Endless, joy filled,

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

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

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.

Growing, learning,
blazing forth.

I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

St. Paul wrote these words to his beloved co-worker, Timothy, who helped Paul by co-authoring and/or delivering six of Paul’s letters. He was addressed directly in two others. Timothy was originally from Lystra in Lycaonia, the son of a Greek father and a Christian mother. Paul commended Timothy’s sincere faith and mentions that the same faith was previously alive in Timothy’s grandmother Lois and mother Eunice. This is a great testimony to the power of family and its example in the Christian life. Timothy joined Paul around 49 AD and worked with him throughout his life. Timothy was with Paul and Silvanus when they first established Christian communities in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth. After training Timothy, and seeing his faith, gifts, and his family’s example, he ordained him as chief pastor and bishop of his community.

As with Timothy, God has placed a gift in each of us. But, like coals burning under the ashes, sometimes God’s gift remains hidden. The challenge is to reveal and awaken it. How to do it?

Jesus spoke of mustard seeds several times. This small seed, this life filled ember, needs to be nurtured and grown. Jesus asks us to have at least faith like that seed. In prayer we help that faith to grow, to become a large bush in which the world can find refuge. We turn it from a smoldering ember to a blazing fire. That fire causes us to do more than the minimum God asks, it helps us in becoming God’s saint heroes.

By praying and in worship we begin to discern the gift God has placed in us. We awaken it and help it to grow into something that is so much more. This is our contribution to the process.

Others also contribute by awakening the gift of God in us. When we look at ourselves, it can happen that we only see what we lack. That leads to discouragement. When someone looks at us with trust, it can transform us. That is how Timothy discovered his gifts – through his grandmother and mom who had planted the seed and encouraged him, and through Paul who trusted him. This is how his mustard seed of faith grew into a blazing fire of witness.

God is the One who awakens His gift in us. God believes in us and trusts us for what we are. God himself has given us “a spirit of strength, love and self-control” He has given us the inner strength to dare to give our life for others, to grow our small seeds and to blaze forth; to encourage all we meet so their flame of faith may grow.

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

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.

He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes, with the princes of his own people.

Why do we do certain things in life? We go to school to get an education. We go to work to make money. We go to the gym to improve our health. We go to the mall to shop for clothes and the grocery store to buy food. We go to parks, games, and the theater for fun.

But church? Why come here? Why get up early on one of our few off-days? Why go through the hassle of dressing up and the getting ready? Why go to the trouble of finding a parking space nearby? Why go to church?

If we’ve ever found ourselves wondering about that little question, we’re not alone. Surveys tell us that as many as 79% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, yet only 20% of Americans attend church regularly. I guess some people look at going to church as a bother—an unnecessary burden to be avoided or only a place for baptisms and funerals. Others see it as sort of like punching a spiritual clock or earning brownie points with their Maker.

But to someone who understands church and what it’s really all about, going to church can be the most spiritually fulfilling, inspiring thing we do all week. It lifts us up higher if we are high and helps us stand if we are down.

The Book of Acts tells the story of how the church got started. Fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he sent the Holy Spirit to empower his disciples. They went out and began preaching Jesus—the only way who gave us the Good News. Millions listened, thousands believed. Then at the end of Acts 2, we find a short snapshot of what life was like in the early church: All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals, and to prayer… And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had… And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. I would love to be in a church like this! Wouldn’t you?

Churches are springing up. There is a longing. In every place, in small broken down and big fancy buildings people are being lifted up. God is on the move for those who say yes to Jesus – who invest the time to believe the promises of the All Powerful God. Church is the community of God – where we are pulled up higher, where we will do justice, experience victory, and find true peace. Church isn’t a destination; it’s something we become. When we understand what it means to be the Church, we discover our life’s true purpose—to be a member of His family, magnify His glory, mature in His image, be a minister of His mercy, and to be a missionary of His grace. Be lifted up, lift up all. Now is the time.


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us.

One hundred ten years ago our Church gathered in Holy Synod. As a fledgling organization its members had faced persecution. Real persecution based on faith right here in the United States. Our members were cast out of social clubs. Jobs were lost. Families were split. There was hurt and sadness. The reaction of those Synod attendees was to focus on the words of Jesus – what one does speaks far louder than abiding by rules, then holy words and prayers. They instituted this Solemnity with its special focus on brotherly love; the only Church that has such a day. They cast out fear with love.

