Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped

Everything Jesus said and did was for us. He counted properly. In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul laid out all the things Jesus gave up for us. He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. Jesus did not give these things up to demean Himself, to become less than what He was, but rather to take all He is and all He has and offer it up before His Father in the ultimate sacrifice. A sacrifice sufficient to pay our debt of sin. That ultimate sacrifice was the key moment of Jesus’ doing. That act alone is so meaningful for us. We have endless thanks and praise to offer for that alone. Yet there is so much more in Jesus’ time on earth and ministry for us. He not only provided us freedom by His ultimate sacrifice, He left us a storehouse of treasure to be counted and used. This Lent, we are called upon to count, consider, and take up each and every thing Jesus taught and demonstrated for us. We are to assess His way of life, His call to follow Him, find the areas where we fall short, turn from them, and respond with concrete, doable, and practical strategies to live Jesus’ life. That’s right, live Jesus’ life. The concept of discipleship entails a turning away from ‘how we are’ to ‘how we must be.’ Lent provides the perfect opportunity for us to count up all the ways we fall short, all the ways, and to escape from sin into fuller life in Jesus. If Jesus could give it all up, then so must we. If Jesus has called us to discipleship, then so we must accept His call; His way of counting. Philippians says, everything about Jesus is to be grasped, to be counted, too be considered and thought about. But, we must not stop there. If we truly grasp and count all there is in Jesus, we realize what we must do. As Jesus lived, we must live. As Jesus did, we must do. Make Lent matter, delve into Jesus storehouse of treasure and let us make ourselves count as Jesus does.

Join us through March and into April in our Lenten and Passiontide journey. Join us in our Lenten retreat on April 6th. How about a discipleship gathering on March 22nd? Join in directed giving. Then — March 30th our Fire of the Spirit Charismatic Healing Service. March 31st — our BASKET SOCIAL!!!

The initial list of winners of our Valentine’s raffle is included in the newsletter. Information about our upcoming parish census is included.

Step up to, and join with us in, the Spiritual Buffet. Read more in our March 2019 Newsletter.

Yes,
I am serious.

Jesus told his disciples a parable, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. “

Two weeks ago, we entered into the Sermon on the Plain. We learned that this sermon was likely repeated by Jesus on many occasions – on the mount, in the dessert, in the city, by the shore. This sermon wasn’t repeated because it was necessarily popular or because Jesus didn’t have anything else to say, but because it was consistent with Who God is. Jesus was revealing what life in God is all about; how His disciples are to live.

The first part of the message from the plain was centered on blessings and curses. To live consistently in Jesus, we must be prepared to live poor, weeping, and hungry if it is necessary to witness to Him. We must be prepared to be hated, excluded, insulted and denounced if necessary, to put Him before all else. The reward, the blessing, is life eternal. To do otherwise brings curse.

Last week we returned to the plain. Jesus continued to exhort His disciples to live consistently in God, with God, and as living images of God. This part of the sermon did not so much focus on what we must do to be Jesus’ disciples. but more on how we must respond to things that may happen to us. In examples of what His disciples might experience, Jesus spoke about what our reaction is to be. How we are to deal with difficult situations, events, people, confrontations, and daily living speaks volumes about our discipleship.

Today, we remain on the plain with Jesus. He continues His serious instruction. He warns strictly against judgmentalism. He asks us to focus on our need for repentance and healing, ways we must turn from sin and live in His image. We are to be like our teacher.

Jesus calls us to bear “good fruit.” If we live as He lives, bearing good fruit, focused on building our lives into stronger and stronger images of God, then people will be drawn to us. They will come to us to receive nourishment, new life, refreshment. They will not be put off, fearful of drawing near to us – because they will find Jesus here.

St. Paul takes up Jesus’ seriousness. He tells us: be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted.Lent is here, let us commit to living seriously in Jesus and bearing Him fully in our lives, actions, and reactions. Disciples!

Yes,
I am serious.

Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people. And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said…

Over the past several weeks, I have focused on the poignancy of the Gospel narratives. Each a very visual setting. Each a revelation of who Christ is, who the Father is – what life in God looks like. Each a call to join in the life of God as disciples.

Today, we are presented with the Sermon on the Plain. Yes, plain, not mount. While the sermons found in Matthew (mount) and Luke (plain) are similar, many biblical scholars see these as two different events. In other words, Matthew and Luke were not confused about geography. Scholars see these sermons as an indication that Jesus stayed on message throughout His teaching. This sermon may well have been delivered in the city and at the shore too.

In God, consistency is key. He is, as we say – unchanging – from eternity to eternity. Jesus was consistent in His revelation, in His message, and in His call to His disciples (yes, you and me) to live a certain way.

This call follows on the tradition God established with the people of Israel. At the giving of the Law, God laid out blessings and curses. Those who kept the Law, who lived just, holy lives in His ways would receive abundant blessing. Those who did not – curses awaited them.

