Strength of Faith.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith.

We have talked for many weeks about Strength of Faith. We have seen the way people approached Jesus and how He told them to have faith, to not doubt. We have seen various ways we can put Strength of Faith into action and how we share our Strength of Faith with each other and the world. We have contemplated the ways we might invite others to experience God, right here, with the confidence that comes from Strength of Faith.

Today, we are presented with a reflection on the source of our Strength of Faith. Strength of Faith comes solely from Jesus, from doing what He did.

Wait a minute, you mean I can be like Jesus, I can live the way He did?

As we heard in today’s gospel, James and John got it wrong. They were looking for the sort of strength that does not come from faith, but rather comes from position and status. In short, Jesus tells them that they will also have to face what He had to face: “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” If you want to be like Me, you must be — like Me.

The rest of the disciples become upset, not because of what James and John asked, but because they wanted the same. Jesus tells them all, you must stop thinking the way the world thinks, but rather be like Me, be humble, serve, suffer if you are called to do so, and know that your strength comes from Strength of Faith. It comes from the sort of faith that says I am less so that God can be shown to be more.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews fully understands human weakness. The writer also knew that he himself was weak, had failed, had sinned, was constantly tempted by the desire for power and status. Facing what we all face, knowing what we all know, he arrives at an answer: My Strength of Faith comes from being most like Jesus Who was like us and did not sin.

You see, Jesus was tested exactly as we are. His humanity faced all we face. In fact, He was attacked constantly – yet He did not sin. He overcame. So can we.

You mean I can be like Jesus; I can live the way He did? The answer is yes. We are called to confidence, to walk and act in the Strength of Faith that tells us we can live as Jesus did.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

This month, in our years long discipleship study and journey, we are asked to pray both Psalm 42 and 121. Both of these Psalms pose longing and a response to longing. In each, the psalmist realizes that their hope is in God, that help comes from God. The introductory verse to Psalm 42 above is answered: Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. I can meet God by placing my hope in Him and trusting in Him. Our God is a saving God, not a punishing god. Can you imaging being as desirous as a deer in search of clear, cool, running water. The animal, parched with thirst happens upon that exact stream of water and is overjoyed in finding it and drinks deeply. So it is in our heart’s inner desire and need for God. Desire for God may seem more pronounced in difficult times, when we need extreme help for extreme troubles, but truthfully, that longing is always there. Our souls desire unity with God, for He is their source. They want Him for He is their refreshment. The cool, clear, running water of His grace is their answer, and we all seek to drink deeply of that grace. So, how do we do it. How do we find that water and drink of it? How do we meet God? We start by following Jesus’ gospel path. We do the things He said we must do. We live out the beatitudes and the rules from the Sermon on the Mount. We serve and sacrifice. To be a disciple means we live and love our Master’s instruction. Hard, yes. Impossible, no. From there we live in community. We live and worship as one family. This is the God designed, Jesus taught, Holy Spirit infused way we are to go. The cool, clear, running water of grace is found by those who do exactly this. As we follow Jesus’ gospel path He infuses us, through the Holy Spirit, with His grace. We receive actual help from on-high. As we live and worship as family we open the door to grace to others and support each other with that strength from on-high. We lift each other to that fountain of grace and in doing so our longing is answered.

Welcome to our October 2021 Newsletter. This month’s newsletter is filled with information about important events in the life of the parish: our centennial celebration; blessing of pets; healing; the rosary; family; the upcoming observance of All Souls; our discipleship focus on St. Teresa of Avila; and Ten Biblical Reminders for encouragement. We also pause to remember three beloved men who passed into eternal life.

Please come out to join us as we pray mightily, receive the sacraments, learn from the Word, and celebrate.

Check out all this and more in our October 2021 Newsletter.

Strength of Faith

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. We are focusing on our growth in Strength of Faith.

