I give
up.

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days

We know that the human body needs food and water to survive. A human can go for more than three weeks without food, but water is a different story. At least 60% of the adult body is made of water. The maximum time an individual can go without water is about one week in ideal conditions, less in more difficult conditions, like the broiling heat of a desert.

Jesus in His humanity is just like us (except for sin). It is unlikely that He gave up all food and water during His fast. What He did give up in the desert experience was any hint of self will. There, He fully connected with the Father and conformed Himself to the Father’s will. He accepted the hard road ahead as His mission. This experience, separated from human company, barely existing, the ultimate in aloneness, prepared Him and strengthened Him such that no temptation, no allure could pull Him off the Kingdom mission.

Believers are often called into a profound and mystical desert journey. It is a certain time of aloneness and apartness where we face the big roadblocks that are in the way of our journey to heaven. In that time, we break down the roadblocks, grind down the speed bumps, burn away self-interest, and commit to the road toward the kingdom. In the desert, we find God’s mission for us and learn to differentiate between the things that keep us on mission or draw us away.

This week we faced a horrible tragedy in Florida. Lives taken, young, beautiful lives that will never have the opportunity to experience the desert journey of growth. Rather, they were pulled away from all of life’s experiences and opportunities.

Jenny Rapson, writing at For Every Mom, notes that seventeen souls lost their lives on the first day of Lent. She asks us to seriously consider what we are giving up for Lent as individuals and as a nation. Reflecting on Jesus’ desert journey. she says: “Let’s give up, as a country, as a nation, let’s give up whatever it is” that blocks us from doing what is right; “whatever it is that allows people armed with assault rifles and shotguns to keep coming into schools time and time and time and time and time again to murder our children and their teachers. Let’s give that up. Let’s identify that thing and then let’s lay it down and sacrifice it so no more children have to die.”

Her poignant words call us to rise to the challenges we face as individuals, communities, and as a nation. They remind us that the desert experience must be part of our everyday lives. We must take the desert road to determine what we must give up. the actions, thoughts, and words that do not live up to the Father’s will and His Son’s example of resisting temptation, bringing healing, offering peace, and living anew.

What kind of letter
am I?

You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.

St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, reflects on credentials. He begins by saying: Do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? Did Paul need a letter of recommendation when he came back to Corinth? After all, he had led the people there to Jesus. Yet, we infer from this passage that they were asking for exactly that; his credentials. The next time you come here, bring us some letters from John, or Peter, or James, or one of the real apostles. Paul is incredulous, “Do you really mean that? Don’t you understand? You are our letter of recommendation. Christ has written it on your hearts. He didn’t use paper or stones. He wrote it on your hearts, and the ink he used was the Holy Spirit. As for me, I’m nothing but the postman; I just delivered the letter. God did the work.”

Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that the changes that had occurred in their lives, the freedom they were experiencing, the deliverance from evil habits that were regular and destructive parts of their lives– all happened because Christ’s gospel, delivered through Paul’s work and the power of the Holy Spirit. That is what changed them and turned them into a letter to others. They were credentialed.
Think back on the early Churches. Acts and in the letters of Paul said nothing about the Church and its ministries. Those early Christians did not go around, as we do today, talking about what the church can do for a person, or about the value of becoming a member of the Church.

The members of the early Church did not mention it because they understood that they were the message, the letter. People saw that Jesus changed healed and restored them. Look at what the Lord has done in me.

Paul seeks out their understanding – their realization of the power that is in them. Christ had written the letter of recommendation in them. It shows forth in their changed lives. People are drawn to Jesus because their lives witnessed to His power. They are all the testimony needed.

As we prepare to enter Lent let us reflect on our life letter. Are we a recommending Jesus in the eyes of those who read us? Can they see that Christ has done something powerful in us? That is the point. We ought to be the visible evidence of God at work; so much so that people will say: “What’s this? What’s going on? I know your name, but somehow, I get the feeling I’m talking to Jesus.”

Will we live
big?

Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please all men in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd playing Jake and Elwood Blues had just been released from prison. They went back to visit the orphanage in which they were raised. They find out that creditors are about to foreclose on the orphanage. Suddenly, the understood the big thing they had to do. They were going to pay off the debt. Their oft repeated statement of purpose was: “We’re on a mission from God.”

