Real, present help.
No fear!

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

I have had quite a week. Actually, a week-and-a-half. It has been filled with a constant barrage of work, travel, preparation for Church events. I have been in nine cities in seven days, with two more to go. I will be leaving to chaplain Kurs in less than a week. After that I am off to Baltimore and will be filling in for Fr. Mark at our neighboring parish. This weekend was my son’s high school graduation. We had family and friends with us with all the incumbent preparation that entails. Coincidentally, as we prepared for his graduation party, his first college bill came in the mail. Somewhere in here is a parish committee meeting.

As I read Jesus’ words and prepared for today, I said – this makes total sense. Not just “Fear no one…” but really, with Jesus, fear nothing!

This is one of those scriptures that speaks to us where we are. So it is as we enter Ordinary Time in the Church year. These scriptures will speak to where we are and will urge us to deeper spiritual formation, authentic responses to God’s call in the midst of our challenges, and to a renewed commitment to mission and evangelism.

Today’s scripture translates into a call to fearless witness. How easy it is to get overwhelmed by life, by the many pushes and pulls on our schedules. In the midst of the storm, we are called to remember that Jesus is with us. He is with us to tell us that as long as we cling to Him we will make it through. More than that, we will come out victorious. We are reminded that we can be like Jesus, in the back of the boat, in the midst of the storm – sound asleep and at peace.

Jesus tells us that we need not fear the “hosts of evil” around us however they might show up or appear in our lives. Jesus is with us and in control.

What places us in Gehenna? It is those things we think are greater than God. Is a crazy schedule, travel, messes of meetings and obligations greater than Jesus? Absolutely not! We are to take these challenges and flip them on their head. We are to see and use them as opportunity to deepen our faith in Jesus as our strength. Our authentic response is to freely praise God and to publicly acclaim Christ as Lord over all; giving public account for the hope that is in us. Let us live daily acknowledging, trusting, abiding in, and praising God’s real and present help – no fear.

Turn up the
dial!

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

When I was young, it seemed everyone had a big old console stereo system. You may remember these, a really big and long wooden piece of furniture with built-in stereo speakers and all kinds of electronic equipment.

These systems had various doors and hinges that opened sections of the system. They typically had a built-in record player under a hinged top. The front doors would open to access the radio and volume controls. interestingly, these furnishings are making a comeback.

These systems were very elegant, and for me, a great temptation! (especially at home, but not only).

I would sit on the floor before this impressive set of electronics and dream of all sorts of adventures. I could control a spaceship, launch missiles and destroy the Russians, wherever the mind could take me, I could go.

The one thing my fiddling around always seemed to accomplish was the shock and surprise my parents and their guests would get when they turned the system on. Boom! the radio was turned all the way up, and people jumped. So would I when I heard my name called…

For these days, where we particularly reflect on the mystery of the Body and Blood of Jesus, we are called to do what I did with those stereo systems; turn up the volume.

This solemnity offers a unique opportunity to turn up the volume of our praise and worship, to acknowledge a love so great that its giver desired to stay with us forever. During this eight day period, we focus on celebrating and proclaiming more than a mere symbol or a nice memory – who would waste time doing that! We turn up the volume on the truth – the great giver of all love is with us here, now, and forever.

The great giver of love, Jesus Christ, is really present – body, blood, soul, and divinity in what appear to be simple bread and wine. He is in our hands. Sadly, only 40 to 91 percent of catholic churchgoers recognize Jesus. It should never be less than 100%. So, we need to turn up the volume. We need to sing out and proclaim His praises, revel in His presence. Let the world know.

Love isn’t something far off. Our great God allows us to eat His flesh and drink His blood and because of it we have eternal life. This simple fact must fill us, envelop us with such joy that we cannot help but turn up the dial on our praise. We need to live praise filled lives, overwhelmed by the fact that He is so close by, ready for a visit. Call the world to Him by loud thankful praise.

Falling into the
arms of love.

Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

The quote on our bulletin from Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century abbess and mystic, is from a longer prayer she wrote. The main part of the prayer states:

You shine with radiant light,
in this circle of earthly existence
You shine so finely,
it surpasses understanding.
God hugs you.
You are encircled by the arms
of the mystery of God.

