Getting back to
Eden.

Brothers and sisters: Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

We continue in our Lenten series on getting back to Eden.

St. Paul makes Jesus’ mission to the world explicitly clear for the Corinthians. He came to reconcile the world, to eliminate the old and make all things new. This is the practical application of the parable of the Prodigal Son.

The son had taken all of the gifts his father had given him and had wasted them. The father’s work and savings, a lifetime of achievement had been squandered: he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.

The son returns, somewhat penitent, but still in a way self-serving. He is going back to the father to once again take advantage of his generosity – even if as a slave. Yet the father welcomes and forgives.

God knows our selfishness, our sins, our failings, yet through His Son Jesus, He no longer counts this against us. The old paradigm, the old way of doing things has been destroyed. There is a new way of forgiveness, reconciliation and welcome in spite of our sins. “We must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”

How did the sinful son feel? Overwhelmed by his father’s welcome, by the freely given and unconditional love he received, he had to be changed. The selfish motive for returning had been removed by the father’s welcome. The past had been forgotten. No grudge existed. Healing did.

The world of Eden is a world of healing love – sin is completely removed. While we remain in a world marred by sin, we live in the promise of a world without sin. Sin weighs on us not because we expect punishment and retribution, but because God is so very loving. He welcomes us back to the Eden born of His great love. How can we not regret our sin, and pledge to improve our lives, when faced with such a great love?

St. Paul, in reminding us of this great love, tells us that we also have something to give back. We are to become ambassadors of reconciliation, making the promise of Eden known to all we encounter. We are reconciled so we may reconcile.

Total reconciliation with God is not something that exists somewhere in the future. In Jesus, Eden is for today and for all.

Back on the early newsletter streak (thanks to the extra day this leap year).

March and Easter is here. Lent has flown by unexpectedly quickly, and we reflect on the amazingly unexpected things God has done for us. We invite you to join us for the remainder of of our Lenten events, our Seniorate Lenten retreat, and all of our Holy Week observances. There will even be an unexpected surprise Easter Sunday morning (come check it out at 8am).

Also in our newsletter, important news on our annual Basket Social (note the new location), CONVO 2016, and this Special Year Reverence Across our Holy Church.

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

Getting back to
Eden.

“He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”

We continue in our Lenten series on getting back to Eden.

Last week we looked at what life was like in the Garden of Eden before sin: Sinless, an environmental paradise, innocent and without shame or guilt, without violence, cooperative. We reflected on the fact that as citizens of heaven we are fully entitled to that life – the life of Eden. Paradise is our inheritance. We need to stand firm against sin so that we might take possession of Eden. By standing firm, we give others a taste of Eden, an introduction to Jesus, through our witness.

But what happens if our lives are marked by fruitlessness. What if we fail to bear witness and offer that taste of Eden to those we encounter? God had suffered long and hard with the people of the old Israel. They had grown cold, legalistic, and self-centered. Israel was not bearing the fruit of God’s truth. Yet He was patient.

Our human reaction might say “No Fruit? Cut it down.” Jesus’ teaching is different. When His Father comes looking for fruit in us and finds none Jesus steps in. Father, let me keep at them. Let me work at them, ‘fertilize’ them, and see if they bear fruit.

Seeing the love of His Son the Father allows it. I’ll wait yet another year. Perhaps then they will be fruitful?

To get back to Eden, to the perfect garden, we have to bear real fruit. That does not mean we should just produce a few good works, a few grapes or figs every now and then – anyone can throw a few dollars towards charity or can be nice for a day or two. Rather to bear real fruit means we need to change the kind of tree we are. We have to change inside and out. With true conversion of heart and repentance the fruit is produced naturally and without effort as part of Jesus. We are one in heart, mind, body, and soul. The fruits of the Spirit are apparent in us and are produced regularly: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

As we produce ever more abundantly we bring that glimpse of Eden – people find Eden alive in us. They see in us the promise of hope – the beauty and glory that life in Jesus produces. They want part in that Eden. They want to be like we are – a people of promise. We bear the fruit that furthers the Kingdom of God. Eden is within our grasp. The unstated alternative is that God will not tolerate fruitlessness indefinitely. God gives His help so that when we are barren we might turn and bear fruit. He expects a response to His effort. Yes, Lord, make me fruitful.

