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Let one
stand up.

“For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘May another take his office.’ Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

This week the Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life released its annual survey of religious affiliation in the United States. As with any survey result the pundits began to make predictions, some in churchy circles rang the alarm bells.

The Study tells us that: “The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing… Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among all ages. A large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with the Christian faith. But, the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points.”

The pundits note the decline of Christianity and are ready to sound its death knell. Christianity is irrelevant. Churchy folks, in response, try to make themselves more relevant, looking for ways to draw in the young. Some others see this as the great winnowing, the driving out of imperfect Christians leaving behind only the perfect.

These groups are missing something very important. They attempt to define adherence and faithfulness in light of relevancy and perfection. That is something Christianity is not attempting to achieve.

Living the life Jesus has called us to live makes us quite irrelevant by the world’s standards. The world’s criteria’s are never the measure of our success. In the same way, perfection is not the yardstick by which we are to measure being a good Christian for as St. Paul told the Romans: for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. If the imperfect are to be driven out every church will be empty.

Our true measure is our willingness to mature in faith and to stand up to declare our faith in ways both big and small. Our call is to witness to what is truly relevant: Jesus’ community – the Church – guides us to eternal life. Now that’s really what is relevant for everyone.

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Love as
God loved us.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

We are a busy Church today. As we observe the Sixth Sunday of Easter we also observe the 64th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Joseph Padewski and Mother’s Day.

It may seem to be a difficult challenge. We have to, as a Church, concentrate on Easter. That is our first duty, to proclaim Jesus’ salvation and the promise of His resurrection to the whole world. How do you mix that with the fact that members of the Church are sometimes called to suffer and even die to proclaim this message – something happening right now in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Then couple all that with honoring our Blessed Mother and our moms in a special way.

Certainly, each of these events can stand alone and with deep significance for the Christian faithful. Thankfully, our Lord has already showed us how all this is bound together: This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Jesus told us what we should do, but as opposed to false prophets and made up gods – He walked the walk. He laid down His life for all of us voluntarily. As St. John recounts Jesus saying: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.”

Bishop Padewski lived his vocation and followed in Jesus’ footsteps. He returned to Poland from Albany to serve God’s people in the devastation following World War II. He did not consider his own safety or comfort, but rather followed the commandment of love and walked into the horrors of the communist takeover of Poland. He was arrested, tortured, and killed for his love of God’s people and his faithfulness to Jesus.

The Blessed Virgin is the exemplar of love for Jesus. We not only honor her as our heavenly mother, but also as our example of love and dedication to her Son, Jesus. She sacrificed her heart and life for Him. So too our mothers, the first example of love in our lives. They laid down their lives in a great act of sacrificial love.

All of these themes, all of Christianity, is joined together by love – love of God and for each other – giving all we are for the truth of love.

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Times of challenge
and peace

The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.

Saul has been converted and because of the generosity, friendship, wholeheartedness, and witness of Barnabas is brought into the fold in Jerusalem even though the fellowship still feared him. Saul is welcomed and he sets out with zeal to proclaim the name of Jesus. The Greek Jews, having heard Saul’s witness set out to kill him and the Church spirits him away, back to his hometown of Tarsus.

The first three years since Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit had been both edifying and trying. Judas was replaced. Many believers were added. The faithful witnessed out-in-the-open. They prayed in the Temple, healed, and talked about Jesus to all who would listen. Many were added, and the Church was of one heart and soul and marked by a consistent spirit of harmony, but a price was being paid. The Apostles were hauled into court and they were whipped. Stephen was martyred.

Certainly Saul’s conversion did not end prosecution. Others likely followed in his footsteps. The Greek speaking Jews plot to kill Saul shows the hatred that existed. Yet suddenly the Church was at peace.

Some scholars point out that the Jewish leadership had to take its eyes off the Christians for a while. They were probably having bigger problems with Rome. The Governor wanted to erect a statue to Caesar in the Temple. There could be a thousand other reasons as well.

As in the early Church our faith is tested at times and at other times we find ourselves at peace. Decades ago a faith commitment was seen as a likely part of most people’s lives. Going to church and following the tenants and aims of the Christian faith were ‘normal.’ In the modern age any true witness to the reality of Jesus and commitment to following His commands would be met with laughter and mockery at a minimum. We might find ourselves thought of as old-fashioned and outdated. At the extreme we may lose friends, face ostracism at work, possible termination from jobs or clubs and organizations, and even a court appearance or two. To us these may be fates worse than death.

The common thread we hear today is that Christians must witness publicly to Jesus – to His way. We must do this whether the Church is filled with joyous zeal, is under persecution, or is living in times of peace. In all times the Church will grow in numbers by the commitment and dedication of His disciples (us) to the One who is the only truth and the true vine.

