Strength of Faith

And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.

Hope Is Here! It has been so encouraging to gather as a church and uncover all the ways that our faith is strengthened when we find hope in our relationship with Jesus and each other. We have learned that there is hope for the weary because we don’t have to carry our burdens on our own. There is hope for the broken because forgiveness is offered to us in love. There is hope for the underdog because with God we can do anything. This week we deal with a special subject, with one of the hardest. Is there hope for the doubter?

The gospel illustrates a concept that can be very difficult for us: That service and the attitude of a child is the way to the Kingdom, and that suffering is the prelude to glory. St. James tells us what he learned at Jesus’ side: That we must walk in purity of spirit, gentleness, mercy, constancy, and sincerity as cultivators of peace. This raises a problem of doubt, doubt that those things, that way of living, can make us victorious. Can it?

James’ illustrations of the world’s way the way we are to live presents a juxtaposition. We get that, but still doubt because the worldly seem to be doing so much better. So, I doubt, ‘Can Jesus’ promise be true?’

Each walk has markers. Each of them leads a person on a different path. One is a disordered path with disordered loyalties and desires. The other is well ordered with loyalty to God and a desire only to do God ordered things. One is a life with finality, the other life without end. But, can that promise alone ease my doubt? 

Doubt has become a common occurrence today. People have failed us. There is so much false information out there. Covid-19 has overwhelmed us. Each of these caused doubt and we wonder where God is. Certainly, the disciples must have doubted as Jesus spoke of the road to Jerusalem and the outcome He faced, death and resurrection. They probably doubted that being last and childlike would work out so great. We are there with the disciples and struggle against doubt.

There are many struggling with their faith. They may have lost hope that Jesus is who they thought he was. How does Jesus respond to them, to me when I doubt or struggle? He would welcome the questions, the conversation, the wrestle. He knows that honest doubt will find honest answers.

So Jesus left us, the Church, to listen to those who doubt for what they are not saying as much as what they are saying. Where does the doubt come from? Where is the hurt, pain, and struggle? We are so blessed to be that congregation who is willing to listen and provide hope to the doubting. We empathize and express compassion. We allow ourselves to feel others’ hurt, pain, and struggle, and that equips us to meet needs and build a bridge for the doubting back to faith and hope. The answer to doubt is providing Jesus Who is hope for all. What we do here helps us and all to see Jesus as the antidote to doubt.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of a trip where his ship encountered a terrible storm. In the dark belly of the ship, the passengers were frightened and worried. They were filled with doubt. One of the men finally ventured out and to the upper deck, where he saw the captain quietly on the bridge. With a tranquil face, he looked out across the sea and gave orders. He turned to the man and smiled. The man made his way back to the cabin where the other passengers were huddled together. In response to their questions and doubt, he comforted them by saying, “I have seen the captain’s face, and all is well.” That is what we must say.

Yes, hope is here for the doubting for Jesus is here with us. Looking into the face of Christ and holding onto each other we know all is well. We have peace.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

I have a box. For those who get to church early enough or stay late enough, for the past two years you have seen me walking in and out of church with an old broken down box. The box is my briefcase of sorts. My family often comments: Why don’t you get rid of that old box and just get a briefcase? I don’t say much. I like my box.

This month’s scripture, taken from Matthew 6:33 reminds us of priorities – what comes first, what is most important: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

The box is a reminder to me of what we are celebrating this year, and in a special way how we will begin the month of October. One-hundred years ago people in Schenectady packed bags and boxes. They did not have much. They tread on foot to the corner of Raymond and Van Vranken to build a new church. This would be a church providing them the freedom to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Not long before this momentous event in 1921, these very same people packed boxes and bags and trunks to emigrate to the United States. They sought a better life and the opportunity to add good things to their lives – the dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

What is worthy of not just celebration, but also emulation, is that these founders did not separate or compartmentalize seeking the kingdom, righteousness, and a better life. They saw them as God’s way-of-life. They listened to what St. James pointed out: Every good gift and every perfect present comes from heaven; it comes down from God (James 1:17). As we celebrate the centennial of our wonderful parish, as we reflect on the good gifts we have received, let us remember those bags, boxes, and trunks. Let us recall that the search for truth and the achievement of victory took work and struggle. Most importantly, may we too live seeking what is important first, and all these things will be added to us.


Welcome to our September 2021 Newsletter. We are one-month away from our grand centennial celebration and September holds a wide variety of worship events leading up to this momentous occasion. Check out the October 1st through 3rd centennial schedule. In September we celebrate Labor Day, Brotherly Love Sunday, and Back to Church Sunday (who will you invite?). We commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11/2001. We reflect on our summer events and the great things accomplished in our parish, including astounding generosity. Ready for coffee hour? It’s back starting September 12th. Ready for daily Holy Masses? They are returning to parish life. Pray in advance of our Diocesan Synod and reflect on walking with God and each other.

