wineskin

Time to get a new
shirt.

And Jesus said to them, “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.”

At the marriage in Cana the old wine ran out. The old wine was made with human effort, over a period of many years – but it could not meet the need – it ran out. This is a parable of life under the old way of doing things. The old wine runs out; no longer satisfies or is sufficient. The Lord has come to give us new wine, new life. He stands ready to fill us with His new wine.

Jesus came bringing a very powerful message. He promised us spiritual gifts that go beyond everyday life experience. He offers us freedom from sin and a law that drew heavy penalties for sin – chiefly the penalty of death. Instead He tells us that He has paid the price once and for all. He promises us immortality, a future life liberated from death, sickness, disease, poverty, and isolation. He lets us know that no matter, there is a future for each of us. He gave more than a bunch of promises; instead He made co-heirs and true children of God, His brothers and sisters. We have power that goes beyond this world. This is His new wine.

This powerful message does not work on those beholden to the old ways. In fact it causes them to burst in anger and retribution (old wineskins). Old wineskins are hard and unyielding.

We must be those new wineskins, ready to receive the Lord’s new wine. We must be people of His new way.

In the same way, Jesus draws the parallel to patching a garment. You cannot sew unshrunken cloth to a torn old garment; it will only make the tear worse. Jesus wants to clothe us with an entirely new garment of salvation, our baptismal robes. People beholden to old ways don’t want to change their old shrunken and torn ways for new ones. We, on the other hand, have to be ready to receive Jesus’ new ways – His garment.

As we come to the close of our Pre-Lenten season we have to ask ourselves whether we are ready to enter into the Great Lent ahead. It is not just being ready to give up chocolate, or meat, or acting angry toward a rude driver, but ready to be new wineskins – flexible and open to receiving Jesus’ new wine – His message. Will we allow ourselves to be filled, changed, and molded by Him? Are we ready to put on new clothes? With commitment to following Jesus and living His way we will hold Him and wear Him into life everlasting.

20986_Bible_Story_Illustrations

Thankfully, God is
forgetful.

“Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! But you have burdened me with your sins, you have wearied me with your iniquities. I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

In today’s reading from Isaiah we hear God complaining a bit. After all of the history between Him and His people, they still forgot to call upon Him in their need. In fact they had forgotten all He had done. In forgetting, they turned away from Him and decided to rely on themselves. They basically said – I can figure it out for myself, I can save myself. Every time God blessed them with good things, they returned evil things:

God gave them the Temple – they gave Him idol worship. God gave them truth – they lived and proclaimed a lie. God gave them His commands – they lived like they were suggestions. God gave them wealth – they used it to abuse the poor. God gave them Himself – they gave Him nothing except rejection.

We can see ourselves doing similar things can’t we? We sometimes forget all the good God has done for us.
Like the children of Israel we might hear God complaining a bit about us. At the same time we may be filled with regret for having hurt Him, thinking that we really do not deserve to receive anything from God. Not true!

As God still loved Israel, God still loves us. As God desired to help Israel, He earnestly wants to help us change. Listen to God’s words: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

God desires to do amazing and wonderful things for us. Things we ourselves could never imagine doing. Our God is not a god of condemnation; He is the God of salvation.

God continues to hold out the hand of hope – even today. If we have forgotten Him, we can come back. If we have fallen into bad habits, addiction, anger, any failing whatsoever, we can come back.

The greatest hope of all is that once we come back God has pledged to forget it all. God will not look back. I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

To blot out means that our past wrongs have been wiped out, destroyed, and are forgotten. God will not meet us with a book filled with our sins, because there is no such book. By His power and abundant mercy He gives us new life, rebirth, and a clean slate. Let us approach the coming season of repentance knowing that in our return to Him we are made new once again.

quarantine

Picking at
scabs.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy, he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests among his descendants. If the man is leprous and unclean, the priest shall declare him unclean by reason of the sore on his head. The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

We don’t often hear of quarantines anymore. Quarantines are used to separate and restrict the movement of people; it is enforced isolation. Quarantines were used quite a bit in the past in connection to disease and illness, especially communicable disease. Quarantines were used during the plague, to prevent the spread of leprosy, yellow fever, cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, and smallpox. More recently for Ebola and influenza.

