Yes,
I am serious.

Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people. And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said…

Over the past several weeks, I have focused on the poignancy of the Gospel narratives. Each a very visual setting. Each a revelation of who Christ is, who the Father is – what life in God looks like. Each a call to join in the life of God as disciples.

Today, we are presented with the Sermon on the Plain. Yes, plain, not mount. While the sermons found in Matthew (mount) and Luke (plain) are similar, many biblical scholars see these as two different events. In other words, Matthew and Luke were not confused about geography. Scholars see these sermons as an indication that Jesus stayed on message throughout His teaching. This sermon may well have been delivered in the city and at the shore too.

In God, consistency is key. He is, as we say – unchanging – from eternity to eternity. Jesus was consistent in His revelation, in His message, and in His call to His disciples (yes, you and me) to live a certain way.

This call follows on the tradition God established with the people of Israel. At the giving of the Law, God laid out blessings and curses. Those who kept the Law, who lived just, holy lives in His ways would receive abundant blessing. Those who did not – curses awaited them.

Today, we learn that Jeremiah heard the same things from God. Do things that your world centered peers want, believe the things they say – your life is destroyed. Follow My way – your life is blessed. In Me you live, are protected, drink life giving water deeply, are not distressed, and bear much fruit. Today’s Psalm lays out all kinds of blessings and curses. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, reminds them of the Church’s teaching. In a very blunt way, he tells them that they must remain consistent with what has been experienced, witnessed, and taught. God has no room for the inconsistent. If we are not consistent, we are the most pitiable people of all.

Yesterday, we celebrated the life and work of our organizer – he laid all aside for Jesus and stayed consistent. He followed, as all Jesus’ disciples must, Jesus’ consistent message. Jesus is serious. Be poor, weep, and hunger. Be hated, excluded, insulted and denounced. Put Him before all and be blessed eternally.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

St. Paul commends the Corinthians on maintaining the traditions he taught. I am often pleasantly surprised when a visitor to our parish (someone looking for a new church home, someone visiting for the first time) commends us: I can’t believe you still do THAT. It brings back so many memories.  Those words are never spoken in any negative way, but in admiration, real commendation. What we do in church brings back memories, family, place, belonging, and home. We make it real. Tradition, for us and for our visitors, is more than sets of actions, it is a deep connection to life in Christ’s body. It is wonderful that our connection with traditional liturgical practice, keeping the traditions delivered to us, warms hearts and makes them feel connected to something far greater and much deeper. If you study ‘church conflicts’ you would often see battle lines drawn between tradition and liberalism. The wars and conflicts typically center on things most people would consider minutia, little details that may be important on a technical level, but would not be worth dying over. Yet so much drama… We are spared because we live tradition holistically. What is commendable about what we do is that we maintain what is essentially important. It is not liturgical tradition alone, but tradition in every sense, wholly. We have a tradition of charity and openness that lives in the way we welcome. We imitate the apostles, and are willing to be disciples of Christ. That shows in the way we proclaim Him, make Him known, and invite all to join with us in knowing, loving, and serving Jesus. This year we work to grow in our discipling of Jesus. We try to be more like Him. Then let us appreciate the commendation we have received. We live the very words Paul also wrote to the Thessalonians: stand firm, hold to the traditions that you were taught.

February, and it’s not lent yet? This year Lent begins very late (HINT: Ash Wednesday is March 6th). We spend the month doing all sorts of stuff. Our annual meeting and elections (HINT: We live real democracy in this church). There’s SouperBowl Sunday, our month-long Valentine’s raffle, home blessings continue, we continue our focus on discipleship, and even talk sex and the environment.

There is much going on – and we want to make sure you are well informed and ready to get your discipleship into high gear; to live as His holistically.

What else? Get in on Music Scholarships and start getting baskets ready (HINT: Our annual Basket social will be held March 31st at the Rotterdam Senior Citizen’s Center).

Check out all this and more in our February 2019 Newsletter.

Annual
what?

They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Last week we heard the beginning of this revelation story. Today we hear the end. This is one of those poignant Gospel testimonies. It is so visual. Jesus returns to His hometown and speaks in the Synagogue. We can picture this day, crowds gathered, wanting to see what this hometown boy was going to do, waiting to hear this new prophet. The day – calm. The people half paying attention to Jesus, half involved in their opinions of Him. Jesus is thought of well by some – His words considered gracious. Some spoke highly of Him. Others are incredulous, there is nothing great here! They laugh to each other thinking that it is a joke. The son of a carpenter? Are you kidding me? Jesus confirms His revelation, He confirms it in their sight and by their hearing. The promised Messiah is here. They respond by dragging Him to the edge of town, intent on throwing Him off a cliff. Jesus’ revelation continues, and we see how some people react.