There are several ways of translating what Jesus says to Mary and Joseph. Our scriptures read today recount Jesus saying: “I must be in My Father’s house.” This can also be rendered “I must be about my Father’s business.” Literally, I must be in the things that are My Father’s—i.e., in His work.

It seems odd to us to have a twelve-year-old be so bold as to stay behind in a city of over a million people (especially at festival time), but some context helps.

A Jewish boy reaching the age of twelve, became ‘a son of the Law,’ and took upon himself the religious responsibilities which had previously been his parents. 

This marked moment shows Jesus’ maturity and His acceptance of those responsibilities, to learn, to study, to question, and penultimately to do His Father’s will. Jesus asserts that right in staying behind, not to contravene Mary and Joseph, but rather to grab unto an opportunity. 

In this opportunity He speaks a few words – His first recorded gospel words – words we are to take to heart and emulate – “I must be about My Father’s business,” I must do His work.

These words cause us to consider more fully not just the where of Jesus’ statement, Hey, I’ve got to hang out in the Temple because… but rather the what of His statement.

When Jesus says “must” He says that His doing is the on-going accomplishment of the necessary appointed work of the Father. He accepts His Father’s commands and continues forward in carrying out His duty. 

We, as the Christian family are called to be more than a presence in a place, church on Sundays. We are called to also share and increase the love of family between ourselves and in the world. We are to act in Strength of Faith in the carrying out of our kingdom mission, opening God’s loving family just as Jesus showed us.

The ties and connection of family go beyond place to the life – style we live. How do we style our lives? If we style them to be about our heavenly Father’s business, to doing His work, what we do in a place on Sunday, the worship, praise, and learning, bears fruit Monday through Saturday in the doing. We live and do as Jesus lived and did. We are in the Father’s work.

Strength of Faith.

He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers.”

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. We are focusing on our growth in Strength of Faith.

What does God, Who is all powerful, perfectly just, Who knows everything about us, even those things we hold in the secret of our heart, do for His people?

Some might say that sits as judge. That would be correct, for He has that role. Some might say He loves, for indeed that is His attribute as well. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews asks us to consider this:

For it was fitting that He, for Whom and through Whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the Leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.

The writer says that it is fitting, i.e., proper, and appropriate for God to choose the path of suffering for His Son, so that through this suffering we might be saved. Not only that, so that His Son would fully comprehend us, have the same experiences and trials as us, and walking with us show us the way to glory. By the Son’s strength of faith we are called to strength of faith.

Now we might figure, God could have done this differently, and of course He could, but then we would miss the vastness of His love, of His willingness to suffer and sacrifice all for us. His willingness to make us His brothers.

God not only loves as a concept but loves completely and sacrificially. He loves so much that He was willing to raise us up to the level of brotherhood with Him by His likeness to us.

This is an awesome and all-encompassing love. It is a compassionate love. It is a love that will not let God stand on the side as a spectator, but rather that involves Him intimately in our lives, because He humbled Himself in His sufferings to raise us higher than angels; to give us a triumph that is everlasting.

The symbols of marriage discussed in Genesis and today’s gospel mark not just a rule for life, a dictate for men and women to follow, but more so a call to be living symbols of God’s love toward us, for this is how God is, how He loves, and lives.

What God does for is people is to live a marital union of fidelity with us. Offering sacrificial love constantly, God only asks that we join ourselves to Him. Indeed, God calls us to live as one flesh with Him. He Who has so loved us that He gave His whole self for us asks us only to love Him and be joined with Him in return.

He predestined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ, simply because it pleased him to do so. This he did for the praise of the glory of his grace, of his free gift to us in his Beloved, in whose blood we have gained redemption, and the forgiveness of our sins.

From this evening’s Canticle taken from the first chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Church at Ephesus.

This evening we begin this three-day celebration, marked by worship in liturgy and in festive repast. We start with Vespers, the age-old rhythm of prayer in which we join with the entire Church praying through the psalms. How fitting that we pray with the whole Church as the whole Church prays with us.

