What’s
next.

Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.

This week and next bring to an end the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. With these weeks we begin our expectation of the end times and Jesus’ return as our Lord and King. Today’s questions from the Sadducees get to the question of what happens after death and the essential truths of God’s kingdom.

The Roman historian of Jewish matters, Josephus, identified the Sadducees as being upper crust socially and economically. They had a great deal of political, social, and religious power. They believed that the soul was not immortal; that there was no afterlife, and that there were no rewards or penalties after death. They specifically rejected the resurrection of the dead.

It is ironic; the upper one percent denied any idea of hope or reward in the life to come. It sounds like something we might hear in this day and age. If you were the working poor, if you had nothing, you would receive nothing regardless of how faithful you might have been. Again, there is a distinct parallel to our present age. The rich Sadducees had no worries. They saw life as something they could enjoy to the fullest while the rest of the world suffered in despair.

Jesus came to set aside all such notions. He did not just attempt to set them aside. He destroyed this lack of hope with the authority and power of God.

If, like the Sadducees, our concern is about our power in this life and projecting that power into eternal life we fail to understand the purpose of the Kingdom of heaven. We fail to see essential hope that exists in God’s kingdom.

God’s kingdom is defined by life, not death. It transcends our senses and time. God’s kingdom – to which we are made heirs through Jesus – ends the base and immoral systems of domination and control that mar this life. God’s kingdom offers true rewards based on faith as well as our spiritual growth, loyalty of God’s way, and righteous living. God’s kingdom is limitless and eternal – our awaited home.

Hope does not regard today’s riches or defeats, power of lack thereof. As God’s children His rewards await us and we will enjoy them eternally. There will be many poor and lonely who will rule in God’s kingdom. The lordly and mighty men and women who ruled over institutions and nations and who, if they are lucky enough to even enter into the Kingdom of God, may get an apartment. This is what is next.

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life

We recall the example of the Apostles who proclaimed under persecution: “We must obey God rather than men.” As we consider our vote, let us consider a beautiful garment or a warm blanket. Each thread makes up the whole garment or blanket. Each is vital to its appearance and its strength. Christian moral positions and teaching are like that. We cannot pick out a few threads and consider them more important than the others. The sanctity of life – conception to natural death – peace, freedom, economic justice, the family in God’s image, health care for all, environmental responsibility bear equal weight. As we pray and consider, let us find those candidates who will obey God.

Join us throughout November for great prayer, the remembrance of our dearly departed, and wonderful fellowship. It is the Month of All Souls, Come pray for our country at a series for weekday Holy Masses with a Novena at 8am from October 31st through November 8th. Send in your Polish Food Sale orders. Join us as we host the Mohawk Valley Seniorate Thanksgiving Celebration on Saturday, November 19th at 11 am with Thanksgiving Holy Mass followed by a free Luncheon. All that and more… See this month’s newsletter.

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

This week’s memory verse: Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, JesusActs 3:19-20

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, change me, renew me, rescue me, and cleanse me. Grant me true and everlasting hope.

Jesus’
imperative.

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly for today I must stay at your house.”

We continue in our series of beautiful encounters with Jesus. Last week it was a parable meant to give people hope. Today, it is an actual encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus meant to exhibit Jesus’ missions’ imperative.

Jesus call to Zacchaeus, by definition, is in an imperative sentence. These are sentences that give instruction or that express a request or command. There are actually two imperatives in this sentence and we will get back to that.

First, let’s explore some of the finer details in this encounter.

Names matter in the Jewish world of the Bible. Each name, including Jesus’ Jewish name Yeshua carries with it particular meaning. A child was to grow into its name. Zacchaeus’ Hebrew name means the just one, righteous one, or pure one. How did someone with a name like that ever end up being a Chief Tax Collector – i.e., the chief sinner in Jericho?

The point is, it didn’t matter. Jesus sees what a person can become in Him, not what he or she was before His call. As bad as a person’s history might be, that is never a showstopper as to what a person can become in God’s Kingdom. In this encounter, Zacchaeus is the perfect name to dramatically illustrate God’s plan for him – that through Jesus he would become what he was meant to be. Jesus offers us the same.

This point is further illustrated in the fact that Zacchaeus could not help himself. He could not go to the Temple and offer sacrifice to be absolved of his many sins. Zacchaeus was seen as having willingly sold his soul to the Devil. He recruited others to also sell their souls. He was not only seen as responsible for his sins, but also for those of his fellow tax collectors. Because the rabbis declared that retribution was a prerequisite to being forgiven; by definition, Zacchaeus could not be forgiven. He had no way of repaying those he didn’t even know. Zacchaeus had no hope of ever getting right with God. We are sometimes convinced that we cannot get right with God. Yet Jesus comes to change that perspective.