The text we read from Leviticus serves two purposes.

The Law was meant to protect the people of Israel against the disease of leprosy at its most practical level. People who were sick had specific rules to follow so others wouldn’t get sick.

The text symbolically points out that the things that are unclean and sinful, including sinful people, should be kept apart from God’s people. God’s people were set apart as pure and holy and as such needed to avoid the infection of sin.

This symbolic meaning is quite depressing, not because its fun to hang out with those who would lead us down the wrong road, but because they were left alone. They could sit there and pick at their scabs-sins, sin again, contemplate their sin, but never get clean. They would dwell apart forever – apart from the community, apart from God. Their fate was painful and hopeless. With that sort of hopelessness there was not reason to repent, to turn away from sin, and no possibility of being welcomed back.

This is our hope, the abundance that we have been given. A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”

Jesus came to call us to repentance. He tells us to stop picking at our scabs in isolation, quarantined away, and reaches out to heal us. He makes us clean and new. As we enter the season of Pre-Lent we are given the opportunity to reflect on the scabs we have been picking, and to begin the walk back to Jesus who will heal and free us.

February tends to remind us of our loves and our obligation to love. It presents an opportunity to renew our love toward God and to give thanks for the abundant unconditional love we receive from Him. This February we enter into the Pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima, hold our Outrageous Valentine’s Raffle, and begin the season of Lent. Remember too that we now have an expand Holy Mass schedule and find tons of great information in our Newsletter. Come be lavished with abundant love in your church – right here in Schenectady.

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

0d9b8cc384226f12ff384c9002178818

Reflection for Quinquagesima Sunday 2014

Matthew-6-26

Lord, can I trust
in You, even if?

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

There are two key things to consider when we reflect on God’s care for us. How far God’s love surpasses any human love and how far our commitment must go in response to His love.

Even the worst of prisoners, people who have done horrible things, still get visits from their mothers even after long years in prison. When other friends and family have given up and dropped away mom is still there.

As a child and even a young man, when I heard “Can a mother forget her infant,” I couldn’t imagine a mother ever forgetting her child or acting without love toward him or her. I felt that even if I did the worst of things my mom would still be there for me. She was, through many of my indiscretions. Looking back though I know I was immature, for look at the evils we have seen mothers commit. Most aren’t new, some are. Yet we still stand aghast at the evils some mothers do.

This makes God’s reassurance even more powerful. His love and care for us surpasses all human love, even the love of a mother for her child. Mom loved me and forgave me, yet even if she didn’t, God does.

God’s love is perfect and He wishes only to give that love to us, to care for us, to keep us in His care not just today – but forever. That is our true hope – an eternity of perfect, all encompassing, love in God’s presence.

The past three Sundays we have heard readings from Matthew 5. Now we are in chapter 6; still part of the Sermon on the Mount and still addressing similar issues: the life style of a disciple who, belonging to Christ, must live in the present while anticipating the fullness of the kingdom of God.

Over these weeks we learned about relying on Jesus as well as our family in faith. We learned to live maturely in the mystery of love. We learned that our every action, thought, and response, every routine, must be one with God’s way – making God’s perfection apparent in every part of our lives. Now we focus on how a disciple is to trust in the Lord. We learn to look forward with trust, beyond the needs of today, with full faith and trust in God.

This is a time of high worry about jobs, financial security, and how we might fulfill our ordinary needs. We still must work to provide for what is needed for our families and ourselves. This is normal. But Jesus is warning about a preoccupying or consuming worry that makes us less concerned about our eternal salvation and the promise of unending life just so we can have a better today. Our total commitment must be for Him and His perfect love.