This prayer, as with the Holy Masses we will celebrate is a communal action, joining the Body of Christ outwardly and mystically.

The words joining, communal. the whole – all speak to the unity we have in the Holy Name of Jesus. It is what St. Paul often speaks of – the one Body of Christ, each person with a role, each person a member. In Ephesians 1 Paul calls us adopted children through Jesus Christ.

As adoptees, we are members of the family of God. We have become co-heirs to the promises of the Father right beside His Son Jesus. This is a wonderful and happy prospect. It is a gift given to us by the Father’s beloved Son, Jesus.

The amazing and Most Holy Name of Jesus. It is interesting that this parish, currently Holy Name of Jesus, grew out of St. Joseph’s parish. It was Joseph, who having received instruction in a dream, gave God’s Son the name Jesus. Joseph listened to the voice of God and did what was asked of him. So, back-in-the-day the people of this parish listened to the inspiration given them and decided to dedicate this parish to Jesus’ Holy Name.

The amazing and Most Holy Name of Jesus. I suppose it would have been a bit easier to keep the name St. Joseph’s for this parish. We can relate to Joseph as a person, as a holy and righteous man who carried out God’s instruction. It is kind of hard to relate to an idea like a name. That is more conceptual. What does a name mean, what does it denote, what can it do?

We have plenty of scriptural evidence that tells us of the power of Jesus’ name, what it denotes and does. In Acts 3:16, the Holy Name of Jesus heals. Seventy-five times in the Gospels and Acts we find phrases like: the name of Jesus, the name of the Lord, His name, and other references. Jesus’ name is one of power and hope. In Acts 4:12 we hear Peter and John tell those persecuting them that: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” True life, eternal life, freedom from sin come from the Name of Jesus. Acts 2:21 tells us: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So, we have been privileged to call upon His name and to be dedicated to His Holy Name, to be saved by and in His Holy Name.

But there is more.

During this weekend of celebration, look around. Look into the faces of people touched by our bearing witness to the Holy Name of Jesus. Then look deeper.

As Christians we often bandy about the idea that everyone is created in God’s image, that each person is a reflection of Jesus. You know, whatever you do or say to them, you do or say to Me. That is absolutely true. But there is more. Each person also bears within themselves the Name of Jesus.

For some, it is right out there for all to see. Some can certainly say: I bear the Name of Jesus in all I say and do. I proclaim Jesus wherever I go.  For others it may be more subtle, not quite on top, but we can perceive through their actions, their goodness and compassion, that they bear the Name of Jesus. Still for others, it is much harder to find, so much so that we forget they bear the Name of Jesus in them. We forget that Joe, Mary, Estelle, Nancy, Hypathia, Tony or the other is marked with the Name Jesus just as much as we are.

This is where that great hymn we began with should jump to the fore of our minds and lips: Holy God we praise Thy Name. For if we fail to act with compassion and charity toward anyone, we do not praise His Name we reject it, and thus reject the adoption, salvation, and healing His Holy Name brings.

This is a great and humbling lesson we must carry forth from here. It is a lesson for the next millennia – to continue to carry out the work underway here since 1921. 

For one hundred years, a century, we have opened our hearts and have seen the Name of Jesus in others, caught a glimpse of His image in them and welcomed them. We have grasped unto His adoption, healing, and salvation. We have brought comfort to the dispossessed, the stranger became no more a stranger. Those whose dignity was insulted found restoration here. Those who came without left filled.  We praised His Holy Name. We greatly and rightly praised the Holy Name of Jesus.

Strength of Faith.

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.”

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. We are focusing on our growth in Strength of Faith.

Today, in our exploration of Strength of Faith we encounter a problem that seems to have been a long-lasting one. In fact, it stretched from the time of Moses (and likely well before) to the time of Jesus and on to today. It is the problem, some would say of jealousy, but more in-fact it is about maturity of faith.