Today, we carry on the democratic tradition of our Holy Church. Our time to react.

Some see this effort as just another meeting. Maybe, like Jesus’ crowd, some stay caught up in their opinions, half paying attention. Some listen to the message, incredulous because – well how can this be true. There is no future, no wealth poured down from on high. We’ll just cruise along and avoid reality – until it is too late to do something about it. Some may laugh, thinking the whole thing is a joke. Are you kidding me? A miracle in Schenectady? So, I deeply pray, I worry a little, and I place my trust in Christ. He will destroy the chains of doubt, incredulity, and indifference where they exist. He will give new strength to each of us, the strength He gave Jeremiah.

God tells us: I’ve known you forever. I know what you can do in my Holy Name. Stand up and tell them (the world). Be not crushed. They (doubt, fear, lack of energy) will fight against you but not prevail. I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.

Jesus answer is for us this very day. Do not let Him pass through our midst and go away. We have much to do, much to learn, much to accomplish, much to disciple. Let’s react – faithfully working for Him!

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

The new year. Time to learn something new? There are lots of areas we could concentrate on. Learn to live a healthier life. Learn to cook like Julia Child. Learn plumbing, blacksmithing… Get another degree? One area long neglected and re-emerging in learning circles is apprenticeships. Apprenticeships offer many advantages. Millions leave college each year with long term debt, little practical training, and difficult job prospects while apprenticeships cost nothing and provide learners with health care and pension benefits, paid practical training, highly marketable and in-demand skills, no debt, and earning prospects of $145,000 to $175,000 per year. We might feel it is difficult to go back and start over, but there is one apprenticeship that is always open and available to everyone: Being a Disciple of Jesus. Factually, that is what being a disciple means – a learner, a student, an apprentice. In 2019 we are called to renewed discipleship, to apprenticing with the Master and Teacher of all. This year we are to dedicate ourselves to learning and doing with Jesus as His disciples! This apprenticeship is to focus on aligning our lives with that of the Teacher, learning His ways, first imitating and then integrating His behaviors, approaching people as He does, and inviting them into this school of discipleship. The key to this year of learning is our doing. A plumber’s apprentice has to get in there and carry the pipes, sweat them together. An electrician’s apprentice has to splice wire with his teacher. In the same way, as Jesus sent out the seventy-two learners/apprentices/disciples, we must apply our efforts in practical ways alongside our Master. Ready to learn something new, and put that learning into practice? Ready to do the one thing that guarantees success and great benefits? Sign the Jesus Union card and Disciple now!

January, the New Year, and we wish all of our followers, Jesus’ disciples in training, a very happy and blessed new year.

There is much going on – and we want to make sure you are well informed and ready to put your resolutions into high gear. It is about doing what is healthful and positive and we cannot get any greater health and positive force than from Jesus.

Read about our upcoming annual meeting, put yourself in running and do something to keep YOUR parish going. For the 18th year we are participating in the SouperBowl of Caring – feeding the hungry in our local community. Get your Valentine’s Raffle tickets sold and in. It is really important. Offer Holy Mass for a loved one. Set up a house blessing. Get in on Music Scholarships. Read and integrate “The Most Important Thing We Can Do To Be Successful In The New Year.”

Check out all this and more in our January 2019 Newsletter.

January, 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you in our Central Diocesan family, and welcome to the Year of Discipleship in our holy Church!

In the words of our national PNCC Future Direction Sub-Committee recently given to us..…..As our Lord said to His disciples “Follow Me” for His public ministry, He continues to call us to follow Him and wants our relationship with Him to grow and strengthen as the days, months and years goes by.  Our PNCC is calling us to renew our Discipleship in our Lord this year and as we begin 2019…. 

Soooo – let’s get a handle on this idea of discipleship, shall we?

Not too long ago I was watching a Netflix presentation about the Masons, with a focus on their place of origin, Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street, London.  As I became drawn into the narrative of this society’s founding and growth, I was struck by how clearly they laid out the expectations of a mason.  By contrast, I was struck by how often our Church is hesitant to name the expectations of discipleship for its members. 

Our Future Directions Sub-Committee has begun laying out these expectations and will continue that effort throughout the year.  I’d say, it all boils down to five basic opportunities to “grow and strengthen our relationship with Jesus.” 

Worship – We worship God together, through his Son Jesus.  Worshipping regularly is a part of who we are as Catholic Christians. The people of God join together in the house of God to worship and honor God (Psalm 150). Worship is about community: the Christian community gathers to worship, to pray together, and to continue its growth in the faith.

Grow – We become affiliated with a parish society, Bible study, the School of Christian Living to grow in faith and our walk with Jesus.  Jesus went to the synagogue “as was His custom” (Luke 4:16).  Synagogue for Jesus was a place of discernment, learning scripture, and growing in the knowledge and love of God and neighbor.  We join with other PNCC-ers here in order to grow together.