St. John, the disciple Jesus loved could have stood on those credentials – hey look at me, I’m the one He loved. He could have offered words, gave speeches. Instead he focused on putting Jesus’ love for us into action in his life and in our lives. He tells us: The commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. What one does speaks far louder than abiding by rules, then holy words and prayers. St. John and his church communities cast out the fear of persecution and stood above it in Jesus’ love.

As we gather today for worship we are reminded that coming here once a week is not enough. This place, this worship, the words we hear, and the prayers we offer are a capstone for what we have done right in our loving others over the past week. We should rightly be thankful for the graces we received that helped us do that. We should be proud of the ways we cast out fear and responded in love.

So too our gathering today is a recollection of where we have fallen short with a plea for forgiveness. While falling short is painful, we can find joy in knowing that our consciences are well formed enough to know we failed. In acknowledging our sin we find the pain it has imprinted lifted by God’s healing touch. We see our fears and pain relieved in God’s love.

Our gathering today is moreover a new start. A new week ahead and we hear: there is no fear in love. Next week we will gather again to be thankful, to recollect, and to start anew. Through all of it what is reinforced is fear removed, love triumphant.

In writing to the Romans, Paul asks: what will separate us from the love of Christ? He lists many things – but no fear will do it. On this Solemnity of Love, on this anniversary of a tragedy meant to instill fear, remember that nothing is more powerful than love. Destroy fear. Our members did it 110 years ago. St. John did it. We get to do it every week – no fear because in Him there is no fear.


I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment; I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother.

Today we encounter Paul’s shortest letter. It is a letter to his friend and co-worker Philemon and his family. This letter is only one chapter containing twenty-five short verses.

Generally any letter from Paul deals with a crisis at hand. In this case the crisis is neither doctrinal nor a confused morality. Philemon and the fellow Christians that meet at his house seem to have their faith on straight. This letter is about one man and his relationship to another. Philemon’s slave Onesimus had run away, perhaps guilty of theft in the process. Onesimus ran off and found Paul in Rome. They had likely met during Paul’s stay with Philemon. Paul brought Onesimus to knowledge of and faith in Jesus. Onesimus spent time helping and serving Paul during his imprisonment in Rome. Now Paul was sending Onesimus back as a changed man.

Paul knew that in sending Onesimus back, Philmon would have to confront the reality of his faith. Paul’s lesson here, his teaching of the Gospel, is focused on getting relationships straight. For Paul, the essential fruit of the Gospel is transformed relationships. Who was Onesimus now – and how was Philemon supposed to relate to him?

Philemon and Onesimus were both to learn that being a Christian means being transformed and being part of a new relationship between oneself, God, the rest of humanity, and the world.

Faith in Jesus is to bring change to our lives. It is not just an interior thing, but also an exterior one. They way we relate and interact with others is to demonstrate our faith – faith truly lived. This changed relationship often stands at odds with the surrounding secular order. Philemon could easily and rightly have Onesimus killed in dozens of horrible ways for even the slightest of offenses, much less running away. Thus the social conflict that emerges from being Christian in an anti-God world. Paul focuses on this interpersonal conflict and the way we must revise and reform our relationships. How will our relationships be changed despite the world’s rules? How will Philemon react? Will Christ or the world rule our relationships?

Paul reminds Philemon of his encounter with the Jesus. So we must be reminded. The strength of our life in Jesus is tested in relationship. In daily crises let Jesus change our lives and our way of relationship.

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Five years – I can hardly believe it! We have been hosting Back to Church Sunday each September since 2012 and this will be the fifth time. Will we see each other there? I certainly hope and pray I will see you.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us to assemble together for public worship. The group that assembles for worship will be the very group that is assembled on the last day. Meet together now so we may meet together at Jesus’ return.

The apostle says that we must regard it as a sacred duty to meet together for the worship of God. No causes should deter us. From this sacred social duty grace is received, we are strengthened, our light is increased, and our heavenly inheritance is confirmed. See you September 18th at 9:30am or 11:30am.

Also in our newsletter, tons of upcoming events – check them out and pitch in. There are reports on our summer activities. Say congratulations to our Music Scholarship Winners. Participate in our National Webinar. So much more too…

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