Called to Live Anew

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me… He has sent me

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. Now is the time for our next great step together, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

At the beginning of today’s gospel, Luke, the scientist, addresses Theophilus (translated literally as “Friend of God”), relating to him the gospel message he received.

Luke relates the gospel, not for the sake of telling a story, or even creating a documentary on the life of Jesus (he wasn’t working for the History or Discovery channels), but rather for the purpose of Theophilus’ certainty. He was sending the message so that energized with it, Theophilus would live out and proclaim the gospel message, drawing others to it.

We need the same certainty. We have the same charge.

In regrettable ways many Christians have become bystander faithful, documentary viewing devotees, and going through the motions followers, believers without passion or resolve. Many have forgotten the gospel charge – to go out and proclaim it for the gathering in of fellow disciples.

It must not be so for us. We need to feel within ourselves the Gospel’s confidence and certainty. Armed with its confidence and certainty we then walk the gospel path ever more closely. We proclaim that gospel ever more boldly. We become like Theophilus – each of us a friend of God and witness in our community.

To live life anew, life in the Kingdom already present for us, we must set confidently to work, the work shown us this very day. 

Like Ezra and Nehemiah, we are to call the people in, call them together, and place before them the glory of the gospel word and way – and then celebrate. We are to take the gifts St. Paul reminds us we have each received in different type and proportion and use them with passion for the building up of the Kingdom. By our work and word many are to know, love, and serve the Lord in His Holy Church, members of His body.

Because we are the friends of God, the Theophiloi, residents of and workers in the Kingdom, armed with the great gifts of the Holy Spirit, and charged by Jesus Himself to go out and make disciples, we must take the certainty of the gospel seriously and set to work. We must be bold in our proclamation – sometimes in subtle ways, other times ingeniously, still other times with great verve, but always confidently.

The words Jesus spoke today are not just Self-referential. They apply to us. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. We are anointed. We are sent.

Called to live anew!

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. Now is the time for our next great step together, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

How do you recollect time? Most people see time as a linear progression, past, present, and future. We could draw an arrow from one moment in our lives to the next, event to event. Did you know that God sees time differently, that Jesus came to change our conception of time and even place?

That is true. Jesus’ birth marked the start of a new age – the age of the Kingdom. In His Baptism, which we celebrated last week, Jesus marked out our change – how we are to enter His place and time, the Kingdom of God.

For many Christians, the Kingdom is something afar off. We have time. If we are sinning, we can go to confession tomorrow, or next Sunday. If we need to repent and live changed lives, walking the gospel path much more closely and realistically – radically, well we can work on that. That is a false notion. We have our facts wrong. The Kingdom will not come someday but is here now. We are in it, and we are called to live changed now, immediately.

What St. Paul tells us in his writing on baptism is true. We died with Christ in our baptism and so we have been raised with Him to life anew. We are no longer living according to the world’s time and priorities, stumbling from moment to moment, place to place like the lost. Rather, we are living a changed reality in which we have great work to do, Kingdom work. We must set to it now.

Kingdom work comes down to what Jesus showed us at Cana in Galilee. It is about changed perspectives and lives anew.

The changing of water into wine isn’t just a one-off miracle. It is not just a moment along a timeline. It is rather a foreshadowing of the eternal change that comes when the wine is made His blood. It is a foretelling of the way we are changed in Jesus. 

When we share in the Eucharistic moment in a short time, the changing of bread and wine into His body and blood, we literally join with Jesus in His timeless reality. the ever-present Kingdom where we also reside. We receive abundant grace for our work.

Our Kingdom reality is where the Spirit’s gifts, given to each of us in different form and measure, are to be implemented. We are residing in God’s time and place and our mission is an imperative command to declare the Kingdom and invite others into it; to live changed. 

