What if I’m
bored?

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Today we are one week closer to standing before that stable. One week closer to welcoming the Lord.

That is a beautiful thought. My family puts up its Christmas decorations very late, days before Christmas. In the Advent spirit we are anticipating. We know that once the decorations are up, the vigil meal will be around the corner. We know that we will trek to church and witness the Babe born anew, and feel within ourselves His warmth – happiness, joy, peace, and the promise that because of Him we will have peace.

But what happens when we feel dead inside. What happens when all the expectation is gone – when that occasion about four weeks hence is a bore. The decorations are dusty already, the food isn’t good, and church is a function rather than a joy. Some might even think they are at peace when in reality they have just become numb.

That is where Israel was. The stump of Jesse is literally the sterility of David’s line. Jesse was David’s father and David’s male line was now impotent. Two hundred and seventy years after David was born to be King of Israel Isaiah told us that the dying, impotent, sterile kingship in Israel will produce its once and final King – the true King – the Lord Jesus.

Twenty-eight generations later. Jesus would be born of the line of David. His line – all but forgotten, dusty and dead, no flavor, nothing there and life suddenly springs anew.

John sets out for the Jordan. The prophet, the forerunner, has arrived. Word spreads – there is hope around the corner. Something amazing is about to happen. As the people came forward they acknowledged their sins – primarily the sin of lost hope, of not believing in the promise. Thy came forward to say, ‘Our dead hearts are waking up.’

Paul understood this would happen to us, so he says: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus. Paul is telling us to keep it together, to be encouraged. Seven hundred years passed between Isaiah and Jesus. That is a lot of dust, a lot of boredom, and a lot of numbness. Life and joy lost.

What if we’re bored? What do we do? Start here: Surrender our pre-conceived to-do list. Time to change things up – to build a spirit of anticipation. Then, when the moment comes, we find in it the full power of the promise that is ours.

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.

Taking instruction.
Reaping benefits.

For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Here we are, entering Advent. In a little more than four weeks we will stand at the stable as thousands in this parish have done since 1922, and billions of Christians do each year. If we could just imagine ourselves there for a moment, what would we say to ourselves – the person standing here today? What advice could we give ourselves?

Isaiah pegged it right when he told us to pay attention to the word of the Lord. This isn’t just a hearing, or a mere paying attention to, or a listening. Our paying attention must be converted to the integration of God’s word into ourselves. We are to make every act, word, gesture, project, task, and study a living encounter with God’s love – within ourselves and for each other.

As with most prophetic utterances Isaiah gives us both a consequence and a promise.

The promise is that our living encounters with God’s love results in this: They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. Those very real encounters within us and in our relationships come from walking in the light of the Lord!

The consequence is judgment. God looks at us and will judge whether our lives have been an encounter with His love. No one likes the thought of that because we all fall short. As such we must measure how our life in Jesus reaches reality and hold ourselves to a much higher standard. We cannot just ignore the consequence and hope for the best. We cannot walk in darkness and expect the promise to happen in spite of us.

Let’s get back to our advice to ourselves – I would say to myself – be careful each day to walk in the light of the Lord. Don’t make those mistakes. Let His word and His way be integrated in me; make it real in my every encounter. If the Lord’s promise fills me, and all I encounter, I will see His promise come to reality. People will be lifted up. Joy will be made real.

In today’s Epistle and Gospel we hear the challenge – our salvation is nearer now; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Our advise to ourselves – we cannot afford to set the light of the Lord aside or expect that the consequence is not near. So let us take up His instruction, live His promise and make every encounter a reflection of His light.

Remember
me.

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day’s pay for their time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for winning, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for long service or high achievements and good performance, that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award, yet receives such a gift anyway, it is a good picture of the way God’s kingdom is designed. His is a kingdom in which we receive the a full inheritance to which we were never entitled but has been won and gifted to us.

The generosity of Jesus’ kingdom is on full display in the encounter between the two robbers and Jesus. Each sentenced to death; one’s heart remains stone cold. The other’s heart is opened. The King of heaven and earth offering His life for the redemption of the world is both taunted and adored. In this sacred moment God reveals His offer to the whole world and how that offer is for all as well as for each of us individually.

The two criminals were equally near to Christ. Both of them saw and heard all that happened those hours that Jesus hung on the cross. One died in his sins, he died as he had lived, without repentance. The other repented and believed in Jesus. He saw the promise of His kingdom, called on Him for mercy, and went to Paradise.

It is interesting that Jesus responded directly to the thief that called out for mercy – Yes, I will remember you. You will be with Me in My kingdom this day. Jesus responds to us when we humble ourselves, when we recognize His rule over us. When we place Jesus on the throne, front and center of our lives, and give up our willfulness, we become co-heirs with the King. Notice that the criminal who repented placed Jesus on the throne; specifically mentioning ‘Your kingdom.’