Trinity Sunday seems to be one of those days in the Church calendar that presents a challenge for us as believers and teachers of the Word. We work so hard to understand everything, to make sense of who God is, and to show our theological and philosophical learnings that we can miss what God is all about.

Our understanding must start with accepting the mystery of God. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters tend to accept the mystery of God in a much more open way. They don’t look to over intellectualize God. Rather, they see the whole life of a Christian as a mystery.

The joy of God’s mystery is the fact that this inestimable, incomprehensible God, this mystery beyond our understanding, encounters us and holds His arms open to us. Remember that He came to us and told us that He wishes relationship with us.

Moses encountered God in the burning bush and on Mount Sinai. In these encounters, he was surrounded by all the power and glory of God. Yet these were the words he heard: “The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”

In our daily lives, we should reflect back on the prayer of Hildegard. If we have relationship with God we shine brightly. We are different. We have been pulled into relationship with awesome mystery and the key aspect of that mystery is that we can run to it, run into its arms. That is what allows us to be truly radiant.

Over the past several weeks we have worked very hard. The basket social, rummage sale, bread sale. These tasks were done with joy and fellowship, but also added to our stress. We worry over the outcome. Will we have success? Will we live up to past accomplishment? In the face of these concerns, this Trinity Sunday calls us to re-encounter God’s mystery. Paying bills and life can get in the way of being radiant. God calls us back to radiance, back to His arms of love, to fall into His arms today.

Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

…and the greatest of these is love. Famous words we recall hearing at almost every wedding. I wonder if St. Paul, in writing to the Church at Corinth, was thinking of pretty words for marriage ceremonies? Likely not, marriage wasn’t even on his radar. Frankly, it wasn’t even on the Church’s radar at that time. Paul cared more about the way Christians interacted with each other and with the world that was awaiting the hope only Jesus could offer. Were Christians, therefore, living and showing the lives the saved and redeemed should be living? We have, in Paul’s words, a certain irony. Words we hear at a wedding – at the beginning of a new sacred vocation for a couple – are words that should inform our vocational lives as Christians. The message of Jesus and of the Christian faith is a call to vocation. We are called to participate full-time, with every breath, in God’s creative and redemptive work. The Christian life is to be vocational to the core. It is a complete and total way of living. As we celebrate and pray in this month of sacred vocations let us remember that each of us is called to the most sacred vocation of all – to love completely as Jesus loved us.

Join us beginning with the celebration of the Church’s birthday at Pentecost, through the post-Easter solemnities, and in enjoying some great fellowship. We will be having our Rummage and Bake Sale, our seniorate Corpus Christi celebration, and we will be gathering bras – that’s right, bras!

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

The power of
Pentecost.

They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

In the Book of Genesis, we find the people, the descendants of Noah who survived the great flood, were as one people. They spoke one language. They acted of one accord. They decided to build a tower to reach heaven. They had already regained the arrogance of those destroyed in the flood. They were going to reach heaven without having earned heaven, doing so by their own might and power.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Ba’bel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them.

Today we recall the meek Apostles, the women, and family of Jesus in quasi-hiding being empowered to speak every language. They are commissioned by the Holy Spirit to declare the mighty acts of God to the entire world. They do so not regarding any barrier.

The early Church Fathers were the first to see Divine reversal in the events of Pentecost in Jerusalem compared with Babel. At Babel one language was confused; in Jerusalem, many languages become comprehensible. At Babel the people were scattered; in Jerusalem every nation comes together. At Babel, earth arrogantly tried building its way to heaven; in Jerusalem heaven reaches down to earth. At Babel the human ego was condemned; in Jerusalem humanity realizes it can be filled with God. At Babel humanity arrogantly looked at itself; at Pentecost humans are sent out to look for and bring the Good News to others; to all their brothers and sisters.

At Babel the mission was human, the goal was measured in bricks and height. At Pentecost, the mission is God’s. Pentecost means full acceptance of the Holy Spirit’s gifts and using those gifts for God’s work. His work is not to build towers nor to create structures. It is to build the Body of Christ, the Church, by our witness in spite of obstacles or barriers. We are to make Jesus known without regard to language, difference, or background. Pentecost undermines all human plans. Pentecost lived is great witnesses to the mighty acts of God no matter what.

