Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent 2014

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God is sending
me?

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.

John the Baptist appears in the dessert preaching a baptism of repentance. The beautiful beginning of the Gospel according to St. John notes: A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. John came with a purpose based on a call from God. We too are sent to testify to the light, so that all might believe [in Jesus] through us. This call comes to us and this commission is given us at the moment of Baptism. We publically declare our acceptance of God’s call and commission as adults in Confirmation. We are strengthened and fed for this work in receiving Holy Communion. When we fail at our task we are renewed in the Sacrament of Penance.

It is hard to think that the Lord has anointed us. Really – Who, me? That seems like such a solemn and important thing. Think anointed and we may picture (as recent events indicate) the ordination of a priest, the consecration of a bishop, or the crowning of a king or queen. Prophets were anointed, King David was anointed – and yes we are anointed. As Christians we are anointed into the royal priesthood and into the family of God, the body of Christ. We are anointed as prophets, evangelists and leaders. The gifts of the Spirit are poured out on us – wisdom, understanding, right judgment, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They are the tools given to us so we can fulfill our great commission, to proclaim the Lord’s favor to all and to baptize them into Christ.

Our anointing is solemn, it is important, and it is joyful and life-giving. That is why Jesus left us every tool and grace we need to carry out our commission. He continually calls us into unity with Him, complete unity with His eternal life-giving love and power.

Advent gives us the opportunity we need to reconnect to our anointing, our call and commission. It allows us to recollect and re-recognize the wonderful gifts God has graciously given us. It slows us to give Advent witness to a world that might think Christmas Day is the end of the season rather than the beginning of forty days and an eternity of rejoicing.

Yes, God is sending us with power and conviction. Let us bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, and proclaim liberty to the captives and release to prisoners. Let us announce a year of favor from the LORD.


Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Advent 2014

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The power of
one.

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.

The power of one is really something.

The singer and musician Bono founded an organization called ONE that campaigns and advocates on an international level to take action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease. More than 6 million people have joined in as ONE. We also know the power of one vote. A look at elections over the past several years reveals that many are won or lost by very close margins. Every vote does count. A little research shows that many elections in the United States and elsewhere are won or lost by an average 449 votes out of an average 771,000 votes cast per election. A good group of those were won or lost by one vote. In mathematics, the number 1 is considered neither prime nor composite but in a class of its own. It is the multiplicative identity, so it is also a unit and a divisor of unity. John the Baptist was only one figure but prepared many for the Lord.

In Greek neo-platonic philosophy, The One is the ultimate reality and source of all existence. The Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria regarded the number one as God’s number, and the basis for all numbers. Every Sunday we clearly proclaim that we believe in One God. Advent presents us two ways to look at one and one point of arrival.

The first thing we must look at during Advent is ourselves. Do we see ourselves as ‘the one’ and others as them? In our singleness, our self-identity, our oneness – which is really aloneness – do we fall short of Jesus’ call to be part of His body? Do we serve ourselves and hurt others in the process? Or rather, do we use the gifts God has given us as individuals to build up His one body?

The other thing we must look at this Advent is the One who came into the world and is coming again. Are we letting others know how beautiful it is to be part of the One in the family of faith? Are we preparing to meet Him, not just on Christmas as a single day, but prepared to welcome, live with, and abide in Him for all eternity?

Advent is a time of focus. We will all arrive at one point in time, a single point where we will live in unity or disunity with the One. Are we ready to draw into union as one with Him? The power of the One draws us, calls us, drives us, and gives us a choice. The power of the One is truly beautiful. Let us join as one in preparing worthily for the One.


Reflection for the 1st Sunday of Advent 2014

Countdown

What’s on your
clock?

Jesus said to his disciples: “Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

Many of us have heard of some of the most well know timekeepers. There is Big Ben in London and the ball that drops at Times Square on New Year’s Eve in New York City. Both are symbols of the passing of time. The United States Naval Observatory in Washington D.C. operates the master atomic clock ensemble which provides the time standard for the Department of Defense. FOCS 1, an atomic clock in Switzerland, started operating in 2004. It looses only one second every 30 million years. The Doomsday Clock at the University of Chicago is a symbolic clock face that represents a countdown to possible political related global catastrophe (a nuclear war or irreversible climate change). The closer the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock to midnight, the closer the scientists believe the world is to global disaster. We are also in the midst of a whole group of sports seasons – football, basketball, and hockey. The clock at the top of our bulletin represents the last ten minutes of the game.

What’s missing? Of course, the score! Who’s winning? That is a question we tend to ask as time draws down. Who is winning, we even ask that in our lives as time draws down. Have I won, am I winning?