All that we do, all accomplished, a future filled with hope is by God’s good grace and YOUR love and commitment. Thank you!

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

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.

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.

Yes!
TOGETHER!

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.

Welcome BACK TO CHURCH! If this is your first time visiting with us, we want you to know how happy we are. If you are longstanding faithful parishioners, we want you to know how happy we are.

You may be thinking to yourselves, why is he happy, why should the community be happy if I am here? Maybe he is just one of those pastors who is happy at just about anything?

Well, yeah, but that’s not the point.

The real point of our joy is the same point St. Paul was making about himself. Paul was overjoyed because he was taken from a life without meaning, without purpose, without hope, to a life regenerated – new life in Christ Jesus. He had eternal life in Jesus and the joy of now working TOGETHER in the community of faith. He received mercy, not allowance to continue his own way, but the mercy necessary to be changed into the very image of Jesus in communities throughout the Mediterranean.

For those who are joining us for the first time, for the first time in a while, or are here again, returning faithfully and diligently, today’s call is about rejoicing in knowing Jesus deeper and better, to experience His exorbitant mercy, and to be changed into His image in our world.

Relying on Jesus and being His image is not an easy choice. It is not popular – and definitely puts us into the core countercultural movement of our time, but so it was with Paul and all the early Christ followers. Paul counted it as mercy – to be saved from sin into a new life that actually mattered, and he worked together with others to spread knowledge of that salvation. Paul stood as an example of what is possible in Jesus, and so must we.

Today, and each week we are happy you are here. We are happy that the mercy of Jesus is so all encompassing, so total, that He will not leave any behind. We are happy because now together, in Jesus, we celebrate and rejoice.

you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

What does it mean to be all-in with God? Throughout Church history we have confronted the problem of minimalism. It is the problem of just doing enough. It seems somewhat counterintuitive. If we love something or someone, we want to do more than we are even able. We stretch ourselves, we exceed our perceived boundaries, and reach for the stars for the one we love. Yet, not many do that with God or His community, the Holy Church. Priests would tell you that in hearing someone’s confession, there are two types of sorrow the penitent may have for the sake of absolution. They can have ‘attrition,’ that is a fear of punishment or they can have ‘contrition,’ a deep sorrow for having offended God, for having broken relationship with Him. While both qualify as adequate, attrition is minimalistic – only that which is absolutely, barely necessary. I remember being told as a teen the minimums required for Holy Mass. I could arrive and stay from the Gospel to Communion, and then leave. It was just enough. Some (and it rarely ever happens in our parish) use the bare minimum as their way of dealing with God and His community. Yet, a God who calls us to be all-in with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength will not look kindly on a love that is loafing or limping or lowest common denominator. His call to us is to live love deeply, wholly, and completely. Our own consciences call us to that truth. There is much for us to do as we enter the month of September. The Solemnity of Brotherly Love reminds us of Jesus’ all-in call to love God and neighbor. BACK TO CHURCH Sunday calls us to take action – to invite and build up the church with at least a 25% gain in active participation. This new season reminds us that we have the opportunity to renew our own faith and participation in God’s community to the maximum. Let us live that call and be all-in.

September is here and the calendar is full of events that bring us together and renew great friendships. We have the Solemnity of Brotherly Love, BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY, and regular worship and fellowships that renews and strengths us for the journey together.

Come, be All-In together.

Read more in our September 2019 Newsletter.

Welcome to true
freedom.

I love the LORD because he has heard my voice in supplication, because he has inclined his ear to me the day I called. For he has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

Psalm 116 – words that cut so true today. They cut through the gloom and pain of isolation and loneliness. They cut away pain and hurt. They cut the entirety of negativity away so we can clearly see what God has in store for us. Yes, each of us!

So often we feel unworthy. How can God love me? Where is He in my life? I feel so alone and abandoned.

These are not just feelings, brief thoughts that pass through our minds and cast a shadow over our hearts. They can be a reality whether we live alone or with 2, 4, 6, or even 10 other people. They exist whether we work or are retired. Young or old, loneliness, despair, and disconnection are on the rise. Seventy-five percent of Americans admit to feeling a deep sense of loneliness. That isn’t a once-in-a-while thing. That is deep despairing loneliness. The number of Americans with no close friends has tripled since 1985.