Paul was certainly on a mission from God. Yet, he says something very odd – especially on point for us in this day and age – give no offense. Many people tend to think (by our failure to live like Jesus) that giving offense is what the Church is all about!

Paul was focusing on the difference between insignificant matters, small ‘t’ traditions and practices and the essentials of faith. Don’t quibble, don’t focus on the small things, don’t create offense for anyone over small things. Rather, come together in unity on the big things, the essentials. In doing that, show off Jesus. Set an example of humility. Shine forth like Jesus – be like Him. Open the door to all in need of the big healing, big peace, big confidence, and big security only Jesus can give.

Think of what Jesus taught about the things that are key. Two things only. Two commandments. Love God, love each other. Any minor issues there, anything insignificant? Not at all.

Paul’s experience helped him to really understand what Jesus taught. Paul often focused on the greatness of the mercy that was shown to him. Paul saw and experienced, in a flash of blinding light, what Jesus focused on. It was never the small. Paul had been focused, in his pharisaical ways, on minutia. It his encounter with Jesus, Paul saw where he fell short in understanding. He finally got God’s big mercy. What counts is that God wipes out our small and the big mess of sins – our failure to love God and to share in that love as an act of love – so we can start anew.

If barriers are raised to our neighbors, by arrogance, being bound to the small and insignificant, then the path to Jesus’ big mercy is blocked.

As we begin our Pre-Lenten preparation, let us consider how we may remove any block on the way to Jesus. Are we opening the path to mercy? How will we live? What mission from God are we on? Who will we be imitators of?

Jesus healed the leper, and he couldn’t stand not to tell of the big mercy he received. …he went out and began to talk freely about [Jesus] and the people came to Him from every quarter.

Peek-a-boo
We see You!

On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

We have used the term Theophany several times in our teaching during this Christmas season. Last week we talked about the heavenly revelation experienced by the humble shepherds. This week, all who stood along the banks of the Jordan would experience heavenly revelation, the showing of God as He is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Some of this might be lost on us. We encounter heaven weekly in this church. We know God as He is. In our worship, our Eucharistic experience, we are pulled into heaven and all of eternity is made real, graspable, to us. God’s Son shows Himself and we commune with Him. We are drawn together, in Him and with all who receive Him here on earth and in the heavenly kingdom. We don’t ordinarily recognize the wonder of this moment, we don’t see it because Jesus is so available to us. It wasn’t always that way.

This revelation of God, His manifestation in a way discernable by the senses only occurred a few times in the Old Testament. God walked with and spoke to Adam and Eve in Eden. He spoke with Cain, Noah and his sons, and with Abraham and Sarah. Moses first encountered God in the burning bush. Later, at Sinai, He spoke with Moses face-to-face, as one would speak with his neighbor, in clear sight and not in riddles. Because of these encounters, Moses was visibly changed. When Moses retuned from his second encounter with God on the mountain the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

Moses shined with the glory of God, and as Moses had been afraid before the burning bush, now the people were afraid. In fact, God’s glory was too much for them and they made Moses cover his face: when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.

Imagine that – being so changed in the presence of God – that you actually retained that presence in your body and on your face. Yet, that is in fact what is happening right here! Today! To us!

God is revealed. He has come to us. We have met His glory. We should look in the mirror. Are our faces shining? Are we glowing with the radiance of the heavenly kingdom opened to us each week, right here?

We might say, I am not worthy. We might say, I cannot see it. We might say, not here, in upstate New York, in Schenectady. Yet here He is, revealed, real, present and active in our lives. It is not our worthiness, but His great love that makes us shine. Bruised, just smoldering? Perhaps, but here He is to ignite us and give us glory.

Who’s
first?

but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior

The Christmas season is a time for recognizing firsts. As we browse through the scriptures, we encounter those who did things for the first time. It is, however, a little difficult to decide who did what first.

Did John the Baptist proclaim Jesus first? Not really. The Shepherds we honor today did that. They heard about Jesus and told of Him first. They made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child.