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

Our celebration of the Christmas, the coming of God among us, His incarnate Being in our midst, is so important it must be celebrated for more than a few days. This season marks God’s chosen moment in which the story of salvation takes a major step forward. So, we must celebrate and set to ongoing work. The story of salvation is a continuous saga. It began with creation, God called us into being so we might belong to Him. The world rejected that call and turned away from God by sin. God would not give up! Salvation is not a once and done offer, and God would not rest until we were His as we hear in our Eucharistic Prayer based on the Canon of St. Basil the Great: “You did not abandon us to the power of death… You came to our help… Again and again You called us into covenant with You… You taught us to hope for salvation… In the fullness of time You sent Your only Son to be our Savior.” 

Jesus’ incarnation is the moment we were drawn permanently close to God in our humble humanity. God took what was broken and deformed and made it holy and beautiful by His unity in human flesh. Flesh that was cursed and apart from God now became one with God. St. Paul is saying something really amazing in Colossians 2:9. He summarizes in ten words the whole mystery of faith – that Jesus is God among us in our flesh. That changes everything. It makes us all capable of being washed free of the worldly choice of sin and one with God, heirs to heaven. All flesh was hallowed in Jesus, each person’s dignity certain. All flesh is given the opportunity to be one with Him if we choose so in faith. Furthermore, Jesus, before His crucifixion, provided for the permanent presence in His flesh and blood which is for His faithful to this very day: Take, eat and drink. This is My body. This is My blood. The totality of Christ is ours for the taking. In it are closer to His divinity and strengthened for our work.

We are in the story of salvation and we have work to do in our evangelism until His return. So, open the door, invite, He awaits.

Welcome to our January 2022 Newsletter and Happy New Year. In the Newsletter we explore the year ahead as we focus on Being a Eucharistic People. We have our upcoming annual meeting and election of parish officers (time to get involved). We give thanks for so many blessings brought about through your charity and our common work. It is time to prep for the SouperBowl of Caring (the soup pot is out). We reflect on the past year – our Centenary – and we celebrate. Check out the Newsletter for all that and more – including Music Scholarship Sunday and the Return of the BASKET SOCIAL – hurray!!!

This and so much more within our January 2021 Newsletter.

And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child

At our three Holy Masses of Christmas we saw references over and over again to Jesus as the light of the world, the light of heaven breaking into the world to change it forever.

We can certainly see how the Lord’s love and mercy have changed us. We no longer live in fear. Our life is eternal, the gates of heaven and all its light are opened to us. We have forgiveness of sin, we have a new relationship with God and to each other.

We who were once strangers and afar off are bound together in a new family, the family of the Church. We are given two important missions by God that spread the light of Christ.

Our first mission is to grow in our personal sanctification, to become more like Jesus, to walk better in His ways. We receive power and strength to do that through the many graces we receive both sacramentally and in living our everyday walk of faith.

Our other first mission, for it is equal to the necessity for sanctification, is to build the Kingdom of God right here and right now.

On Christmas 1919 Bishop Hodur addressed his congregation and spoke of the gap between the very materialistic view of the world, a world only concerned with bodily needs and wants, and the Savior Who came to build up both the body and the soul. He called this materialistic focus an illness, for the worldly do not perceive the wholeness God offers us in Jesus. They limit themselves by their deafness to His word and way.

Jesus pointed to the Kingdom and called us to build. We are to call people out of where they are, out of deafness, to what they can be, not only as individuals, but as a society.

This is the example we celebrate today on this very special Solemnity in our Holy Church – the Humble Shepherds, the Ubogich Pasterzy.

The Shepherds whose life was limited to the care of earthly material things, their flocks and pay and duties, encountered heaven. They met Christ Jesus their Lord and Messiah, God. They met Him as we meet Him each time we come to Holy Mass, participate, pray through the Eucharist, and receive Him. They were left with the same choice we all have. What will I do for my sanctification and for the building of the Kingdom?

The Shepherds set forth to announce and build the Kingdom. In the world’s eyes they remined poor, but in God’s eyes they became whole and rich. Let us decide to as well, as we renew our commitment to God’s mission for us. 

The people who walked in darkness
        have seen a great light;
    upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
        a light has shone.

