Relationship
changed!

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.

Click on the attached Master Schedule of Summer Meals sites in Schenectady and a Schedule of sites by neighborhood. For the site nearest you, please call United Way’s 2-1-1 or text FOOD to 877-877.

Sites in Mont Pleasant include:

  • Faith Deliverance Tabernacle, 1028 Ostrander Place, 6/27-8/12, 12:15-1:30
  • Mont Pleasant Library—Mobile Site*, 1026 Crane Street, 6/27-9/2, 2:10-2:30
  • New Day Christian Empowerment Center, 1259 Chrisler Avenue, 6/27-9/2, 12:30-1:45
  • Orchard Park—Mobile Site*, 733 Orchard Street, 6/27-9/2, 1:45-2:00
  • Quackenbush Park, Forest Road, 7/5-8/19, 11:45-1:00
  • Wallingford Park, Congress & 5th Street, 6/27-8/26, 12:45-2:00

*Look for the SICM Mobile Meals Truck

All children of one
God and model.

Brothers and sisters: Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s children, heirs according to the promise.

This beautiful text from Paul’s letter to the Church at Galatia calls to the forefront the new model we live in Jesus. It reminds us that we are changed and have become children of One God and Father when we have clothed ourselves in Christ.

In putting on Jesus in baptism we take on the new man, the new person. We take up a privileged position with and in Christ. In fact this new union is Paul’s main emphasis in each verse By faith in Christ Jesus, and being baptized into Christ… we are clothed… with Christ, one in Christ Jesus, and belong to Christ. Since Jesus is the Son of God, all who by faith are in Christ are now also sons of God; co-heirs in Him to heaven’s promise and all being children of One Father.

The positive privileges of union with Christ far outweigh and greatly surpass the old set of relationships under the old Law, Jews were the children of God and Gentiles were sinners. But now we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

This must have been a shocking declaration for a Jew to hear. In Jewish literature, “sons of God” was a title of highest honor, used only for the members of righteous Israel, destined to inherit the blessings promised at the end of time. But now all are called “sons of God.” All are equal. All have the same privilege and rank under One Father.

The wonderful day we gained heaven was the day we came to Him, as Paul tells us: through faith and baptism in Christ Jesus. Let us think kindly on that day for in it we were blessed to grab hold of our Heavenly Father, we clung to Him and felt His loving embrace as our Father.

As baptism pictures the initial union with Christ by faith, being clothed with Christ portrays our participation in the moral perfection of Christ. The title sons of God and the two ceremonies of baptism and being clothed with Christ point to the reality of our new relationship with God. We are literally changed and our way of living is opened to perfection. Our new relationship with our Father results in a new relationship with one another.

As we reflect on this Father’s Day, let us think of that man, or those men, in our lives brought us to our Heavenly Father, who gave us the privilege of not just being sons and daughters of men, but true children of God.

Still on the early newsletter streak – one day early once again.

Be satisfied with what you have.” Our moms didn’t want us to be jealous or covetous of others. Instead they wanted to focus us on our blessings – what we have – and most especially on all that God has done and has in store for us. Good lessons for life of course given out of love. Don’t chase after empty things – focus on what is really important: faith in God Who brings all things to perfection. With Him we have family, community, true knowledge, and our work is blessed even if the world doesn’t see it. The explicit promise in our being “satisfied with what you have” is God’s provision for us. God will reach to the last grain of sand and the remotest star to bless us. I will never run away from you He promises. During this month we consider the depth of God’s provision. Even if the entire world has abandoned us, even if our mom were to reject us, God remains at our side.

Also in our newsletter, great thanks for support of our annual Basket Social, reflections and family prayers for the Year of Reverence, Mother’s Day and a very full month of activities. Check out our Holy Mass for healing, bible study, and so much more…

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

Our ever popular Basket Social, back for the 14th year in a row, will be held on Sunday, April 17th starting at noon at a new location, The Rotterdam Senior Citizen’s Center, 2639 Hamburg St., Rotterdam, NY.

Along with a slew of baskets and door prizes we will feature our great Polish Kitchen. All are welcome and we look forward to seeing you and serving you.

2016 Basket Social April 17

Being a joyful and
holy family

Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.

Today we honor the Holy Family, but what do we mean by that?

In recent years we see more and more representations of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. While these are lovely and heartwarming, they can present a false image, a misrepresentation of the true relationship between Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As Christians we must maintain true and orthodox teaching about that relationship. How should we understand that relationship?

In portraying Jesus we often see Him as a Child alone with His Mother. This stresses the teaching that Jesus is “a Son without a father, Who was begotten of the Father without a mother before the ages.”

Traditionally, Jesus is never portrayed alone with Saint Joseph or with Joseph and Mary as a pair of parents. Joseph’s fatherly role is not understood as some sort of head of the ‘Holy Family;’ rather, he is seen as the Providentially provided guardian of Mary and her Divine Child. His humble acceptance and virtuous fulfillment of this role holds a very special lesson and example for us.

What we learn from this is that the Christian life is a family life with family love and caring not defined by blood but by unity in Jesus. As Mary and Joseph were bound in a new kind of love by the coming of Jesus, so each of us is to be bound to our fellow Christians in this new love.

St. Paul reminds us that this new way of life is to be filled with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, and over all these love. What a way to live!

