The before and the
after.

Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, ” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

Jonah is on the job! Well, really, finally he is doing what he was asked to do.

Today is a story of the before, the present, and the after. The story of Jonah is so well known that we can almost recite it from heart.

Jonah, a well know prophet, was asked to go to Nineveh. He was to go into enemy territory, and tell people who had no faith or belief in the One true God that He was going to destroy the city for its sinfulness. Jonah figured he was doomed, he’d end up another dead prophet. So, Jonah ran it the opposite direction. More than run, Jonah immunized himself against God’s voice – so much so that he slept through the storm God sent to redirect him. This is the before.

Each of us has a before.

Sometimes, our before is a place we have been for a long time. It is something we want to get out of. Sometimes, our before is just a moment ago. We know we aren’t where we should be and we want to be different. We want to wake up. Sometimes, like Jonah we have a longstanding before in God’s presence. Even if we knew God and carried out His will, listened to His voice, we fall back into our before. Sometimes we immunize ourselves to God’s voice. When any of this happens, God sends His voice. He urges us, calls to us. If we stay stubborn, God sends the storm. He tries to wake us up. Sometimes He send friends – as with Jonah when his shipmates had to wake him up.

God’s call finally woke Jonah up, He decided to respond, to wake up. He decided, after days of reflection, to carry out the Lord’s will. He called out to God and said: What I have vowed I will pay: deliverance is from the LORD.

Those words need to be our now. If we are in a bad place, and have come here for the first time ever, for the first time in a long time, or if we have been here for a long time, yet feel numb and cold, we need to wake up, respond, and get on the job.

The Apostles had a before. Simon and his brother Andrew… were fishermen. James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John… were in a boat mending their nets. Then they heard Jesus call. Some slipped away completely. Others fell back, fell asleep until they were woken-up. They were not unlike us, but did great things because they laid aside their before for Jesus’ now and after.

We are called to set aside our before. To realize we are freed from before so to live consistent with Jesus’ call to us – now and ever after.

I want to
join.

The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with Him.

St. Paul teaches a beautiful reality today. As members of the Church, we are no longer alone or apart. We are joined to Jesus.

This is not a joining like a membership in a club or with our local automobile association. Those things are optional. If we have a club membership, we can go and partake in club activities if we feel like it. We can adjust our club participation to suit our needs. If we joined the local AAA or other automobile association, we can call them if we need them or are in trouble. We might even take advantage of club discounts if we think of it. Otherwise we can simply ignore the association; file our membership in the back of our minds. But, if we have joined ourselves to Jesus we no longer have options. We have to be all-in.

Paul points out that being part of Jesus is about being all-in. We are intimately joined to Him. What He has, will be ours. Who He is, we will become. His inheritance is our inheritance. If we are one with Him.

The Christian community – made up of each of us – is called to a new way of life; Christian living must show our membership in Jesus in ways that others can imitate. We must be so attractive, so Jesus like – love filled, gracious, peaceable, service oriented, sacrificing, and dedicated – that those who are seeking Jesus find Him. That those who are our fellow disciples grow deeper in their union with Jesus. All because of us.

We are called to completely orient our lives in a way that is in communion with Christ. This means we must make a giant change. We have to fully understand that our lives are not ours. Our bodies, minds, souls, desires, wishes, present and future do not belong to us – they belong to Jesus. We have to give up on ourselves to fully live our union with Jesus – our membership in Him.

This joining is not easy, nor does it happen overnight. If it did, every baptism would result in perfect Jesus-like people. Rather, our membership in Jesus is a process of becoming – and Paul is reminding us of what we must become to really be part of Jesus.

We hear of those who decided to walk with Jesus – they said, ‘I want to join.’ They walked with Him, listened to Him, prayed with Him – lived at His side yet still had to grow in their membership. That should give us courage.

To be really complete and all-in we must seek the Holy Spirit’s help and reach for the fully aligned life. With the Spirit’s help, we become, grow, draw others to Jesus and share in glory.

Peek-a-boo
We see You!

