Manifest
destiny.

In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.

Last week we began by focusing on history – the lessons of history which are soon forgotten. If we look at the trajectory of the worldly, they live a ‘lather, rinse, repeat’ lifestyle, never breaking free from the destructive patterns of behavior brought about by sin and selfishness.

Today, we have more historical lessons. The history buffs among us, and those like me who fondly remember their history teachers and professors, recall the term ‘manifest destiny.’

Manifest destiny was a popular term in the early to mid nineteenth century. Its philosophy taught that the expansion of the United States throughout the continent was both justified and inevitable. It focused on three themes: (1) The American people and their institutions contained within themselves special virtues; (2) The mission of the United States was to redeem and remake the continent; and (3) It was our irresistible destiny to accomplish these things.
Seems almost faith based, doesn’t it. In fact it was a kind of faith – a worldly faith.

In our first reading, the priest of Bethel confronted the prophet Amos and tried to drive him away. Amos responded in true faith. Amos replies: I am just a man who followed my herds and gathered the fruit from the sycamores until the Eternal spoke to me, as I was minding my flock. He said: Go and speak My words to the people of Israel!

Amos was given a true manifest destiny. He had God’s virtue to share, it was his mission to remind and remake Israel, and it was his destiny to accomplish this. No priest nor anyone would stop him.

Paul reminds the Church at Ephesus, and us, that they and we have a manifest destiny – a true one in Jesus. We have been granted Jesus virtues, we are chosen to remake the world in God’s image, in accord with His kingdom design, and it is our mission and destiny to not just work at it, but to accomplish it. We should never allow anyone or anything to stop us.

We are reminded that Jesus sends us as He sent the twelve. He gives a true manifest destiny: not political, not earthly, not self-serving or selfish. Let nothing stop us from manifesting God’s destiny each day.

We are
among them.

Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD! And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

History is amazing study. The more we delve into history, the more we find humanity repeating it over and over.

Since Israel’s freedom from subjugation under the Pharaohs, the people began to lose faith and complain. They complained in various was over forty years of wandering. Joshua and the Judges came, they complained and began to follow gods of stone and wood. Trees and flowers held more fascination for them than the great miracles God was doing in their midst. By Ezekiel’s time, everything was god but God. He was at the end of three centuries of pagan life in the two kingdoms.

Ezekiel sums up the ways people had gone astray. Among these are a covetousness that lusted, longed, yearned, and desired each person’s own selfish ends. It is selfishness in its purest and most extreme form. Israel misread God’s love, grace, and goodness. They thought they could do whatever they wanted without consequence. Israel abused blessings on loan from God – they took the worship and gifts that were to go to Him and placed them at their own purposes. Selfish desire was more important than community, family, children, and life itself.

As we well know, greater responsibility is attached to those who own superior spiritual advantages. Israel ignored what they had, owned, possessed, held right in their hands. They wiped their memory clear of all that God had done and lived ‘for the moment.’ Today was all that mattered to them. As such, their sin demanded a more severe judgment.

Jesus faced a similar resistance in His hometown. People focused on what they thought were being said, and who was saying it (their perspective) instead of what was actually being said and what it represented. Their selfish ends were once again in front. They misread God’s love in their midst. They did not consider consequences.

Ezekiel and Jesus confronted hard hearts that would not move and selfishness. Those traits in our world today are a thousand times greater than former times. So now, today, we must stand forth. They must know that we are among them by the truth we tell.

We can’t
lose.

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

Isn’t losing, missing the mark, coming up short, or being a moment too late frustrating?

If we have ever experienced anything like that we know just a bit of what Jairus, the synagogue official, must have felt as he rushed through the crowds with Jesus on the way home. His daughter lay dying. They were trying to run, but the crowds prevented them. The woman stopped Jesus, and they were distracted for those precious few moments. Jairus certainly was worried: I’m going to be too late, I can’t save her, and I’m going to lose.

With all this on his heart and mind, suddenly Jairus’ servants confronted them. They were blunt: “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” He should quit.

That is the essence of the Christian life, isn’t it? We are running toward our heavenly goal. We do all the things necessary to get there. We go to Jesus. We attend church, receive the sacraments, pray, and read scripture, but still feel from time-to-time like we are not going to make it. We often feel pressed upon, like how Jesus, His disciples, and Jairus felt as the crowds surrounded and pressed in on them. The world and its allures distract us and pull us away from our mission. They delay us, and ultimately try to make us feel like we are going to lose. We should just quit now.

What pulls us away – the typical excuses – I’m tired, I can’t make it, I don’t have time or energy, I’d rather do this, that, or the other thing. Jesus has me covered – I don’t need to do too much.

