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
  • 9/20 – Romans 10:13
  • 9/21 – 1 John 1:9
  • 9/22 – Ephesians 2:10
  • 9/23 – John 3:16
  • 9/24 – Isaiah 41:10
  • 9/25 – Galatians 2:20
  • 9/26 – 1 Corinthians 12:27

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, thank you for Your disciples who have invited me to know You. Thank you for accepting me and loving me. Help me to progress each day living Your commandment of love.

What about me?

Seek the LORD while He may be found, call Him while He is near. Turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, Who is generous in forgiving.

First and foremost, welcome to church on this Back to Church Sunday. Whether you are joining us for the first time, for the first time in a while, or for another week, we welcome you. Whether on-line or in-person, we welcome you. Know that God has put it on our hearts to tell you, to reassure you, and to make clear to you that you are welcomed and loved.

Over and over in scripture, God makes clear His pursuit of His people. He constantly calls after them. He runs to them, even when they are afar off.  He does not ask anything from His people other than a relationship founded in faithful love. 

God says come, no cost, nothing to pay. He says return. Call Me, turn to Me, and you have Me. Look here, I have gifts for you, My Son’s life for you. My love and grace, freedom, and everlasting life for you. Yet, we ask, ‘But what about me?’ We still ask, ‘Can it be that simple?’ 

The loving Lord is standing here, in our midst, and He says, ‘Yes! That simple.’ I am ‘near to all who call upon Me.

You see, the Lord’s creation is founded on love. God has built His kingdom on a foundation of love. He did not build His kingdom on some set of insurmountable barriers, nor upon a checklist of things we must do. This is the thing many find so difficult to believe, that an all-powerful, Almighty God would welcome me, that He would welcome me whether I come at the start of my life, in the middle, or near the end – and that He would not extract a price from me.

Brothers and sisters, perhaps you have heard someone tell you that God is vengeance, or that He punishes to force us to act. Perhaps you have heard that some formulaic process of approaching Him is needed, or that obedience to some set of man-made rules and disciplines is required, or that you must punish yourself to get to God. None of that is true!

It is as simple as love. Love me and each other Jesus taught.  Follow me, He says. From there, love motivates our footsteps, our daily doing, speaking, working, prayer, and sacrifice. It is that simple.

What about me? Jesus tells us that I, me, who I am, is welcome today. There is no, ‘Where were you?’ with God. His call is continuous, and if we have taken the opportunity to come today, whether the first time, as a moment of return, or even as our 23,660th time being here, we are welcome and are in the kingdom. We have sought and found Him Who welcomes us.

This week’s memory verse: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 7:12
  • 9/13 – Leviticus 19:18
  • 9/14 – John 13:34-35
  • 9/15 – James 2:8
  • 9/16 – Galatians 5:14
  • 9/17 – Romans 13:10
  • 9/18 – Philippians 2:3
  • 9/19 – 1 John 3:18

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that I may do love each day, in each encounter, in every trial, moment to moment. May each unless I face be answered in love.

Unless

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

…and we know the rest of the story. The lawyer quotes the Law of God correctly, love God and neighbor. Unfortunately, he could not connect that Law to his reality. As Jesus often does when people don’t get it, He attempts to teach the lawyer by illustration. He tells the story of a man in need of help. He increases the tension, the man is laying there in pain, unable to help himself, as a priest and Levite pass by ignoring him.  We can almost hear the man’s cries for help as he is ignored. Finally, someone comes along and stops to help.

The man who stopped to help fulfills the Law of God in the reality of his life. He doesn’t do it because he is an expert in the Law of God, he probably did not know any of its technicalities especially since he was not Jewish. He didn’t do it because it was convenient. It probably wasn’t, he was on his way to do business and this would kill his schedule. He did it because unless…

The one who stopped was answering God’s law written in his heart. As Jeremiah records: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts.

So the Law on his heart says to him: Unless I stop this man will suffer. Unless I stop this man may die. Unless I stop, I will add to the harm committed. Unless I stop, the world will be a worse place, for then no one will stop for me. Unless I stop, I will be less in my own conscience and eyes. Unless I stop, the Law written in my heart will convict me.

On this special Sunday, the Holy Church calls us to reflect upon our unless. We have all faced those moments, drive by, go on, or stop.  We have all faced our own consciences and any conviction due us when we fail to act in love.

The lawyer wanted a nice, neat, organized understanding of God’s Law and what he had to do. We like that too. No messes in his or our understanding, but then there’s this beaten man on the side of the road. The Law says to us, Unless. How do I act?

We must answer yes to love and love’s action when confronted with our unlesses. We cannot ignore the unless, nor minimize it, nor put what we want or need first. Our schedule or convenience really does not matter to God if it is put before love’s action.