Getting back to
Eden.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord.

We continue in our Lenten preaching theme – Getting back to Eden.

What was life like in the Garden of Eden before sin? Well it certainly was not like today’s world although if we look closely enough we see the beauty and perfection God meant for the world. When we look past crime, violence, sin, and deprivation we see hints of Eden.

In the first place Eden was sinless. There was no corruption. There was peace – not any peace – but the true peace of God because we walked in unity with God.

Eden was an environmental paradise. There would have been no storms or harmful natural occurrences. Everything was created “very good.” Perfect temperature, perfect humidity, no pests or diseases.

Eden was innocent and without shame or guilt. Relationships were perfect. Adam and Eve enjoyed a relationship with God that was up close and in person. Their mutual relationship had no conflict, jealousy, or disruption. Man and woman was to be “one flesh.” No matter how the world corrupts human sexuality, God created this part of humanity as a beautiful sharing between a man and woman, husband and wife.

There was no violence. The biblical record tells us that both man and animals ate plants, not each other. This would have allowed them to have a peaceful non-violent relationship.

Relationship was cooperative. Adam and Eve worked together to tend the garden, not in toil, but in joy. On the Sabbath, like God, they rested and enjoyed His company and each other’s.

St. Paul tells us that as Jesus’ faithful people we have citizenship in heaven, in paradise, in Eden. Jesus has reopened Eden for us. We can still be held back by sin, have a bit of a hard time getting there, but it is our calling, our destiny. As such, Paul tells us to stand firm, that is, to live and show forth in our lives a preview of what awaits all Christians.

Living the Christian life we get a taste of Eden and bring a little bit more of it back into the world. The better we do the more we enjoy the flavor of God’s perfect life. We show people who are unsure of Jesus the true promise of life in Him – Eden. The new pre-Fall Eden is in our grasp. In Jesus we have been freed from our former guilt and shame, and the new Eden blossoms in our lives anew.

Getting back to
Eden.

What does Scripture say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart —that is, the word of faith that we preach—, for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

This reflection is focused on the scriptures for the First Sunday of Lent and our Lenten preaching theme – Getting back to Eden.

St. Paul is writing to the Church at Rome reminding them that they have word.

The word had been given to them and they committed it, not just to rote memory. Rather, the word became a real and meaningful part of their lives. Their reception of God’s word was life changing.

God’s word was in their hearts and their actions were changed by it. Wherever they went, the word was on their lips and they proclaimed it.

The Church at Rome received the wonderful gift of the word and that word was transformative in their lives. They were changed by it. Their confession of faith – a confession that was through and throughout their lives – saved them. That word, that salvation made such a huge difference that over the next three centuries those at Rome were willing to suffer and die for the word.

Now we’ve used a rather big word here. God’s word was “transformative” to these people. What does that mean? It means they were changed at three essential levels.

The transformative effect of God’s word changed them (1) Psychologically – they had a new understanding of who they were. (2) Convictionally – they were part of a new and powerful belief system. (3) Behaviorally – every part of their lifestyle was changed.

Getting back to Eden starts with the realization that our exile is over. The people of Rome heard that. It changed them. They were cast out and are now being let in. The gates that were closed to them have been opened. That powerful image made real in the Good News – the word – transformed the people of Rome. That powerful word transforms to this day. It has transformed the life of every person who has come to belief in Jesus by faith.

