For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, 

you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Tonight, Jesus gave us the gift of the ministerial priesthood, the power therein to serve and forgive, His holy words and example, and His body and blood. He gave all that is needful for right praise and worship. He gave us all we need until He comes again. He gave it this very night.

Jesus left these wonderful things this night, not just because, but so that in them He would remain fully present and available to us. We are able to confess our sins in honesty and are reconciled to the community. We hear His words and see His example illustrated and taught so that we might live likewise. We have His body and blood, and through them unity with Jesus, oneness with He who only wishes to be one with us. He provided all this, this very night.

Jesus provided the ongoing and living opportunity for the faithful to encounter, learn from, praise, and worship Him. He left us the preeminent model of worship that his disciples are to follow this very night.

Jesus told us to gather – and here we are. He told us to learn from Him, to take up His yoke – and so we are ready. He told us to serve one another – and so we do. He told us to eat and to drink – and we partake. We gather, enter the Holy of Holies as one, and come into His presence. We find a unity with God that is at once comprehendible and similarly mysterious.

No matter where we worship – from a glorious looking church, to an auditorium, to a jungle hut – In this re-presentation of what Jesus did and modeled this night, Jesus pulls us into heavenly existence. This is what He left us this very night.

No matter how many people we see worshiping and praising together, from thousands to a handful – – Jesus wanted us to know that we are worshiping with the entirety of the Church throughout the world and the entirety of the heavenly host – all the angels and saints joined with us every time we come together. This is what He called us to do this very night.

In this memory, this remembrance of Jesus we are joined with Him in His eternal being. It isn’t just a photo or video from the past, but an entry into the eternal present. We touch our eternity with Jesus, and in that encounter find comfort, joy, and glory. We get a taste of what is to be for us, His disciples, this very night.

Jesus left us the gifts of this night so we would not remain stagnant. He gave us gifts to get us from where we are to where our possibilities are. 

Jesus moves us, in this worship, through these sacramental realities:

from sin and death / to eternal life

from corruption / to wholeness

from brokenness / to healing

from ignorance / to knowledge

from mere habits / to His way of living

from apartness / to presence

from aloneness / to community

from fear / to courage

from ordinary existence / to extraordinary glory

from earth / to heaven

This very night.

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Not the
Conclusion

The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Through Lent we encountered Dismas. We learned who he was and what brought him to the life he led.  

We discussed the issue of his equality and possibility; our call to rightly measure both; to recognize inherent human dignity. The image of God is in all. We are all provided the same possibility all those around Jesus have. 

Like Dismas, we are called to come to Jesus and be saved. We, like Dismas, must set aside the fear we have in the face of God’s honesty. 

As we heard today, Dismas, on the cross, examined his life, asked questions, saw his innate dignity, the possibility before him, overcame fear, and grabbed the chance to grow and become, even in the last moment of his life. 

From the cross, Dismas proclaimed his faith in Jesus, confessed his sin, and allowed Jesus to take hold of him.

Today, we walked with Jesus, from the supper table, to the garden, through arrest, questioning and torture, prison, conviction, the journey to Calvary, crucifixion, and this encounter with Dismas and Gestas. Seemingly the end.

There is so much here but reflect on the words of Dismas: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Isn’t that what we all want. Isn’t that what touches us so deeply.

We, who await the supper of the Lord, who have joined ourselves to Him, who are dedicated to Him, have come to realize that all He did, His finishing of the work the Father sent Him to accomplish, was exactly for this reason. God remembered us.

As we reflect on what Dismas asked and what Jesus did, what His sacrifice promises us, let us give thanks. Jesus indeed remembers us eternally. Our life is now, like Dismas, without conclusion.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared.

They came, so sad, with faces stained;
Behind them the rays of a new dawn flamed.
All about them heaven with glory began to open…

The partial stanza above is from the poem The Resurrection by Fr. Walter Hyszko. This and other poems by Fr. Hyszko can be found in his book, Ode to Great Men and Great Things in Poetry and Prose.

This poem is so appropriate to us. It reflects on the early morning walkMary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women took to the tomb. They were deeply saddened, faces tear stained from prolonged crying. Their hearts were broken.

In their sadness, they set out to commit a final act of love toward Jesus, to anoint His dead body with spices. He was dead.

Fr. Hyszko paints a picture in words. They reflect what we may be experiencing Easter Sunday morning if we have walked with

Jesus throughout Lent, if we actually spent time in church from Maundy Thursday through Holy Saturday. The weight of Jesus betrayal, arrest, torture, death, and the ensuing silence after burial weighs heavy on us. Our sinfulness, our failures, our unwillingness to be there for Jesus, presses on us. We feel death’s press and we miss it.