Reflection for Sexagesima Sunday

10447-sm

How can I even
consider these things?

But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles.

Prime Bishop Anthony, writing in God’s Field, discusses the Pre-Lenten season. He says:

“If we examine the Gospel of these three Pre-Lenten Sundays we will see that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is asking us to search beyond the normal rules of right and wrong. He asks us to go beyond even our actions to examine our motivations.”

He goes on to say:

“During the Pre-Lenten season the Church calls us to consider these words of our Lord and through them to examine our lives and our motivation. And especially we are called to take a deeper and deeper look into all things that we do as Christians and as members of Christ’ s Church. We must measure ourselves, not only by a few commandments, but on the whole Gospel of love, which has been given to us by Jesus Christ.”

Over these Sunday’s we are asked the impossible. We are challenged at the deepest possible level. Why do we do what we do?

Often times we live off instinct. It could be as simple as driving to work, to the store, or to church. We go on autopilot. The lights, the traffic, the streets, even the potholes are known to us. Sometimes we arrive and we don’t even remember how we got there.

This can happen in other areas of our life, even in prayer and charity. In prayer we recite the words. In charity we put the same amount in the envelope. Jesus is calling us to do something far more serious – to live beyond rote and instinct.

Author Jodi Picoult in her book Mercy says: “If God wanted us to act on instinct, we wouldn’t have the power of reason.”

This Pre-Lent we are called to live consciously. It is not just consideration of the words we pray or how often we pray – but asking ourselves – Why do I pray? It is not just thoughts of how often or how much I give – But why do I give at all? Jesus is giving us a deep and serious challenge. Are we “perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect?

Every moment of our lives is to be carried out with consideration. If instinct tells us to do the usual and respond to evils in the usual way, stop and do the unusual: consider whether our reaction, our habits, reflect life in Christ. Every action, thought, and response, every routine, must be one with God’s way. We must consider, think and act to make God’s perfection apparent in every part of our lives.

February 2014 issue of God’s Field now available

1904256_677838072274467_534673872_n

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

Reflect on preparing for the Lenten period of preparation, get involved by volunteering for national commissions, check out news from the ecumenical community, and read about the life and work of our parishes and people.

Articles for the March issue are being accepted now through March 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 Septuagesima Sunday 2014

spiritual maturity

How mature
am I?

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

St. Paul is telling us that we are the mature followers of Jesus. We are ready to receive the wisdom of God. This is not wisdom as the world or today’s rulers perceive wisdom, but something the immature cannot perceive.

Later Paul recounts that he began addressing us: as babes in Christ. He fed us with milk, not solid food; for we were not ready for it.

We must reflect on our spiritual maturity. Do we still need milk, to be spoon fed, or are we ready for solid food?

We begin at baptism, and our parents and the Holy Church worked diligently to raise us up in the knowledge of God’s mysteries. They worked to bring us from milk to solid food, but can we take that solid food?

This secret and mystery of God is not hocus-pocus. Rather it is the teaching of Jesus who shared with us every secret and mystery of His Heavenly Father. He recounts many of these mysteries in today’s Gospel. Do not hate, don’t even consider it. Reconcile with your enemies. Do not curse or criticize anyone. Do not lust for anything or for any reason. Don’t even consider it. Respect the human dignity of every person. Do not bear grudges against your spouse, but put your spouse first. Value the dignity and sacredness of your relationship.

In all these things – which are mysteries to the worldly – keep the commandments. Do not keep them as merely a law or a requirement, but keep them in a mature way – with love at the center: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is the great mystery. It is the mystery of loving fully and completely as Christians. It is our ability to accept and digest this solid food of love, to be mature followers of Jesus.

When we were immature we had to learn this slowly. We learned in the context of family and we learned in Church. Now we must assess whether we have matured; whether we are eating the solid food of God’s love daily. If we are mature we live the mystery and secret of love at all times and in every circumstance. If we eat the solid food of love we will love even when the world says it is ok not to. Eating this solid food of love we will live forever.

