Reflection for the 7th Sunday of Easter 2014

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Pray, do
accomplish

I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you

In the New Testament, Chapters 14-17 of John’s Gospel is known as the Farewell Discourse given by Jesus to His apostles immediately after the conclusion of the Last Supper.

In the final part of the discourse, which we proclaim today, Jesus prays for His glorification, for His followers and for the coming Church. It is known as the High Priestly Prayer. In this prayer Jesus submits five specific petitions to the Father. The five petitions are: Verses 1-5: Petition for His glorification based on the completion of his work; Verses 6-10: Petitions for his disciples; Verses 11-19: Petition for the preservation and sanctification of “his own” in the world; Verses 20-23: Petition for unity of “his own”; and Verses 24-26: Petition for the union of “his own” with Himself.

The prayer begins with Jesus’ petition for his glorification by the Father: I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you… Note that Jesus is not just asking that His Father glorify Him ‘just because,’ but rather because He has was has fulfilled the work the Father had sent Him to accomplish. Not just that, but He was moving toward the moment when that work would be completely accomplished in His passion and death.

Jesus sets the standard by which Christian life is to be lived. We are to seek only to do the will of God, to follow Jesus’ teaching and the path of life He gave us. We are to do God’s will in all things, whether it is easy or very difficult. Whether we feel great, or are suffering.

The world would tell us to run to sinful false gods and false saviors for comfort, especially when the road gets rough. The world wants to bury us in its false hopes, to bury us in the false saviors of food, sex, possessions, alcohol, bitterness, and self-loathing, hopelessness, and depression. If we live our baptismal commitment, if we fully realize that we have been buried into Christ’s death, death to the world, our living will be marked by continuously approaching God in prayer and doing all that is necessary to show accomplishment – a resume of doing God’s will.

Jesus then prays for the success of the work of His disciples – all of us. Jesus refers to us as the people who accept that He was sent by His Father to reveal the Father’s character and will. Jesus prays for us so that we might live in God with the very same love, affection, and glory that exist between the Father and Son. He prays that the Father accomplish this unity by keeping us steadfast in our baptismal relationship, persevering in faithfulness to accomplish God’s will.


Reflection for the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord 2014

ascension7St. Paul wrote to the early Christians in Galatia: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) This is not mere sentiment or piety, but is reality because of what has occurred through the “Paschal Mystery,” the saving Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We live differently now because we have accepted baptism into Christ’s death so we may rise and ascend with Him.

Living, abiding in Christ, is to be our daily reality. Christians are to live differently right now because we live in Jesus. We are to love differently now because we love in Jesus. We are to “be” different because our being is defined by Jesus.

On this Great Solemnity of the Ascension, and each day, we should ask ourselves this question: “How are we doing?” This Solemnity presents us an opportunity to assess the relationship between our baptism, our profession of faith, and its manifestation in our daily lives. Are we living now in an eschatological way – ready for the last day? If we are living in a committed way we are prepared for Jesus’ return, for as Acts 1 recounts, the angel told those gathered on Mount Olivet: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

Our work of becoming one in life with Jesus will not be complete until the One who ascended returns and hands the re-created cosmos back to the Father. That is the promise of God and our urgent expectation. Come Lord Jesus!


Reflection for the 6th Sunday of Easter 2014

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Let us see who
has given witness

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.

Philip was one of the first seven deacons of the Church. The proto-martyr Stephen had just been executed by stoning (Acts 7). Saul and his men were going house-to-house, dragging out Christians and bringing them to trial, throwing them in prison, and killing them. By Acts 12 we see James the brother of John killed by Herod. The Church historian Eusebius tells us that James the Just, the Apostle and so-called Brother of the Lord was placed on the pinnacle of the temple, thrown down, then clubbed and stoned – for he would not forsake the Lord.

Leading him into their midst they demanded of him that he should renounce faith in Christ in the presence of all the people. But, contrary to the opinion of all, with a clear voice, and with greater boldness than they had anticipated, he spoke out before the whole multitude and confessed that our Savior and Lord Jesus is the Son of God. But they were unable to bear longer the testimony of the man… they slew him.