Some of you may know that I like Bluegrass music, a very American expression of roots music. I couldn’t spend a Christmas without listening to Ralph Stanley’s, “Christmas Time’s A-Comin’.”

In Donna Ulisse’s Bluegrass album “All The Way To Bethlehem” you find a distinct focus on Jesus as the light of the world. In her music she walks us through the entire journey of God’s light coming into the world, from the Annunciation to the Visitation, Joseph’s dream, the journey to Bethlehem, the lack of lodging, Mary’s moment with the Baby Jesus, just she and He, the Angels’ proclamation, the star, the visit of the shepherds, and so much more. 

Tonight, all of heaven’s magnificent light broke into the world. All of God’s glory entered as a tiny sliver. That sliver came not to remain so, but to grow and spread. That light immediately began to grow and reveal Itself – from Mary, to Joseph, the shepherds, the Maji, the people of Judah and Jerusalem, the Samaritan towns, to the great sacrifice that delivers on all of God’s promises and opened all of heaven’s light to us. That light continues in the Holy Spirit who dwells in us so that we might be that light in the world. That is our charge, this day and for the ages to come.

Today we are limitless. We do not just recall the Light entering the world, we celebrate it. We proclaim it in song and in our time together in worship. We gather in our homes with friends and family around and tokens of our love for each other. We then take that light and spread it in limitless ways.

Today we recall and perhaps shed a tear or two for what was. That is ok. The next step, the next emotion and commitment must be to smile for what will be. In the end that is what this night is all about – a journey All The Way To Bethlehem – and returning with a smile for what will be, and our part in that work of light. Therefore, let your smile shine and your words as well – as we once again go forth to introduce a dark and tired world to the great light that is ours in Jesus the Lord. 

Love.

Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ.

This Advent we focus on the promises of God. We have provided a handy follow along book of reflections and devotions covering thirty promises of God broken down under the categories of hope, peace, joy, and love. This final week we reflect on God’s promise of love.

Remember that promises from God are things we can absolutely count on. We have perfect assurance that God’s promise of love will be fulfilled. We know this more so because God has shown us by His outward action that His love is perfect and all giving.

St. Paul is reflecting on that very fact in today’s Epistle. He calls our attention, once again, to the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, came to once and for all consecrate us – that is to make us holy and pleasing to His Father. He would do this, not through the sin offerings of people, which God did not delight in, but through the love offering of Himself, the perfect sacrifice as willed by the Father.

It is key for us to focus on the value of offerings. You see, the sin sacrifices of people could never compensate God for what they had done. Rather, its key metric was in the way it forced people to evaluate, in a tangible way, the cost of what they had done. 

Now if a person were really dedicated to loving God, they would say the cost is too high. I must rather turn away from sin and by doing so, not suffer the cost consequences. But the people never did change, they got caught up in paying to play. Their hearts remained hard, not like the hearts of flesh God wished them to have. For them, it boiled down to an equation in the Law.

To change the equation, to fully carry out the will of the Father, His Son, Jesus, had to step up and say yes. He had to give His love totally to the Father in sacrifice. By doing so He carried out the Father’s will for us. 

Jesus carried out the Father’s love mission. He destroyed the old equation of cost sacrifices and says to us, come, live in my love. St. John’s repeats Jesus’ words: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.

The choice is clear. We have met our God Who gave Himself as sacrifice. We cannot pay, there is no option for that, so we must choose to dedicate ourselves to Him, to live in His love. If we make that choice, we are among those made holy by God’s perfect love gift.

In the face of God’s love, Mary served, Elizabeth proclaimed, and John leapt. In the face of God’s love, we must also serve, proclaim, and leap, not to pay, but as sign of love in our consecrated lives.

Joy

Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

This Advent we focus on the promises of God. We have provided a handy follow along book of reflections and devotions covering thirty promises of God broken down under the categories of hope, peace, joy, and love. This week we reflect on God’s promise of joy.

