Wronged for doing
right.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.

This week we saw another attack – this time on a bus loaded with Christian youth. Twenty-nine were martyred, another twenty-five were injured. These young martyrs and confessors (people who suffer for the name of Jesus) were headed to the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor – to volunteer. One hundred and five have been martyred in Egypt for their faith in Jesus since Christmas. There have been many individuals and families martyred as well.

The living hope of Easter belongs to us in the good news of Christ’s resurrection. Easter is hope, even in the midst of persecution and suffering.

We stand at the last Sunday of Easter. Like the apostles and followers of Jesus, gathered in the upper room after the Ascension, we might feel somewhat fearful. What will happen next? When will they come for me, for us? Should we wait and wonder? That only applies if we believe the last Sunday of Easter is the end of Easter.

Our living hope is that even in the midst of waiting, even in the midst of a world that is contrary and adversarial to the commitments and attitudes that belong to us, we have confidence in God’s promises. We will always have Easter. Easter is not just for a season, but forever. The resurrection, the vision of the Ascension, the promise of the Holy Spirit sustains and encourages our hope. Whatever comes, God has joined us, not only the suffering but also to the victory of Jesus, who overcame death – who in fact destroyed death.

St. Peter does not avoid or play down the issue of suffering. He addresses it squarely, not as something to be feared, but something we can walk into with confidence if we regard ourselves well before the world. This testing will reveal whether the suffering we face is because we have given in to worldly ways or whether we are facing them for our witness, evangelism, and the exercise of love and hospitality the comes from Jesus.

The young Christians of Egypt suffered because they walked with the name of Christ as their identity. They were going to do the Lord’s work. They died to the world and rose to eternal life because of it. Bearing Jesus’ name constituted their “blessing.” They were wronged, reviled, persecuted for doing right. On this last and always first Sunday of Easter may we be encouraged in doing right in accord with Jesus regardless of suffering.

Memory verse for this week: Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. — Romans 12:12

  • 5/21 – Romans 15:13
  • 5/22 – Jeremiah 29:11
  • 5/23 – Romans 5:2
  • 5/24 – Isaiah 40:31
  • 5/25 – Hebrews 11:1
  • 5/26 – Romans 8:24
  • 5/27 – Hebrews 6:19

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, You give me reason for hope. Grant that I may overcome every challenge by my faith in You.

A reason for
hope.

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

Today, we hear St. Peter advising the members of the early Church to bear up under persecution. But that isn’t the starting point. He isn’t recommending that we sit around, awaiting persecution, before we show the strength of our faith. He recommends that our starting point is always to offer hope to every and anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope.

Always being ready to offer hope is our calling as Christians. The world is so full of hopelessness, loss, and the seemingly unfillable gap between where we are and where we want to be.

Our call is to show that the gap isn’t the end, you get there and fall into nothingness. Rather, we must tell the world that one never has to face that chasm anymore – for Jesus Christ, risen and alive – has filled it. He has bridged the gap. He is our hope and our gift – to offer in gentleness and reverence, with clear conscience.

People around us must deal with the hopelessness that we used to face – part and parcel of the sinful human condition. As followers of Christ we have already recognized that hopelessness has been overcome. The depth of death is no more. Darkness has been crushed and light is ours. We have taken hold of the Savior and His tools that overcome hopelessness. We can point every and anyone we meet to Him and use His tools to share the promise of true hope.

According to a recent Pew Forum study, there is persecution of Christians in 131 of the 193 countries in the world. That’s almost 70%. The people Peter wrote to were similarly being slandered and threatened. Their witness to Christ’s hope made them the constant targets of those who served the empire and hailed nation as lord. They had a choice. Leave hope behind and again face the gap, the deep pit of despair, or stand firm in the Holy Spirit, the promises of Jesus Christ they held.

Peter reminds us that to this very day, regardless of the world’s resistance, irrespective of persecution, the promise of Jesus Christ is hope-filled. Jesus’ execution by the world was not the end. It was the beginning of hope.

From a merely human point of view, death is the end, the gap cannot be filled, and the chasm cannot be crossed. But thanks be to God, death is ended, the bridge is in place, and we can take the hand of every and anyone and offer them a reason for hope.