Was John the Baptist the first to be killed because of his proclamation of the truth? On December 26th, the Church honors St. Stephen, called the proto-martyr – the first martyr for the faith. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. But on December 28th the Church honors the Holy Innocents, the children and infants killed by Herod after the Magi’s visit. Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region. They were first.

People have an affinity for firsts. We like winners – and these martyrs and evangelists were indeed the first winners. But do we realize that we are all winners? Like the Humble Shepherds, Jesus’ birth heralds the fact that we have been made winners, and are in first place.

In writing to Titus, Paul lays down the way winners, people in first place, are to live. He says that winners are different from non-winners because they lead different lives. Paul shows us that the change wrought in Jesus coming – the appearance of God’s kindness and love – gave us the possibility of changing – becoming victorious. It is not that we have done anything to bring about this change. Rather, it is a change gifted to us by Jesus’ appearance.

Those first visitors encountered this opportunity. Poor and outcast humble shepherds encountered Theophany. They saw the glory of God and heard the message. They were changed to winners, not just by the encounter, but because they acted on it.

Paul walks us through a formula he frequently uses, comparing before and after. In verse 3 he says how things once were – we were total losers: foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another. Now we are winners because, He saved us.

Because we are made winners, people in first place, we are called to boldly and richly live the life laid out for us by the One who gives the first victory.

Future Direction Subcommittee of the Supreme Council of the Polish National Catholic Church

Dear Bishops, Very Rev. and Rev. Fathers, Deacons and Faithful of our Holy Church,

We are excited to announce that the theme selected for 2018 across our Holy Polish National Catholic Church is: “The Year of the Family.” This was decided at the recent National Clergy Conference where after prayer, reflection and discussion the clergy selected this theme for 2018.

The hope and prayer of our clergy and the Future Direction committee is that this Year of the Family will help strengthen all our families in living out our Christian faith, virtues and values and will become an important and consistent part of their lives.

We will be sending various blessings and prayers to be done before or after Holy Mass as well as some materials for our families to take home. Below is the link to download a copy of the 2018 Action Plan – it is also included in this email as well.

Click here to download the 2018 Action Plan

An Advent Reflection

Advent is a blended season, a mixture of hope, repentance, anticipation and joy. We know that Christ has already come, establishing his Kingdom through his life, death and resurrection. But Christ will come again in glory to establish His Kingdom in its fullness. Meanwhile, Christ comes to all who are willing to make a place for Him in their hearts.

Our Advent models are Isaiah who yearned for the coming of the Lord, John the Baptist who announced the presence of Christ, and Mary who was transformed by grace. Like Isaiah, we look forward to Christ’s glorious return. Like John, we recognize Christ’s presence among us and our need for repentance. And like Mary, we seek to accept the will of God in order to make a place for Christ in our hearts. And allow His will to be done in us.

As we approach the coming Christmas Season – our Lord through His Holy Church reminds us that we need to be ready as we heard in the Gospel on the First Sunday of Advent. Ready to first, celebrate properly His birth and second, ready to meet our Lord at any moment by living as he taught following His saving Gospel. This is a time when we are reminded by John the Baptist to “prepare the way for the Lord”. It is important that we do this and prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming celebration of Christmas and for the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

An Advent Prayer

Let us pray. Almighty and Eternal God, You became one of us that we might have the life of Christ forever. Through this season of Advent, rekindle in us a desire for the coming of Your Kingdom. Knowing how much our world needs Your grace and truth, we ask You to guide us in the way of compassion that we might help your suffering ones. Fill us with every grace and blessing as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior. Amen.

Join the Effort

If you know of parishioners or friends who are not a part of our monthly email updates – please have them email us at FutureDirection to become a part of this important effort for our Holy Church.

Please keep this church-wide undertaking in your daily prayers – asking God to bless this work and allow it to bear fruit for the building of His Kingdom through our Holy Church.

