This week’s memory verse: So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.Matthew 7:17-18

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, draw me to the Tree-of-Life. Grant that I may chop down and destroy every dead tree in my life.

Specks, logs, planks,
whole trees.

“How can you say to another believer, ‘Friend, let me take the piece of sawdust out of your eye,’ when you don’t see the beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye. Then you will see clearly to remove the piece of sawdust from another believer’s eye.”

Today marks the last Sunday of the Pre-Lenten season. It confronts us with the hardest challenge we can face in life, the tendency to be judgmental toward others while simultaneously failing to perceive our sins and failings.

There are two keys here. First, how easy it is to perceive the failings in another, and to turn that perception into an accusation. How hurtful and damaging to the target. Beyond that, how often we fail to understand the reality behind another person’s perceived weaknesses. We never know the real reason, the hurt, the pain, the negative experience behind another’s minor failing.

Second, it really isn’t that we fail to see the plank – the hugeness of failings – in our lives. They are exactly huge because they are so close to us. My unbridled passions, lusts, desires, cruelties – huge!

Jesus really hits home in calling us hypocrites exactly because we already know our failings. We see them clearly every day – and yet we turn to hurt another. Wow!

In preparation for Lent we are called to attack the log, the plank, that huge dead tree in the middle of our lives. We are called into a holy season that is to be filled with action. We aren’t to go into a solitary cell, sit quietly, and ponder our dead tree. We are to take action, cutting it down and replacing it with the most life-giving tree of all – the Cross.

Jesus is calling us to go deep in removing that dead tree. The dead tree, the dead roots, all must go. Then we will come to conversion so that we “bear good fruit.” We are then that good man [who] out of the good treasure of his heart produces good. Then people will know who we are for out of the godly abundance of the heart will our mouths speak.

There are two kinds of trees we can focus on. We can live in a forest of death and accusation or come to the Tree of Life. Throughout Lent we are going to focus on getting back to the Life tree – to Eden, that paradise God has prepared for us. The place of joy, peace, and true life.

In Eden there are no dead trees, there are no planks, logs, or specks. We do not look at a another and pass judgment. We see in them Jesus and another self. If we perceive in them hurt, pain, or negative experience we do not accuse. Rather we actively heal them. We gather them under and into the life-giving tree. Jesus has opened the door to Eden for us. Let us go to the Life tree.

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.

A series of
principles.

“Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but every one when he is fully taught will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Many remember the old adage – how do you know the proper spelling of the word principal? It is based on the context. A school principal is your pal. Principles are sets of moral rules, values, or guiding beliefs. Today we hear Jesus’ call to live God’s principles.

Today’s gospel is an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount (actually in the Gospel according to St. Luke, delivered on a Plain). Last week, Jesus talked about the beatitudes, the way life should be lived – a set of values that are in touch and consistent with God’s desires for our lives. Today, Jesus sets forth a group of principles – ways of conducting our life so that they exemplify and put the beatitudes into action.

The funny thing about principles is that anyone can develop them. There are all kinds of common sense sayings, adages, and aphorisms that people use every day. As the season of politics and elections drones on we will regularly hear “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We laugh, shake it off and move on. We don’t put a lot of this into action by making essential changes in our politics.

We cannot do so with Jesus’ principles. As we continue our Pre-Lenten journey we are called to renew our effort to take Jesus’ principles to heart and engrain them in our everyday lives. We need to make essential changes in our lives so that Jesus’ principles are dearer to us than anything. Do not judge others’ sins and speak good words to all. Pre-Lent will help us see where we fall short of the excellence Jesus calls us to so that in Lent we can work diligently to fix our life system. His call wasn’t just a few words of common wisdom proclaimed on the Mount or on a Plain. His principles are so much more than adages – more than nice or instructive words. They are a direct key to be used so we live in oneness with God and obtain His promises, His blessings. So we bear good fruit!

Jesus’ principles are not the way life “should” be lived, but the way His disciples (that’s us) must live. Fixing our inner system leads to finding true joy on Easter – real blessing. We will then be found standing with those who are blessed in the Father’s eyes forever.

Time for a gut
check, really.

For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Gut check: an evaluation or test of a person’s resolve, commitment, or priorities, typically with respect to a particular course of action.

Today we enter the Pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima. This is prime time to do a gut check. What do we believe and why do we believe it?

St. Paul confronted this with the people of Corinth.

Some people in the Church at Corinth claimed there was no resurrection from the dead. They could not reason or see how dead people could possibly come back.

They were seeing with worldly eyes and were thinking with worldly reasoning.

Paul pointed out the fact that the faith they accepted was in the Jesus that was preached to them. Eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus preached to them. They were lucky enough to get a first-hand account from those who witnessed the resurrection; the resurrection of the One who also raised Lazarus, the widow’s son, and Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Logically, if Christ rose from the dead, so shall we. If resurrection was impossible then Christ did not rise from the dead. If He did not rise, what’s the point of our belief? We are not saved, Jesus was nothing more than a common man, and dead is dead.

The very foundation of Christianity – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus – is make believe and we are wasting our time believing in Him, worshipping Him, and following His good news.

St. Paul emphatically states: in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. What we believe is true as seen and reported and worthy of belief. Not just that, but what we believe is also our destiny. It is the promise we hold onto.