This week’s memory verse: As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. — Isaiah 66:13

  • 5/14 – Proverbs 31:25-30
  • 5/15 – Proverbs 3:1-10
  • 5/16 – Psalm 119:11
  • 5/17 – Exodus 20:12
  • 5/18 – 1 Timothy 5:8
  • 5/19 – Proverbs 18:22
  • 5/20 – Titus 2:4-5

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, bless the women of the Church, Your strong witnesses and the first builders of faith in You.

Mom’s construction
job.

For it says in Scripture: Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame. Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall. They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

So how can I possibly tie together the themes from this Sunday’s scripture with Mother’s Day?

In the gospel, Jesus is beginning His disciple’s preparation for His passion. The words of our gospel are then from the beginning of Jesus’ pre-Passion discourses meant to help envision a horizon that extends beyond Easter to life in the community of faith after Jesus is no longer visibly present with his followers.

The Acts narrative speaks of the appointment of the first deacons (a scripture that has always been very dear to my heart).

St. Peter reflects on scripture that seems to have more to do with God as builder. He talks about cornerstones and stumbling blocks and how the two are in One.

For some of us older folks, it is hard to imagine mom in a construction vest and hard hat laying down a line of mortar with a trowel. How would that beehive fit under the hard hat?
What we may have failed to perceive is that our moms were our first encounter with construction workers.

The good moms in our lives (this could have been a grandmother, aunt, other woman) did all they could to build us up into God’s solid people.

The key thing they did was to help us understand the place Jesus wants in our lives. He wants us to see Him as our cornerstone, He is the One we build upon, we develop from Him. With Him as our cornerstone, we do not stumble, we do not fall. He is our Rock – the stable place we can always go to.

The good women in our lives follow the model of Mary who points to Jesus, who holds Him out to us as our foundation. They don’t put themselves first, but rather the craftswomen who make us fully human – into buildings that will stand forever. Without their work, their building, we stumble and fall. Without them our destiny is one of limited potential, limited effect, people whose destiny is brokenness – like crumbling and decaying buildings soon to fall to the ground.

With our lives built on the true Cornerstone we are thankful for their craftsmanship.

This week’s memory verse: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” — John 14:6

  • 5/7 – Revelation 3:20
  • 5/8 – Matthew 7:7
  • 5/9 – Song of Solomon 5:2-4
  • 5/10 – Psalm 84:10
  • 5/11 – 1 Corinthians 16:8-9
  • 5/12 – Proverbs 8:34
  • 5/13 – Matthew 7:13-14

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, help me to acknowledge You as the only door to eternal life. Help me to be thankful for your constant care.

The giving
door.

“I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

This one used to confuse me. I get Jesus being the Good shepherd. I can envision Him leading us, providing for us, protecting us, and rescuing us when we get lost. I also get Jesus being the perfect sacrificial lamb – the Lamb of God who by His sacrificial death took away our sins and freed us. But, what did Jesus mean when He said ‘I AM the door?’

I AM the door” is the third of seven “I AM” declarations of Jesus recorded only in John’s Gospel. These “I AM” proclamations point to Jesus’ Divinity for He was calling Himself by the same name as God did when Moses asked God His Name. In this statement, Jesus further clarifies that He is the exclusive way to salvation by saying that He is ‘the door,’ not ‘a door.’

As we know, sheep are completely helpless animals. Sheep graze and wander while doing so. They never look up. They get lost. Further, sheep have no homing instinct. They cannot find their way home, even if it is right in front of them. By nature, sheep are followers and they will follow each other right off a cliff. As such, sheep are totally dependent on their shepherd. Shepherds are the providers, guides, protectors, and constant companions of sheep. The relationship between the flock and shepherd was so close that a shepherd easily knows his own sheep, even if his flock gets mingled with others. This bond is so close, that each sheep recognizes its shepherds’ voice and will follow it.

At nightfall, or when the shepherd had to go do business, he would lead his sheep into the protection of a sheepfold.