Like the Church at Rome we have received God’s word. We have found faith in Jesus and have pledged our lives to Him. We confess His name and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead. We recognize we are saved and on the road back to Eden. So let us re-double our efforts in making His word active in our daily lives. Let us, like Rome, be mindful of the wonderful gift – the beautiful word – that is ours. Let us strengthen our faith, proclaim it, and allow it to work its transformative effect in our lives.

Back on the early newsletter streak.

February is here and we will quickly transition from Pre-Lent to Lent. As we begin this journey we naturally ask, why increase prayer, sacrifice more, be in church more, extend myself to others more? What will come out of this? Won’t I just end up grumpy? God has a game plan, an end game in mind for us. Lent helps us to reconnect to that plan, to wash ourselves clean of everything that clouds our vision of the Paradise He has promised us and has provided to us through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. Lent is about recapturing Eden.

February – we do Lentopoly and celebrate some really special events. There’s a Confirmation, the Bishop’s attendance at out annual parish meeting on February 14th (want to ask a question, here’s your chance). There is an invitation to a Polish Mardis Gras celebration. Lots of other great stuff too. Also, important news on CONVO 2016 and this Special Year Reverence Across our Holy Church.

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

itretempidimaria

Let us be poured
out for Him.

When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor.” They were infuriated with her. Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me.”

Twelve days after Christmas we celebrate the visit of the Magi, the Kings, the Wise men. They came to pour out their gifts for Jesus – gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. So too they poured out the time (almost a year), effort, and treasure it took to make the journey. Their gifts were poured out with joy in recognition of Jesus’ kingship and were also poured out in preparation for His burial.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, well aware of what was to occur. As He enters the city the people pour out praise. They acclaim Him King, the One who comes in the Name of the Lord.

Today a woman comes and pours out costly perfume for Jesus. Mark notes that she anoints His head. John says she anointed His feet and washed them with her tears. In either case, she pours out her time, treasure, and tears for Jesus. She stands up to ridicule and pours out an embarrassing amount of love for Jesus, her Savior.

In Good Friday’s reading of the Passion we hear of Joseph of Arimathe’a and Nicode’mus who will come, risking their lives before Pilate and those who plotted against Jesus, asking for His body. Nicode’mus pours out a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight.

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry people came to Him. They poured out their sins, needs, troubles and tears. They poured out their expectations and their love. They poured out hatred and mistrust as well. For thousands of years since people have continued to do the same.

For all that humanity has poured out, Jesus came to pour out far more. He did not limit His ministry to what was being poured out to Him, but rather poured Himself out to take all darkness away. Through His pouring out we have been freed. Even what we fear to pour out is taken away. The deepest and darkest recesses of our lives – the places were sin and evil have taken root – Jesus came to take those away. Psalm 116 asks: What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me? Let us pour out faithfulness, love, praise, worship and thanksgiving to Jesus who poured Himself out for us.

What is from
God?

God's free gift

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

Cyrus the Great is counted as the patron who delivered Israel from Babylonian captivity. Cyrus was the king of Persia. He was not Jewish. There is some speculation as to his religion, but as with many civil rulers to this day he believed in whatever may have suited him politically at the moment. So here is this politically savvy ruler who captured Persia, founded the Achaemenid Empire and conquered most of Southwest and Central Asia and the Caucasus. His rule stretched from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Indus River in the east. So why, in the first year of his reign, would he make a decree that the Temple should be rebuilt in Jerusalem and that the Jewish people who wished could return to their land for this purpose? He even allowed the treasures of the Temple, captured by Nebuchadnezzar, to be returned.

We can look at this like many look at faith – with incredulity. A savvy and strong political leader being generous – Who can believe that? Why would he empty his treasury and let these people go? There are all kinds of speculation as to why. Maybe it was a political move, gaining allegiance from all of the people Cyrus had conquered. Maybe he had an affinity for their belief system. Maybe… a thousand reasons.

St. Paul tells us: …by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. Paul tells us that God gives us tremendous gifts specifically so that we might have life. Cyrus is held up as an image of God’s generosity. Cyrus owed Israel absolutely nothing and they could do nothing for him. He had power and control and turns to these people and gives them everything.