For people called to win, to be victors in Christ, we cannot take for granted or blow-off the effort we need to put out. We should be listening very carefully to the rest of today’s lesson. Wisdom tells us: But by the envy of the devil, death (losing) entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience losing.

We don’t belong to losing we belong to Jesus. Jesus told Jairus and those with Him to keep moving forward to win. “Do not be afraid; just have faith” Push back, stay on course, press on with Jesus and we can’t lose.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

The world is in our face, and the struggles of many are on our conscience. In this constant onslaught, we are called by many voices into judgment on matters of human dignity. Many voices call us to make judgments – and in many respects to value one thing over and against another, one person over another, one policy over another. Because this is the perpetual situation in the world, the words of Jesus must be first and foremost in our minds and hearts. His teaching and way must be our guide. I have heard many of these voices: A man shouting in a store: “No one cares about kids killing each other in Chicago, why should we care about these kids.” Posts on Facebook that call out all the ways children suffer in our nation – those killed in the womb, those separated from parents by imprisonment or divorce, and other factors. The writer implies that our concerns for ‘each’ child is not good enough. In all of these the speaker or writer is calling us to chose, to judge. What many seem to miss is our call as Christians to respect the dignity of each and every human being. No sin, no misstep in God’s eyes, decreases a person’s dignity. No color, background, ethnic identity, financial standing, orientation, national origin, or self-identity makes a human being less in God’s eyes. Nothing ever must lessen the respect and honor we owe to all. True, Jesus calls all to reformation, to change and reconciliation. He often said: Go, and sin no more. People responded and did exactly that – they were changed. What we must remember is that Jesus never allowed the sin of anyone to bar the door. He called all to change because all have equal dignity in His eyes. Our call is to live our aspirations – to be the absolute best by living in full accord with God’s call. Let us never aspire to exclude, but to include. Let us aspire to open hearts and open doors, to reform and love as Jesus says we must. To respect and protect the dignity of each person.

Our July/August newsletter offers congratulations on several very special events in our parish, highlights our great summer activities, celebrates our Country’s independence, remembers our dearly departed brother śp. Richard, and gets to preparations for Back to Church Sunday – September 16th. The newsletter offers tips and advice for homebound faithful so they can stay sacramentally involved and connected. Let us know if we can help.

We also sadly reflect on the decline of the Roman Catholic Church in Schenectady and the challenges facing that Church. The National Catholic Church program is the best and strongest response and protection for its members. Parish property, finances, and the future of each parish are fully in the hands of its members, not distant bishops and ‘popes.’ We are thankful for that legacy. If you know someone who seeks the fulness of Catholic life and all the sacraments each Sunday, invite them to Holy Name. If you are looking for a place to express the Catholic faith as believed and celebrated by the undivided Church of the first millennium, join us here in Mont Pleasant. You Belong Here!


Check out all this and more in our July/August 2018 Newsletter.

The storm has
no power.

A violent windstorm came up. The waves were breaking into the boat so that it was quickly filling up. But he was sleeping on a cushion in the back of the boat. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to die?” Then he got up, ordered the wind to stop, and said to the sea, “Be still, absolutely still!” The wind stopped blowing, and the sea became very calm.

What glory we have in the Lord, what marvelous love and power reign over us. Storms never win.

Today we celebrate two very special occasions. Our young brother Traviss is receiving his First Holy Communion. Our brother and sister, Larry and Donna, are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage. The Lord is His infinite goodness and wisdom has given us supporting scriptures and a Gospel reading that so speaks to these two events.

These events mark the way God lives with us. They witness to what God will do for Traviss – going forward, had done and will do for Larry and Donna – past and future, and is doing for us each moment of our lives. The power of God is displayed here today. His power protects us as it did Job in his struggles; as it did on the night of the storm. Storms never win. Jesus’ faithful people, living in Him, do.

Traviss – you will face challenges and will have drama in your life. We all have – and you know what? We win, because of our faith in Jesus, because of His awesome power and love for us. Remain faithful, just like Job did in the middle of all his troubles. As you start in your deeper relationship with Jesus, as you become more and more like Him, stand and be brave, because Jesus has you. That’s what God said to Job – you don’t get it man. I created everything and have total power. Don’t be afraid or question, just trust. The storm won’t win.

Larry and Donna – you’ve stood strong against the storm in your love for each other and your trust in the Lord. Fifty years ago you invited Jesus to stand at your side. You learned from Jesus’ question to His disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith yet?” You said – Jesus won’t be asking that of us. You are proof that with God love wins. The storm never wins.

Jesus chilled out in the boat because He knew the storm wouldn’t win. We have examples before us of the glory and victory that is ours. Each of us, no matter the storm, is in God’s loving care. Standing faithful – joined to Jesus the storm never wins.

What is it
really?