Today, we learn that Jeremiah heard the same things from God. Do things that your world centered peers want, believe the things they say – your life is destroyed. Follow My way – your life is blessed. In Me you live, are protected, drink life giving water deeply, are not distressed, and bear much fruit. Today’s Psalm lays out all kinds of blessings and curses. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, reminds them of the Church’s teaching. In a very blunt way, he tells them that they must remain consistent with what has been experienced, witnessed, and taught. God has no room for the inconsistent. If we are not consistent, we are the most pitiable people of all.

Yesterday, we celebrated the life and work of our organizer – he laid all aside for Jesus and stayed consistent. He followed, as all Jesus’ disciples must, Jesus’ consistent message. Jesus is serious. Be poor, weep, and hunger. Be hated, excluded, insulted and denounced. Put Him before all and be blessed eternally.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

St. Paul commends the Corinthians on maintaining the traditions he taught. I am often pleasantly surprised when a visitor to our parish (someone looking for a new church home, someone visiting for the first time) commends us: I can’t believe you still do THAT. It brings back so many memories.  Those words are never spoken in any negative way, but in admiration, real commendation. What we do in church brings back memories, family, place, belonging, and home. We make it real. Tradition, for us and for our visitors, is more than sets of actions, it is a deep connection to life in Christ’s body. It is wonderful that our connection with traditional liturgical practice, keeping the traditions delivered to us, warms hearts and makes them feel connected to something far greater and much deeper. If you study ‘church conflicts’ you would often see battle lines drawn between tradition and liberalism. The wars and conflicts typically center on things most people would consider minutia, little details that may be important on a technical level, but would not be worth dying over. Yet so much drama… We are spared because we live tradition holistically. What is commendable about what we do is that we maintain what is essentially important. It is not liturgical tradition alone, but tradition in every sense, wholly. We have a tradition of charity and openness that lives in the way we welcome. We imitate the apostles, and are willing to be disciples of Christ. That shows in the way we proclaim Him, make Him known, and invite all to join with us in knowing, loving, and serving Jesus. This year we work to grow in our discipling of Jesus. We try to be more like Him. Then let us appreciate the commendation we have received. We live the very words Paul also wrote to the Thessalonians: stand firm, hold to the traditions that you were taught.

February, and it’s not lent yet? This year Lent begins very late (HINT: Ash Wednesday is March 6th). We spend the month doing all sorts of stuff. Our annual meeting and elections (HINT: We live real democracy in this church). There’s SouperBowl Sunday, our month-long Valentine’s raffle, home blessings continue, we continue our focus on discipleship, and even talk sex and the environment.

There is much going on – and we want to make sure you are well informed and ready to get your discipleship into high gear; to live as His holistically.

What else? Get in on Music Scholarships and start getting baskets ready (HINT: Our annual Basket social will be held March 31st at the Rotterdam Senior Citizen’s Center).

Check out all this and more in our February 2019 Newsletter.

Cleanup
here and now.

Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.

Another poignant Gospel testimony. Jesus borrows a boat and is teaching people along the shore. We can picture this beautiful day, crowds gathered, wanting to see what was going on, eager to hear this new prophet. The sea – calm. The fishermen continue washing their nets, half paying attention to Jesus, half involved in their duties. Then, Jesus asks one of the fishermen to put our farther. “Lower your nets,” He says. The fishermen are incredulous, there are no fish out here! Maybe they laugh to each other thinking that it is a joke. They lower the nets just to see what would happen. Either He is a prophet or a joke. Then the nets are full, full to overflowing, so full they need another boat. Jesus’ revelation is confirmed in their sight and by their experience. 

Jesus’ revelation, His appearance and His words have brought renewed life; essential change in the lives of those who chose to encounter Him. It was not just netting full of fish or beautiful sunny days for those who accepted Him and listened. Rather, it goes much deeper and is not just long-lasting, but everlasting.

Today’s reading from Isaiah makes the change the Lord brings very clear. If you notice, the words from Isaiah 6 are used as the basis of the priest’s prayer before proclamation of the Gospel and the Sacrament of the Word.

Isaiah saw the Lord and was enveloped in unworthiness. Isaiah is shocked and scared. He says: “Woe is me, I am doomed! Yet the Lord will not let that sense of doom and gloom stand. He sends His angel who takes a coal from the heavenly altar and touches Isaiah’s mouth, making him clean and worthy. Isaiah’s life is renewed. When the Lord asks: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah readily answers: “Here I am, send me!”

What have we done with the renewed and everlasting lives our encounter with Jesus provides? How has Jesus appearance and revelation mattered to us? Are we caught up in fear and trepidation or will we say: “Here I am, send me!” Those who get discipleship see not just where they are, but where their cleaned and renewed everlasting lives will take them.   

Annual
what?