Remember that promises from God are things we can absolutely count on. As such, we have absolute and perfect assurance that God’s promise of joy will be fulfilled.

As I began reflecting on this Sunday and its readings and gospel, the song: “I’ve got joy, joy, joy deep in my heart” kept ringing in my ears. Indeed, that is God’s desire for us, that we would have His joy deep within us.

I would be remis if I did not remind myself and all of us that God’s joy, here on earth, is not giddy happiness. It is not the worldly definition of happiness at all. Rather, it is a deep and profound contentment that all is well in my life. Happiness is an emotion while joy is both emotion and state of being.

Joy means I have an assurance, a promise from God that I can face whatever comes with a feeling of good pleasure, inner contentment, and satisfaction because I am in Jesus, because the Holy Spirit dwells with me and guides me through everything.

God is at work in our lives, and He has shown us a way through, especially through trials. If we have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, there is no question as to our ultimate outcome. We can therefore be joyfully content no matter what.

John came as the Forerunner to preach a message of good news. The Savior, the Messiah, the One Who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire is coming, and we know He is returning. By John’s preaching people came to repentance, a change in their lives that gave them real joy. They were no longer burdened by wrongs they committed, and they were refreshed. They could approach life joyfully.

So too we. Our Advent guide points out, we have (1) Each Day as a Gift, (2) A God Who Gave His Life for Me, (3) Salvation, (4) A God Who Delights in Me, (5) An Approachable God Who Listens, (6) A Choice of Joy Amidst Trials, and (7) God’s Trustworthy Promise. We can live joyful lives in all these promises.

We are called to the knowledge that God is indeed with us. He is present in our everyday lives. He is accessible and open to us. In any circumstance or situation, we can accept comfort and peace, contentment – that is: joy from God.

Paul re-reminds us: The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all. Let us then go forth with joy, joy, joy, deep in our hearts. 

Peace.

For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice

This Advent we focus on the promises of God. We have provided a handy follow along book of reflections and devotions covering thirty promises of God broken down under the categories of hope, peace, joy, and love. This week we reflect on God’s promise of peace.

Remember that promises from God are things we can absolutely count on. As such, we have absolute and perfect assurance that His promise of peace will be fulfilled.

Our first reading is taken from the Prophet Baruch The book is a reflection of a Jewish writer on the circumstances of the exiles returning, or yet to return, from exile in Babylon.

We can imagine ourselves set upon by enemies, separated from our homes and those we love, pressed into servitude and in mourning for all that has been lost. We know that our failures and sins have led to this end. We long to return to our God and to home. Our souls seek peace, the peace only God can deliver – how He will bring us back.

Peace is a sweet promise from God. As with those exiles, we live amongst constant chaos. If our homes are seemingly at peace, the news invades. Uneasiness, discomfort, and stress surround us. The world is dissolving but we, by faith, know that God is still on the throne and because of that we have the peace given us through Jesus Christ.

Peace comes when we really trust in Jesus Who conveyed His Father’s promise of peace. God, Who is greater than all people and things, Who is bigger than the universe, Who surpasses all understanding is the only one who can deliver true peace, a peace beyond our understanding. but that we can experience if we accept it. If we accept His peace all is well because we are in God and have His rest on the road to the Kingdom.

God’s promise of peace removes obstacles. It smooths the way to heaven.  It allows our hearts, minds, and bodies to rest peacefully and to walk the way unobstructed by the wild world – on the smooth path.

As our Advent guide points out, we have (1) Peace In Our Struggles, (2) God’s Guidance, (3) A Lord That Bears Our Burdens, (4) Relief From Troubles And Fears, (5) Wisdom Along The Way, (6) Wise Example To Follow and Learn From, and (7) The Ability To Be Peacemakers Ourselves. We can live that.

Peace is more than the absence of conflict or discomfort. It is completeness, health, justice, prosperity, and protection. To have peace we must live fully in the peace promise of God, His gift. Having peace means we know and trust in our spirits that everything will really be better than just ok no matter what. It will be perfect!