“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

There is a disconnect between what people think of the Kingdom of God, what Jesus taught about it, and the stresses that have been placed on Jesus’ words for centuries. It is like one of those jokes you see in magazines or on-line; the same sentence with two completely different meanings, depending where you put the accent. Late night television hosts have tons of fun with double entendres.

The sci-fi author Damon Knight wrote “To Serve Man” which was later adapted into a Twilight Zone episode. It is a double entendre that could mean “to perform a service for humanity” or “to serve a human as food.” Think of that next time the Church calls us to serve our fellow man!

The parable of the mustard seed is one of the many positive statements Jesus made about the Kingdom. He placed His stress on our faith and our shelter in the Kingdom. Think about all its implications. A small start in faith will grow into something awesome. Planting a small seed of faith in someone – your children, grandchildren, a friend, co-worker, or neighbor, will grow into something great. The very Kingdom, begun through the work of the God-man, Jesus Christ, twelve co-workers, and seventy-seven disciples would grow into a great protective shelter for many. We all dwell in its shade.

The fact is, Jesus provided a very positive message about our home, our destiny, joy, freedom, forgiveness, and God’s rock solid guarantees. The Kingdom is not what people suspect it is; rather it is what Jesus taught it is. St. Paul picks up on this when he says: We are always courageous. If God’s message was punishing and negative, we would not be courageous, but fearful, cowering.

We need to place the stress back where Jesus put it. His is the message of hope, the message the world cannot overcome. We must be courageous for the beauty and joy that awaits us. The Kingdom is better than anyone’s negative stress or accent point. Live in and tell what the Kingdom really is!

I have much more to say to you, but right now it would be more than you could understand.

Jesus spoke those words in His final instructions to His Apostles and disciples, the night of the Last supper. Jesus, in His infinite wisdom and love, knew they were not quite ready for everything He had to tell them. It remains that way today. Jesus has many things for us to understand and to accomplish. He does not just lay it all on us at once, but rather, as we are ready. In the verse after this one, Jesus goes on to say: The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth. That is great consolation – that the Holy Spirit would come, has indeed come – to guide us and train us in all of God’s truth and in Jesus’ desire for our future. As parents, grandparents, and family members we hold great expectations for our children’s futures. Obviously, we don’t lay it all on them at the age of two – ‘this is everything I expect you to accomplish.’ It would be too much, and frankly too presumptuous. Rather, we instruct and guide, pave the way forward. We watch as our children evolve. As young people, we come to realize that the expectations of others, and those we place on ourselves, may not often turn out the way anyone expects – but yet in a way we have been prepared for all along. During the month of June we take pause to consider God’s desire for us. We hopefully stop, shut out the noise, and listen to the things He is revealing to us. His revelation is now. Stop, listen, and feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit, His nudge in a certain direction and for a glorious purpose. Jesus puts His desires on our hearts and minds, He leads us by the sending forth of the Holy Spirit. We have to realize that when He says we are ready – we indeed are ready. Jesus and the Spirit are never before the right time, never before we can bear it, but when we are ready. Have we heard Him speak? Will we take up His charge? Having heard, it is time to say ‘Yes LORD.’

The June newsletter offers tons of information on vocations. Read our Bishop’s Pastoral Letter. Pray fervently and diligently for the gift of vocations. Read from the Fathers on humility and sacrifice. Join us on Father’s Day for Holy Mass and breakfast, and pray for the special men in our lives. Check out our list of summer events and happenings. Read up on ‘saints’ who hate us and false apparitions and visions. Jesus is indeed the final word and we should be following His teaching; all that and more in our June 2018 Newsletter.

What is wrong
with them?

Jesus came home with his disciples. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Today we re-enter the post-Pentecost season of Ordinary Time. As with nature around us, green has returned and we are called to growth.

In this season, we re-encounter the teachings of Jesus, His call to us to be different, to be changed, to be rich and abundant in our growth in holiness.

Jesus’ family and the people of His hometown could not believe Him. Who is this man? Where does He get all this from? He must be crazy! Truth be told, if we were to really and honestly live as Jesus demands, our families and friends would say the same of us.

This is not a sermon about what we should do, for I well know that many here live as Jesus demands. Many here follow His call in ways that would make their families and friends say, if they knew the extent of their life in Jesus, ‘They are out of their minds.’

The world really does think that of Christians – that we are mad. The world of sin, greed, conflict, anger, and deceit would like to see us all go away. It is not just the fact that the world is in sin, but because our life in Jesus nags them. It speaks to them of the fearful truth that the world’s sinful ways are weak, temporary, and oh so fleeting. It is tough to look at people and know they will win while you are on the losing side.

