This week’s memory verse: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17
  • 5/9 – Ephesians 4:22-24
  • 5/10 – Romans 6:4
  • 5/11 – Jeremiah 29:11
  • 5/12 – John 3:16
  • 5/13 –  Ezekiel 11:19
  • 5/14 – 1 Peter 1:3
  • 5/15 – Galatians 2:20

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, You have made us new in every way. Grant that we may live the gospel life with boldness and the constant joy that comes from Your lesson of love.

What’s next?

“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,”

We are now celebrating the Sixth Sunday and the start of the Sixth Week of the Easter Season. Is the thrill gone?

In the first few weeks of the Easter Season, we stood in awe with the apostles and disciples as they continually encountered the Risen Lord. We could sense their joy, the celebration and thrill that lifted their hearts and opened their minds to the truth of Jesus’ claims. He was indeed the fulfillment of all contained in the Law and the prophets.

Jesus had spent this time connecting the dots for His followers and so armed them to bear fruit by lived faith, to continue the message of freedom that is the gospel, and to bring people to repentance and membership in His body, the Church. As we heard last week, to graft people onto the True Vine.

We all know how it is. We spent time celebrating, thrilled, but now we have to turn what we learned in the celebration into physical action. We have to move the trill to lived witness to the risen Lord. Today, next Sunday, and for the rest of the year, we reinforce how we should be living.

Looking forward, we know what Jesus’ followers did not quite grasp, that Pentecost was coming, that Jesus’ instruction we will hear this Thursday, to remain and pray, would situate them for the awesomeness and trill of that day. Everything He had been teaching them, all the dots He connected, would in a flash of the Holy Spirit’s coming. pour out of them and into the whole world. Is that power pouring out of us? Is that trill with us or are we bored by Jesus?

In today’s readings and gospel, we see Jesus’s direction, how His followers carried it out, and how we should be doing it; what should be pouring out of us as we remain thrilled to be His followers.

It starts in the great commandment – restated today, This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.

Peter understood it in the house of Cornelius where people he would never associate with became his brothers and sisters in the Lord, who also received the Holy Spirit. He saw the trill they encountered, knowing Jesus changed them completely, and he was again renewed.

John, the disciple Jesus loved, went on to continually proclaim the power of love – for love is a thrill when it is lived genuinely, honestly, and effectively.

We live in the trill of being chosen, being free because of Jesus’ resurrection, sharing in His love for us, and our mutual friendship. We are so free, and love filled, that if called upon we will give our lives for Him and each other.

What’s next for us is what was next for the disciples, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, strong proclamation, a life defined by the gospel. And the everlasting trill of Jesus risen.

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Abide is a great word. It is a word with depth to it. We might think of similar words like remain or stay, but abide, that’s deeper. St. John writes about the meaning of abide in that deeper sense. It is not about just hanging out. Having invited folks to come over we might even invite them to stay or remain, but rarely do we ask people to abide with us – to stay forever. You see, stay and remain are time constrained words. Abide implies permanence, to persist, continue, and last. In abiding we go on without ending. To abide means we are in a stable and fixed state of relationship. In the phrase “abide in Me,” (John 15:4) which is May 2nd’s gospel, Jesus asks us, His followers, to stay constant in our relationship with Him, to live with Him in His gospel way forever. To abide, to stay forever in relationship with Jesus, is at the heart of the Christian journey. Our abiding with Him means we are incorporated into His Body and that we have accepted the responsibility of living out the gospel walk. We have received the gospel, God’s very word. Receipt of the gospel means more than just having a bible on the shelf, for if we have come to Christ by faith and have given Him our lives, then He has invited us to abide – in all that word means and implies. In this month of May, as Spring blooms about us, it is opportune to ask ourselves – where do I abide? Do I walk in Christ’s gospel way? Those who abide are changed outwardly and inwardly. The daily cares of the world continue, but impact us far less. In the Church of Hebrews and in Acts, people lost everything, homes, possessions, freedom – yet they counted it as nothing because they did not abide in the world. They knew where their home was, where the promise was. So they lived as citizens of heaven and as people freed from anything that might have constrained them, particularly the cares of the world. Let us who abide in Jesus then walk His way, free in His promise forever.

May and our Easter journey abiding in the True Vine continues. We also honor our Blessed Mother Mary, relying on her intercession for us as we continue moving forward.

