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.

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.

Outstanding, outgoing,
out-of-here.

But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD

Happy Sunday new Israel! Indeed, we are the new Israel. We are the holders of the New Covenant sealed in the blood of Jesus. As recipients, and beneficiaries of the New Covenant, we have the Lord written on our hearts. We are the Lord’s people. We belong to Him. With the Lord’s Law of love written within us, we no longer have need to be told ‘know this’ or ‘know that.’ Rather, we have innate and intimate knowledge of God’s way.

On this Sunday, dedicated to Brotherly Love, we see Jesus reminding us of the importance of living by the Word implanted in us. Two, a priest and a Levite, saw the man in need and passed by on the other sideBut a Samaritan came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion. The priest and the Levite did not connect with the Covenant in their hearts. They ignored it, or misinterpreted it, or just plain missed it. Yet the Samaritan, who was supposed to be outside the Covenant, responded. He didn’t seek a book or an advisor for guidance, he responded with compassion. Jesus made His point about actually living the Covenant. Having done so, He told the young man, who wanted to justify himself, to “Go and do likewise.”

So it is to us. As children of the New Covenant, we must live fully connected to God’s way in the midst of every situation. What we see, the situations we run into, are all a call to action – to respond with the action of brotherly love.

The Covenant was in the Samaritan. It called him to act in an outstanding way, to stand out with love. The Covenant called the Samaritan to be outgoing, to go out of his way to act with love. The Covenant called the Samaritan to get out-of-here, to get out of his own head, thoughts, needs, and desires so to act with love. Today, throughout this week before BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY, and thereafter, let us live the New Covenant in our hearts by being outstanding, outgoing, and out-of-here.

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.

Love is
hard – and worth it.

when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper

In the course of less than half-a-day, the Samaritan had the courage to walk up to a total stranger who was in trouble, used his personal store of oil and wine to clean this stranger’s wounds, bound the stranger’s wounds with his cloths, gave up his ride to let this stranger ride, took the stranger to an inn where he took care of him – meaning he fed him, kept him company, and assisted the stranger in every way he needed (consider he was likely taking care of the stranger’s bathroom needs too), and then having to leave, took from his own money and offered that too. He also pledged to come back again and make up any difference. These things cost, and pretty dearly. Beyond the outright cost of oil, wine, bandages, rides, a place to stay, and two days wages ($405 average in New York as of today), the Samaritan lost at least a day’s business. This little escapade – helping the stranger – likely cost the Samaritan at least $1,000 in today’s money.

Interestingly, economists have spent a lot of time and effort in studying Jesus’ parable. Jesus isn’t just for philosophers, theologians, and clergy anymore. “The Good Samaritan and Traffic on the Road to Jericho” by Ted Bergstrom studies situations where people encounter an unsatisfactory state of affairs and must decide whether or not to act or leave it for someone else.

Bottom line, the question of “Who is my neighbor?” involves estimating the cost and deciding on whether it is worthwhile or not. It is sad that we still ask this question, still count the cost. Look at the News or social media and we see debate – who is my neighbor? Many want what the lawyer wanted – that some people are not. The immigrant is not, the person with the different skin tone is not. The person whose religious beliefs are different or who has no religious beliefs is not. No, according to God we must be neighbor to all. We must act.

The stranger was hurt by violence and neglect. He was saved by one who saw him as neighbor. Jesus, the Samaritan, touched the unclean, went to the lost, outcast, and those in need. Jesus spent it all – far more than $1,000 – His very life – to save His neighbors.

What does it look like to love someone, to act? Is anyone off limits? Is any cost too high? Is any mile too far? Are there boundaries? Jesus’ answer to the lawyer in us is that we must have no boundaries or limits. We have been touched by complete love. Our response is to act, to pay it all, and to find complete joy and satisfaction in loving like Jesus.

Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

Did you ever wonder why we do what we do at church? Not the Holy Mass as an act of God directed worship or educating our youth as God has commanded so that they may have knowledge of the fullness of God’s love – those things are pretty straightforward. No, I mean the investments we make in church infrastructure for the future. Since the beginning of 2012, we have taken on twenty-two major infrastructure projects. This month we are replacing the entire sidewalk along the side of the church and have made major repairs to the church hall floor with the entire floor soon to be updated. Do you wonder why? If it were about dedication to just a building, or to memories, it would not be a wise investment. After all, what is a church without people, or memories without people to share them with. Grabbing onto Paul’s Letter to Timothy, we find the real reason for investing. It is about you! Paul exhorts us to guard the good treasure entrusted to us. We have Jesus in our midst and we have you in our family. The Holy Spirit guides us in what we do so that you may have a place, a home, and a family. A place to belong. We invest – we invest so the church is there for you – we invest so you may belong to and rejoice in being God’s precious treasure.

Join us this September as we celebrate brotherly love, take up a collection for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, and welcome you to a ‘Place to Belong’ on Back-to-Church Sunday, September 17th. There are lots of activities, a new kids corner, and best of all, a true sense of belonging.