St. John reminds us that anyone calling themselves Christian must respond to every unless with love.  If we do not, we will have no confidence for the day of judgment. Therefore, let us face every unless with love.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Today we gather on the 19th anniversary of 9/11/2001 to support each other in our loss, to celebrate the bravery and courage of those who rushed to assist, and to be consoled in the promises our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ left to His faithful. 

Jesus changed our understanding of what we have and where we are going. Death is no longer an ending. Death is not extinguishing the light for the Christian. Rather, death is putting out a dim lamp because a bright new glorious dawn has come no matter how it comes.

On this day our hearts grieve deeply over loss, yet we are undeniably grateful for the life of people of faith and good will killed on 9/11 and thereafter.

On this day, 19 years ago, we lost brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, volunteers, colleagues, friends and mentors.  People always there were no longer there. Yet for many of them that new dawn had come.

In the midst of grief, we take this time to re-connect with the lesson that the cancer of terror cannot kill love. It cannot shatter faith. It cannot eat away hope. It cannot corrode peace. It cannot destroy confidence. It cannot cripple friendships. It cannot shut out memories. It cannot silence courage. It cannot reduce eternal life. It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection. It cannot stop the new dawn.

We can find great comfort and understanding in the Bible so that we might face each day in faith. St. Paul’s letters to the Philippians 1:19-23 states, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain….

We have to compare the statement: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain… “ to the empty alternatives that hold only hopelessness and ending. Among them are:

If for me to live is hatred, then when I die it is a loss.

If for me to live is money, then when I die it is a loss.

If for me to live is self, then when I die it is a loss. 

If for me to live is ambition, then when I die it is a loss. 

If for me to live is sin, then when I die it is a loss. 

If for me to live is worldliness, then when I die it is a loss. 

In this context, the faithful Christian who lives in Christ finds in death a gain. 

Let us share, on this solemn day, four ways that for the Christian faithful, no matter how we arrive at it, death is gain.

First, WE GAIN A BETTER BODY.

Christians receive a glorified, immortal, eternal resurrected body. In the present body of clay, we are subject to all the sorrows and tears that earthy life brings our way. Terror, fear, age, sickness, and finally death are the inevitable companions of this tent made out of the dust of the ground. But in death and in the resurrection of the dead we gain a new body, a perfect body like unto our Savior. A body that can never grow old, never know disease, never experience terror, never suffers pain, and can never die. We gain a better body.

The second way for the Christian that death is gain is: WE GAIN A BETTER HOME.

The experience of dying, especially if suffering is involved, is not pleasant to contemplate. Even so, for the Christian, death means going Home. It means being ushered into the presence of our Savior! It means a departure from this world, with all its trials and heartaches, to the blessings and joys of heaven. Paul spoke about his “desire to depart and be with Christ.” 

The Greek word translated “departure” is significant. It was used metaphorically as a nautical term for when a vessel pulls up anchor and loosens its moorings so it can set sail. The word was used in a military terminology when an army broke encampment to move on. In the ancient Greek world this term was used also for freeing someone from chains, and for the severing of a woven piece from its loom. Departure was freedom.

This departure for another place is how death is described in the Bible. Here, we are anchored to the hardships and heartaches of this life. In death, the gangway is raised, the anchor is lifted, and we set sail. In death, we break camp to start for heaven.

Whatever the beauty and the embellishments of any house we may possess in this world, it is nothing to be compared with our place in the beautiful city of God. According to the promise of Christ Jesus in John 14:1-3, our Lord has been preparing a place for us in heaven, a place especially designed for us. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. 

The third way for the Christian that death is gain is: WE GAIN A BETTER INHERITANCE.

Our final inheritance is not here. It is in heaven. No matter what Aunt June or Uncle Henry might leave us, our final reward is not here, it is in heaven. It is only beyond the gates of death that we ever hear the precious words of our Lord, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21). Enter into your inheritance.

All the demands of discipleship that Christ had placed upon us and which we work to faithfully fulfill are rewarded in a way that is beyond our present comprehension. For those killed, they are more alive than they had ever been. They are appreciating more deeply than they thought possible, and experiencing more fully, the glory, wonder and worship of Jesus whom they loved so faithfully. For to them, “to live was Christ” so they have gained that inheritance.

The fourth way for the Christian that death is gain is: WE GAIN ETERNAL FELLOWSHIP.

All of us in this world live in a dissolving family circle. 9/11/2001 brought that reality to the fore as the current COVID crisis has as well.

A mother is gone, or father is gone, or a child is gone, or our grandparents are gone, or friends are gone, or a brother or sister is gone. If we live long enough, we shall be strangers here. Everyone we knew and loved will be gone. But the circle is unbroken in heaven. There is no death there, no separation. We live in community and fellowship eternally. We proclaim it in the Creed each week: I look for the life of the world to come.  Real life.