May is here and our thoughts turn to Mary and Mom. They are not mythological creatures or goddesses – but rather true witnesses to commitment and dedication. Let’s pray together and ask Mary’s intercession for our moms while reflecting on what their commitment and dedication say to us.

Our newsletter arrives as warmer days have finally arrived in New York’s Capital District. Get out there, tend to the garden and do not forget about God’s garden – help your spiritual life grow too. Our schedule is jam packed with great events – please join us. We have added a new monthly Holy Mass and Anointing for Healing. The first will be May 18th at 6:15pm. Read more and reflect on what it means to be PNCC, get updates on Church-wide events for this year of regeneration, and check out the summer schedule.

You may view and download a copy of our May 2015 Newsletter right here.

Mothers by Martin Creed

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Asking for
good shepherds

A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.

We pause this Sunday to reflect on Jesus in His role as the Good Shepherd. We can easily identify with what a good shepherd does by looking at Jesus’ words in their cultural context.

Middle eastern cultures understood what good shepherding was all about. It was about feeding the lambs, bringing them to good pasture lands and water, grooming and clipping them, delivering new lambs, leading them and teaching them to stay together, going off after the wandering lost ones, and protecting the sheep in the field and in the fold.

To feed the sheep means to take care of them from the beginning of life. Good shepherds begin the lambs’ introduction to the ways of God, first with the milk of instruction and teaching in God’s way. Then the good shepherds move them to solid food – food for lives lived in righteousness so that the lambs can be fully equipped, able to stand in the day of testing.

Grooming the lambs means good shepherds honestly correct what is wrong and failing in them. Good shepherds must teach lambs discipline and encourage and rebuke them so that they stay true to the Lord and fit for His service.

Delivering the sheep means that good shepherds preach the Gospel so that many are brought to new life – born again and regenerated. Good shepherds must bring many to God’s light so that no darkness can overcome their lives.

The other side of the equation is that good shepherds lead flocks, not just individual sheep. We run into problems when we see Jesus as solely a personal Good Shepherd. True, He is Good Shepherd to us as individuals but not only. Jesus wanted to make sure that we receive all the benefits of being part of His flock, that we be fed, pastured, groomed and trained, that we stay together, that the lost among us be led back, and that we are protected.

To do all this Jesus gave us shepherds who were loyal to His way. We are blessed to have His shepherds among us to this day, who lead us in the pristine Christian faith.

Our bishops and priests maintain the flock and carry out Jesus’ work of shepherding. They further call us to be good shepherds to one another. They ask us to take up the same work of feeding, grooming, and delivering each other. Let us honor the work of our good shepherds and take their and our responsibility seriously.

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One order of fish
for Jesus.

Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

Things were happening fast. The stories of Jesus’ appearances were coming back to the apostles. They had found the tomb empty. The apostles and disciples may have recalled Jesus’ words, that He would be raised on the third day, but could it really be true? Could they really have been traveling, praying, working with, and eating with God’s Son? Then He is standing there.

We can imagine the scene, it must have been almost a panic – disbelief coupled with worry and joy. If He was really there they had been following with and living with God’s Son.

Jesus starts slow, look at Me. I’m really here. Look at My wounds, they are real. Touch me, I am warm, living, the future of glorified humanity in flesh and bone. By the way, I’d like an order of fish. We read of Jesus’ love of fish during the Easter season when He prepares a seaside fish fry for the apostles: Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, When the [apostles] landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

These are great moments and we can imagine being there. What is the deeper meaning of these encounters? Was Jesus just looking for a good order of fish?

We are meant to know that Jesus’ resurrection is a real event. He wasn’t a ghost or a group hallucination. He was there. People saw Him on multiple occasions and in different contexts and settings. These witnesses testified to the reality of their encounter with the risen Jesus.

Jesus’ resurrection tells us that God lives among us and that He shared our life experience – from joy to sorrow, from birth to death to the resurrection we will all experience. He gets us.

Jesus’ resurrection opened His life to us and is our invitation to share in His life. He gave us a very specific model of life we are to follow. We are to live a spiritual and communal life, not an individualistic and earthly one. We are to make His name known, to be His witnesses. We are to cast His nets rather than our own, witness to His reality, and get one more order of fish for Jesus.

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We have true
victory in Jesus.

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Who is the winner? That is a frequent question in our world. It is also a great worry. We see greater and greater disparity between the rich and the poor. We see working people’s wages remaining the same year-after-year while the very few get more and more. Many may feel like David did at his darkest hour. He recounts in Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Jesus knew His followers might feel the world winning, evil overcoming good, especially at His trial and crucifixion. That is why in the hours before His arrest He reclined with them at table and taught them. He said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” He wanted us to share the peace His victory would win.