As Fr. Hyszko points out, the Marys, Joanna, and the other women missed it too: Rays of a new day flamed / heaven with glory began to open. All those things that weigh on us, all the tears and regrets in our lives have been covered in the redeeming blood of Jesus. We have been washed and made new. That day burned forth as new – a new era – rebirth into a time where heaven is open. The doors have been unbarred. Death has been crushed by death. He lives!

The last line of the poem’s first stanza says: Yet the thrall of grief remained unbroken. Do not let your grief remain unbroken this Easter for we are made new. Rejoice!!!

Join us this April for the conclusion of our Lenten and Passiontide journey. Join us in our Lenten retreat on April 6th. Join in directed giving. Palm Sunday is April 14th, then Holy Week – a full schedule of events taking us on a journey through every emotion – by which we grow so close to Jesus. In the end, grief will not win.

Read more in our April 2019 Newsletter.

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Part 5

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

We have to wonder if Dismas, as he was encountering Jesus on the cross, thought back to the words of the prophet Isaiah: Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!

As one who encountered death so often, and who perhaps murdered, who likely saw his criminal colleagues similarly crucified, he was certainly seeing and experiencing something new. In the midst of this horrific tortuous death, he found freedom and forgiveness. Outside himself, he saw Jesus take care of His mother and he saw the executioners also pardoned by Jesus.

Paul’s words to the Philippians would have therefore rung true for Dismas, for this is what he experienced. I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus… I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession.

What happened to Dismas was beyond his comprehension. Dismas’ sinful and failed life was not his final testament. Rather, his testament is that of mercy, of a new way of life. It was something he had missed, he could not posess, yet here it was.

Dismas, just like the woman caught in adultery, was taken possession of by Jesus and was given the chance to respond. They were both set free by meeting Jesus. Neither had a claim on mercy and freedom. They had no possession they could claim. Yet, they allowed themselves to be brought into the something new Jesus provides. They both allowed Jesus to fill their lives with His newness. 

As we enter the Passiontide, the Holy Church offers us the great reassurance that is so apparent in these readings. Jesus is ever near to us, ready to take hold of us. He has new life for us – the past is no more. All we need do is respond as Dismas and the woman did. 

In these two weeks, let us reflect on how unready we are, how lacking in perfection, and despite that, how much we want to draw ever closer to Jesus. We are His possession. Because of this, let us press forward growing in our discipleship and witness to Him

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Part 4

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation

Three Sundays ago, we met St. Dismas. We learned who he was. We considered what brought him to the life he led. We began considering questions about those times when we, like Dismas, turned from God, let temptation win. Then we set on the road to repentance. We set to take the same opportunity Dismas had; to ask ourselves questions and use those questions to grow into better and better images of Jesus.

We discussed the issue of equality and possibility; our call to rightly measure both.

We recognize inherent equality in human dignity. The image of God is in all. Dismas, like every other person around the cross, is us. None deserves hatred. None is less than we are. In our equality we acknowledge that we are all presented with the same possibility Dismas and Gestas had. Like Dismas, we are called to come to Jesus and be saved.

While we have that ability to come and be saved, we tend to get caught up in our weakness and fear. Fear is compounded when we face God’s absolute honesty. Dismas wasn’t strong enough and lived a sinful and destructive life even in the face of God’s truth. Until. Like Dismas, we must have the courage to grab the chance. We must not forego the chance like Gestas did. We are called to see the full honesty of God – truth and mercy that provides each of us the chance to grow and produce even in the direst of moments.

Dismas, on the cross, examined his life, asked questions, saw his innate dignity, the possibility before him. He overcame fear without neglecting Jesus’ truth, and grabbed the chance to grow and become, even in the last moment of his life.

Dismas, in his encounter with Jesus, spoke the prayer of faith. He spoke to be saved. In this short moment, Dismas acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus, admitted his sin, and asked for salvation. Dismas lived the parable of the Prodigal by coming back and received eternal life. We are called to do exactly the same. Our Lenten journey with Dismas is a model to be followed. If we follow it, take hold of Jesus’ promise, and live in Him, we are recreated as disciple ambassadors, ever new.

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Part 3

Today I offer three scriptural quotes:

God called out to him from the bush, God said, “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.

Yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert… These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us

“Do you think that because [they] suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all [the others]? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will perish as they did!