On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

We have used the term Theophany several times in our teaching during this Christmas season. Last week we talked about the heavenly revelation experienced by the humble shepherds. This week, all who stood along the banks of the Jordan would experience heavenly revelation, the showing of God as He is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Some of this might be lost on us. We encounter heaven weekly in this church. We know God as He is. In our worship, our Eucharistic experience, we are pulled into heaven and all of eternity is made real, graspable, to us. God’s Son shows Himself and we commune with Him. We are drawn together, in Him and with all who receive Him here on earth and in the heavenly kingdom. We don’t ordinarily recognize the wonder of this moment, we don’t see it because Jesus is so available to us. It wasn’t always that way.

This revelation of God, His manifestation in a way discernable by the senses only occurred a few times in the Old Testament. God walked with and spoke to Adam and Eve in Eden. He spoke with Cain, Noah and his sons, and with Abraham and Sarah. Moses first encountered God in the burning bush. Later, at Sinai, He spoke with Moses face-to-face, as one would speak with his neighbor, in clear sight and not in riddles. Because of these encounters, Moses was visibly changed. When Moses retuned from his second encounter with God on the mountain the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

Moses shined with the glory of God, and as Moses had been afraid before the burning bush, now the people were afraid. In fact, God’s glory was too much for them and they made Moses cover his face: when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.

Imagine that – being so changed in the presence of God – that you actually retained that presence in your body and on your face. Yet, that is in fact what is happening right here! Today! To us!

God is revealed. He has come to us. We have met His glory. We should look in the mirror. Are our faces shining? Are we glowing with the radiance of the heavenly kingdom opened to us each week, right here?

We might say, I am not worthy. We might say, I cannot see it. We might say, not here, in upstate New York, in Schenectady. Yet here He is, revealed, real, present and active in our lives. It is not our worthiness, but His great love that makes us shine. Bruised, just smoldering? Perhaps, but here He is to ignite us and give us glory.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

Arise and shine, I can just hear my mom saying those words as I covered my head with the blankets. Never all that happy to get up in the morning, here I am in 2018 as a priest of our Holy Church, leading a wonderful family of faith in our worship of God through His Son, Jesus. Of course that means I have to get up early. It’s worth it! The prophet Isaiah, using the words above, was speaking to the dejected people of Israel. They were in captivity in Babylon, with covers over their heads. He tells them to get up, to wipe the sleep from their eyes, to shine because an amazing thing was happening. They were being saved, recalled from exile. They were being called home. This happened to us that first Christmas. We were called to take on a new attitude. No more pulling the covers over our heads. The time of Jesus is here. We are being saved. Salvation had come, redemption is being accomplished. All we have to do is get up and meet and accept Him. Funny things happen in life. Sometimes not too “haha” funny. The light dims, the warmth cools, and we start pulling the covers over our heads again. When that happens we have to recall these words from Isaiah. We have to reconnect with the Manger, the start of great light and warmth. We have to gather the courage to engage in worship and community once again. The New Year is here. We are being called. Time to arise and shine.

Join us during this Christmas season (all forty days of it). We celebrate the Circumcision of the Lord, the Holy Name of Jesus, the Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord. The SouperBowl of Caring is coming up – help us feed those in need in our local community. Take part in our annual Outrageous Valentine’s Raffle. Stop by for a great homemade spaghetti dinner. Schedule a home blessing. Learn about our music scholarships. Become a member and sign up to help serve the community. We so look forward to meeting you. Time to arise and shine!

You may view and download a copy of our January 2018 Newsletter right here.

Who’s
first?

but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior

The Christmas season is a time for recognizing firsts. As we browse through the scriptures, we encounter those who did things for the first time. It is, however, a little difficult to decide who did what first.

Did John the Baptist proclaim Jesus first? Not really. The Shepherds we honor today did that. They heard about Jesus and told of Him first. They made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child.

Was John the Baptist the first to be killed because of his proclamation of the truth? On December 26th, the Church honors St. Stephen, called the proto-martyr – the first martyr for the faith. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. But on December 28th the Church honors the Holy Innocents, the children and infants killed by Herod after the Magi’s visit. Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region. They were first.

People have an affinity for firsts. We like winners – and these martyrs and evangelists were indeed the first winners. But do we realize that we are all winners? Like the Humble Shepherds, Jesus’ birth heralds the fact that we have been made winners, and are in first place.