That is what today, and frankly every Sunday, is about. It is about God’s house, His dwelling place, His family, His body. St. Paul often used the body as an analogy. If one part of the body needs help, we, the church, are to work together to save it.

Sunday is not just a momentary beginning – a few hour head start on the rest of the week. Sunday is the start of continuous action – to plug-in, to connect, to form and live friendships, to end loneliness and separateness.

In our Psalm, David finds God’s rescue. He sings thanksgiving in response to Divine rescue from mortal danger and from near despair. David knows God heard his cry. God freed him and David’s heart was filled with love – he saw and got it. God’s goodness made sense to him – finally. But David does more than sing.

In response to God’s love, David pledged and confessed faith. That is always the start. If you have never done that, pray along with me: Lord, I believe in You. I accept Your salvation and deliverance. I confess that I have sinned and done wrong before You. Cleanse me. I ask You into my life and acknowledge You as my Lord and Savior. You have been truly freed. Jesus will never leave you, nor will His Church, His people. Welcome to church!

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Jesus said these words twice, in the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Once was to the Apostles on the occasion where Jesus had asked them: “Who do people say I am?” They confessed their faith. Jesus then gave them an awesome and awful power, to loose and bind sin. The second time was when Jesus was explaining how the Church was to deal with sin. First, go to a person privately and confront them – try to turn them. Next go with two witnesses and confront them – try again to turn them. Finally, bring them before the whole Church, and if they refuse to change, to turn away from sin, they are to be treated as an outsider. Jesus reminded them of the awesome and awful power He had given them, the power to loose and bind sin. Why say awesome and awful? We frequently encounter the awesome part of Jesus’ gift to His Apostles and their successors. It is the power to loose sin, to free people from what binds them down. It is the ability to grant freedom. That is the greatest thing! We use this awesome gift a lot. Because of that, and because we hear it from the pulpit, ‘forgive one another,’ we kind of take forgiveness for granted. It seems it is always there for us. The other side, the awful side of Jesus’ grant is that we have been given the authority to bind. That is one fearful power, to leave someone in their sins, to effectively condemn them to their burden. Yet, Jesus gave us this power for a very important reason. The reason for this gift is some people’s refusal to turn around – the literal meaning of repent. Some just won’t repent, wont turn around and go the other way. If someone persists in their sin(s), we should not just give forgiveness. The faithful must reflect on both aspects of the power Jesus gave us. The call is to turn, and live as Jesus showed. We must take Him seriously. We must be aware and responsibly use both the awesomeness and fearfulness of Jesus’ gift to teach and correct.

Our September newsletter welcomes the season of change; the air, a little crisper, apples, leaves, and pumpkin everything. We celebrate our commitment to Brotherly Love. We open our doors and hearts on September 16th for Back to Church Sunday. We have a full calendar of events including: our 9/11 prayer service, Polish Dinner, prayers for our upcoming XXV Holy Synod, and so much more. Find out too why it is better to wash…

Check out all this and more in our September 2018 Newsletter.

Should we be
afraid?

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us.

Every year we go through these two weeks that mesh so well together.

This week we celebrate the Solemnity of Brotherly Love. This Solemnity only occurs within our Holy Church, nowhere else.

This Solemnity recalls the power of brotherly love. It is the antidote to every form of evil. It heals where there is destruction. It provides hope in the midst of despair. It saves.

The Solemnity was first established In 1906 as our Church gathered for a Special Synod due to attacks against our young denomination from both within and without the Church. As the delegates gathered they decided to not respond in kind. Rather, the lay and clergy delegates instituted the Solemnity of Brotherly Love. We would emphasize Christ’s teaching of love toward one another and even love toward our enemies.

So it is today. Just because our Church isn’t under attack as it was in 1906, does not mean we should just relax on our love.

Perhaps that’s the problem with Christians. The old saying was: ‘the blood of martyrs is seed of the Church.’ The martyrs’ faith and sacrifice drew others to the faith. People saw that kind of courage, faith, and confidence and said, ‘I want some of that; I want to be like that. No fear.

Today, not so much. Many congregations have gotten comfortable. They have flush bank accounts, around the same amount of people showing up each week. They may even do a few extra things in the community, a little charity here and there.

Here, we do things a lot differently. We, like over 10,000 other churches across the country, are participating in Back to Church Sunday next week. Rather than be complacent, we have put our faith in Jesus because He is the One who changes hearts. We have put our feet and voices into action by inviting people to church. We have been and must continue to be their Good Samaritan.

This is of great import. It is key to the Christian life. We must give people a reason, an example, a way to say: ‘I want some of that.’ The most interesting things about being that Samaritan is having no fear in doing what is right. That much will be the one necessary action that saves someone.

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.