Pretty scary stuff, because when we hear the honest word of God, the alternative to living in Him and in His way, we face eternal reality. Live in God, follow His way, be His disciple, or die. When we are clearly told to set aside sin, walk away from it, to repent and go in the opposite direction, it is frightening. We face our weakness and wonder if we are strong enough to do it. In fact, we know we are not strong enough.

Dismas wasn’t strong enough. He wallowed in a sinful and destructive life that led him to a tortuous death on a cross. As a fellow Jew he certainly heard of God’s word to Moses. He knew the commandments and the penalties, the blessings and the curses. He was dying on a cross in consequence. The curses all came home at once.

We all must face the God of consequences, the honest God Who tells it like it is, without shadow or excuse. Reflecting on this, how do we see Him?

Do we picture this God as god in a Yul Brynner disguise? Is he god as the King of Siam in the ‘King and I?” Is he in a stance of strength, bald headed, bare chested, fierce, calling for his whip so might beat his slaves?

As Dismas looked to his left, in the midst of his curses, he saw a short, bearded, dark haired Jewish man. He suddenly he saw through his sin and inability, past the curses to the reality of God. God is the Gardener Who says: “Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate it and fertilize it.” Dismas saw his chance to grow and produce even in that moment where his curses were overwhelming. Let us recognize our chance, the reality of God’s truth. He seeks only our growth and production. We must be honest in the face of weakness and rely on His strength. Let us see clearly and grab His chance.

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Part 2

our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.

Take a look at the those on the crosses. All different, right? I would like to reflect on these people and consider equality and possibility.

Who was there? Jesus, of course. Dismas, the ‘good thief.’ Gestas, the impenitent thief. By the way, his name means ‘to complain or moan.’ The Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John, and the three other Marys (Mary Cleophas, Mary Salome and Mary Magdalene). The centurion and the soldiers. Representatives of the Sanhedrin (the scribes, elders, or rulers), including perhaps the chief priests. And, finally, the rest, the people from the whole surrounding countryside. Quite a crowd.

In this array of people, we may perceive ourselves to be better than some, worse than others. We may struggle (those of us who are particularly attuned to organizing things) with where we fit on the ladder; what shelf we may be on. Let’s see, well I’m not as good as Jesus, or Mary, or St. John. Am I better than Mary Magdalene? Am I better than Dismas? Certainly, Gestas, and the soldiers, and the Sanhedrin, and the chief priests, and most of the crowd who rejected Jesus, and, and, and… are lower than I am.

Equality and possibility. Disciples must rightly measure both.

A disciple recognizes inherent equality in human dignity. The image of Christ is in all. There is no distinction in color, background, ability, sexuality. We must see in each, another self, and respect each person’s life and dignity through our kindness and mercy. Taken from that perspective, each person on and around the cross is us. None deserves hatred. None is less than we are.

A disciple properly orders possibility – that we are not a copy of each other (I’ll never be as smart as… As beautiful / handsome as… As artistic as…) but rather that I am able to come to Jesus and be saved (as Dismas was). All sorts and conditions of humanity gathered at the Cross, the whole scene a picture of equality and possibility. Our discipleship message is that all have equality before Jesus and each, like Dismas, has possibility in the Cross of Christ.

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped

Everything Jesus said and did was for us. He counted properly. In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul laid out all the things Jesus gave up for us. He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. Jesus did not give these things up to demean Himself, to become less than what He was, but rather to take all He is and all He has and offer it up before His Father in the ultimate sacrifice. A sacrifice sufficient to pay our debt of sin. That ultimate sacrifice was the key moment of Jesus’ doing. That act alone is so meaningful for us. We have endless thanks and praise to offer for that alone. Yet there is so much more in Jesus’ time on earth and ministry for us. He not only provided us freedom by His ultimate sacrifice, He left us a storehouse of treasure to be counted and used. This Lent, we are called upon to count, consider, and take up each and every thing Jesus taught and demonstrated for us. We are to assess His way of life, His call to follow Him, find the areas where we fall short, turn from them, and respond with concrete, doable, and practical strategies to live Jesus’ life. That’s right, live Jesus’ life. The concept of discipleship entails a turning away from ‘how we are’ to ‘how we must be.’ Lent provides the perfect opportunity for us to count up all the ways we fall short, all the ways, and to escape from sin into fuller life in Jesus. If Jesus could give it all up, then so must we. If Jesus has called us to discipleship, then so we must accept His call; His way of counting. Philippians says, everything about Jesus is to be grasped, to be counted, too be considered and thought about. But, we must not stop there. If we truly grasp and count all there is in Jesus, we realize what we must do. As Jesus lived, we must live. As Jesus did, we must do. Make Lent matter, delve into Jesus storehouse of treasure and let us make ourselves count as Jesus does.