John echoes the words he heard Jesus speak at the Last Supper telling us that we are now God’s children, begotten and adopted in the blood of Jesus and fellow conquerors by our faith in Him. We have the strongest of affirmations, that no other person is the conqueror of the world but Jesus. We fully share in that victory by faith. No sports star relying solely on his or her physical abilities is a true conqueror; no rich man or woman relying on their skills and abilities in worldly things alone is a true winner. Wealth, wins, being in the 1% is not mark of real victory, only belief that Jesus is the Son of God and trusting in Him as the only source of life, righteousness, and salvation. The world with its allures and false promises for victory has been overcome.

Today, Heather and Alyson make a decision to believe in and trust in Jesus, to be on the winning team, to be victors in Jesus Christ. Because of this decision they will be regenerated, will be born again and made new in the image of Jesus. They will share in His life and by living in a constancy of faith they will overcome death and conquer the world. They, like Thomas, will say before the world that Jesus is their Lord and God and in reply will hear the words Jesus spoke in today’s gospel being applied to them as it is to us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Blessed and victorious!

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There is but one
answer and hope.

On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him.

A quick check of Google, the Internet Search Engine, points to over 534 million websites that discuss the how, where, why, and when of ‘finding the answer.’ Finding the answer is important to us. Now in those 534 million answers about ‘finding the answer’ there is plenty of information about recipes, fixing things around the house, self-improvement, relationships, job strategies, raising children, and planning for retirement among those about faith, the Bible, and Jesus.

We long for answers to many ordinary things. We long even more for the answer and hope that will save us. What is the answer and hope we can rely on? What can we offer those searching?

Mary Magdalene, the Apostles, the disciples on the Road to Emmaus were all seeking answers and hope. The reign of God, the Kingdom seemed to be so close. It was almost in their grasp while Jesus was with them. Now He was gone, dead. What would happen to them? Where should they turn for the answer now? What hope was left?

They had duties to perform before they moved on or went back. The Body of Jesus needed to be anointed. So off the women went. The tomb is empty – and only more questions, no ready answers. Hope remained elusive.

Jesus came to them and made His resurrection apparent. He helped them to understand that He was the one answer and the fulfillment of all hope. By their witness we have inherited that answer and that hope.

The answer and hope all seek is rooted in the glory of this day. He has been raised. In Jesus’ death we have been reconciled with God. Everything that could possibly separate us from God has been removed. No wall, no curtain, no failing can keep us from God. When we fall the answer and hope is in Him. In Jesus’ resurrection we have a new hope. We too shall rise like Him. We will not just come back from the dead to mortal existence. We, like Jesus, will pass beyond death into everlasting life in God. Death has no claim over us. Like Jesus we have entered into an entirely new existence; an immortal existence in Jesus. Our story is no longer birth, life, death, and corruption. It is now birth, life, death and eternal life.

We have the one answer to every question and perfect hope. It is the resurrected Jesus. Christ is risen! Alleluia!

April begins in a few days. This newsletter arrives as we begin our journey into Holy Week. On Easter morning we will be reminded that we have been chosen by God to be witnesses to all His Son said and did. How will we live out that witness?

Our newsletter discusses that question. It also contains information on our Holy Week and Easter schedule, our upcoming Basket Social (only two weeks away), on those great Easter traditions that connect us to our heritage, and so much more. Come and witness to Jesus along with us right here in Schenectady.

You may view and download a copy of our April 2015 Newsletter right here.

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The schedule below notes all services for Passiontide, Holy Week, and Easter. Please join us as we recognize all the God has done for us and rejoice in His victory.

  • 3/29 – Palm Sunday: Blessing and Distribution of Palms and Holy Mass at 9:30am, Holy Mass at 11:30am
  • 3/31 – Holy Tuesday: Clergy Conference and Holy Mass of Chrism, St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Cathedral, Scranton
  • 4/2 – Maundy Thursday: Holy Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Reposition of the Blessed Sacrament, 7pm
  • 4/3 – Good Friday: Church opens at 10am for Cross Walk. Church Open for Private Devotion at 2pm. Lamentations at 3pm, Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified and Opening of the Tomb at 7pm
  • 4/4 – Holy Saturday: Holy Saturday Liturgies – Blessing of new fire, holy water, renewal of baptismal promises, blessing of food, 4pm
  • 4/5 – Solemnity of the Resurrection: Procession and Solemn High Holy Mass, 8am, Holy Mass at 10am. Easter Repast/ Święconka after each Holy Mass.

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