Philip was among those scattered in the first major persecution of the Church. Being scattered did not prevent him, or any of these others, from witnessing to the faith. Each of those we read about, and the countless number of Christians whose names we will never know, proclaimed the word and kept the faith in good times and bad.

This proclamation of the word and witness were not an accident. It was prompted by faith in the promises of Jesus. These witnesses lived in the Spirit Who had filled them with His gifts and strengthened them for the task.

Jesus promised those who would be baptized, who would come to Him in faith, would never be left orphans: And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always. They would always have what is necessary to witness.

The Spirit has drawn men and women – and us – to give witness. Thus, while the Church may have been scattered in persecution (persecution that still exists in many places to this day) witness has never ceased.

As we reflect this weekend on those who have given their lives in witness to national freedom, let us also reflect on those who are giving witness to the truth that surpasses country and nation. Whether we live in relative safety or are among the persecuted – are we giving witness to the truth? Let us abide in the Spirit and ask that He give us the courage to give testimony always and everywhere.


Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Easter 2014

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Find and offer men
who love and are wise

“Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty.”

The early Church was experiencing a need. It was growing rapidly; the disciples were increasing in number. That’s not a bad problem to have! The apostles were spreading the word. The twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said,”It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God.” They were devoting themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word, but needed helpers. There are important lessons for our parish and the wider Church in this passage from Acts.

The number of disciples grew because the apostles were devoted to prayer and preaching of the word. Certainly our bishops and clergy pray and devote themselves to preaching the word, but we too must pray as Jesus’ disciples. We honor our call to pray for growth in the Church by collectively raising our voices for that blessing each week and in a special way on the first Sunday of each month. We should do so at home as well, spending even less than a minute in simple prayer – Lord, increase Your flock here and throughout the world.

We also pray for an increase in vocations so that the word may be solemnly proclaimed and taught. But, we too must proclaim and teach the word by living as Jesus asked AND attributing our way of living to Jesus.

Next we see that whenever problems arise we must not turn to ourselves and perpetuate the problem. Rather, we are to go to the apostles and seek their guidance. Then we are to act on their guidance trusting that the Holy Spirit guides the apostles.

The successors to the apostles, the bishops, turn to us and ask that we pick men from among our company who are reputable and filled with the Spirit and wisdom. Those who are to serve the church, spread the word, and baptize are to come from the people – and we are to make sure they have good reputations and are filled with the Spirit. It is significant in our democratic tradition of Church we find and offer men who are reputable and filled with the Spirit and wisdom to serve us. We then present them before the bishops of our Church who like the apostles lay their hands on them in the sacrament of Orders by which they receive the special grace of God and gift of the Holy Spirit.

As we pray and witness, as we trust in the Church, we fulfill our duty to raise men to fulfill these roles. They are among us every week, strong men, reputable, wise, and filled with the Spirit. Their love and wisdom model for us belief in and loyalty to the One who is “the way and the truth and the life.”


Reflection for Good Shepherd Sunday 2014

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Recognize the right
Shepherd

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

Jesus begins talking about sheep, shepherds, and gates with a scene from everyday life. In Jewish villages each family owned a couple of sheep for personal use. The animals stay at night in the courtyard of the family’s house. Families in the village agree as to who will shepherd their combined flock. In the morning this shepherd goes down the street to gather the sheep. The person at the door recognizes the shepherd and opens the gate for the sheep to pass through. The shepherd has a distinct call or whistle, which the sheep recognize and follow.

We too live as a single village, a family; the family of Jesus called the Holy Church. We are God’s single flock composed sheep gathered from the courtyards of various homes. The doorkeepers in our homes are our faithful parents, particularly our mothers who were our gatekeepers. They stood watch over the gate of the home. They recognized what was best for us, what was safest, what would lead us to salvation and life. So, they opened the doors of the their homes to the Good Shepherd. They took action to recognize Jesus as the Good Shepherd, as the One who would shepherd their little flock, their children to salvation and life.