In both cases, the Spirit of God moves among His people. In Moses’ time it was the chosen seventy elders. In Jesus’ time, it was those who were moved to do mighty things in Jesus’ name.

In Jesus’ time, the people who set out to do work in His Name “felt” Him in their hearts, perhaps after hearing Him, or maybe just hearing of Him. They were motivated to do what many who encountered Jesus could not do, i.e., set aside their lives, careers, fortunes and go out to work for God. That took maturity and strength of faith.

See the juxtaposition of people who carried out the Spirit’s work in strength and maturity of faith – fearless and those who were not so sure. In both cases, the strength and maturity of those called to act kept the Holy Spirit’s good work moving.

Well, here we are, 2021. The Spirit of God is among and within us. This perspective on strength and maturity of faith cannot be more apropos to our upcoming centennial celebration and our honoring the work of the Polish National Union today. In both these cases, the Holy Spirit inspired people to work in Jesus Holy Name and accomplish amazing things. They in turn set aside all else to do what the Spirit called them to do. They acted with strength and maturity of faith, not jealously, nor apprehension, sure of their footsteps for they knew Jesus was walking with them.

Were there people like John going to Jesus or the young man who ran to Moses saying, hey look what they are doing, let’s stop them? Certainly! Yet here is where strength and maturity combine to get God’s work done. A person who refuses to grow in strength of faith will not step forward. A person without maturity of faith will constantly question the Holy Spirit’s direction, and if challenged they will stop.

In the end, and this is the struggle, we are called to trust. We are never called to build roadblocks or speed bumps; we must not stop. We are called to say yes to the inspiration in us, to act maturely and to remain strong doing the Sprit’s work.

Strength of Faith

And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.

Hope Is Here! It has been so encouraging to gather as a church and uncover all the ways that our faith is strengthened when we find hope in our relationship with Jesus and each other. We have learned that there is hope for the weary because we don’t have to carry our burdens on our own. There is hope for the broken because forgiveness is offered to us in love. There is hope for the underdog because with God we can do anything. This week we deal with a special subject, with one of the hardest. Is there hope for the doubter?

The gospel illustrates a concept that can be very difficult for us: That service and the attitude of a child is the way to the Kingdom, and that suffering is the prelude to glory. St. James tells us what he learned at Jesus’ side: That we must walk in purity of spirit, gentleness, mercy, constancy, and sincerity as cultivators of peace. This raises a problem of doubt, doubt that those things, that way of living, can make us victorious. Can it?

James’ illustrations of the world’s way the way we are to live presents a juxtaposition. We get that, but still doubt because the worldly seem to be doing so much better. So, I doubt, ‘Can Jesus’ promise be true?’

Each walk has markers. Each of them leads a person on a different path. One is a disordered path with disordered loyalties and desires. The other is well ordered with loyalty to God and a desire only to do God ordered things. One is a life with finality, the other life without end. But, can that promise alone ease my doubt? 

Doubt has become a common occurrence today. People have failed us. There is so much false information out there. Covid-19 has overwhelmed us. Each of these caused doubt and we wonder where God is. Certainly, the disciples must have doubted as Jesus spoke of the road to Jerusalem and the outcome He faced, death and resurrection. They probably doubted that being last and childlike would work out so great. We are there with the disciples and struggle against doubt.

There are many struggling with their faith. They may have lost hope that Jesus is who they thought he was. How does Jesus respond to them, to me when I doubt or struggle? He would welcome the questions, the conversation, the wrestle. He knows that honest doubt will find honest answers.

