Reflection for the First Sunday of the Passiontide – 2014

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Sometimes I just
cry

When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”

Jesus wept’ at the death of His friend Lazarus. While the most cited passage in scripture of Jesus weeping, it wasn’t the only time He cried. Jesus wept over Jerusalem as He approached the city: “And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it.” Jesus wept in the garden as He prayed before His betrayal: And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zeb’edee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me.” When Jesus was dying on the cross He felt totally abandoned and alone. He cried out to His Father in deepest sadness: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

There are several interpretations concerning Jesus’ weeping.

Jesus’ tears demonstrate that He was indeed a true man, with real bodily functions (tears, sweat, blood). His emotions and reactions were very human. In His humanity Jesus wept for His friend Lazarus.

Jesus tears also demonstrate the sorrow, sympathy, and compassion He felt for all mankind. Jesus’ tears show the rage he felt against the tyranny of death over mankind.

Jesus’ tears at the graveside showed His sympathy and empathy for all who sorrowed over Lazarus’s death. He was one with them in their sorrow.

Jesus may have cried as well at the fact that those around Him, including Martha, Mary, His apostles and disciples, and the Jewish mourners remained blind to the reality of Jesus as the Messiah. He cried in spirit because even those who were closest to him failed to recognize Him as “the resurrection and the life.

We cry for many of the same reasons. We feel hopeless, abandoned, and sorrowful. We feel compassion and empathy for friends, family, co-workers, and others who are sad. We cry in rage over injustice. We feel hurt when we are not recognized. We cry mostly in regret over our failings and sin; the way we fall short of our commitment to the Gospel.

To cry is to pray. When we pray we cry out to God in both our need and our joy. Today we walk through our failings and face our sins with regret and sadness at having hurt God and others. We weep. Jesus sits with us and weeps with us in sympathy. He holds out His hand with the gift of forgiveness – to relieve our sadness so that our tears of regret are transformed to tears of joy at our renewal.


April 2014 Newsletter – Holy Week, Easter, and more

It is April and our newsletter has arrived. It is filled with information on so many holy and exciting events. We start by looking at Low Sunday and what fellowship really means. We invite you to take part in this wonderful and holy season, to connect and enter into fellowship with Jesus and us right here in Schenectady. Lots of other news too including new movies, our Basket Social, and legends. You may view and download a copy right here — April 2014 Newsletter.

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Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Lent 2014

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May my sight
never falter

“We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue.

Jesus cures a man born blind.

Rather than being thankful for this tremendous miracle, the Pharisees argue about the nature of Jesus – is He good or evil. They formed arguments to refute the goodness and holiness of Jesus, to show that He was not from God. They went so far as to summon the man’s parents, hoping they would testify that their son wasn’t really blind, or that this wasn’t their son. They testified that it is their son and he was indeed born blind.

The parents wouldn’t go so far to admit that Jesus had cured their son; they were afraid of losing their social standing.

The Pharisees were trying to disprove what had happened. The parents were trying to avoid what happened. Everyone was closing his or her eyes before the man born blind, a man who could now see.

The man born blind gives solid testimony and states the facts: I was born blind. Jesus made mud, told me to wash, and now I see. Jesus is a prophet. I will not pass judgment on Jesus, as you would have me do. All I know is that I was blind and now I see. Then he stands up and rebukes the blind Pharisees:

“This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”

Their blindness was so deep that they cursed him and threw him out.

We must take care to avoid blindness. We must not harden our hearts and shut our eyes to what is obvious. When we do falter in seeing, we must repent of our blindness.

Our Lenten journey calls us to recognize the blindness in our lives. Is it judgmentalism and legalism – living like the Pharisees and believing that we have all the right answers and everyone else is sinful and wrong? Is it fear, like the man’s parents, such fear that we hold back from bearing witness to God’s truth? Let us call upon Jesus. Jesus who said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see.” Let us ask Jesus for the ability to see and ask for His healing. Let us ask Him for courage and the grace to never falter in seeing rightly.