As we begin the Pre-Lenten season let us also do a ‘gut check.’ When we kneel, what is that about? When we receive, Who do we receive? Who gave us the promises we hold onto? Our gut should tell us God made real in our lives.

We have this chance to check in, to reflect, and to see with heavenly eyes. Getting back to basics will make our Lenten journey more fruitful. Our ‘gut check’ brings us back to the most basic message of all. Jesus is real and all He said and did is real. His reality, His victory, His joy, like the resurrection is ours too – really!

Help the me in me
to decrease.

John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

In the some Churches the celebration of the Lord’s Epiphany celebrates Jesus’ threefold revelation.

Jesus is revealed to the nations in the visit of the Magi. Jesus and the Holy Trinity is revealed at Jesus’ Baptism: heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus is revealed to His disciples at Cana in Galilee when He changes water to wine. You have got to love the Church’s celebration especially when you get a three-for-one deal.

In the west we spread the celebration of these events over several weeks. What remains most important is that we maintain focus on the magnificence of God’s coming. Whether commemorated in one day or over several weeks, the importance Jesus’ coming should always be before our eyes. Why so?

We could say that God’s coming to earth is important and magnificent in and of itself. That’s the wow factor – Wow, God is here, walking with us. We could focus on the wonderful teaching and way of life Jesus proclaimed. A lot of people do that even if they don’t believe that Jesus is God. Jesus’ coming and revelation touches each person in a particular way. That’s God’s grace at work in us – drawing us closer each day, entering relationship with us.

Today, two young people will be baptized. They will come forward and will agree to start the journey into relationship with God. They will acknowledge their search for and commitment to God’s revelation in their lives. They will say that they want the world to meet Jesus through them, their words, actions, and way of life.

What we sometimes miss in Jesus’ revelation is the very thing John said: He is mightier, I am not worthy… The Gospel according to St. John is even more explicit in this regard. John the Baptist says: He must increase in importance, while I must decrease…

At its essence, that is what baptism is all about. It is about revealing God as more important than all of my wants and desires. I want God more than anything else. He is all in my life. Fill in the blank: God is more important than my ________. When we do that, we place God at the center of our lives, we become victorious. When we put Jesus front and center and throughout our lives we let Him be powerful and revealed in our lives. It is no longer just me, but Him in me. Then we achieve true joy and glory.

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.

Let’s hurry
up!

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah

If there is one thing God really likes, it is journeys. Think of all the journeys in scripture.

Noah took a great boat trip. Abraham journeyed from Ur of the Chaldeans to the Promised Land. Joseph was sold off into slavery and went to Egypt. His brothers journeyed there for food and Jacob eventually moves to settle there. Once enslaved, the Lord frees His people and they journey back to the Promised Land – a journey taking forty years. Ruth journeyed and God accompanied His people in the Ark of the Covenant wherever they went. Israel journeyed into and out of captivity.

All these journeys set the stage for the coming of the promised Messiah – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We might think that once the stage was set the journeying would cease. Not so! Today we see Mary journey to her cousin Elizabeth. Mary acts as a sign. She shows us how to accept God’s will and how we are to put His will into action through journeying to serve each other. Mary would then journey back home, to her espoused Joseph, and together they would journey to Bethlehem to bear Him who was to shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD.

The journeying did not end there. Having come to fulfill His Father’s will, Jesus would journey throughout the territories of Judea and Samaria to preach the gospel. He journeyed to call all to repentance – to a change of heart. Finally, He would journey to Jerusalem to His death.

Those without faith see the journey ending there – at the cross, at death. But, thanks to God that death is no longer the end of our journey. Jesus opened the door to the only destination that matters – heaven in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

In keeping with the Lord’s teaching and direction His followers have journeyed ever since. The Apostles went far and wide as heralds of the message of the risen Christ. Greece, India, Constantinople, Carthage in North Africa, Persia and Ethiopia, Armenia, Syria, Ephesus, Patmos, and Rome heard the Word preached. The Apostles’ journeys and that of their disciples, and their disciple’s disciples spread the gospel across the whole world.

As we near the end of our Advent journey and head to the forty days of the Christmas season, let us journey in haste. Like Mary, let us journey to show forth both our acceptance of God’s will and the great joy that comes from His service. Like the Apostles, let us journey to every end of our community to tell of the Great Shepherd. Let us help people see and realize His greatness, kindness, and peace. Let the urgency of our journey cause us to hurry up for the time is at hand.

A schedule of our Holy Masses and other services during the Christmas season:

  • December 24: Vigil of the Nativity. Children’s Vigil Holy Mass at 4pm.
  • December 25: Nativity of the Lord, Holy Mass at Midnight and 10am
  • December 27: Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds/Feast – St. John, Apostle & Evangelist. Holy Mass at 9:30 and 11:30am with Blessing of Wine (bring a bottle or two to be blessed)

Happy 2016

  • January 1: Solemnity of the Circumcision, Holy Mass at 9:30am. Happy 2016!
  • January 2: Solemnity of the Holy Name of Jesus – Holy Mass at 4pm
  • January 3: Feast of the Holy Family. Holy Mass at 9:30 and 11:30am.
  • January 6: Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord. Holy Mass with blessing of chalk, charcoal, and incense at 7pm.
  • January 10: Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. Holy Mass at 9:30 and 11:30am.