This month’s newsletter is jammed packed with information. Summer activities, including the Annual Men’s Retreat and the Kurs Encampment are on. Learn about and get in on Great Centennial Raffle. We reflect on all the joys we experienced in April as we continue in Easter joy. We honor Mary in a special way this month as we also honor all our moms. We celebrate on Ascension Thursday as we look forward in hope to our risen life in the eternal kingdom. We have special gifts for you from the Annual Mission and Evangelism Workshop, “Discovering the PNCC.” We reflect on the discipleship example of Bl. Joseph Padewski. And… we look forward to the renovation of our church interior. That and so much more…

Check out all this and more here in our May 2021 Newsletter.

This week’s memory verse: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

Matthew 28:19
  • 5/2 – John 1:14
  • 5/3 – John 14:26
  • 5/4 – James 1:27
  • 5/5 – Romans 13:4
  • 5/6 –  1 John 2:27
  • 5/7 – John 13:34-35
  • 5/8 – Acts 2:42

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that we may constantly recall our role in You, the True Vine. Help us to grow in faith and by our actions for You show us the way to live. Provide us with grace so that we may never cut ourselves off from You.

I am a ________ branch

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit”

Years ago, we added a new deck to our house and on one end of the deck we added a very tall wood slat screen. Now some might think it was for privacy. In fact, it was meant to be a support for growing grape vines. The vine would be an ever-present reminder of our True Vine and our life as His branches. The vine also would be the source of the grapes used to make the wine for the sacrifice. That little project still needs to be started. Perhaps it is that wooden screen, absent the vine, that starkly recalls what life would be like without Jesus, the True Vine. It would resemble those barren wood slats that are no more than dead wood and yield nothing.

Our gospel this morning calls to mind what we have by our union with the True Vine. In Jesus we are nourished, we prosper, we live. We are strengthened and disciplined through the Father’s pruning of our lives which makes us better able to provide the abundant food the world needs – Jesus’ gospel and sacraments.

Jesus uses the analogy of a vine to give us the opportunity to think about where we are and what we are a part of. We know that the vine, Jesus, is strong and capable of sustaining and nurturing all the branches. But to receive His nourishment we need to not just be attached to the vine; we need to live in it. 

As with any plant, some branches are fully alive – green and fruitful. Some may be in need of correction and pruning to return to full life. Some may be attached but in actuality are dead, their veins separated from the life of the vine. Jesus’ word calls us to look at ourselves. It gives us the chance to consider, ‘What kind of branch am I?’

Perhaps I am that fruitful living branch, strongly attached to the vine. I remain fervent in prayer, spending time in His presence and allowing Him to speak to me. I receive the sacraments, almost as if it were the very first time, I give thanks for the way His sacramental grace renews and sustains my soul. I strive to use all of my gifts and talents to build up and encourage; I also challenge things have gone wrong in my life and in the world. I demonstrate through my actions that I am willing and eager to help others in and outside of my circle. I let my light shine brightly from the hilltop and call people to Christ. I know that this describes each of you because I see it in you.

Perhaps, however, I am the pruned branch, waiting for renewed growth, ready to leave failings behind and prepared by God for the next part of my Christian mission journey.

Perhaps, I am the dead branch, and if I am, it is time to trust in the God of life who can restore me. I just need to want it.

Our call today is to look deep within and honestly ask, which branch am I and then to set forth by the grace of God to fully live as or become that fruitful branch.

This week’s memory verse: Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:27
  • 4/25 – Galatians 3:27-29
  • 4/26 – Ephesians 4:22-24
  • 4/27 – John 15:15
  • 4/28 – Ephesians 2:10
  • 4/29 –  Galatians 2:20
  • 4/30 – 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • 5/1 – Romans 8:14-15

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, You have endued us with a new identity, a new reality, as children of Your one flock. Grant that I may faithfully live my new identity, regenerated into Your image.

The Lord is my…

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, and I will lay down my life for the sheep.”

Today is a good day to recall the words of our esteemed English teachers. Recall when they used to ask us to compare and contrast works by different authors, poems by different poets.

Jesus breaks right into a compare and contrast with His listeners today. Compare the good shepherd and the hired worker. He cites their motivations, one of concern, love, and sacrifice versus a pecuniary motivation – getting paid and not really caring. He cites their reactions – defense of the flock or running away.

Beyond that immediate compare and contrast, Jesus speaks of those listening as belonging to a fold and another group of people who do not currently belong to that fold. While they were of different folds at that time, Jesus tells His listeners that they will all be brought into one fold, one flock, with one Shepherd.