So Jesus left us, the Church, to listen to those who doubt for what they are not saying as much as what they are saying. Where does the doubt come from? Where is the hurt, pain, and struggle? We are so blessed to be that congregation who is willing to listen and provide hope to the doubting. We empathize and express compassion. We allow ourselves to feel others’ hurt, pain, and struggle, and that equips us to meet needs and build a bridge for the doubting back to faith and hope. The answer to doubt is providing Jesus Who is hope for all. What we do here helps us and all to see Jesus as the antidote to doubt.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of a trip where his ship encountered a terrible storm. In the dark belly of the ship, the passengers were frightened and worried. They were filled with doubt. One of the men finally ventured out and to the upper deck, where he saw the captain quietly on the bridge. With a tranquil face, he looked out across the sea and gave orders. He turned to the man and smiled. The man made his way back to the cabin where the other passengers were huddled together. In response to their questions and doubt, he comforted them by saying, “I have seen the captain’s face, and all is well.” That is what we must say.

Yes, hope is here for the doubting for Jesus is here with us. Looking into the face of Christ and holding onto each other we know all is well. We have peace.

Strength of Faith

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. Remember to focus on our Strength of Faith.

Today we again take a brief break from Mark’s gospel account and this time venture into Luke’s account of the challenge Jesus faced from the lawyer. How do I get to eternal life? What must I do?

The Jewish faith, from outward appearance, even to this day, has a very strong emphasis on doing. Wear this, wash this way, cook this way, spend the Sabbath like this. Pray this way. Responding to Jesus, the lawyer could have just quoted every one of the 613 commandments and all the rabbinical commentary on them. If you do all this, you shall live.

Perhaps the lawyer was just a bit wiser than that. For him, it came down to the two core commandments of love, love of God, love of neighbor.

Then confusion set in, for the 613 commandments make very clear distinction between insiders and outsiders. Commandment 166 and 167: A bastard child cannot become an Israelite. A eunuch or sexually mutilated man may not enter the community. Or 596 and 597: Destroy the seven Canaanite nations. Not to let any of them remain alive. Then there is always 449: A skin-diseased person will tear his clothes, grow his hair long, and cry out, “unclean, unclean.”

Could these people possibly be my neighbors? Do I have to love them? They are outside the community.

We all know that Jesus takes the Samaritan businessman, and uses him as the example of right behavior, for proper brotherly love, for strength of faith. Jesus is being totally politically incorrect and inappropriate for the Samaritans were more despised than the gentiles. A Samaritan woman was always considered “unclean.” Jews and Samarians hated each other. Some Pharisees even accused Jesus of having a demon and being a Samaritan Himself, as insulting as one could get.

This detour into Luke tells us two things. The first is that our studies on strength of faith cannot be just studies. Faith does not live if it is on a bookshelf. We are to live out our strength of faith. We must move from discipleship to apostleship, from students to doers of love.

The second lesson is that strength of faith calls us to the harder work. Ever meet one of those people who when presented with a challenge are already underway in taking it on; before the question is even over? Yes, that is how we are to be. Strength of Faith must be translated not only into doing, but into heroic doing. We are called to love in great self-sacrificing ways, to conquer even the most challenging call to love in Jesus’ name. That is what we must do.

For where your treasure is there also your heart will be.

I like Labor Day, in fact I really love Labor Day because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we do each and every day, whether we do it as retired people, when we hop in our car or get online to go to work, when we go to school, or the work we do when we’re searching for new work, for a new job, for a new opportunity. It takes time it is a struggle. It is a constant effort to do those things and to do them well as a representative of Christ Jesus.

The thing we must be careful of each day and what is pointed out by God on this day especially, is that we cannot compartmentalize our lives. We cannot say: Well, it is 8 a.m or 7 a.m or if you’re a construction worker 6 a.m. Now it is time to go to work and I am going to do my work and that is going to be one little compartment of my life. Then I am going to drive home at the end of the day and that is going to be another little compartment. Then I am going to get home with my family and that is going to be another compartment. Then I am going to watch some TV and do some gaming and do some other things around the house that need to be done (maybe mowing the lawn or pretty soon shoveling the snow). That is another compartment.