The more we dig into context of this encounter, the more we marvel at how everything is there for a reason. Zacchaeus was a short person who climbed up into a sycamore tree. This Middle Eastern sycamore tree is very large, dense, and grows figs people cannot eat. These figs fall to the ground where the birds feed on them and leave their droppings in exchange. It was thus considered an “unclean” tree. Zacchaeus the unclean servant of evil climbed an unclean tree. He was complete in his uncleanness before the world. Yet Jesus calls him down using an imperative sentence.

“Zacchaeus, I must stay at your house.” This imperative is in two parts. One is to Zacchaeus himself – I have come to rescue you. I am rescuing you personally. I must do this. This is to show all people, every sinner who has lost hope, who has felt unredeemable, that I have come to rescue them personally.

Jesus Divine mandate is the relentless pursuit of the lost, the abandoned, and those who have lost hope. God’s “fullness of time” grace enters Zacchaeus’ life. The King of Glory has come to rescue yet another “lost sheep,” this one found in a sycamore tree!

For us, this encounter reveals the heart of the imperative the Father gave to Jesus; His mission and God’s purpose for the world. Now the time has come for all of us to walk out of our “no hope,” death row cell and become yet another “ex-con” mercifully ushered into the Kingdom of God.

This week’s memory verse: Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.Romans 12:12

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, strengthen my hope; bless me with confidence in Your word and promises. May I act on that hope.

Endless, joy filled,
hope.

Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.”

This is one of those parables I refer to as the beautiful parables. They are a direct offer of hope. Today, and over the next two weeks Jesus offers His faithful special hope.

Hope is a verb; it is, as my high school teachers would say, an action word. It is something we engage in and do particularly as Christians. Hope is more than just desiring, longing, dreaming, or being optimistic. Hope is a confidence that what has been promised will in fact occur. It will happen. There is no might, or may, or maybe. As scripture tells us, it is yes and Amen. Jesus reminds us to let our confidence be known by our yes and no – really believing what we say is true because we are backed up by God Himself. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Assurance and conviction is that inward and outward steadfastness in what we know to be true.

Dr. David W. Orr, Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics writes that “Hope is a verb with its shirtsleeves rolled up.”

The plain opposite of hope is despair. More than despair alone, it is the false illusion and confidence in things that cannot be backed up.

Do we trust in government? There is surely no promise there. Maybe there are some ideals (originally founded upon scripture), but still no guarantee. Do we trust in our good works alone? So many are deceived in thinking that good works are enough – that they will somehow be remembered and acclaimed beyond the memory of the next couple of generations. They are deceived for they sill be forgotten. None of these things are backed up by an everlasting promise.

Christian history is filled with the witness and words of those who had to face apparent hopelessness. They were confronted by war, poverty, personal failure and dreams unfulfilled, sickness, and death. We sit here in God’s presence and wonder whether we can hope, whether we dare hope and have confidence. Jesus answer to us is: Yes!

Christians who get this know that when they are down they will be raised up. They know that when they sin they will be forgiven. They know that nothing here and now is more powerful than what God has promised us. They simply know it – not so that they become arrogant but so that the hope they have might be spread through their joy. The tax collector found that joy.

Endless, joy filled hope is what God has given us in Jesus. It is for those who see in these beautiful parables the truth of His promises.

This week’s memory verse: “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”Matthew 21:22

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that You might find faith in me. Help me to live that faith each day.

What will the Lord
find?

The Lord said, “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

The Lord asks His followers a very tough question today. It is the essential question we are faced with every moment – how strong, how reliable is our faith?

Moses is literally held up as an example. He placed his faith in the Lord’s protection. It is not Joshua and the men who would do battle with Amalek, but the Lord. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. In a very real way, as long as Moses held up his faith the battle and the war were won. When his faith weakened, the battle was being lost.

We can use the analogy of war and battle to the challenges we are faced with and we have one in front of us right now.

Over the past two months there have been two petty thefts in our parish. The money in the cash box in the parish kitchen was stolen twice.

Where did our minds just go? Some certainly wondered who might have done this. Some may wonder how much was taken. After we swim around in those questions we begin to think of what we should do. Call the police? Set up a camera? Be suspicious of strangers? It goes on and gets worse from there.

Jesus said: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” So there we are.

How many times did Jesus discuss the need for forgiveness? Jesus answered,”I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. The need to forego judgment: For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged. How often has God asked us for complete trust and faith? Can we sing with David: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

When we are confronted by the challenge, when those who would hurt us act, when all seems lost will we place our trust and faith in the ways of the world or the ways of God? Jesus even laid out a formula for how we are to confront someone who would do wrong to the family as recorded in Matthew 18. Beginning at verse 15 we read: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you…” Jesus is looking for real faith in us. It is His ultimate test.

Our heritage, our way of life is to live faith driven, to trust in God’s promise and follow His way. We are to pray first, set aside questions, and know – really know – that God will defend us, will break all chains when He finds faith in us.

Memory verse for this week: “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”Acts 2:39

Pray the week: Brother Jesus, grant that we may perceive the reality of our Christian family and act in every way as brothers and sisters to each other.