March 2014 Issue of God’s Field Published

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The latest issue of God’s Field is now available online

Reflect on deepening our year long efforts at prayer and sacrifice, check out the agenda for this Fall’s Holy Synod, and enjoy news from throughout our Church.

Articles for the April issue are being accepted now through April 1, 2014. You may E-mail items and photos or send them to:

God’s Field
Polish National Catholic Church
1006 Pittston Avenue
Scranton, PA 18505


Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Lent – 2014

WeWillBeChanged

He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

The Lord appeared in all His heavenly glory before three chosen Apostles at the Transfiguration.

Just a short time before Jesus had asked His disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist; but others say, Eli’jah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.”

The Church Fathers tell us that the primary purpose of this Transfiguration was to clarify, for them, Who and What He is – God come to earth. It was also to reassure them.

Jesus knew the suffering, pain, humiliation, and disgrace He was about to face. He would be whipped and spit on, nailed naked to a tree in front of the entire city, His mother, brothers, and sisters. And, He would die. If He had not provided this glimpse of heaven, of Himself, His followers would have been completely crushed.

To further strengthen them they heard the voice of the Father – “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Going forth from that mountain Peter and James and John had a lot to think about. So do we.

We know that Peter, after having seen and experienced all this, still denied Jesus. Peter, James, and John would fall asleep in the Garden twice on the night of the Lord’s arrest. None listened very well.

We have the benefit of having the testimony of witnesses to this singular event, and the testimony of these witnesses to all Jesus said and did. We know that His death was not it, but that He would return gloriously resurrected. We have the witness of centuries of holy men and women, the saints, and our own ancestors who found strength, comfort, and power through faith and in and following Jesus. Yet, we too fall and fail. We may not outwardly deny Jesus, but we do fall asleep. We falter in our commitment. We fail to listen.

During this season of repentance and self-denial we are presented with the picture of Jesus in glory – the glory He offers to all of us. As Jesus did with the Apostles, He gives us this moment to strengthen our faith while we work toward the changes we must make in our lives. We are called to stay awake, to listen, to be changed. We clearly see not only His glory, but are helped in understanding that the struggles of today are nothing compared to the glory we will see, and change we will share, in the life to come.


Reflection for the 1st Sunday of Lent – 2014

40Days

With You
we fast and pray

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights

According to the Bible the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishri) is the Day of Atonement. The Jews call it Yom Kippur. In Hebrew Yom means day and Kippur means to pardon. The word atonement carries the meaning to English-speaking people. It means to make amends or to reconcile — to become “at one” with God and each other.

The observance of the Day of Atonement originates with God’s word to Moses:

And The Lord said to Moses, “On the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement; it shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present an offering by fire to The Lord. And you shall do no work on this same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before The Lord your God.”

The Lord commanded the Day of Atonement as a solemn annual observance of the Israelites. It is unique in that it is the only God-commanded Old Testament Holy Day in which fasting was required. The fast was such a strict requirement that anyone who failed to do so would be cut off from the community.

Jesus went into the dessert to fast for forty days – an extraordinary fast – just as Moses and Elijah had done. But, for us, Jesus’ fast clearly conveys something far more important.

The Jews fasted on the Day of Atonement. Yet they would always face another Day of Atonement.

Jesus is the world’s atonement. His sacrifice, once and for all, brought about atonement on our behalf. As such Jesus’ fast was in preparation for His public ministry and His journey to the day of our atonement.

Prepared for this journey, Jesus is immediately tempted. Will He quit and abandon His journey to bring about the day of our atonement, freeing us from the grip of evil and sin? No! He refuses and sends an even stronger message about the consistency of His mission and Who He is: That He would not use His power for His own ends; That He would not gain followers by pointless displays of miraculous power; and that He would not switch sides to gain power and influence.

Jesus fasted and prepared for His journey toward a permanent and forever day of atonement. At one with the community and with His heavenly Father He knew, as St. Paul tells us: just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life [would come] to all.

This Lent let us embrace Jesus’ atonement – fasting and praying, making the corrections needed to come into line with His will.