That should be a question Christians avoid. If we are focused on our successes and failures, the winning and losing of everyday life, we aren’t responding to Jesus’ call, we missed His request of us. If we aren’t much concerned with success, but are just allowing time to pass, biding our time in quiet, waiting for time to run out, we aren’t responding to Jesus’ call, we missed His request of us. Jesus tells us: He has placed His servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.

Advent is the season of the year that we should be taking account of our watchfulness, how we have responded to the Lord’s call. Are we at work for Him? We should use this time to redouble our efforts to be about our Master’s work, not our personal wins and losses.

All of the world’s timekeepers keep running, whether they are symbolic of the passing of time, predictive of the end of our times, or scientific instruments measuring its passage. We are always in the countdown period and our Lord’s return is near. What ends up on our clock will not be wins or losses, but how well we have responded to Him.


Now Thank We…

As I reflect this special day, I cannot help but give thanks to God for our beautiful family in the faith right here in Schenectady. I have been so blessed to minister to all of you and our wider community. I wish on this day that many more may find the Lord — come to know, love, and serve Him — among us so that they too would know the same joy that fills my heart.

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Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us still in grace,
and guide us when perplexed;
and free us from all ills,
in this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given;
the Son, and him who reigns
with them in highest heaven;
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.

Now Thank We All Our God
Text: Martin Rinkart; Trans. by Catherine Winkworth
Music: Johann Cruger; Harm. by Felix Mendelssohn


December Newsletter (delivered on Thanksgiving)

December, a journey through Advent and on to Christmas. Will you be going to church? If so, do you expect condemnation and judgment or joy? We should be expecting joy! This December is jam packed with events, from an ordination to our vigil dinner and children’s Christmas presentation, free lunch on Sunday, Christmas decorating and the joy of beginning the forty days of Christmas. Be an active part of the church this December, discover joy, and greet the Lord.

You may view and download a copy of our December 2014 Newsletter right here.

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Reflection for the Solemnity of Christ the King 2014

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The best life
can be.

I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal

Why did Jesus come to us? Why would the eternal Son of the Father give up the glory of heaven, His absolute power and Kingship to walk among us as a man, subject to all the temptations, pains, suffering, and sorrows we so often face as human beings?

Love! God’s answer to us is always love. He came so we would know exactly how much He, as God, loves us. He came to give us the promise only love could give: I love you so much that I am willing to give it all up. I am willing to empty Myself of everything and lay My life on the line, so you could have the promise of love – a life that will never end, in perfect joy and peace, with me in heaven. If I do not give up my life for you, you could never enter into heaven. Now you can, because I loved you enough to do all that for you.

This presents us with a challenge. How can we possibly respond to this enormous love? Our response is contained in the picture at the top of our bulletin: by making the rest of our life the best of our life. What does it mean to have the best life? Is it gathering goods, focusing on our personal successes, being satisfied in what we have and our pleasures? No, not at all! Making the rest of our life the best of our life means being changed, that we allow ourselves to be changed by the love of God and to be about the business of love.

To be engaged in the business of love starts with making love known. Jesus points out many ways we can do this: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.

Of course, those are means – but what’s the point? These actions only make sense, make a point, if they are the means by which we bring knowledge of Jesus’ love to others and help them enter His love. We use human means to make Jesus known and as an invitation. This includes our charity, words and the way we act toward others. Making Jesus known and inviting others into His love is the point, the basis, of every Christian’s life. It is the way we make the rest of our life the best of our life. It is the way we carry out His work and help people into the Kingdom. To make the rest of our life the best of our life let’s set to work in helping people know how good and loving God is. The world is missing His love. Let us help them partake of His love.


Reflection for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2014

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What is our
return on investment?

His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

So a person walks up to one of us and gives us a bunch of money and says, go do something with it. Now let’s add to the scenario – this individual is someone we know and we know they can be really demanding. What do we do?

None of us may believe we are particularly shrewd or great investors. We may have worked for others all our lives, or we worked in the home. We have never run a business. What do we do?

Let’s add one more fact to this scene – the money this individual gives us is incredible – literally more than we could make in a lifetime. What would we do?

This is the situation Jesus was describing. A talent, as a unit of money, was the largest unit of currency at the time. Some calculate the talent in the parables to be equivalent to 20 years of wages for the common worker. Today, in New York, this would represent twenty times $63,000, which is average yearly wage paid in our state. One talent would be worth $1.3 million. If we had ten, we would have $13 million. What would we do?

God has invested richly in us, a value we cannot calculate or even estimate. He invested His life, suffering, and death for our salvation. He paid more than any money could measure and says to us: ‘Here is my investment in you, go do something with it.’ He also told us that He is coming back to see what we have done with His investment in us.

Certainly the servants who doubled the investment were welcomed. They received even more because they were profitable (a 100% return isn’t bad). The servant with ten talents came back with twenty (that’s $26 million to us). But, was it enough? Christians are called to measure their return on investment by Jesus’ standards.

