of Israel, enslaved, are freed. Judges are chosen to lead the people against enemies that vastly outnumber them. A youngest son, a shepherd, is anointed king.

In Jesus’ coming those amazing things are magnified. The deaf will hear. The poor will have the good news preached to them. The dead will be raised.

On this Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds the amazing teaches us an important lesson.

Among the amazing things that happened that morning was the fact that the shepherds left their herds. They abandoned their herds, their means of livelihood and hurried toward Bethlehem “to see this thing that has happened, which the Lord made known to them.”

This is the same thing that was to happen thirty years later along the shores of lake of Gennes’aret. Men would leave their livelihood; abandon their families and boats to follow Jesus.

Let us reflect on our faith journey, that moment we finally recognized the power of accepting Jesus and placing our faith in Him. In that the amazing became real for us.

Following Christ goes far beyond just believing certain things about God. It is more than intellectual endeavor. It comes down to our willingness to be part of the amazing and to do the amazing because our lives have been changed by God’s agenda for us.

By God’s grace, the shepherds left their flocks; the apostles dropped their nets. What are we to do? Our call is to hurry up in leaving the old self behind and join with Jesus in living amazing grace filled lives.

December 24: We will hold a Christmas Vigil Holy Mass at 4pm on Christmas Eve.

December 25: The Solemn Shepherds’ Holy Mass of Christmas begins at midnight. During one of the year’s longest nights, we will break forth with light, song, and pronouncement to celebrate Jesus’ birth. The night’s liturgy begins with one of our parish’s women carrying the baby Jesus to the manger. Then the manger is blessed and the Christmas proclamation is made. The Solemn Holy Mass of the Nativity follows with beautiful traditional music of the season.

December 25: For those who prefer, the Holy Mass on Christmas Day will be celebrated at 10am.

Whichever Holy Mass you choose, it’s important that we not forget the reason for the celebration. Come to Jesus’ house on His birthday (and bring family and friends) for these beautiful liturgies.

Other services of the forty day Christmas season coming up include:

  • December 27: Feast – St. John, Apostle & Evangelist. Holy Mass at 7pm with Blessing of Wine
  • January 1: Solemnity of the Circumcision. Holy Mass at 9:30 and 11:30am. Happy 2017!
  • January 2: Solemnity of the Holy Name of Jesus – Holy Mass at 10am.
  • January 6: Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord. Holy Mass with blessing of chalk, charcoal, and incense at 7pm.
  • January 8: Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds. Holy Mass at 9:30 and 11:30am.
  • January 9: Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. Holy Mass at 8:30am.

Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Last year we dedicated ourselves to focusing on joy. In the spirit of one liturgical and calendar year ending and the next beginning, let’s look back. We began last year in Advent, a season of anticipatory joy. Fitting for us as Christians – God’s children – we awaited the best present ever. Then came that day standing at the stable, looking upon the baby Jesus and living the forty days of joyful celebration that followed. Knowing Jesus is always in our midst as well as newly with us. We walked though each season finding new joy in Christ and each other. Here we are – at the start – again reconnecting, celebrating, and knowing endless joy. Time to smile, shed a tear of joy at the stable, and look ahead.

Join us throughout December for a jam packed schedule of holy events, fellowship, and mostly joy. Escape the harangue of the world and find peace, time out from the madness in Jesus and the family of faith.

Send in your Polish Food Sale orders. Get a memory cross. Pick up those Christmas wafers / Opłatki. Join us for our annual Christmas Vigil / Wigilia pot-luck will be held on Sunday, December 18th following Holy Mass. Our SOCL students will present a short play for your reflection and enjoyment. Our brother, Derek Westcott will present two musical pieces he has been working on for months. Come see and support them. Genealogy, roots, stipends, college, read up…

You may view and download a copy of our December 2016 Newsletter right here.

What will the Lord
find?

The Lord said, “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

The Lord asks His followers a very tough question today. It is the essential question we are faced with every moment – how strong, how reliable is our faith?

Moses is literally held up as an example. He placed his faith in the Lord’s protection. It is not Joshua and the men who would do battle with Amalek, but the Lord. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. In a very real way, as long as Moses held up his faith the battle and the war were won. When his faith weakened, the battle was being lost.

We can use the analogy of war and battle to the challenges we are faced with and we have one in front of us right now.

Over the past two months there have been two petty thefts in our parish. The money in the cash box in the parish kitchen was stolen twice.

Where did our minds just go? Some certainly wondered who might have done this. Some may wonder how much was taken. After we swim around in those questions we begin to think of what we should do. Call the police? Set up a camera? Be suspicious of strangers? It goes on and gets worse from there.

Jesus said: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” So there we are.