Mission – We are called to love our neighbors.  We are encouraged to be involved in some mission emphasis.  Jesus had a special place in His heart for the poor, marginalized, outcast, and lost. We are called to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus Christ in our world.  We seek to love and serve others and believe this is vital in our Christian walk.

Talents and Abilities – All of us have talents and abilities that can be used for the glory of God.  Some have the gift of teaching or leading.  Others have the gift of administration, or may be gifted in finance and can help the church to be faithful stewards of the gifts offered for ministry and mission.  Some have the gift of compassion, or love to send cards to those who are sick. Some feel called to reach out to the unchurched, while others have the gift of hospitality.  Yes, all of us have some God-given gift, talent, or ability that we can use for the glory of God.

Proportional Giving – Stewardship is a spiritual discipline and an act of worship.  Our offering is a recognition that everything we have and are is a gift to us from God.  We are all blessed.  We are all called by God to offer our first-fruits and our [portion] to God for the work of His kingdom (Leviticus 27:30-33; Deuteronomy 14:22-29).  Our offering at a regular percentage of giving is an act of gratitude, an act of obedience, and an act of our covenantal agreement with God.  Our offering is used, then, in ministry and mission on behalf of our Lord Jesus Christ.     

So let’s take time to reflect on these five expectations as we undertake a life of Catholic Christian discipleship.  After all, God proved he loves us so much by giving His only begotten Son to live among us, to teach us of God’s love and kingdom, to die that we might be forgiven, and to rise that we may have eternal life.  God has promised to be with us always.  Discipleship, then, is our faithful response to this God who “so loves the world”  (John 3:16)      

Peace and grace to all.

Bishop Bernard 

God’s
got it.

For the Lord has redeemed Israel from those too strong for them. They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem. They will be radiant because of the Lord’s good gifts

The average temperature, that night, outside Bethlehem is forty-two degrees. Not exactly summer picnic weather. Shepherds never had an easy life. The average salary of a shepherd – while in that day there wasn’t any – and I’ll get to that – is today only $26,200.  That is less than half of the median household income. It is barely enough to cover housing and a little food. It is the definition of poverty.

I mentioned that shepherds in Jesus’ day did not really make a salary. They were typically elderly or younger family members who couldn’t be trusted in any other role. So they got to watch the sheep.

Cold, in poverty, unwanted and thought useless. They are who we celebrate today. We celebrate them because they were the first to see and get the message. They were the first to tell of it, to spread the Good News. God has entered the world to bring to fulfillment what He spoke through Jeremiah: I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.

This has been a strange Advent and Christmas season for me. A movie, a song – I’d find myself getting emotional. This holds a deeper meaning and lesson. God was teaching me a lesson.

We must never let the cold of the world, the constant just above freezing forty-two degree spiritual environment around us shut down the warmth of our hearts. If the cold of the world has gotten to us – today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let the cold win.

Are we impoverished and weakened, poor for want of physical, spiritual, or intellectual gifts? Today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let poverty win.

Are we unwanted, estranged, facing deep loneliness, rarely thought of, shuffled into the elderly corner or to the kid’s table? Today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let separation win.

We long for so many gifts, as did the shepherds on that hill.  We long as individuals, a community and neighborhood, and as Church. Suddenly, life was different and it IS different now because God’s promise is fulfilled- He has us.

Advent

  • December 2: 1st Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass at 9:30am and 11:30am. 
  • December 9: 2nd Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass at 9:30am and 11:30am. 
  • December 16: 3rd Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass with Advent Penitential Service at 10:30am followed by Youth Musical Presentation and Parish Vigil Dinner.
  • December 23: 4th Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass at 9:30am and 11:30am. Greening of the Church between Holy Masses.

Christmas Season

  • December 24: Vigil of the Nativity with Holy Mass at 4pm.
  • December 25: Solemnity of the Nativity. Holy Mass at Midnight and 10am.
  • December 26: Feast – St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr.
  • December 27: Feast – St. John, Apostle & Evangelist. Holy Mass at 7pm with Blessing of Wine.
  • December 28: Commemoration – Holy Innocents.
  • December 29: Feast of the Holy Family. Holy Mass at 10am.
  • December 30: Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds. Holy Mass at 9:30 and 11:30am.
  • January 1: Solemnity of the Circumcision. Holy Mass at 10am.
  • January 2: Solemnity of the Holy Name (Parish patronal feast), Holy Mass at 7pm.
  • January 6: Epiphany of our Lord. Holy Mass with blessing of chalk, charcoal, and incense at 9:30 and 11:30am.
  • January 13: Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. Holy Mass at 9:30 and 11:30am.