You may view and download a copy of our September 2017 Newsletter right here.

No
fear!

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.

One hundred ten years ago our Church gathered in Holy Synod. As a fledgling organization its members had faced persecution. Real persecution based on faith right here in the United States. Our members were cast out of social clubs. Jobs were lost. Families were split. There was hurt and sadness. The reaction of those Synod attendees was to focus on the words of Jesus – what one does speaks far louder than abiding by rules, then holy words and prayers. They instituted this Solemnity with its special focus on brotherly love; the only Church that has such a day. They cast out fear with love.

St. John, the disciple Jesus loved could have stood on those credentials – hey look at me, I’m the one He loved. He could have offered words, gave speeches. Instead he focused on putting Jesus’ love for us into action in his life and in our lives. He tells us: The commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. What one does speaks far louder than abiding by rules, then holy words and prayers. St. John and his church communities cast out the fear of persecution and stood above it in Jesus’ love.

As we gather today for worship we are reminded that coming here once a week is not enough. This place, this worship, the words we hear, and the prayers we offer are a capstone for what we have done right in our loving others over the past week. We should rightly be thankful for the graces we received that helped us do that. We should be proud of the ways we cast out fear and responded in love.

So too our gathering today is a recollection of where we have fallen short with a plea for forgiveness. While falling short is painful, we can find joy in knowing that our consciences are well formed enough to know we failed. In acknowledging our sin we find the pain it has imprinted lifted by God’s healing touch. We see our fears and pain relieved in God’s love.

Our gathering today is moreover a new start. A new week ahead and we hear: there is no fear in love. Next week we will gather again to be thankful, to recollect, and to start anew. Through all of it what is reinforced is fear removed, love triumphant.

In writing to the Romans, Paul asks: what will separate us from the love of Christ? He lists many things – but no fear will do it. On this Solemnity of Love, on this anniversary of a tragedy meant to instill fear, remember that nothing is more powerful than love. Destroy fear. Our members did it 110 years ago. St. John did it. We get to do it every week – no fear because in Him there is no fear.

Seeking to be
justified.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

After the lawyer gave Jesus the correct answer on the Law of Love Jesus was well pleased. Wouldn’t it be great to hear God say to us: “You have answered right?”

The lawyer goes on to ask Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” The layer was seeking to justify himself – in other words to see if Jesus would say that his way of life was the correct path, that he had done rightly not just in words, but in his life.

It is easy to give Jesus the right words. We can do this every Sunday in prayer and worship. We can do it in talking to others. But words are not enough. The lawyer knew this much.

In the lawyer’s mind he thought he knew the answer – my neighbor is my people – the Israelites were his only neighbors – and he expected that Jesus would confirm his opinion.

Jesus goes into the great Parable of the Good Samaritan. The lawyer would have recognized his neighbors as the priest and the Levite, but something went wrong. They didn’t follow through on the Law of Love toward their fellow Israelite. They walked on. Then this non- Israelite did something amazing, he lived out the Law of Love.

Could the lawyer possibly be justified if he did not believe and act similarly? The lawyer could walk away thinking that Jesus was completely off base, but wouldn’t he have to wonder? Was he truly justified if he wouldn’t live and act as the Samaritan had acted?

We have two challenges. The first is to consider our instinct. How do we feel about the lawyer, the priest, and the Levite at a gut level? Of course we’re on the side of Jesus and the Samaritan – but what about them? They are easy to dislike. Maybe they are not quite enemies, but not our kind of people? The challenge is to see them with eyes, hearts, minds, strength, and soul as our brothers. We are to love them and forgive their failings as Jesus would.

The second challenge is to move beyond just saying words of love – to extend the totality of our love – a love with eyes, hearts, minds, strength, and soul – to everyone. Then we will truly be justified and live-forever hearing Jesus say – “You have answered right?”

Just prior to the Solemnity of Brotherly Love Prime Bishop Anthony Mikovsky will host a webinar for our entire Church on Wednesday – September 9th at 7 pm.

The intent of the webinar is to bring as many PNCC members and others together to hear Prime Bishop’s spiritual address and to prepare for the Solemnity through prayer, reflection, music, and meditation. This is the first time in the history of our Holy Church that such an event is taking place. This is very important for our life in Jesus and our Church. I ask all parishioners and friends to take part in this faith filled and historic event.

Our neighboring parish, Blessed Virgin Mary of Częstochowa has Internet connectivity and has invited us to take part with them. There will be a potluck dinner as well. Come down to 250 Old Maxwell Rd., Latham at 6pm. If it is impossible to make it there, you may register and take the webinar online. Visit Go To Webinar to register.

Be the Samaritan:

Bishop Bilinski speaks on Brotherly Love.

Bishop Mack speaks on Brotherly Love.

Bishop Sobiechowski speaks on Brotherly Love.

Bishop Nowicki speaks on Brotherly Love.