There were two kinds of sheepfolds. One was a public pen found in the cities and villages. It held several flocks of sheep. There was a doorkeeper, whose duty it was to guard the door to the sheep pen and to only admit known shepherds who would call out their flocks. This is a warning to pastors – for the Lord will only allow those He recognizes.

The second kind of sheep pen was in the countryside and was built by shepherds. It was a rough rock wall with a small open space to enter. There was no gate – rather – the shepherd would protect the sheep by lying across the opening. He literally became the door or gate to the sheep.

When Jesus says, “I am the gate,” He not only reiterating His constant care and His sacrificial love, but His total dedication to complete care for us, His daily provision, His strength giving us full and abundant life.

we commend ourselves in every way: by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God

This month our Holy Church holds its Seventeenth Annual Mission and Evangelism conference. This coincides with the words above from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Church at Corinth. How do we commend ourselves to others? How do we show forth what a genuine life in Jesus means? Being truly genuine in our walk with Jesus is at once a difficult task and a great reward. In May we look to Mary as a perfect example of someone who genuinely walked with her Son. Let us focus on what it means to be genuine, authentic – or as some would say – being real. Let us commend ourselves to others as Jesus’ authentic followers with confession, repentance, fellowship, obedience, genuineness, and truthful speech. By doing so, the power of God will show through us. We, like Mary, will glow with His real and genuine love. We will be real!

Join us continuing our celebration of Easter joy and in celebrating mom and our heavenly mother this May. There is so much going on in May and we are actively getting ready for our many summer activities. Check out all this and more, plus read up on how we are called to baptize our culture in this month’s newsletter.

You may view and download a copy of our May 2017 Newsletter right here.

Our annual Basket Social & Polish Kitchen will be held on Sunday, May 7th from 12 until 4 PM at the Rotterdam Senior Citizens Center, 2639 Hamburg St, Schenectady, New York 12303

Polish food will be served as well as homemade desserts. Tickets are $2 for admission, and $12 for a sheet of 24 tickets plus a door prize chance. There will also be special raffles for more expensive items such as jewelry and electronics.

We look forward to seeing you!

I get
it!

Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once

I have a confession to make: I am one of those people who often doesn’t get it or is slow to get things.

I get E-mails about various subjects and the people sending them probably suspect that I understand what they are saying. I can hear them saying: ‘Remember, you used to do this job.’ They expect I will understand and comprehend what they are saying, or what they need me to do. I’ll then call a meeting – the first words after, ‘How are you doing’ are usually akin to, ‘please explain this to me.’ They often look a little sad. I can hear them thinking: ‘He doesn’t get it.’

It is much the same with movies, books, conversations, even jokes at times. My mind tends to mull over the content, and probably ten minutes after everyone else it finally clicks. The ah-ha moment, realization, the lightbulb clicks on. I often must say, slightly out of embarrassment, ‘Now I get it.’

The poor disciples on the road to Emmaus were in the same boat. They didn’t get it. But there was also something very different. They were being drawn, in an inexplicable and mystical way, into the realization that Jesus was with them. “Were not our hearts burning within us” It wasn’t just mental practice; their entire body and soul was being bombarded by the reality they weren’t getting. All the signs pointed to Jesus, the words, the teaching, His very presence.

This illustration is at once lovely – walking with Jesus, desiring that He stay with them, learning, Jesus immense patience with them, and finally having that light go on – and at the same time cautionary. They should have gotten it.

We all experience those moments – those times both in the silence and in the noise when we feel “Did not my heart burn within me.” Something within us is stirred by Jesus’ obvious presence. It is up to us to recognize those moments, to tune ourselves to that channel where Jesus is talking to us. We can train ourselves through the Scriptures we read and hear, we can enter the mystical moment of exchange in our Eucharistic celebration. In each we clearly hear Jesus speaking to us, teaching us, lifting us up, liberating us. He has a message designed for us. If we listen and recognize it, then our minds and hearts will recognize: “Man, there’s something here. I didn’t know or hear it before, but God is revealing this to me, He is stirring me.”

It is Easter. Christ is risen! Truly risen! He is living and active. We must recognize that He is no longer in the tomb. He is speaking to us each day and calling us to get it and to go forward to help others get it.