As we begin this Holy season of Advent may we use this time to spiritual prepare ourselves to again celebrate the Incarnation and be ready for His rerurn in glory. May we show our thankfulness to God not just in our words, but more importantly buy our actions. May God bless you and your family during this Advent season.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

PNCC Supreme Council Future Direction Committee
Most Rev. Anthony A. Mikovsky, Prime Bishop
Very Rev. Robert M. Nemkovich Jr., Chairman

Radical
revolution.

“And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”

Belonging to a Church, really belonging, being a member and letting people know that one is a part of that church community is a very radical statement. Believe it or not, that makes us revolutionaries. Why so? Because it involves doing, teaching, proclaiming, and acknowledging revolutionary things.

In part, our revolution is a doing revolution. It means carrying out the tasks our Master, Jesus gave us. It is indeed feeding, welcoming, clothing, caring for, and visiting our brothers and sisters in need. That even more so today. Do those things. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

Our world certainly places a value on being generous and doing good things, but falsely claims that such works are some kind of natural instinct. Where did it come from? Who knows? People just do good, because, well they do good. They may even attribute the doing of good things to political leadership.

In part, our revolution is a teaching revolution. In rejecting such notions, we call the world to understand the source of all the good we have. Our revolution is about having a full, informed, and factual knowledge of what God has done for us. The good we do, the structures of civil society had a source, and it wasn’t people’s natural goodness. The rules of a good and generous life, the call to self-sacrifice came from the example, life, and teachings of Jesus Christ. He is the source and the fulfillment of all good. Without His life, humanity would devolve, perhaps not into complete anarchy, but into a disorder that brings us to the disaster of everlasting death. Teach that truth. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.

In part, our revolution is a proclaiming revolution. The world has its stories of the time. The world urges us to talk about certain things and to shut up about others. We must like those things the world and its talking heads approve of and keep the God stuff to ourselves. The world would say, faith is fine in the walls of your home and the walls of your church – but not in public spaces or ‘polite conversation.’ The teaching of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church to this day are anachronistic (outdated and obsolete). Yet we know that the teachings of Jesus are the only sure way to everlasting life. The guidance and laws of the Church are the living path to complete life. Proclaim the reality of God and the life of His Church in every place and time without fear. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.

Finally, and most completely, our revolution is about the Kingdom of God and Jesus as our only Lord and King. That is the most radical thing ever! It means that nothing else takes precedence, nothing else is important. The Kingdom is a sole goal and all we do, teach, and proclaim is about building the kingdom and getting to the kingdom. No other leader, no political system, no thing, no person can be our king but Jesus. To be counted among the sheep, to make it, is to seek first the kingdom of God.

Being
prepared.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.”

As we worshiped last Sunday our brothers and sisters in Christ, men, women, and children, were being killed in Texas as they came together to worship God and declare their faith in Jesus. They held their lamps up brightly, filled with the oil of faith, ready to meet the Lord.

Many of us grew up in a time when coming to church was considered a light thing. Maybe our parents or grandparents had faced persecution as faithful National Church members, but not us so much. That was in the past. But, as is said, everything old is new again…

Today’s lesson from Jesus dispels the myth of faith as a casual endeavor. Jesus tells us, ‘always be at the ready,’ with our lamps prepared and with an extra stock of oil at hand. We do not know the day or the hour.

Prepared lamps and extra stocks of oil are not just about coming to church on a chilly Sunday morning. It is not about waiting for a moment to come someday. It is about actively preparing and living out our faith. If we are not watchful, if we are not making ourselves more and more ready, if we are not becoming more and more – like unto the Lord – what use is there to even having a lamp?

Violence, tragedy, and suffering are a raw truth. This truth is visited more and more upon Christians. From martyrs in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa to homegrown terrorists right here, to media, hate groups, and government casting people of faith as silly, backward, and ignorant, we might be tempted to extinguish our lamps, pour out our oil, and sit in the dark. Ssssshhhhh, be careful, snuff out the lamps, someone might see us. Is that who we are?

St. Paul tells the Thessalonians: do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. Wise words about how we are to face the challenges of our time. The followers of Jesus, the faithful, will not allow their lamps to even grow dim. Don’t tone it down! Rather, illuminate this dark time, cast a bright glow not just inside the walls of this church, neighborhood, or city – but across this world. Let our light not only glow outward, but also illumine us inwardly. Do not grieve, offer hope.