Join us through March and into April in our Lenten and Passiontide journey. Join us in our Lenten retreat on April 6th. How about a discipleship gathering on March 22nd? Join in directed giving. Then — March 30th our Fire of the Spirit Charismatic Healing Service. March 31st — our BASKET SOCIAL!!!

The initial list of winners of our Valentine’s raffle is included in the newsletter. Information about our upcoming parish census is included.

Step up to, and join with us in, the Spiritual Buffet. Read more in our March 2019 Newsletter.

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Part 1

What does Scripture say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart —that is, the word of faith that we preach—for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For the Scripture says, No one who believes in him will be put to shame. For there is no distinction 

If you attended Holy Mass on Ash Wednesday, you had a preview of our Lenten homily series. We are spending Lent with St. Dismas. For those who do not know, Dismas was the “good thief,” crucified alongside Jesus. In Greek, the name Dismas, means sunset or death. There are many stores about St. Dismas, but they are not our concern. Rather, we will delve into Dismas as a person, much like ourselves. He took many wrong turns in his life, much like we do. Perhaps, none of our turns was as extreme as Dismas’ turns; yet we have much in common  with him when we turn from God.

Dismas’ turns were dark. The Roman Jewish historian Josephus noted Dismas was a brigand – a thief and abuser. He is much like the robbers the poor man in the story of the Good Samaritan encountered. Brigands lived in the hills, watching for and robbing travelers. They left their victims beaten, robbed, stripped, and helpless along highways and byways. Unless helped, those robbed typically died.

Other works note Dismas as a terrorist or as a fratricidal murderer. As I said, his turns were dark. What was most important however was his last-minute turn to Jesus. Jesus,remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.

Who was this Dismas, really? What brought him to the life he led? None of us can really answer that question. We can speculate. Was he a man, perhaps abused or neglected by his family? Was his family somehow killed by violence or disease, leaving him to fend for himself? Was he a person of little skill who could not find work? Hopelessness can drive a man or woman to extremes. As in our very neighborhood, young men and women join gangs because of hopelessness.

The question we must ask ourselves in our inner Lenten examinations is: ‘Why did I turn from God when I did? What temptation won?’ Again, perhaps not as darkly as Dismas, but nonetheless, away from God. What hopelessness drew me into sin? How might I repent/turn back and in doing so show unity with God’s heart by relieving another person’s hopelessness? Disciples ask these questions and use them to grow into images of Jesus.

Yes,
I am serious.

Jesus told his disciples a parable, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. “

Two weeks ago, we entered into the Sermon on the Plain. We learned that this sermon was likely repeated by Jesus on many occasions – on the mount, in the dessert, in the city, by the shore. This sermon wasn’t repeated because it was necessarily popular or because Jesus didn’t have anything else to say, but because it was consistent with Who God is. Jesus was revealing what life in God is all about; how His disciples are to live.

The first part of the message from the plain was centered on blessings and curses. To live consistently in Jesus, we must be prepared to live poor, weeping, and hungry if it is necessary to witness to Him. We must be prepared to be hated, excluded, insulted and denounced if necessary, to put Him before all else. The reward, the blessing, is life eternal. To do otherwise brings curse.

Last week we returned to the plain. Jesus continued to exhort His disciples to live consistently in God, with God, and as living images of God. This part of the sermon did not so much focus on what we must do to be Jesus’ disciples. but more on how we must respond to things that may happen to us. In examples of what His disciples might experience, Jesus spoke about what our reaction is to be. How we are to deal with difficult situations, events, people, confrontations, and daily living speaks volumes about our discipleship.

Today, we remain on the plain with Jesus. He continues His serious instruction. He warns strictly against judgmentalism. He asks us to focus on our need for repentance and healing, ways we must turn from sin and live in His image. We are to be like our teacher.

Jesus calls us to bear “good fruit.” If we live as He lives, bearing good fruit, focused on building our lives into stronger and stronger images of God, then people will be drawn to us. They will come to us to receive nourishment, new life, refreshment. They will not be put off, fearful of drawing near to us – because they will find Jesus here.

St. Paul takes up Jesus’ seriousness. He tells us: be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted.Lent is here, let us commit to living seriously in Jesus and bearing Him fully in our lives, actions, and reactions. Disciples!