What should be our attitude toward death? Is it something that we cringe before, something we pray against, something we dread, a terrible and awesome sentence on our lives? Whether death comes suddenly or slowly, is this to be our attitude toward dying? As stated earlier, it depends on our IF statement. If for to me to live is Christ, then to die is gain. If to die is gain, then we should walk confidently each day toward the bright dawn that awaits us. It is so much better than the dim lamp of today.

God promises that it is better over there than it is here for those of us who look in faith to Him, who continue to persevere and work for His kingdom. 9/11 reminds us of the importance of that work. God says that we will have a new body, a better home, an inheritance delivered, and eternal fellowship when we are called HOME. God has prepared something so much better for His faithful. We will be with those who have been redeemed from all the ages. We will sit down at table with Abraham, Moses, and Job, with the apostles and prophets, with the children of God though all the centuries. Best of all, we will experience our Lord Himself breaking bread for us. Amen.

All these rely on their hands,
and all are skillful in their own work. 
Without them no city can be inhabited 

Today we gather in prayer as a start to our celebration of Labor Day. Labor Day is a rightful national tribute to the impact of workers on the strength and prosperity of our country. That is no more evident than in this year of pronounced challenge.

The very first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City, organized by the Central Labor Union. 

The Labor movement, through many trials, even attacks that resulted in the death of workers – remember just for instance the thirty killed in the 1894 Pullman Strike (my grandfather was a Pullman car painter) and the Lattimer massacre in Hazelton, Pennsylvania with the violent deaths of at least 19 unarmed striking immigrant miners in September 1897 – has stood strong in its advocacy for workers and their absolute right to fair wages and overtime, benefits, periods of rest, and so much more rightfully due.

Times of challenge call people of good faith together, in community, to stand beside each other and to do all things necessary, even to the sacrifice of their lives, so that their brothers and sisters might be treated equitably. So too in this year of challenge. 

As we celebrated last year, who would have thought that the work of those who are so devalued by their employers would hold the key to our survival? Grocery workers (I was a member of U.F.C.W., the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, when I worked at Tops Markets as a teen), delivery personnel, government workers, warehousers, janitorial staff, health care workers, especially nurses who bear the brunt of the work, manufacturing workers, the United Trades, and so many others. We thank God for them and we thank them for their work! We remain in the midst of this crisis and our Labor Unions are again in the forefront, fighting to ensure worker safety.

The Book of Sirach takes a walk through the various trades: the artisan, smith, and potter and by way of example tells us that they are key to our very survival as a community, city, and a nation. We depend on labor. We depend on the worker. Their hands and skillful work are the basis for the statement: Without them no city can be inhabited. Scripture fulfilled in our current crisis, for without the grocery, delivery, warehouse, janitorial, health care, and manufacturing worker – we would fall apart as society. No city could be inhabited.

This lesson, and all of God’s lessons on labor are foundational to the work of the Christian and the Christian Church. As St. Paul admonishes us, we must build with gold, silver, and precious stones, the things that will last, on the foundation of Christ.

When our Church was organized in 1897, our first Bishop and all its clergy and people united to fight for fair wages and proper treatment of workers. We did not fight just for the sake of fighting, rather because God demands justice for His people. God demands unity of action among believers to protect the rights and dignity of people. God’s call is for His people to be lifted up, to be given the opportunity to grow and become.  Our Church’s Creed states the following:

I BELIEVE that all peoples as children of one Father, God, are equal in themselves; that privileges arising from differences in rank, from possession of immense riches or from differences of faith, sex and race, are a great wrong, for they are a violation of the rights of man which he possess by his nature and the dignity of his divine origin, and are a barrier to the purposeful development of man.

I BELIEVE that all people have an equal right to life, happiness and those ways and means which lead to the preservation of existence, to advancement and salvation, but I also believe, that all people have sacred obligations toward God, themselves, their nation, state and all of humanity.

We had to bear witness to what we profess; purposes shown us by the Divine Master and Savior, Jesus Christ Who Himself was a tradesman.

We stood with workers in the face of abusive business practices, whether in the mines and steelworks of Pennsylvania, the rail yards, grain mills, steel and chemical factories of Buffalo, the auto-works of Detroit, or the great nexus of transportation in Chicago. We called for collective ownership of the means of manufacture. For this we were called communists and socialists. Our first Bishop was investigated by the FBI; you can request his file. That did not and will not deter us from building on the foundation of Christ with gold, silver, and precious stones, those things that will last.