Wronged for doing
right.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.

This week we saw another attack – this time on a bus loaded with Christian youth. Twenty-nine were martyred, another twenty-five were injured. These young martyrs and confessors (people who suffer for the name of Jesus) were headed to the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor – to volunteer. One hundred and five have been martyred in Egypt for their faith in Jesus since Christmas. There have been many individuals and families martyred as well.

The living hope of Easter belongs to us in the good news of Christ’s resurrection. Easter is hope, even in the midst of persecution and suffering.

We stand at the last Sunday of Easter. Like the apostles and followers of Jesus, gathered in the upper room after the Ascension, we might feel somewhat fearful. What will happen next? When will they come for me, for us? Should we wait and wonder? That only applies if we believe the last Sunday of Easter is the end of Easter.

Our living hope is that even in the midst of waiting, even in the midst of a world that is contrary and adversarial to the commitments and attitudes that belong to us, we have confidence in God’s promises. We will always have Easter. Easter is not just for a season, but forever. The resurrection, the vision of the Ascension, the promise of the Holy Spirit sustains and encourages our hope. Whatever comes, God has joined us, not only the suffering but also to the victory of Jesus, who overcame death – who in fact destroyed death.

St. Peter does not avoid or play down the issue of suffering. He addresses it squarely, not as something to be feared, but something we can walk into with confidence if we regard ourselves well before the world. This testing will reveal whether the suffering we face is because we have given in to worldly ways or whether we are facing them for our witness, evangelism, and the exercise of love and hospitality the comes from Jesus.

The young Christians of Egypt suffered because they walked with the name of Christ as their identity. They were going to do the Lord’s work. They died to the world and rose to eternal life because of it. Bearing Jesus’ name constituted their “blessing.” They were wronged, reviled, persecuted for doing right. On this last and always first Sunday of Easter may we be encouraged in doing right in accord with Jesus regardless of suffering.

A reason for
hope.

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

Today, we hear St. Peter advising the members of the early Church to bear up under persecution. But that isn’t the starting point. He isn’t recommending that we sit around, awaiting persecution, before we show the strength of our faith. He recommends that our starting point is always to offer hope to every and anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope.

Always being ready to offer hope is our calling as Christians. The world is so full of hopelessness, loss, and the seemingly unfillable gap between where we are and where we want to be.

Our call is to show that the gap isn’t the end, you get there and fall into nothingness. Rather, we must tell the world that one never has to face that chasm anymore – for Jesus Christ, risen and alive – has filled it. He has bridged the gap. He is our hope and our gift – to offer in gentleness and reverence, with clear conscience.

People around us must deal with the hopelessness that we used to face – part and parcel of the sinful human condition. As followers of Christ we have already recognized that hopelessness has been overcome. The depth of death is no more. Darkness has been crushed and light is ours. We have taken hold of the Savior and His tools that overcome hopelessness. We can point every and anyone we meet to Him and use His tools to share the promise of true hope.

According to a recent Pew Forum study, there is persecution of Christians in 131 of the 193 countries in the world. That’s almost 70%. The people Peter wrote to were similarly being slandered and threatened. Their witness to Christ’s hope made them the constant targets of those who served the empire and hailed nation as lord. They had a choice. Leave hope behind and again face the gap, the deep pit of despair, or stand firm in the Holy Spirit, the promises of Jesus Christ they held.

Peter reminds us that to this very day, regardless of the world’s resistance, irrespective of persecution, the promise of Jesus Christ is hope-filled. Jesus’ execution by the world was not the end. It was the beginning of hope.

From a merely human point of view, death is the end, the gap cannot be filled, and the chasm cannot be crossed. But thanks be to God, death is ended, the bridge is in place, and we can take the hand of every and anyone and offer them a reason for hope.

Mom’s construction
job.

For it says in Scripture: Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame. Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall. They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

So how can I possibly tie together the themes from this Sunday’s scripture with Mother’s Day?

In the gospel, Jesus is beginning His disciple’s preparation for His passion. The words of our gospel are then from the beginning of Jesus’ pre-Passion discourses meant to help envision a horizon that extends beyond Easter to life in the community of faith after Jesus is no longer visibly present with his followers.