The lesson is that God’s generosity is inestimable and unexplainable. God is self-sufficient yet desires to love and care for us He emptied His treasury and sent His only Son to die for us so we might enter into His eternal and heavenly city. What is from God is not power or security, or even health as the world understands those things. It is the gift of faith that is far more generous. By the gift of faith that is from God alone we enter into relationship with Him have life for all of eternity.

faith and worry

Sometimes the test
is almost impossible.

God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” he replied. Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.”

Over recent weeks it seems that the number of troubles among those I know have increased greatly. These aren’t little problems, but those deep, life-shattering types of troubles that some may never experience. How life-shattering it must have been for Abraham, to face having to sacrifice his son.

A preacher was delivering a sermon before a large congregation. He pointed out that believers aren’t exempt from trouble. In fact, some Christians are surrounded by trouble — trouble to the right, trouble to the left, trouble in front, and trouble behind. At this, a man stood up and shouted, ‘Glory to God, it’s always open at the top!’

God’s test of Abraham’s faith was exactly about that. We can imagine that in walking to Mount Moriah, with his son carrying the wood that he would be sacrificed on, Abraham was in tears. His heart was breaking, the knife at his side weighed heavy, and his soul was crying out to God. He climbed the hills where Jerusalem would later stand, where the sacrificial fires of the Temple would be built, the place where Jesus would take up the wood of the cross (as Isaac carried the wood for his sacrifice). He was surrounded on every side, front and back, and could not help but look up.

What happened when Abraham and Isaac arrived at God’s designated site of sacrifice? …the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God.” The response to Abraham’s troubles came from on high, from the top, from heaven.

Here’s the real test. Can we trust God enough to look up when those life-shattering troubles come? Can we place our reliance on Him? St. James noted: Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Troubles will either break us down, seem impossible, and cause us to look down or they will teach us to persevere and look up to heaven. The promise is that our perseverance, our looking up, will be rewarded and that we will lack for nothing particularly in eternity. We should repeat with the Psalmist: From whence does my help come? and answer: My help comes from the LORD.

lent-inviteLenten Retreats in parishes and Seniorates all over the country and Canada are scheduled for this season. The retreats are only one of eight initiatives set forward by this past national Synod for “each and every parishioner to play a role in bringing about a renewed and active spiritual life in the parishes and in the entire Church” as Prime Bishop Anthony wrote in January’s God’s Field. Our Mohawk Valley Seniorate will conduct its Lenten Retreat on Saturday, March 7th at at All Saints Parish, 801 Hickory Street, Rome, NY from 10am to 2:30pm. All our parishioners are invited to participate in this national and international effort for a program built around the theme: Return to Me with Your Whole Heart. There is no charge for this spiritual exercise.

The program outline for this day of reflection and recollection is given here:

Adult Program:

  • 10:00 – Welcome! Presentation in the Temple – The Mission of the Church, Fr Sr. Marian Pociecha
  • 10:30 – Coffee break
  • 11:00 – Penitential Service, The Sacrament of Penance will be administrated in the end and private confession will also be available, Fr. Mark Gnidzinski
  • 12:00 – Lunch served by All Saints Parish
  • 1:00 – Concelebrated Holy Mass, Fr. Sr. Walter Madej – Homilist
  • 2:30-3:00 – Quick Seniorate Meeting (Calendar for 2015 in Mohawk Valley Seniorate)

For Children and Youth:

  • 10:00-12:00 Program for children will be running in parish hall and office if necessary, Fr. Rafal Dadello and Fr. Jim Konicki
  • 11:00 – Children who have already received their First Holy Communion will join the adults for the Penitential Service, younger children will remain in the hall
  • 12:00 – Lunch
  • 1:00 – Holy Mass (those who are altar servers in their parishes, please bring your liturgical vestments)