It is even more telling that Jesus gave no response to the one who mocked and taunted Him. Some think that God is a punishing and vengeful power. Yet here we see God’s true nature. He does not curse, punish, or in any way does He respond to the one whose heart remains cold – who hates to the end. God gives Him every moment available to take the opportunity to repent, to place God front and center. Jesus’ offer of merciful opportunity is such a powerful gift

The Lord wants us all to recognize ourselves in this moment, to see the true nature of His kingship, to cry out too, “Jesus, remember me,” and to know He does. We receive a prize we have not won when Jesus is our King. We will be with Him in Paradise!

I give
up.

“You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Christians are oddball people. It took me quite awhile to figure that one out. They give up.

When I was young I used to read the prayers in the pew missal. There were all kinds of prayers – a prayer of confession. There were prayers to be said after receiving communion (something we find on pages 1-8 of our pew missal). A there was this prayer that really bothered me. A few lines from that prayer (attributed to Ignatius of Loyola):

“Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess”

I said to myself – hold on – that cannot be right. Why would I give up those things? Didn’t God give me a will in the first place?

Frankly, this prayer confused and angered me. In those feelings I eventually found the source of my sin, and the source of all sin. It is our tendency to say ‘my way or the highway.’

Throughout biblical history God asked His people to surrender, to give up their will and to do His will. Again and again His people said no.

Jesus set before us the prime example of surrender as He prayed to His Father in the garden: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Jesus agonized over surrender so much that He sweated drops of blood. Surrender is hard work. It requires intense warfare against our tendency to say no; to say ‘my will be done.’

Jesus asks us to do the hard work of surrender each day and today’s scripture exemplifies the level of surrender we are to have. It is extreme, it is powerful, and it is scary. It means saying yes to God and no to the world – even to family and friends. It means we may be hated or even killed.

If we surrender everything to God, if we choose – and we have to choose one way or the other – we rely on God to work things out. We stop trying to manipulate, plan, force our agenda, or control the situation. We no longer react to criticism or rush to defend ourselves. Our way of relating is changed. People are no longer the other. They are now before us. We are no longer self-serving but other serving. We let go and let God work. Instead of trying harder, we trust more.

Each day let us truly give up – giving all we have up to God. In that we will be victorious. As Revelation tells us: they have conquered because they loved not their lives even unto death.

What’s
next.

Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.

This week and next bring to an end the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. With these weeks we begin our expectation of the end times and Jesus’ return as our Lord and King. Today’s questions from the Sadducees get to the question of what happens after death and the essential truths of God’s kingdom.

The Roman historian of Jewish matters, Josephus, identified the Sadducees as being upper crust socially and economically. They had a great deal of political, social, and religious power. They believed that the soul was not immortal; that there was no afterlife, and that there were no rewards or penalties after death. They specifically rejected the resurrection of the dead.

It is ironic; the upper one percent denied any idea of hope or reward in the life to come. It sounds like something we might hear in this day and age. If you were the working poor, if you had nothing, you would receive nothing regardless of how faithful you might have been. Again, there is a distinct parallel to our present age. The rich Sadducees had no worries. They saw life as something they could enjoy to the fullest while the rest of the world suffered in despair.

Jesus came to set aside all such notions. He did not just attempt to set them aside. He destroyed this lack of hope with the authority and power of God.

If, like the Sadducees, our concern is about our power in this life and projecting that power into eternal life we fail to understand the purpose of the Kingdom of heaven. We fail to see essential hope that exists in God’s kingdom.

God’s kingdom is defined by life, not death. It transcends our senses and time. God’s kingdom – to which we are made heirs through Jesus – ends the base and immoral systems of domination and control that mar this life. God’s kingdom offers true rewards based on faith as well as our spiritual growth, loyalty of God’s way, and righteous living. God’s kingdom is limitless and eternal – our awaited home.

Hope does not regard today’s riches or defeats, power of lack thereof. As God’s children His rewards await us and we will enjoy them eternally. There will be many poor and lonely who will rule in God’s kingdom. The lordly and mighty men and women who ruled over institutions and nations and who, if they are lucky enough to even enter into the Kingdom of God, may get an apartment. This is what is next.

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life

We recall the example of the Apostles who proclaimed under persecution: “We must obey God rather than men.” As we consider our vote, let us consider a beautiful garment or a warm blanket. Each thread makes up the whole garment or blanket. Each is vital to its appearance and its strength. Christian moral positions and teaching are like that. We cannot pick out a few threads and consider them more important than the others. The sanctity of life – conception to natural death – peace, freedom, economic justice, the family in God’s image, health care for all, environmental responsibility bear equal weight. As we pray and consider, let us find those candidates who will obey God.

Join us throughout November for great prayer, the remembrance of our dearly departed, and wonderful fellowship. It is the Month of All Souls, Come pray for our country at a series for weekday Holy Masses with a Novena at 8am from October 31st through November 8th. Send in your Polish Food Sale orders. Join us as we host the Mohawk Valley Seniorate Thanksgiving Celebration on Saturday, November 19th at 11 am with Thanksgiving Holy Mass followed by a free Luncheon. All that and more… See this month’s newsletter.