What Jesus was trying to impress upon those listening is that there is an ideal – a way of being that is unique to followship with Him. 

In this new reality – in the Kingdom and the gospel way of life – we need not worry about who might care for us. We have a Chief Shepherd Who is I AM – God Himself among us – watching over, guiding, guarding, and caring for us. We need not worry about what tribe, nation, people, or party we belong to for that is all worldly death. Instead, we belong to the one fold, the one flock of Jesus.

Peter, on trial with the other disciples, clearly tells the court of the old Israel, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” There is no other fold, or flock, or Shepherd. There is one, only one, for salvation and it is the flock of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. 

St. John expounds: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Children of One Father, brothers and sisters of the One Lord, no longer separate and apart from God and each other. One flock.

Brothers and sisters, we have a new reality in Christ Jesus. Our esteemed English teachers called us rightly to compare and contrast, and so we should. What was I before Jesus (apart, alone, afraid, without hope beyond today) and what am I now (an heir to eternal life and a member of the eternal family of God)? Who was God to me before Jesus (judge, accuser, punisher) and Who is He now (Good Shepherd)?

As we go forth from this blessed day, let us continually reflect on who the Lord is in our lives. Let us give thanks that we are in Him, the Good Shepherd, the cornerstone, where we together lack nothing. 

This week’s memory verse: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Romans 12:10
  • 4/18 – Philippians 2:3
  • 4/19 – Ephesians 5:21
  • 4/20 – Luke 6:31
  • 4/21 – 1 Peter 3:8
  • 4/22 –  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
  • 4/23 – Hebrews 10:25
  • 4/25 – Romans 12:4-5

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, by Your grace I have been made a member of Your Body, the Church. Grant, O Lord, the grace to build up the body and witness to the power of Your family.

Membership.

But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.

The words membership and identity are hot terms in these days. That said, they have been terms used throughout history to impose or self-impose a sense of communal belonging. 

In some cases, membership and identity were imposed upon others as a result of prejudices – in an accusatory manner – to differ the other from self, to reduce people’s humanity. In other cases, we have taken on our own memberships and definitions of identity.

If we took a moment to pull out our wallets and purses, we could quickly list some of our memberships. Here are some of mine: SEFCU member, NY driver, PACC member, AARP member (how did that happen?), BJ’s Club member, and others. A quick look at someone’s Facebook – memberships and identity markers abound. Where in all of that is our Jesus card?

The most significant sign of our belonging to Christ is that we bear markers that cannot be reduced to a card or social profile.

Our communal membership, our mutuality, our identity as Christians starts with that which was written on our souls at Baptism-Confirmation, our regeneration, from which our membership and identity as family, as brothers and sisters permeates our entire being and way of living.

Jesus, joined with His disciples as recounted today, told them that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations. This statement directed His disciples to go out and bear witness throughout the world. With the gifts of the Holy Spirit and, as St. John’s letter describes, the keeping of His word, they grew the family of faith. Out of people of every nation, class, status, color, and gender the Church grew as family.

Faithfulness to Jesus does not make us individuals, separate from each other. Rather, we are defined by our belonging, our obligation to God and each other.

We, the people of the Church, are not a separate people, each on his or her own path who just happen to get together for a moment. Instead, our getting together in worship is sign and symbol that we belong to God, that He belongs to us, and that we belong to each other. God infuses us with a grace to see beyond self to the family. He causes us to share with the Body of Christ as a symbol – a sacrament – of our love and of each person’s dignity.

In today’s Psalm we hear, for you alone, O LORD, bring security to my dwelling. This is not just our home, a physical structure in which we reside. Rather, the term my dwelling refers to our house, the place we reside together. He secures us in the family of faith and calls us to show our Jesus card by being “witnesses of these things” and bearing perfected love.

This week’s memory verse: But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:6
  • 4/11 – Ephesians 6:12
  • 4/12 – Deuteronomy 4:29
  • 4/13 – 1 Corinthians 14:33
  • 4/14 – Proverbs 8:17
  • 4/15 –  Proverbs 3:26
  • 4/16 – 2 Corinthians 3:5
  • 4/17 – Philippians 4:13

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant me the strength to stand up to the ‘say what-ed-ness’ of the world with the truth of Your gospel way. Help me to call others onto the path You have forged for us so together we may give You all glory and praise.