Reflection for Ash Wednesday 2014

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Brothers and sisters:
We are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.

Is it possible?

How might we go about being reconciled to God?

Being reconciled to God is not something we can accomplish based on our merits. We could stand and pray all day, lead the holiest of lives, give to charity, fast, do good works – yet we would still fall short of the glory of God. St. Paul says this very clearly in his letter to the Romans:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

Even if we spend our entire lives striving for perfection in God’s eyes, we will fall short. We will sin. It may be by anger, or even pride – thinking that we are somehow special and set apart in God’s eyes. Those little evils will creep in. It is our human nature. So then how might we be reconciled to God?

Hope won in Christ

Being reconciled – being redeemed – was accomplished once and for all in the sacrificial death of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ coming and His entire work were focused on the goal of reconciling us. His sacrificial death was the culmination of this reconciliation. Before He died He journeyed through the streets and countryside of Israel and by mighty works, wonders, and signs He showed forth the power of God. In His glorious resurrection He left us the hope, the promise of what we will be.

Yet, as Paul says, we must do something to be reconciled to God. What is it?

Faith

Paul told the Romans that our first step, the key moment in our lives, comes when we make a profession of faith in Jesus. The first, foremost, and most important thing we must do is to be regenerated by a personal proclamation of faith in Jesus, asking Him forgiveness of our sins, and committing our lives to Him.

To show the necessity of faith Paul holds up the example of Abraham. He says: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.Abraham’s act of faith in God was credited to Him as righteousness. If we have any hope for righteousness, for a share in the reconciliation Jesus won for us, we must believe. To be reconciled we must believe – that is what we must do!

Following

From that act of faith we must commit to lives lived in accord with Jesus’ teaching.

Before He died Jesus journeyed through the streets and countryside of Israel – and did not place His focus on simply producing mighty works, wonders, and signs. That would have made Him a side show. Rather His primary mission on the road to Jerusalem was focused on teaching us how we should live, how we should conduct ourselves as His followers. To be reconciled we cannot simply profess faith and then go on living as if we had not been reconciled. To be reconciled means to be changed, to be on a lifelong journey of transformation. As regenerated beings, reconciled beings, we are called to a journey toward lives lived in full accord and unity with Jesus’ way of life.

Lent

Lent, this annual forty day period of renewal, is our moment of renewed reconciliation. If we take these days and this time seriously we will use them to reconcile our day-to-day lives to the faith we once declared. We will use them get back on the journey reconciled persons are to live. We will work toward the reconciled life we promised we would live.

The way of Lent

Our Lenten exercise – our sacrifice is a set of practices that help us to unite ourselves with Jesus. To be like Jesus, to follow His way, and to call to mind all that Jesus experienced and taught, we fast like Jesus, pray as Jesus taught, are generous as Jesus was generous, forgive as Jesus forgave, and remain watchful for His return. 

Lent, taken seriously, trains our way of living and cleanses us of the failures and abuses we committed over the past year. It is our opportunity to show forth our reconciliation. It is our chance to reclaim lives as reconciled beings. In our Lenten practices we work to build lives re-committed to Jesus and thankful for Jesus’ reconciliation.

Do not use this time in vain:

We hear Paul’s call, his proclamation that this is a very acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. This Lent, as every day of our lives, is the day of salvation. Each day of Lent let us be thankful for our reconciliation. Each day we must commit to doing all necessary to stick to our journey as reconciled men and women; a journey toward lives lived in full accord and unity with Jesus’ way of life.

Let us fast, pray, forgive, and be watchful and generous each day. Let us bless the Lord each day for our reconciliation that frees us from guilt (have faith in Jesus’ forgiveness). Let us bless the Lord each day for freedom from fear (nothing has power over us, not even death).

Each day let us acknowledge that we have been chosen by God – the Holy Spirit called us to reconciliation by faith. Each day let us remember that God asks us to use our gifts and abilities to make unique contributions to our faith family. Each day let us be confident that while our sins make us subject to judgment, Jesus’ blood make us worthy and beautiful in the eyes of our heavenly Father.

