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. 

Called to Live Anew

After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. We together have spent the last decade in a lot of hard work building up this parish, strengthening it, readying it. Now is the time for the next great step, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church.

Today we are called to situational awareness and the actions we must take.

The gospel passage from St. Luke paints a picture of what occurred on the day of Jesus’ baptism. However, in this account, the discussion between Jesus and John is missing. Also, the actual moment of baptism is missing. We must infer what happened by starting at the after-the-baptism moment.

What we can take from this account is the fact that John baptized a lot of people that day. Jesus, like the rest, stood in line and entered the Jordan to be baptized. Afterward, He, like the rest, filed out of the river and went to the riverbank to pray.

The rest of the gospel focuses on the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and the revelation of the God as Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit.

This short gospel snippet, about three-quarters of a single sentence, and awareness of our situations, is a call to action for us.

Now imagine that line at the Jordan. Can you picture yourself standing there in line with Jesus? It would be so cool, so excellent to be there with Him. Many were, perhaps not realizing Who stood in line with them.

We are called to be situationally aware, alert wherever we venture. The bank, shows, movies, the supermarket, work, social events, and even theme parks. In many of those places we face the prospect of standing in line. As such, we who are baptized are called to be Jesus in that line. We represent Him and that carries a responsibility to help the people around us find life anew in Jesus.

You know how it is. In line everyone has eyes cast down, perhaps hoping no one will notice them. Let’s just get the task done and get out. We have the power to turn feelings of apartness and separateness into moments with Jesus. Simply, say hello, how are you. Pass a smile and offer a simple blessing – ‘May God bless you today.’ Then let Jesus take over. Try it!

What happens as we stand in line bearing the image of Jesus, or in whatever situation we find ourselves, is the offering of our time to God in accord with our after-the-baptism call. Let us be situationally aware, not in fear and apprehensiveness, not in trepidation, but in the hopefulness and joy of being born anew as we call others to the same newness of life in Jesus.

Blessed Be His Name!

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

How does it feel to be 101 years old? Pretty good I think, echoing Bishop Bernard’s message at our celebratory Holy Mass of Thanksgiving this past October.

Indeed, another year is dawning as we will hear in our recessional hymn. That hymn reminds us of all we must do as we enter our second centenary. We can repeat with the hymn our very heartfelt request to the Father, that the year and century ahead will be a time of working and waiting with God. A time of learning, trusting, mercies, faithfulness, graces, gladness, progress, praise, service, and training all while leaning on our Father’s breast as we anew prove His presence right here in our community.

It is a special grace that we begin our new century with the celebration of the Solemnity of the Holy Name of Jesus which fell on the first Sunday of this new year, 2022.

Anew – that is a word we will focus on in a very particular way for years to come. We together have spent the last decade in a lot of hard work building up this parish, strengthening it, readying it. Now is the time for the next great step.

We are indeed strong and ready to undertake a great mission – making the Holy Name of Jesus known once again by our evangelistic efforts.

I can recount some of what I used to encounter growing up. The Name of Jesus was well known and was respected. In fact, we understood each other often in relationship to the church or other place of worship we attended. 

For example, walking into a Synagogue, I knew what to do. The last time I walked into one and asked for a Kippah/Yarmulka, the Rabbi was surprised, perhaps not expecting that sign of respect. In my church, people who came for special events like weddings and funerals, even if they were not Catholic, knew to stand, sit, and kneel at appropriate times. That does not happen much anymore. The Name Jesus does not elicit respect, not out of disrespect or meanness, but rather out of a lack of knowledge. So, we have work to do.

We are called to the work of the first apostles and disciples. We are asked to bring the light of Jesus’ Holy Name into every corner of our world. We are to offer hope by our witness to the Holy Name of Jesus. It really is not difficult. We have the grace of God with us; that gives us confidence. Speak of and spread Jesus’ Holy Name as a personal mission. Welcome people to experience Jesus in simple discussions. Try this key: Ask people what matters to them, then discuss how God fits into that in our lives. If we do this, we will bless His Name.

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. 

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

We might say that 2021 has been the “Year of Delivery Woes.” The mail, shipping issues, misdirected packages, oops, we had to change the delivery date are all things we heard. They may have caused us some frustration. Did you know that there is one area of delivery that has worked perfectly? No, it is not a matchup between FedEx, UPS, USPS, and DHL – it is the assured delivery of God’s promises.

Look at the verse from 2 Corinthians 1:20 above. It says that ALL THE PROMISES OF GOD have their YES in Jesus. Jesus is indeed the delivery fulfiller. Throughout human history God made promises. He would deliver His people from sin and death. He would bring peace and healing. He would turn people’s stoney/hard personalities into heart centered personalities – they would be people of love. He would show His people the way to true joy – a joy that overcomes circumstances, a joy that is more than momentary happiness. The promises of God have been fulfilled and ratified in Christ. He is the living incarnate “Yes” and “Amen” to God’s promises. The Greek word Ναί translated Yes means strong affirmation; yes.

Jesus therefore delivers on all of the promises of God. There is no delay, there is no unexpected trouble in receiving those promises. He is always on-time and nothing is ever missing or in the way. Throughout Advent we will focus on thirty of God’s promises under the headings of hope, peace, joy, and love. We will see how Jesus has and is delivering His Father’s promises in both our personal and communal lives. God holds promises for us. Come, see how He is intervening to draw us closer to the realization that His promises are real promises for us as a community of faith. Scripture calls us to answer amen to Jesus’ YES. So let us do so this Advent in church. Let our Amen echo our yes to His YES.