Reflection for Quinquagesima Sunday

15424

What are you living for?
For forever!

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

We are about to embark on our Lenten journey. In 4 days, we come to church to have ashes imposed on our foreheads in an act of desire – desire for repentance, change, and victory. These desires puts us on the side of Jesus so that we live in accordance with His way and in faith that His promised victory will be fulfilled for us.

Many people don’t get it. They might ask us why we take on ashes. What’s the point of our desire? Aren’t we generally good enough, victorious enough already?

If we are honest with ourselves and with them, we state a faith in Jesus and a victory beyond the here and now. We admit that Jesus is our life; that we have complete faith in Him and in His victory. We admit that the ashes symbolize our shortcomings in not living Jesus’ way of life. We state that we want to make our lives like His. Our ashes symbolize a fact and a desire – We want to fix our lives so we live as Jesus asked us to live. Then we will find eternal happiness and victory.

If we lived only by our own desires and practices our lives would be empty. We would always be chasing after perfection in what we want, but never find what we need. We know, in the end, that our ways, our desires, our wants and needs are ultimately unfulfilling. They offer no hope beyond today (and not that much).

By aligning ourselves with Jesus’ way, in striving to be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord we conform our lives – we focus on living the right way. Living Jesus’ way brings us to eternal life which is God’s offer and promise of victory. Jesus’ victory helps us along the way and brings us to perfection even when we fall short. His love covers our failures giving victory.

In taking on ashes, in working through the season ahead, we implore God’s help to get back on track. We ask Him to help us in living for what is greater and more powerful than any temporary desire; better than anything the world can offer. We place our trust in His mercy that overcomes all weakness.

What can the world offer? The world offers more work, rules, temporary solutions, and a day’s wage. Are they enough? Where will they lead? Nowhere! With faith, and a re-commitment to Jesus we live for glory. All else will fade except happiness forever – our complete victory in Jesus.

Reflection for Sexagesima Sunday

15530

But he hit me!!!!
You’re older. You can take it.

“But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.”

Don’t you just hate it when justice isn’t done, when someone wrongs you and they don’t get what’s coming to them?

In the words above we may find a childhood memory. The young people here may recall saying and hearing the same thing recently. Dad or mom step in and tell us to act our age, take it. There might be some discipline involved, but it is never really satisfying to us. Once someone has hurt or wronged us they cannot take it back. They cannot put the genie back in the bottle or the toothpaste back in the tube.

This is the problem of sin.

Holy Scripture describes sin as the breaking, or transgression, of God’s law (1 John 3:4). It is also defined as disobedience or rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7), as well as independence from God. The original translation of “sin” is “to miss the mark” of God’s holy standard of righteousness.

If someone hates us, curses us, acts as an enemy, abuses us, hits us, or takes our stuff our natural reaction, based on our tendency to sin, is to do the same. Hit back, take their stuff, punish them, and wage war. Doing all that perpetuates sin.

Think of it this way, if someone passes me in their car, cuts me off, honks at me, and is otherwise rude and annoying, what do I feel like doing? My broken self calls out to do the same to them, or even to others. I might be so perturbed that later that day I let a door slam in someone’s face, I fail to hold the elevator, or I give someone a dirty look. What do they do? More of the same! On and on, sin perpetuating the next sin.

Jesus’s instructions break that cycle. They call us to live holy and righteous lives without sin. We live as light in the face of darkness, responding differently.

Jesus is telling us to act our age. He considers us to be the older children of His body. As such we need to act maturely in the face of sin. When the rude driver cuts us off, we need to say a prayer for them and do additional acts of kindness. In doing so we have followed Jesus’ instructions. In doing this we trust in God’s justice. We can’t put others toothpaste back in the tube, but we can make sure ours doesn’t get out. Doing that, we are on the mark, hitting God’s holy standard of righteousness.