In writing to Titus, Paul lays down the way winners, people in first place, are to live. He says that winners are different from non-winners because they lead different lives. Paul shows us that the change wrought in Jesus coming – the appearance of God’s kindness and love – gave us the possibility of changing – becoming victorious. It is not that we have done anything to bring about this change. Rather, it is a change gifted to us by Jesus’ appearance.

Those first visitors encountered this opportunity. Poor and outcast humble shepherds encountered Theophany. They saw the glory of God and heard the message. They were changed to winners, not just by the encounter, but because they acted on it.

Paul walks us through a formula he frequently uses, comparing before and after. In verse 3 he says how things once were – we were total losers: foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another. Now we are winners because, He saved us.

Because we are made winners, people in first place, we are called to boldly and richly live the life laid out for us by the One who gives the first victory.

Beloved:
The grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of our great God
and savior Jesus Christ

Today we celebrate the ultimate encounter. Here we meet God. It couldn’t be any better. Nothing could be more amazing than this night in which all of God’s promises were fulfilled. It happened in this moment, in this manger, on this night.

Paul, writing to the early Church, summarizes what everyone knew pretty much first hand. He recalls the flash of Jesus’ glorious appearance. He recalls the beginning of transformation – Jesus brought opportunity for change, newness, and freedom. Paul helps his readers to see that the opportunity still lives. My brothers and sisters, it lives here today. Approach the manger, see it and enter into new life today.

Grace has come to earth, and it lays here today, ready to be picked up, ready to be accessed and used for a new way of living. As this passage is read in churches around the world, we not only remember an opportunity once given; we take up that chance once again in hopeful preparation for Jesus’ return in glory.

We have nothing but opportunity; a chance to reject the curriculum, the teaching of the world, the non-opportunity of death. Embracing the Christ child’s opportunity for change, newness, and freedom we turn from that which is false, old, and binding. By Christ’s birth, God gives us Divine opportunity to live new lives.

People of God, people filled with love for the newborn Babe, our ship has come in. Our chance is here. Let us link our lives together and with all who see the opportunity of God’s grace – opportunity for change, newness, and freedom – joy.

dont-take-a-vacation-from-god

We are building a record of on-time newsletters. This one is four days early. Well, technically it is both 4 days and 45 days early because is covers both July and August.

July and August and summer is here. We look at God’s word through the prophet Isaiah – Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be Discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. God is ever present. He’s not just an on-call handyman, but ever present with you, strengthening and caring for those who place their trust and faith in Him. As we take time to vacation, it is good to take a moment and refresh ourselves by recollecting the great gift of abundant care that God offers us.

Also in our newsletter – We wish all a safe summer and extend congratulations to our young people who are moving onto the next stage of their school careers. Our Healing Holy Masses and Anointing for Healing continue on July 13th and August 10th at 6:15pm. Read the story of an individual faced with a major life change and how our parish responds to all those who face these difficulties. Ever meet a convert and say Oh No!?! See what you and they can do for each other and together. Get updates on Church-wide events for this year of regeneration and much more.

And one more important event – our Parish and Community Picnic on August 16th. Put it on your calendar and please join us at church as we enjoy a great Sunday afternoon.

You may view and download a copy of our July/August 2015 Newsletter right here.

June – and the newsletter is on-time (even a day-and-a-half early).

June marks Sacred Vocations month in our Holy Church. Take time this month to pray for the Church’s faithful and dedicated bishops, priests, and deacons. They daily kneel and pray for all of us in submission to God and as true servant leaders. They make sacrifice and oblation for the needs and good of all of us. They don’t want to be raised up on pedestals, but only wish to raise all of us up to God.

Pray too for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and diaconate – for strong, determined, brave, and faithful men to set to work for the Kingdom of God:

O Almighty God, look mercifully upon Thy Church and incline the hearts of many of Her sons to offer themselves for the work of the sacred ministry, so that by their labors Thy light may shine in the darkness of the world and the coming of Thy kingdom may be hastened by the perfecting of Thine elect. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


June also marks Father’s Day and the start of our summer series of programs. Please join us for our new monthly Holy Mass and Anointing for Healing to be held on June 15th at 6:15pm. Read more and reflect on what it means to be Church and get updates on Church-wide events for this year of regeneration.

You may view and download a copy of our June 2015 Newsletter right here.

20100504_submission-and-servant-leadership_poster_img