Let us wake up each day and shun retirement and complacency – each of us in the family of faith is here for God’s reasons. He has called us to work, for a purpose that does not end until the day we die.

Paul reminds us that we must not: receive the grace of God in vain. This Lent is about how we work, journey, and live in accord with the destiny God opened to us when we by faith accepted His reconciliation. What we did and received by faith – reconciliation – we must now live.


Are You Observing Lent in Schenectady?

If you are, come and join with us and we can increase our Lenten prayer, sacrifice, fasting, charity, and forgiveness together.

ash_wednesdayThe season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, March 5th with our Service of Worship at 7:30pm at which ashes will be blessed and distributed. On this day we consciously receive ashes on our heads to symbolize penitence, humility and mortality. The powerful reminder in these ashes calls us into a Lent filled with sacred opportunities to return to a right relationship with Jesus.

We offer the Lenten Devotion of Stations of the Cross every Friday at 7:30pm – a great opportunity to add to your prayer life this Lent.

During Lent our Directed Giving program helps us to focus on sacrifice and charity as we gather food for those in need locally. Bring canned and dry goods each Sunday as an offering for those in need.

We also fast and abstain from meat every Wednesday and Friday in Lent and from Holy Wednesday through Holy Saturday. This practice helps us to remember Jesus’ sacrifice every time we sit down to eat a meal. By this small sacrifice we train with the easy stuff (but it seems so hard) so we can better fight the really tough things that try to draw us away from Jesus.

We hope and pray that you will join with us as we use these 40 very special days to the greatest possible good.


March 2014 Newsletter (almost a full day early)

This month we enter the Lenten season and consider how Jesus stands by us through all the ups and downs of life. We seek to use this walk through Lent to strengthen our faith and reliance on Jesus, on His word, on His grace, and on our family in faith. We invite you to take part in increased prayer, sacrifice, fasting, charity, and forgiveness. We offer you the opportunity to attend Stations of the Cross every Friday at 7:30pm and to take part in our directed giving program. Lots of other news too including the Son of God movie, our raffle winners, and Friend Sunday. You may view and download a copy right here — March 2014 Newsletter.

John 4:13-14.  Life Giving Water


Reflection for Palm Sunday

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Who is that?
It is the Messiah! Hosanna!

And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.”

Scripture tells us that Jesus reacted emotionally to the things He witnessed: When He saw the poor, the hungry, the ill, and people sinning. Scripture says repeatedly that “…He had compassion on them.

There are only two references, however, to Jesus crying, once at the grave of His friend Lazarus along with Mary & Martha. Jesus wept with them. He wept for them. He entered into their grief with compassion and He identified with their sorrow and despair.

This was the 2nd time, as He looked at the city of Jerusalem. He saw the faces, the mass of humanity crowding there and realized the emptiness of their lives. They had not heard the message of peace. They did not understand the purpose of His coming. The people had eyes, but they didn’t see. They had ears, but they didn’t hear. They missed the whole point of the message that God had given to them.

Certainly they waved palm branches, because that is exactly what their great-grandparents had done when the Maccabees overthrew the Syrian oppressors and reestablished worship in the temple. By waving palm branches they were showing that they expected Jesus to be another warlord, another general of the armies one who would lead them to overthrow the Romans. They were saying that they were ready to pick up their swords and shields. They were ready to go to war if He would lead them!

That wasn’t Jesus way. His was the way of love, not of war. The nation of Israel had completely misunderstood Jesus’ mission. He wept over them because these were His chosen people but they did not recognize or understand His as He walked in their midst. They saw His healing as sinister, His words as a challenge to their authority.

Both Matthew & Luke tell us that earlier Jesus had looked down upon the city crying out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

Today, like Jerusalem, we find ourselves in the presence of Jesus. If Jesus sees us as worried about ourselves, our lives and our fixes to every problem, He would have to cry. If Jesus sees people who recognize Him for who He is – The Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, He would rejoice.

What’s all the commotion – here we are, waving branches, because we recognize You Jesus, our Lord and God. Hosanna in the highest!!!