Certainty, the servant who receives all of Jesus’ treasure and buries Him in the ground, ignoring Him and who returns nothing, is unprofitable, distanced from Jesus by his or her own choices and decisions.

For the rest of us, who are faithful and profitable, let us consider what we can do to up our return on investment. Can we return 200%, 300%, or more? It isn’t even hard – bringing a friend to church. 1 friend = a 100% return. That is worth eternity for both of you.


Reflection for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2014

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Living a life
prepared.

For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.

As we discussed last week, the Thessalonians accepted the Word and were faithful to it. They modeled what it means to be Jesus’ Church working in such a way as to advance the cause of the gospel in their lives and the lives of others.

They did have one concern. It was common in the early Church to believe that Jesus would return quickly and that all believers would be there to greet Him. They began to worry because, of course, some had died. They wondered whether their loved ones had done something wrong. They thought that those who had fallen asleep would not be there to meet the Lord. Paul set out to clarify that both those who were still alive and those who had fallen asleep would both be there on that wonderful day. Paul told them to hold onto that hope: For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

We are like the Thessalonians. Centuries have gone by and we begin to think – when will Jesus come? Will it be soon or in the distant future? Furthermore, Jesus is telling us that we always have to be ready, that we must be prepared: “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The last few weeks of Ordinary Time focus on the last things, on preparation. What does it mean for us to be prepared? How do we keep our lamps filled with oil and the flame burning?

Make no mistake, Jesus is coming again. When you look at our parish church you see the altar facing liturgical east. Why? Because that is the direction from which Jesus Christ will return in glory with the rising of the eternal Sun. We worship and pray in a way that shows our preparedness, facing the east, waiting for Him.

In our parish life we receive the sacraments that strengthen us and prepare us. We fill up our “oil stocks” with the gifts of grace – forgiveness of sins, the body and blood of our Lord. We encourage each other in reforming our lives, serving others not out of obligation, but out of joy, for we want them to experience the love of Christ. We invite others to come and worship, to be baptized and to believe so that they too may meet the Lord with lit lamps. What more must we do? The key to being prepared is to reject focus on our trials, to live, even when we suffer, with eyes focused on Jesus’ return.


November 2014 Newsletter – Becoming Saints

Ok, the newsletter is two days late. Remember, it did take time for some to become saints…

November calls us to reflect on the lives of the saints and to pray for all those journeying toward the beatific vision. Join us in prayer for the faithful departed throughout November. Beyond remembering, we are called to become saints ourselves. Check out our newsletter and discover how to become a saint. Be an active part of the church this November because giving thanks to and praising God is not just a one-day-a-year event.

You may view and download a copy of our November 2014 Newsletter right here.

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Reflection for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 2014

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Living the model
Church

But we were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children. For you remember our labor and toil, brethren; we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you, while we preached to you the gospel of God. And we also thank God constantly for this.

What is the model Church? Paul’s letter to the Church at Thessalonica gives us some clues of what it means to live the model Church, to be part of it, to live lives as models of Jesus’ call to discipleship.

This weekend also presents us with a vision of what will happen for those who have modeled discipleship in the model Church – they will become saints.

A model is an ideal. It may be a model practice, a model process – it is the best way of going about something so to reach success. In business we might see model sales practices or model accountability processes.

So what does it mean to be model Christians in the model Church? As mentioned, Paul gave us some clues.

To live model lives of discipleship in the model Church we must allow the Gospel to make an impact on our lives as it did on the Thessalonians. They received and lived the Gospel faithfully and Paul had praised them for it. If we take up their model practices we will live faithfully, labor diligently, and remain steadfast in the love of the Lord. We will be fully convicted of the absolute truth of Jesus’ way of life. We will imitate the lives of the saints. We will receive and proclaim God’s way of life – the Gospel – even in the face of much suffering and opposition because our true joy is in the Holy Spirit and the promise of everlasting life (something we particularly remember all of November). The model Church proclaims and teaches all these things, is godly in its conduct, and has its sole focus on leading people to God’s truth, in no way ‘watering it down.’

Paul himself lived a model life – calling non-believers to the faith, being gentle in teaching those new to the faith, working hard, not making a burden of himself, and boldly proclaiming the Gospel – never being ashamed of it; fully trusting in the Holy Spirit.

God has placed opportunity all around us. We meet people and are called to model Christ to them, to share the true faith, and to welcome them into faith. We are to work hard and even suffer by being counter-cultural – saying no to the sin of ‘everything goes.’ True and eternal freedom comes through Jesus, and faithfulness to Him. Model discipleship in the model Church, sainthood, calls us to live and work in such a way as to advance the cause of the gospel in our lives and the lives of others. We receive the word of God… accept it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God. And, we put it to work.