The One to Whom our mothers gave authorization, Jesus, enters into our lives in the proper fashion, through the gate. We recognize Him and He leads us to salvation and life while those without authorization, the false prophets, only have “the voice of strangers.” These forces of media, politics, celebrity, and peer group are not really powerful at all, but constantly try to draw us to ideas and aspirations that are contrary to those of our Shepherd. They want to lead us to separation, loneliness, fear, fading vanity, and death. They do not have the good of the sheep, our good, in mind but rather selfish ends of their own.

Our parents, our mothers who guard the fold, recognized the Good Shepherd. His entry into our lives was natural, out in the open, without forcing. Such has been Jesus’ entrance into this world and amongst his own people. He has come in the appropriate manner, having been sent by the Father to bring us life that is faithful, loving, dependable, and gentle.

What has been shown to us, taught to us, starting with our mothers, is the manner by which we recognize the Good Shepherd. In recognizing Him we find salvation and life.


Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Easter – 2014

Jesus Is the Subject of the Whole Bible

Everything points to
Jesus!

And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.

Some people misinterpret this scripture to say ‘everything in scripture points to Jesus.’

This is one of those statements that teachers tell us to watch out for in tests. Almost never choose the answer that contains absolutes like all, everything, always, and never.

Of course all that is in Holy Scripture is not a direct reference to Jesus. The Old Testament is in fact the history of Israel as it journeyed in and out of its relationship with God. It contains the bravery and failings of men and women.

Scripture shows bravery when these men and women followed God’s commands, not just by doing those things God commanded but by truly living them out every day from their hearts. The prophet Jeremiah declared to Israel: Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart. Hosea declared: For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. God wanted more than circumcision and burnt offerings. He wanted and wants true faith and trust.

Scripture shows the failure of these men and women when they abandoned God’s way and did not trust in His protection. They followed other gods and sold themselves to other kings.

What points to Jesus is God’s call to faithfulness, to true love and belief, to the circumcision of hearts – hearts dedicated to God, and sacrifice that foreshadows the one true everlasting sacrifice of Jesus Christ that redeemed the world.

God’s entire action in the Old Testament, His entire action throughout history and into our lives, is a singular action that shows forth His saving power. God brought His saving action to completion in time with Jesus’ sacrificial suffering and death. That saving action is fully available to us.

Through Christ, God reestablished a right relationship with all things – the perfect harmony of relationship between God and man that existed at the foundation of the world. Jesus showed His followers that scripture is the path and pointer toward His redemption.

What is true is that the gift of faith quickens our hearts and minds to believe, to understand, to worship, and be thankful for the absolute truth of what Good Friday and Easter mean for us.


May 2014 Newsletter – The Easter Season, Mom, and more…

It is May and our newsletter has arrived. It is filled with information on so many holy and exciting events as we continue to celebrate the fifty days of Easter. We start by visiting the upper room and study the witness of those who were there, including Mary, the mother of Jesus. We invite you to stand with your family in faith as we celebrate mom and worship together right here in Schenectady. You may view and download a copy right here — May 2014 Newsletter.

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Reflection for Low Sunday 2014

Remove Doubt

Jesus, help me to
see!

Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Jesus is here; right now saying, “Peace be with you.”

The world challenges our faith constantly. As we discussed on Easter, the guards at the tomb had a choice. Would they declare the truth or take the bribe and ignore what really happened? We can imagine that having seen what had happened, taking the bribe was not going to be quite satisfactory. Truth has a way of pushing against our consciences – prompting us to moments where we cannot be peaceful.

Jesus is the reality of heavenly perfection, grace, and truth intersecting with earth. In saying, “Peace be with you.” Jesus is giving a blessing, reassurance, and an instruction to His followers.

The blessing of peace is not a blessing that protects us from all earthly harm or sadness – after all, the apostles all faced struggles, imprisonment, and almost all were martyred for the faith. Jesus’ peace overcame the apostles’ post-crucifixion sadness and remained with them. For us, His blessing of peace surpasses understanding. It is greater than anything we might face. His peace is given to us and is something we own; it is ours forever. His peace is constant and remains with us regardless of what we have faced, have done, will face, or will do. Not even the very depths of pain and sadness can overcome His peace if we believe.