Jesus came to tie up the ‘strong man’ of sin. He came to bind that strong man so that we who live in Christ prevail – come out as the winners we are destined to be in the end. When the sinful hear that, they tremble. They call us crazy, misdirect, and use every ruse to try to incapacitate the true victor – Jesus Christ and His followers. Thanks be, they will not win.

As we come out of the joy filled season of Easter, as we recounted the great gift of the Holy Spirit, and reflected on the identity of God and His great gift of Himself in the Holy Eucharist, let us once again take up the mantle of life in Christ. Let us be Jesus crazy before the world. Let the world be astonished and nagged because we live the beatitudes, turn the other cheek, give it all away, and offer up our very selves for our brothers and sisters. Let us pray that our life in Jesus is that evident. Let us hope the world says of us: ‘What’s wrong with them?’ so we may show Jesus all the more.

Bread for the
journey.

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.

Some of us may have heard of, or may have even read Henri Nouwen’s “Bread for the Journey.” You can often find quotes from this book on church websites or in bulletins.

Henri Nouwen was a professor at Harvard University and Yale University before becoming the senior pastor at the L’Arche community in Toronto, Canada. L’Arche is a community of people with disabilities living together. Nouwen was a prolific writer and wrote numerous books on spirituality and daily living. Bread for the Journey is one of his most well known. It is a book centered on Jesus Christ as savior, teacher, creator, and peace giver.

Why is it such a popular book? Why does its title ring true for so many Christians?

One term we hear from time to time is way-bread, the Way-bread of the Altar. What a beautiful term. On the night that Jesus was to be arrested, before He was to be killed, He gave us Himself as way-bread.
As prefigured in the journey of Israel, across the dessert, to the Promised Land, where God gave them Manna, bread for the journey, so now Jesus has given us bread for the journey.

We so need this bread, and Jesus gave it to us. We need strength for the journey. We need Him to be part of us; strengthening us, reinforcing and building up what the world tries to tear down.

We hunger for that, both spiritually and physically. In receiving, we recognize that He really fills us for the journey.

Every week we pray, shortly after the Our Father, in the words of St. Paul: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Our answer, for the journey, is Yes, yes it is. We have Him fully with us, Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity – fully on-board for the journey.

Nouwen’s title tings true because when we receive, we are receiving everything we could possibly need. The greatest gift! Bread for the journey.

To read the original version as a PDF file.

June 1, 2018

To the Very Reverend, Reverend Fathers and the Reverend Messrs., and my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord:

¡Viva el mes de junio! That’s Spanish for “Long live June,” “Hurray for June.” Hurray, indeed! And welcome to the month of vocations in the Polish National Catholic Church: June is Sacred Vocations month for us. June is the month we focus on our great need for priests, and on the need for significant donations throughout the PNCC to be made to the Clergy Pension Plan.

Our need of priests is dire and critical, but I am nonetheless hopeful and optimistic. Even though no Polish National Catholic families have sacrificed even one of their men, young or old, to our altars in the past twelve years, (and it doesn’t look like any family will in the near future), I remain optimistic. Even though our seminary has been empty for that period of time, except for the occasional priest from another Church orienting himself there to work as a priest in the PNCC, I have good reason to hope because I have experienced God’s providence. Our parish in Denver was declining but was pulled back from the brink of closure by an Hispanic priest from Mexico and 90 people of Mexican heritage who now comprise the great majority of that parish. St Francis, Denver, is growing, and is enthusiastically PNCC, and is flying 18 young people and 6 adults to Convo 2018 here next month.

Because Father Alfonso Castillo needs pastoral help there, I enthusiastically agreed to review applications from priest friends of his in Mexico to provide assistance to him, and subsequently serve our American parishes desperate for priests. In our Diocese, two priests, in fine parishes, are retiring next year. I have no one to fill them. A priest in our Diocese is on three parishes in Jersey. Three priests are on two parishes each. And there are ailing and aging priests all over the place! And yet I am hopeful. So I say, ¡Viva México!

With the increase in aging clergy comes the need for our Clergy Pension Plan to support them all. We collect for this vital entitlement throughout the year and especially in the month of June. We need more capital to invest, the interest from which the pension payments are made. From age 70, a PNCC priest can look forward to a monthly check in the amount of $600; and his widow, a check in the amount of $300. Please be generous in this drive. And so I say, in my optimism, ¡Viva el Plan de Pensión del Clero! (Hurray for our Clergy Pension plan!)

I believe God is showing us a potential direction for the future of our Church; and that pathway seems to be presenting itself from south of the border. For the Methodist Church, that pathway is from South Korea, and for the Roman Catholic Church, from India among other sources. In light of all of this, Bishop Hodur has indeed blessed us with a most optimistic motto for our Church when he penned: A través de la Verdad, el Trabajo y las Dificultades ¡Venceremos!

Yours in Christ,

Bishop Bernard