As you have likely experienced, we tend to break things into ordered segments. The segments of our lives are ordered according to the schedule of our days. As such, what we must be careful of, and what God calls us to consider this day, is that all those segments must not be segregated from our work as Christians.

Bishop Hodur, in organizing the Church, was a great advocate for the Labor movement. Why? Because he saw the Labor movement as a reflection of God’s kingdom design. In Unions people come together to accomplish. He did not say: Well the Labor movement is going to do this and they’re going to do their work in this little box, No, he said Labor and the work of the Christian member of Labor has to be a consistent activity focused on the building up of the Christian man or woman, of their families, and all pointed to the building up of the Kingdom of God.

No, work cannot be segregated from God. Pleasure and time spent in relaxation cannot be segregated from God. Time spent in school, time spent searching for work, time spent shoveling the snow or mowing the lawn or caring for the garden cannot be segregated from God.

We are called by God to live a consistent and holistic life that is focused on the work of the Kingdom. If we do that, what Saint Paul points out will be accomplished in our lives. We will be building with gold, silver, and precious stones.

Remember, Paul is saying that a foundation has been laid in Christ. That is the foundation we are building upon in every aspect of our lives. As Christians, we do not build in some small Sunday compartment. Everything in our lives is meant to build upon the foundation established in Jesus Christ.

It is about how we build on the foundation. Some build with gold, silver, and precious stones. They put their whole selves into the work of the Christian life, not segregated or compartmentalized.  Other use wood (probably not pressure treated), straw, or hay.

When the DAY comes, and Paul is referring to the end times, all of that is burned away. What will be left but the gold, silver, and precious stones.

What is going to burn away is the work of those who compartmentalize and segment their lives. They are not all-in. they have built weakly, with straw and with hay and with wood rather than gold, silver, and precious stones.

So, our whole efforts, our entire work, everything we do is to be within our life in Christ and Christ in us. On this Labor Day then, let us reflect upon what we do each day and resolve to be builders for God, building with only our best.

Strength of Faith.

Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. Remember to focus on our Strength of Faith.

For weeks we have focused on Strength of Faith, and perhaps it is time to focus on its opposite, strength of despair. 

It often astounds me to see people struggling so much, to see the level of despair they are wrapped up in. I see young families struggling with schedules and financial resources. I see middle aged people trying to make sense of relationships that seem to be breaking down. I see older folks facing decline in health and vitality. At the same time, I know people who face the exact same challenges, yet persevere and come to victory.

Listen to a few words from Adam Zamoyski’s 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow

Although Moscow boasted a French Catholic church whose priest had remained at his post, churchgoing did not figure among the activities of the soldiers. A handful of officers, came to mass or confession, and the pastor was only asked to give Christian burial on two occasions. He went around the hospitals to talk to the wounded, but found them interested only in their physical wants, not their spiritual needs. He said: ‘They do not seem to believe in an afterlife. I baptized several infants born to soldiers, which is the only thing they still care about, and I was treated with respect.’

The difference between people who face the same challenges, and yet have different outcomes is the presence of both faith and the fellowship of Church in their lives. Zamoyski points to soldiers amid despair and on the losing side who were so self-iinvolved they refused to see God in their midst. Their strength of despair overtook faith and led them to give up, to seek no help. They were left with only despair.

You see, we have the actual answer. We have a God of love and complete forgiveness. We have a God ordained way-of-life. We have the Bread of Eternal Life and the Cup of Salvation. We have the “all” so many seek because Jesus said, ‘do this, live this way, receive My promises,’ and so we do.

I can attest this from my own life. Any time where I absented God my life became the definition of absence. It was a turning inward to despair. Yet when I turned to God and committed to live the life of the Church, I was made whole. The challenges did not end, only they were transformed by God.

I imagine the deaf man lived in despair, but then he was brought to Jesus who said: “Ephphatha!”, “Be opened!” Once he was opened his despair was transformed and so are we.