Jesus’ peace is reassuring. The apostles did some pretty horrible things – they abandoned Him, denied Him, were unsure of Him, and may have very well lost all faith in Him. They sit in a locked room, afraid. His peace is their reassurance of forgiveness. We sin in big and small ways – yet Jesus is always prepared to welcome us back and impart His peace if we believe.

The instruction is that His peace will be with us if we acknowledge the truth – the truth of that intersection between heaven and earth. The truth that God sacrificed His Son for us and because of His obedience raised Him from the dead. The truth that, by an act of faith, those regenerated in the waters of baptism were buried with Christ so that they may rise with Him.

When we are faced with challenges, when we fail in sin and error, when we are confronted by the doubt and denial so active in the world, let us recognize the gift of peace Jesus gave us. If we, like the guards, do not feel peaceful then something is wrong in our belief and how we see. Let us “not be unbelieving, but believe” and have His peace.


Reflection for the Solemnity of the Resurrection

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They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.”

Scripture goes on to tell us:

Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others… but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.

The disciples we incredulous at news of Jesus being risen, and much of the world is incredulous to this day.

If we look at Jesus with human reasoning alone we can make a very strong case that all of this is too incredible to believe.

We do not have the benefit of being among the women who entered the empty tomb, who had the advantage of an explanation from dazzling angels. We do not have the benefit of being in the company of Peter and John as they ran to find an empty tomb. We do not have the privilege of walking along the road to Emmaus with Jesus and having Him reveal Himself in the breaking of the bread. Yet we have the eyes of faith.

Here we are, looking at an empty tomb and hearing the words of the resurrection proclaimed and sung. Here we are, having rushed to church this morning to see the empty tomb. Here we are, to share in the breaking of the bread, and to recognize the reality of the Lord among us.

We aren’t incredulous. We are here, this morning for two important reasons. The first is that we have received the gift of faith. The second is that we continue live, see, and respond because of faith that He is truly risen.

We value the gift of faith – faith in a God that loves us enough that He would sacrifice His Son’s life so that we might have eternal life. Faith that this Christ was more than a prophet, more than a wise man, more than good teacher, but God Himself that came among us, died for us, and because of His obedience to the Father was raised again – showing us our glorious destiny.

Many cannot believe it. If they hear, ‘Christ is risen!’ they respond, ‘No way!’ They remain incredulous. Our faith is foolishness to them.

For us, a people living in faith, the ancient greeting of Easter, the greeting we proclaim to each other is Christ is risen! to which we all reply, He is truly risen!


Join us for Holy Week and Easter in Schenectady

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Please come and join us during Holy Week and Easter. Jesus looks forward to our company during Holy Week as we commemorate His passion and death for us. Having stood by Him through these trials we hold unto the promise that we will rise again with Him.

The schedule below notes all services for Passiontide, Holy Week, and Easter. Please remember that Holy Week is a week of fasting.

  • 4/13 – Palm Sunday: Blessing and Distribution of Palms. Service of Worship and Holy Communion, 9:30am
  • 4/15 – Holy Tuesday: Clergy Conference and Holy Mass of Chrism, St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Cathedral, Scranton
  • 4/17 – Maundy Thursday: Holy Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Reposition of the Blessed Sacrament, 7pm
  • 4/18 – Good Friday: Good Friday Cross-walk at 10am. Church opens at noon for private devotions. Services at 1pm (Stations), 2pm (Lamentations), and 3pm (Opening of the Tomb), Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified at 7pm
  • 4/19 – Holy Saturday: Holy Saturday Liturgies – Blessing of new fire, holy water, renewal of baptismal promises, blessing of Easter baskets and food, 4pm
  • 4/20 – Solemnity of the Resurrection (Easter): Procession and Solemn High Holy Mass, 8am, Service at 10:30 Free Lunch on Sunday/Easter Breakfast 10:30am