Welcome to our December 2021 Newsletter. So much going on. We have Daily Holy Mass, Rorate Holy Mass, Christmas Wafers/Opłatek available, our Parish Vigil / Wigilia Dinner on December 12th, the greening of the church on December 19th, and of course our full schedule for the Christmas Season (as we celebrate for forty days). The Holy Masses of Christmas include 4pm for families with children, Midnight Holy Mass / Pasterka – at Midnight (yes, for real), and Christmas Day at 10am. That and so much more within our December 2021 Newsletter.

Elevation.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior was revealed, He saved us. It was not because of any good deeds that we ourselves had done, but because of His own mercy

Much in the realm of Theology has been written about elevation, the ability we have, because of Jesus, God among us, to approach God and to become like Him.

In Orthodox Theology, this process is called Theosis (also referred to as deification, or divinization, or illumination). It is in essence the transformative process by which we grow into likeness to, or union with, God. Human beings – that’s us – can have real union with God and become like God in the way we love as well as in our holiness. 

Our goal is to become perfect in our love, to love as God does, through His grace and the awesomeness of His redemption. We might also call this sanctification – a process of growing godward.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote: 

He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine…

St. Paul, writing to Titus, goes on to say: God poured out the Holy Spirit abundantly on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that by his grace we might be put right with God and come into possession of the eternal life we hope for.

Today we encounter the feeble and filthy – the Humble Shepherds stationed out in the field. Like us, God poured out His grace upon them, revealing to them this opportunity to not only go and see, but more so to become, to be elevated.

As with us, they had the choice. Literally, chill in the field or go and see. By trusting God and going, by saying yes, they came to see and understand.

Those Humble Shepherds were elevated. They became dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating with energy, joy, wisdom and love. What a great model to follow.

We have been called, and I also offer a special word in this moment to all those called in a special way to be priests and deacons of our Holy Church. Each of us must decide whether we will go and see. If we say yes, we will see and understand. Having seen and understood, we will become dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating with energy, joy, wisdom and love.

I want that. Do you want that?

God’s grace and mercy are such that this opportunity is ever present. Elevation, illumination, becoming like unto God is a chance awaiting our yes. Let us pick it up and move forward with energy, joy, wisdom and love just as those Humble Shepherds did.

Zealous!

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Francine Farina friend of Joanie Caska who is also in Joanie’s writing group sent us a lovely poem for Christmas. We will publish the entire poem in our next newsletter.

The first verse of ‘Hush Don’t Cry’ captures much of what tonight is all about:

Little baby laying in the hay
Your Mother’s breast is near
A humble beginning for the
Lord of all
Hush don’t cry
Hush don’t cry

Close your eyes for a moment, or look at this manger, and see that. The baby Jesus laying in a cow’s manger filled with hay, His mother nearby, prepared to feed Him.

In the days of Jesus and in the centuries since, kings were never fed by their mothers. They did not lay in hay. They were not born in barns or caves. They were not attended by the poor and humble nor by animals. They had nursemaids and attendants. They lay on the finest woven cloth.

Isaiah tells us that “The zeal of the LORD of hosts” did this. What we see tonight is done by God with the cooperation of Mary and Joseph and the listening ears of the poor and humble. God in His very self broke into our world because of His zeal for us.

Zeal – what is it? It is focus on a mission with great energy and enthusiasm. It is singular focus. It is determination that nothing will get in the way of accomplishment. God came solely focused on us. On a mission for us.

Do not be fooled. This Jesus in the manger was not just a future teacher, or philosopher, or leader, but our zealous God Himself among us. He is why we pray, worship, kneel, and adore. He is why we listen and obey. He is why we follow the gospel path. 

Because of His zeal, the Lord of Lords, God Himself took on the flesh of humankind. He became like us. The Eternal Word came among us and took on all of the sufferings we face. He was born as we are born. He felt the cold and damp we feel. His mother hurt as all women do in the pangs of birth. 

Jesus felt and experienced the warmth of His mother Mary, nursing at her breast, finding comfort and love. He was protected by Joseph, because He, like us, was defenseless. All this because our God is zealous for us.

God is zealous for us, zealous to save us. He is zealous for our love, as Jesus would later tell us, for love toward Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. God is passionate for us – and so He broke forth into the world to dissolve all those things which stand between Him and us, us and Him.

In God’s zealous love He resolved to replace dread with hope; fear with peace; sadness with joy; and hate or indifference with love. So here He is.

This very night, let us drink deeply of the cup of zeal as Jesus did and dedicate ourselves once again to follow Him in replacing dread with hope; fear with peace; sadness with joy; and hate or indifference with love.

May our zealous God bless you all richly this Christmas day and for your entire lives.

The following is our schedule of Holy Masses and special blessings throughout the forty days of Christmas.

  • Wednesday, December 23: Rorate Holy Mass at 7:30am.
  • Friday, December 25: Shepherd’s Solemn High Holy Mass/Pasterka at midnight
  • Friday, December 25: Holy Mass of Christmas Day at 10am.
  • Sunday, December 27: Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds. Also St. John, Apostle & Evangelist. Holy Mass with Blessing of Wine (bring a bottle or two to be blessed) at 10am.
  • Friday, January 1: Solemnity of the Circumcision. Holy Mass at 10am.
  • Saturday, January 2: Solemnity of the Holy Name of Jesus – Holy Mass at 10am. Start of our 100th Anniversary Celebrations.
  • Sunday, January 3: Feast of the Holy Family. Holy Mass at 10am.
  • Wednesday, January 6: Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord. Holy Mass at 7pm includes blessing of chalk, charcoal, and incense.
  • Sunday, January 10: Solemnity – Baptism of our Lord. Holy Mass at 10am.
  • Tuesday, February 2: Solemnity – Presentation of our Lord. Holy Mass at 7pm includes blessing of candles/gromnica.