Our work continues today and indeed must expand. The accumulation of wealth by the few while my neighbor suffers is unconscionable. The cries of those whose wages are stolen reach to the Throne of God, and we must act to stop that abuse. So many of our brothers and sisters suffer in an economy harmed by the current crisis. We must fight together for the sustainment of benefits so needed so that when we reopen, we are ready to get to work.

In doing this work we build up heavenly treasure for we support the dignity of each person and their opportunity for advancement.

This Labor Day, we honor all workers, from the front line, to those struggling for a fair wage and a safe workplace, to those striving to find a good job. In honoring and praying for them we resolve to set once more into the fight for worker justice and human dignity.

This week’s memory verse: Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Galatians 6:1
  • 9/6 – Galatians 6:2
  • 9/7 – 2 Timothy 2:24-25
  • 9/8 – Colossians 3:13
  • 9/9 – James 5:19-20
  • 9/10 – Philippians 2:3-4
  • 9/11 – Ephesians 4:32
  • 9/12 – Hebrews 12:11

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that we remain faithful to Your way and give us the courage to call those who wander back.

What do I say?

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen…”

Have you ever served on a Board of Directors? Certainly, our Parish Committee members do. It is an honor to serve as well as an interesting and challenging task. I have served on many Boards of Directors. Looking at my old resume, at least eight. One of the most interesting was my service with our homeowner’s association.

Some communities have a homeowner’s association. There are a set of rules and regulations you agree to when you buy your home. You pay some sort of annual dues that take care of maintenance in the neighborhood. These associations are governed by an annually elected Board of homeowners.

Being an accountant by training, I usually get selected to be the Treasurer of any Board I am on. Yep, they elected me treasurer. What did we do? We made sure common areas were mowed, our ponds were properly attended to, and that homeowners followed the rules they agreed to. If people wanted to make changes to their homes, they would have to seek approval. Generally, mundane stuff. Mundane until there was a problem.

The part that got the heads of the Board members shaking was when people would come to the Board with their little disputes. My neighbor’s grill sends smoke into my yard. You get the picture. Our general answer was – Talk to your neighbor. That never seemed to work. 

It is hard to talk with someone if they’re headed in the wrong direction. What to say? We have trouble doing it with those closest to us, and here Jesus tells us our obligation is toward the whole family of faith, to call people back to faithfulness.

There is a distinction and a caution. The distinction – our obligation is toward members of the Christian community, not to the worldly. If people are members of the Christian family, we have the same understanding of who we must be, and we can call them back. The caution – we refrain from judging. Because someone is heading in the wrong direction does not mean they are bad or evil.

What do I say when a believer goes off track? We are to seek after them like Jesus seeks after the lost sheep, with love and compassion. We are to call people back to faithfulness, remind them of what we hold in common as the regenerated. Let us make every effort in calling those who stray back to God’s standard and to live faithfully ourselves.

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

This month we celebrate that Solemnity unique to our Holy Church, the Solemnity of Brotherly Love. I personally love being part of a Church that pays special attention to the idea of mutual love and care. This Solemnity didn’t just show up, nor was it established just to pay lip service to the concept of brotherly love. The Solemnity comes out of the real life experiences of our earliest founders. In 1906 a Special Holy Synod needed to be convened because events would call us to action. What to do in the face of words of hate, physical attacks, and widespread discrimination? The Holy Synod chose to do what was holy, what Jesus called us to do. The Holy Synod did not result in declarations of war, counter-plots, counter- attacks, or calls for discrimination and hatred toward attackers. The Holy Synod rather made a declaration of love. They resolved to love even in the face of hate, to love in the face of what we might disagree with, to love in the face of attack. We were not only to turn the other cheek, but to love and pray for our attackers. A man wanted to justify what he was doing, the way he chose to live, the words he chose to speak, (today, the postings he chose to make), so he asked Jesus: ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus gave him a choice. We have choices to make just like that man did. Let us listen to Jesus and chose to love above all, to hold our words, and to act and speak in love no matter what is hurled at us.

So Much Happening. September is jam packed with events and opportunities. A special Holy Mass on Labor Day offered for the intention of all workers, organized labor, and worker justice. A prayer service in commemoration of the 19th Anniversary of 9/11/2001. The Solemnity of Brotherly Love. Back to Church Sunday where we take the time to invite and to recognize we are stronger together.

September’s Newsletter also covers the achievements of our youth in Music Scholarships and at the Kurs Camp. There is a reflection on the use of words – which have power to build up and to destroy, and a reflection on voting with an informed conscience. There is even a to-do list and … what if you were asked to spend 80 minutes?

Read about all it in our September 2020 Newsletter.

Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:23-24

Come join us at 10am on Labor Day, September 7th for a Holy Mass offered for the intention of all workers, organized labor, and worker justice. We have masks and hand sanitizer available if you forget yours.

Holy Name of Jesus, 1040 Pearl St. Schenectady.