Hope.

The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.

This Advent we focus on the promises of God. We have provided a handy follow along book of reflections and devotions covering thirty promises of God broken down under the categories of hope, peace, joy, and love. This week we reflect on God’s promise of hope.

First, let us cover what a promise is. A promise is an assurance that what is said will come to be. I am sure we have been assaulted in our lives by unkept promises, whether the kids forgot to clean up or take out the trash, a seller reneges on a guarantee, or more seriously a promise is broken at a level affecting our relationships.

Every broken promise hurts. Each affects our trust relationships. Assurance seems not so assured. But thanks be, we have a God Who provides promises we can absolutely count on. You see, God cannot lie. God, in His perfection, can only utter truth. As such, when God makes a promise, we have absolute and perfect assurance that His promise will be fulfilled.

God promised to give us hope. But what is hope? Hope is not the kind of wishy-washy thing we engage in day-to-day – I hope I win the lottery, I hope my ship comes in, I hope it doesn’t rain or snow. No, the hope God offers is a certainty about the future. In God’s promises of hope we have certainty that the things He said will come to pass and that impacts our lives in the present. If we know our future, how we live today changes.

Our study guide covers seven areas of hope promised by God. It helps us inspect our lives and see if we are living today as our future portends. The hope promises are these:

Light in the Darkness – Jesus is the Light. He helps us inspect those areas of darkness in us that need His cleansing light.

Renewed Strength – we do not have to struggle – God will come through on our behalf no matter the circumstance.

Hope and a Future – for those loyal to God, who follow His gospel way – our current situations are not our always situation. God has a plan and future waiting for us.

A Full Life and Eternal Life – It is life that is a gift now/today and awaits us eternally. This life cannot be taken away from us unless we allow it. This life was won for us in the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Anything is Possible with God – yes, God has no barriers unless we erect them through unbelief.

God Is Our Firm Anchor – He cannot be moved, and He gives us assurance. Let us be confident in our hope.

This week let us focus on our assured hope.

Ultimate Faith.

As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when He reached the Ancient One and was presented before Him, the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve Him.

We focused for months on strengthening our faith individually and collectively. Now it is time for the test. Wait, no one said there would be a test!

The fact is that the test comes each day. It comes in ways expected and unexpected. It comes amid conflict and at times of peace. The test is this: Who is in charge of my life, who is my leader, and who do I follow?

Oh, ok, that is easy – Jesus.

We think it is that easy, or at least it seems so in our minds. We want to believe that we are all for Jesus, all-in, dedicated disciples of our Lord. Let’s ask some hard test questions.

If I asked, how many of us consider ourselves patriotic citizens of the United States, I am sure most would raise their hands. As citizens, we may be, at any time, called into service, to even place our lives on the line for our country. While we might not be all too happy about the prospect, we would go and do it; it is our duty. But what about service to the Lord, to His Holy Church, the organization He established for His disciples? Would we place our lives on the line for faith in Jesus? Would we be willing to face ridicule to declare the name of our Lord and leader? Would we give up career, home, social status, financial solvency for Jesus?

Some consider themselves politically active. They are quick to throw shade and hate on opponents and rabidly support their political masters, never realizing that they are being used to promote agendas that are against their self-interest. Imagine if they threw off the shackles of political slavery and servitude and spent all that energy on promoting Christ with love and compassion for those who do not know Him. It would change the world. But Jesus would have to be their Lord and leader.

In all these cases, and so many others where our dedications and loyalties are screwed up, we need to assess and recalibrate. Is the Jesus on trial, tortured, mocked, shamed, tried, nailed to the cross my Lord and King? Is He worth my life, my all, my work and sustained effort, possible persecution, mockery, suffering and my potential martyrdom? 

The ultimate test of faith is how much I value Jesus’ kingship in my life. Who is in charge of my life, who is my leader, and who do I follow? Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.” Let is be so in each of our lives. Let us be those who belong to the truth and listen to His voice. For that is all that matters.