So what we mean by ‘Holy Family’ is that God has created a new model of relationship. The definition of family has grown. Of course family includes our natural family and the model God has ordained since creation. It also includes, since Jesus’ coming, a changed and expanded order of nature. Family is caring not just by blood, but also by unity in faith in Jesus.

As we celebrate this Holy day and our calling to be one family in Jesus let us resolve to be faithful to this great family. Let us encounter one another as St. Paul says we should. Let us remind ourselves of the true joy to be found in family.

The on-time (sorry, but not early) newsletter streak continues.

January – a time of new beginnings. What better way to start the new year than with circumcision? St. Paul told us that works like circumcision in the flesh are meaningless. What is required is a true dedication – a circumcision of the heart. We get there by faith. We cannot do things for God or achieve heaven by works, but we can dedicate ourselves by faith, and from that flows great deeds born out of joy and heaven.

January – the midst of the Christmas season. Tons of events and a real quick turn-around into the pre-Lenten season. It is going to fly by. Get updates on the work of the Church’s Future Direction Committee. Read about a new year dedicated to reverence, and a local theme focused on joy. Important information on our Church’s democratic process (yes, we really do need your help to keep it alive) is included too. Read up and remember – be joy filled in Jesus.

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

The on-time/early newsletter record goes on… Well sort of, posted here a few days later but delivered in church on the 29th.

December – that time for going to church for Christmas. St. Paul told us that through the Church something amazing will happen in our lives. Going to church is great,but becoming through Church is so much more. Check it out.

December continues our Advent journey of preparation and expectation. Tons of news on so many great events (2 dinners, Christmas preparation, St. Nicholas, Parish Committee nominations – get your name in. Get clued in by reading through the newsletter.

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

What if things aren’t
so great?

And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.

Today our Holy Church celebrates another of its unique Solemnities – that of the Christian Family. Many pastors will speak today about the unique and beautiful ideal that is the Christian family. This is certainly the model we should be pursuing. We have the example of the Holy Family as our model – Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

In the gospels we read of all the wonderful things that emerge from the blessings of family. Mary came to the assistance of her kinswoman Elizabeth when she was expecting. Joseph protected his family when Herod sent his army to kill them. John proclaimed the coming of His cousin, Jesus. This is certainly the kind of mutual support and overall family goodness we strive for, we hope to find in our lives. But what happens when things go wrong, when our lives don’t exactly match up to the ideal?

The Holy Family faced one of those moments. Jesus went missing. Things weren’t going according to plan. He couldn’t be found. He wasn’t with family and friends. Some Biblical scholars and historians estimate the festival crowds in Jerusalem at about 3 million people. A boy of twelve was somewhere among 3 million people… Scary stuff.

Our lives are filled with scary stuff. When those moments come – abuse, divorce, addiction, poverty, homelessness, infertility, infidelity, and so many other struggles – and we think about the Christian family – we feel that God must have turned His back on us. We are abandoned and alone. We can’t possibly live up to the ideal.

God didn’t abandon Mary and Joseph in their moment of fear. He didn’t abandon His Son in the midst of 3 million people. God has not and will not abandon us. Remember, we are worth so much that He offered up His Son’s life for us. When problems center down on us we have one stronghold we can rely on. It is one stronghold with two aspects. The first aspect is that the Father has adopted us all. We are brothers and sisters to Jesus. We have the Holy Spirit with us to strengthen and uphold us – God who gives us life and complete love. The other aspect of our Father’s provision is the Holy Church and each local parish. This is the Body of Christ in all its reality – brokenness striving to heavenly glory. Mutual love and support so that we may assist each other as one family when things aren’t great.

Seeking to be
justified.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

After the lawyer gave Jesus the correct answer on the Law of Love Jesus was well pleased. Wouldn’t it be great to hear God say to us: “You have answered right?”

The lawyer goes on to ask Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” The layer was seeking to justify himself – in other words to see if Jesus would say that his way of life was the correct path, that he had done rightly not just in words, but in his life.

It is easy to give Jesus the right words. We can do this every Sunday in prayer and worship. We can do it in talking to others. But words are not enough. The lawyer knew this much.

In the lawyer’s mind he thought he knew the answer – my neighbor is my people – the Israelites were his only neighbors – and he expected that Jesus would confirm his opinion.

Jesus goes into the great Parable of the Good Samaritan. The lawyer would have recognized his neighbors as the priest and the Levite, but something went wrong. They didn’t follow through on the Law of Love toward their fellow Israelite. They walked on. Then this non- Israelite did something amazing, he lived out the Law of Love.

Could the lawyer possibly be justified if he did not believe and act similarly? The lawyer could walk away thinking that Jesus was completely off base, but wouldn’t he have to wonder? Was he truly justified if he wouldn’t live and act as the Samaritan had acted?

We have two challenges. The first is to consider our instinct. How do we feel about the lawyer, the priest, and the Levite at a gut level? Of course we’re on the side of Jesus and the Samaritan – but what about them? They are easy to dislike. Maybe they are not quite enemies, but not our kind of people? The challenge is to see them with eyes, hearts, minds, strength, and soul as our brothers. We are to love them and forgive their failings as Jesus would.

The second challenge is to move beyond just saying words of love – to extend the totality of our love – a love with eyes, hearts, minds, strength, and soul – to everyone. Then we will truly be justified and live-forever hearing Jesus say – “You have answered right?”