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

Jesus’
imperative.

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly for today I must stay at your house.”

We continue in our series of beautiful encounters with Jesus. Last week it was a parable meant to give people hope. Today, it is an actual encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus meant to exhibit Jesus’ missions’ imperative.

Jesus call to Zacchaeus, by definition, is in an imperative sentence. These are sentences that give instruction or that express a request or command. There are actually two imperatives in this sentence and we will get back to that.

First, let’s explore some of the finer details in this encounter.

Names matter in the Jewish world of the Bible. Each name, including Jesus’ Jewish name Yeshua carries with it particular meaning. A child was to grow into its name. Zacchaeus’ Hebrew name means the just one, righteous one, or pure one. How did someone with a name like that ever end up being a Chief Tax Collector – i.e., the chief sinner in Jericho?

The point is, it didn’t matter. Jesus sees what a person can become in Him, not what he or she was before His call. As bad as a person’s history might be, that is never a showstopper as to what a person can become in God’s Kingdom. In this encounter, Zacchaeus is the perfect name to dramatically illustrate God’s plan for him – that through Jesus he would become what he was meant to be. Jesus offers us the same.

This point is further illustrated in the fact that Zacchaeus could not help himself. He could not go to the Temple and offer sacrifice to be absolved of his many sins. Zacchaeus was seen as having willingly sold his soul to the Devil. He recruited others to also sell their souls. He was not only seen as responsible for his sins, but also for those of his fellow tax collectors. Because the rabbis declared that retribution was a prerequisite to being forgiven; by definition, Zacchaeus could not be forgiven. He had no way of repaying those he didn’t even know. Zacchaeus had no hope of ever getting right with God. We are sometimes convinced that we cannot get right with God. Yet Jesus comes to change that perspective.

The more we dig into context of this encounter, the more we marvel at how everything is there for a reason. Zacchaeus was a short person who climbed up into a sycamore tree. This Middle Eastern sycamore tree is very large, dense, and grows figs people cannot eat. These figs fall to the ground where the birds feed on them and leave their droppings in exchange. It was thus considered an “unclean” tree. Zacchaeus the unclean servant of evil climbed an unclean tree. He was complete in his uncleanness before the world. Yet Jesus calls him down using an imperative sentence.

“Zacchaeus, I must stay at your house.” This imperative is in two parts. One is to Zacchaeus himself – I have come to rescue you. I am rescuing you personally. I must do this. This is to show all people, every sinner who has lost hope, who has felt unredeemable, that I have come to rescue them personally.

Jesus Divine mandate is the relentless pursuit of the lost, the abandoned, and those who have lost hope. God’s “fullness of time” grace enters Zacchaeus’ life. The King of Glory has come to rescue yet another “lost sheep,” this one found in a sycamore tree!

For us, this encounter reveals the heart of the imperative the Father gave to Jesus; His mission and God’s purpose for the world. Now the time has come for all of us to walk out of our “no hope,” death row cell and become yet another “ex-con” mercifully ushered into the Kingdom of God.

Endless, joy filled,
hope.

Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.”

This is one of those parables I refer to as the beautiful parables. They are a direct offer of hope. Today, and over the next two weeks Jesus offers His faithful special hope.

Hope is a verb; it is, as my high school teachers would say, an action word. It is something we engage in and do particularly as Christians. Hope is more than just desiring, longing, dreaming, or being optimistic. Hope is a confidence that what has been promised will in fact occur. It will happen. There is no might, or may, or maybe. As scripture tells us, it is yes and Amen. Jesus reminds us to let our confidence be known by our yes and no – really believing what we say is true because we are backed up by God Himself. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Assurance and conviction is that inward and outward steadfastness in what we know to be true.

Dr. David W. Orr, Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics writes that “Hope is a verb with its shirtsleeves rolled up.”

The plain opposite of hope is despair. More than despair alone, it is the false illusion and confidence in things that cannot be backed up.

Do we trust in government? There is surely no promise there. Maybe there are some ideals (originally founded upon scripture), but still no guarantee. Do we trust in our good works alone? So many are deceived in thinking that good works are enough – that they will somehow be remembered and acclaimed beyond the memory of the next couple of generations. They are deceived for they sill be forgotten. None of these things are backed up by an everlasting promise.

Christian history is filled with the witness and words of those who had to face apparent hopelessness. They were confronted by war, poverty, personal failure and dreams unfulfilled, sickness, and death. We sit here in God’s presence and wonder whether we can hope, whether we dare hope and have confidence. Jesus answer to us is: Yes!

Christians who get this know that when they are down they will be raised up. They know that when they sin they will be forgiven. They know that nothing here and now is more powerful than what God has promised us. They simply know it – not so that they become arrogant but so that the hope they have might be spread through their joy. The tax collector found that joy.

Endless, joy filled hope is what God has given us in Jesus. It is for those who see in these beautiful parables the truth of His promises.

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.