How many times did Jesus discuss the need for forgiveness? Jesus answered,”I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. The need to forego judgment: For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged. How often has God asked us for complete trust and faith? Can we sing with David: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

When we are confronted by the challenge, when those who would hurt us act, when all seems lost will we place our trust and faith in the ways of the world or the ways of God? Jesus even laid out a formula for how we are to confront someone who would do wrong to the family as recorded in Matthew 18. Beginning at verse 15 we read: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you…” Jesus is looking for real faith in us. It is His ultimate test.

Our heritage, our way of life is to live faith driven, to trust in God’s promise and follow His way. We are to pray first, set aside questions, and know – really know – that God will defend us, will break all chains when He finds faith in us.

On the
level.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created man in his own image.

As family He created them! God’s plan, set out from the very beginning was that we were to live as family. God’s creation and intervention follows along a singular thread that is family. On this special Solemnity, found only within our Holy Church, we focus on what it means to be the Christian family.

As we have just heard, the family that is our God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – created us in their image. Four chapters later in Genesis God calls out to Cain: “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain replied, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” God was asking such a basic question – where is your brother, why didn’t you see him as your brother, why didn’t you love your brother? Cain’s insufficient answer, his excuse is a lesson to us. God holds us to a much higher standard.

From the beginning God communicated to family. Abraham came from Ur with his wife and brother, and all their family. God saved Jacob and his sons through their brother Joseph. Those sons were the progenitors of the twelve tribes. God’s people were one family, one genealogy. God sent Moses and Aaron to bring His people, His family out of Egypt. They would be victorious and they would fail together. They would do penance together and they would enter the land of promise together. Over and over they fell and rose together. Together they awaited the promised One of God. Together they failed to recognize Him. The gospel as recorded by St. John, which we will hear at the end of today’s Holy Mass, calls to mind: He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.

St. John goes on to proclaim our hope: But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. What was a family genetically related, born out of the sons of Jacob, has been replaced by a new definition of family. It is the Christian family born as children of God in the blood of His Son, Jesus.

Christian family is inclusion and participation in the Divine family. It means we live in a different way. We live as family from our first profession of faith and our baptism in water and the Holy Spirit. This family means no artificial barrier, no distinction in race or class. We are one family standing at the foot of the cross, where the ground is level, where we all look up and recognize our hope. There we receive salvation on the level. We say with the Psalmist: My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.

For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Each of us tries to rearrange Jesus’ phrases to make ourselves more comfortable. But comfort is not the great gift Jesus came to bring. That gift is a joy-filled life lasting forever. We explore the gift of Jesus’ promised joy this month.

October in an exceptionally busy month with our craft fair, blessing of pets, the Prime Bishop’s presentation on the Solemnity of the Christian Family, our annual rummage and bake sale, Heritage Sunday and so much more. Check it all out in this month’s newsletter.

You may view and download a copy of our October 2016 Newsletter right here.

Shall we remain
blind?

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.”

Our Old Testament reading lays it all out there. Amos is drawing a very clear picture of Israel’s complacency, laziness, arrogance, and blindness. They were too busy enjoying themselves, believing they had it all – and they failed to see the collapse that was all around them. Jesus picks up this theme in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

Jesus points to the ways we can be complacent, lazy, arrogant, and blind. In illustrating the way one man failed to see what was right in front of him, Jesus reminds us that we can miss what is right in front of us. Even nature, in the form of dogs, recognizes what man could not see. This is a warning – in each age we must be awake.

We have been truly blessed here in Schenectady. Our members are faithful and generous. Everyone works together to raise up the Name of Jesus. The Gospel is proclaimed and we live it. We have a very high PNU membership rate. Yet we must redouble our efforts. Awake and aware, we must lead people to Christ and his Church.

The organizers of our Church, men and women, clergy and lay, came together because their eyes were open. They didn’t just sit in their pews blindly coughing up pennies and nickels while being accused of every evil and threatened with hell. They saw the hatred of evil pastors. They saw the power of greed and the exercise of iron-fisted rule. They saw hypocrisy. They didn’t ignore it and took action – organizing a pristine Church on the model of the early Church. Eleven years later and still on alert, they saw persecution and injustice. They took action – founding Spójnia. In this day and age we must remain diligent and awake doing what is needed.

Our world and our country are faced with tremendous challenges. Yet too many eyes and ears are closed as they were in Israel. We stretch comfortably on couches, eat rich food, listen to improvisations, drink wine in excess, and anoint ourselves with the best perfumes and lotions. As people of faith we must wake the world to God’s justice and truth.

Tragically, our Church is facing dire times. National Church dues amount to $2.15 a week, yet thousands have decided the Church is not worth it. Heaven forbid they go up to $3 a week! The PNU cannot get people to join together. As Amos warned Israel: the road ahead will be captivity and disgrace. Will that be our fate? We have much to do. Eyes open and resolute it is time to rise again. Let us lead the way to salvation.

This week’s memory verse: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.Isaiah 41:10

Pray the week: Lord, grant me a spirit of total trust in Your love and its power.