The Acts narrative speaks of the appointment of the first deacons (a scripture that has always been very dear to my heart).

St. Peter reflects on scripture that seems to have more to do with God as builder. He talks about cornerstones and stumbling blocks and how the two are in One.

For some of us older folks, it is hard to imagine mom in a construction vest and hard hat laying down a line of mortar with a trowel. How would that beehive fit under the hard hat?
What we may have failed to perceive is that our moms were our first encounter with construction workers.

The good moms in our lives (this could have been a grandmother, aunt, other woman) did all they could to build us up into God’s solid people.

The key thing they did was to help us understand the place Jesus wants in our lives. He wants us to see Him as our cornerstone, He is the One we build upon, we develop from Him. With Him as our cornerstone, we do not stumble, we do not fall. He is our Rock – the stable place we can always go to.

The good women in our lives follow the model of Mary who points to Jesus, who holds Him out to us as our foundation. They don’t put themselves first, but rather the craftswomen who make us fully human – into buildings that will stand forever. Without their work, their building, we stumble and fall. Without them our destiny is one of limited potential, limited effect, people whose destiny is brokenness – like crumbling and decaying buildings soon to fall to the ground.

With our lives built on the true Cornerstone we are thankful for their craftsmanship.

The giving
door.

“I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

This one used to confuse me. I get Jesus being the Good shepherd. I can envision Him leading us, providing for us, protecting us, and rescuing us when we get lost. I also get Jesus being the perfect sacrificial lamb – the Lamb of God who by His sacrificial death took away our sins and freed us. But, what did Jesus mean when He said ‘I AM the door?’

I AM the door” is the third of seven “I AM” declarations of Jesus recorded only in John’s Gospel. These “I AM” proclamations point to Jesus’ Divinity for He was calling Himself by the same name as God did when Moses asked God His Name. In this statement, Jesus further clarifies that He is the exclusive way to salvation by saying that He is ‘the door,’ not ‘a door.’

As we know, sheep are completely helpless animals. Sheep graze and wander while doing so. They never look up. They get lost. Further, sheep have no homing instinct. They cannot find their way home, even if it is right in front of them. By nature, sheep are followers and they will follow each other right off a cliff. As such, sheep are totally dependent on their shepherd. Shepherds are the providers, guides, protectors, and constant companions of sheep. The relationship between the flock and shepherd was so close that a shepherd easily knows his own sheep, even if his flock gets mingled with others. This bond is so close, that each sheep recognizes its shepherds’ voice and will follow it.

At nightfall, or when the shepherd had to go do business, he would lead his sheep into the protection of a sheepfold.

There were two kinds of sheepfolds. One was a public pen found in the cities and villages. It held several flocks of sheep. There was a doorkeeper, whose duty it was to guard the door to the sheep pen and to only admit known shepherds who would call out their flocks. This is a warning to pastors – for the Lord will only allow those He recognizes.

The second kind of sheep pen was in the countryside and was built by shepherds. It was a rough rock wall with a small open space to enter. There was no gate – rather – the shepherd would protect the sheep by lying across the opening. He literally became the door or gate to the sheep.

When Jesus says, “I am the gate,” He not only reiterating His constant care and His sacrificial love, but His total dedication to complete care for us, His daily provision, His strength giving us full and abundant life.

we commend ourselves in every way: by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God

This month our Holy Church holds its Seventeenth Annual Mission and Evangelism conference. This coincides with the words above from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Church at Corinth. How do we commend ourselves to others? How do we show forth what a genuine life in Jesus means? Being truly genuine in our walk with Jesus is at once a difficult task and a great reward. In May we look to Mary as a perfect example of someone who genuinely walked with her Son. Let us focus on what it means to be genuine, authentic – or as some would say – being real. Let us commend ourselves to others as Jesus’ authentic followers with confession, repentance, fellowship, obedience, genuineness, and truthful speech. By doing so, the power of God will show through us. We, like Mary, will glow with His real and genuine love. We will be real!

Join us continuing our celebration of Easter joy and in celebrating mom and our heavenly mother this May. There is so much going on in May and we are actively getting ready for our many summer activities. Check out all this and more, plus read up on how we are called to baptize our culture in this month’s newsletter.

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