Let us picture our lamps at the ready, held up before us. Feel the warmth – it is the warmth of faith. See the glowing faces, they are the face of Jesus in the world. See the light before us, calling the people of our neighborhood, city, and the world to come to Jesus – the only way. The faithful: wise, prepared, ready.

I will see
and hear.

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

We have reflected on this gospel reading throughout Ordinary Time as it is read during Matins before Holy Mass. Who do we consider a neighbor? Really at the heart of the question, who matters? Jesus quickly answers the questioner: God matters and each and every person matters.

Doesn’t it make us happy and comforted to know that God thinks we all matter? So many try to draw circles around people, those inside, those outside. The good versus the bad, those like me and everyone else. Our lesson – once again, everyone matters.

Setting aside the view of others, and the labels they place, we also have to be careful about how we view ourselves. Sometimes, and likely all too frequently, we are our own worst enemy. We forget our inherent dignity – the goodness of our creation. The fact that God has his laser focus of care on us. We think ourselves less than worthy. Oh, I failed, I’m not good enough, I didn’t meet expectations, I don’t pray, read scripture, reflect on God enough, I sin too much, I fall over and over into habits that are harmful to myself and others. It’s easy to come up with a list of our own shortcomings because we forget God’s view.

God sees, hears and knows everything. Nothing is hidden from Him. Does He see where we fall short – sure. Yet, He doesn’t take his gaze from us. When we fully grasp and understand that His eyes are on us, His care is over us, His love and His Son’s sacrifice were for each of us, then we will allow Him to declare our value, and we will see that each and every person matters in the same way.

God does not operate like man. His thoughts and ways surpass that of man. They are way higher. Knowing how God is, we need to step up to see and hear as He does, to live valuing and counting ourselves and all people as those who matter.

We face challenges in this world, the naysayers, the put downers. We may even put ourselves down. As His people, we need to confront that head on with God’s truth, with the fact that He sees and hears and wants it different, “I will surely hear. I will hear; for I am compassionate.

Indeed, our compassionate God sees and hears. No division or label (even our self-labeling) can last before Him. We all matter. Let us take up God’s great commandment, let us live it loving Him and everyone. To live like He does, to be men and women with God’s vision.

Investing it
all.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied himself

Pretty much everyone knows who Warren Buffet is. He is the billionaire investor with the golden touch. He has been quoted many times, and certainly people seek his advice. Mr. Buffet, how do I succeed? One of his oft quoted rules is: “Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget rule No.1.” Another of his rules is to focus on achieving high returns (making a lot of money) with very little risk. Avoid risk to get rich.

We have also heard anecdotes about that person who invested his or her last few dollars and because of making a good choice, or by being incredibly lucky, they became rich.

That is two ends of the spectrum. In one case, the rich get richer by conservatism, being very careful, minimizing risk. In the other case, we have those with little to nothing putting it all in and finding success.

St. Paul presents us with something completely different today. In the revelation He received, Paul was overcome by the awesomeness of what God did. God, who had it all, all power, all eternity, Who wants for nothing, invested it all. He gave it all away – for us.

Paul asks us to be of the same mind as Jesus. He asks us to put our whole selves in. To invest ourselves in the life of Christ – community and worship.

Paul goes on to give us the greatest Christological hymn ever written. He illustrates for us: This is who Jesus is, This is what Jesus is all about. Paul shows us, in this hymn, that Jesus literally stripped Himself down to nothingness in order to take on our humanity. He ended up stripped, on a cross, in abject poverty, having lost everything and to the point of despair feeling utterly abandoned by His Father. He dies this way to save us and because of this sacrifice, His name is to be adored.

Indeed, God invested it all, His whole being, for us. Paul then says: Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.

This is the essence of the Christian life. It calls us to invest fully. Like Jesus’ discussion today, it is not where we are, what we have done, where we have come from – but whether we believe, whether we put our all on the line.

When we invest it all in God – offering Him our faith, our daily lives, our dedication to His way, and our worship and dedication to the communal life, we grow truly rich. we preserve our lives for everlasting joy and really live.