They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Last week we heard the beginning of this revelation story. Today we hear the end. This is one of those poignant Gospel testimonies. It is so visual. Jesus returns to His hometown and speaks in the Synagogue. We can picture this day, crowds gathered, wanting to see what this hometown boy was going to do, waiting to hear this new prophet. The day – calm. The people half paying attention to Jesus, half involved in their opinions of Him. Jesus is thought of well by some – His words considered gracious. Some spoke highly of Him. Others are incredulous, there is nothing great here! They laugh to each other thinking that it is a joke. The son of a carpenter? Are you kidding me? Jesus confirms His revelation, He confirms it in their sight and by their hearing. The promised Messiah is here. They respond by dragging Him to the edge of town, intent on throwing Him off a cliff. Jesus’ revelation continues, and we see how some people react.

Today, we carry on the democratic tradition of our Holy Church. Our time to react.

Some see this effort as just another meeting. Maybe, like Jesus’ crowd, some stay caught up in their opinions, half paying attention. Some listen to the message, incredulous because – well how can this be true. There is no future, no wealth poured down from on high. We’ll just cruise along and avoid reality – until it is too late to do something about it. Some may laugh, thinking the whole thing is a joke. Are you kidding me? A miracle in Schenectady? So, I deeply pray, I worry a little, and I place my trust in Christ. He will destroy the chains of doubt, incredulity, and indifference where they exist. He will give new strength to each of us, the strength He gave Jeremiah.

God tells us: I’ve known you forever. I know what you can do in my Holy Name. Stand up and tell them (the world). Be not crushed. They (doubt, fear, lack of energy) will fight against you but not prevail. I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.

Jesus answer is for us this very day. Do not let Him pass through our midst and go away. We have much to do, much to learn, much to accomplish, much to disciple. Let’s react – faithfully working for Him!

Something from
revelation.

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down

We see later, in today’s Gospel the next revelation of Jesus, but before that part, taken from Chapter 4 of Luke’s Gospel, we hear from the very first part of Luke’s first chapter.

This interesting placement of parts from two different Chapters helps us to call to mind what must happen in our lives if we are to be Jesus’ disciples, His followers.

Luke is an interesting example of discipleship lived. Luke wrote both a Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He was likely a gentile and a slave who was trained as a scientist and physician; disciples come from every background. Luke’s gospel shows special focus on evangelizing Gentiles; the message disciples are to bring. Luke loyally stays with Paul when he is imprisoned in Rome. After everyone else deserts Paul, Luke remains; discipleship lived.

Luke’s Gospel speaks to the poor and speaks of social justice – work that is a mark of discipleship. He points to forgiveness and God’s mercy to sinners. Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy; the proclamation and work of disciples in reconciling sinners.

Reading Luke’s gospel gives a good idea of his life as a disciple. He loved the poor and outcast, wanted the door to God’s kingdom opened to all, was close to Mary, and saw hope in God’s mercy for everyone. I want to be like that! If we are in the Church, part of the Church, lovers and followers of Jesus – then we must all strive to be that kind of disciple.

Luke starts – I want to tell you all about Jesus. I scientifically analyzed all this so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings.

Jesus again enters the public space, another revelation, this time at the Synagogue in Nazareth. He reads from Isaiah and tells everyone that the prophesy is fulfilled in His listeners’ hearing. I am here. This is real.

We have the revelation of Jesus. Like Luke, let hearing result is action and, disciple.

you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.

Jesus again enters the public scene. What better place to do that than at a wedding?

From Christmas forward we see the revelation of Jesus increasing. First, His obvious revelation to Mary and Joseph, the first to behold Him. Soon the crowd starts finding their way to Jesus. Helped by angels, the shepherds see Him, believe, and go forth to proclaim Him. Simeon, the priest and Anna, the prophetess, behold Him in the Temple. The wise men, guided by a star, find Him and the nations of the world pay Him homage. The people of Egypt come to know Him as a refugee and exile. Next, it is the inhabitants of Nazareth, the crowd on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the teachers in the Temple, John and his disciples at the Jordan and the heavenly proclamation: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

What’s amazing about the Christmas season is the repeated opportunities the world had and has to encounter Jesus. We don’t just jump from shepherds to Magi to John the Baptist to Cana. Rather, it is thousands of smaller, more intimate encounters with Jesus. It is chances (focus on the plural) to encounter Him, be changed by Him and be something different.

The wedding at Cana is a reminder of the encountering and the changing, as well as the work of those who point to Jesus (at Cana, it was Mary). Cana reminds us that things have changed. We are called to reconnect, to re-recognize the ways in which we are different and the ways we fall short of how different we must be. Things have changed – we are changed by our meeting with Jesus. We have more capacity and room for encounter and change.

At Cana, the usual was changed. The good wine came our later. The disciples came to believe. The usual became wonderfully unusual.

Isaiah reminded us that things would be and must be different. We get a new name – we are called differently. What was usual in us becomes wonderfully unusual. Encounter to change, change to further encounter, more change.

Encounter be changed. Call to mind and bring to action the discipleship of being something different in Jesus. 

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

The new year. Time to learn something new? There are lots of areas we could concentrate on. Learn to live a healthier life. Learn to cook like Julia Child. Learn plumbing, blacksmithing… Get another degree? One area long neglected and re-emerging in learning circles is apprenticeships. Apprenticeships offer many advantages. Millions leave college each year with long term debt, little practical training, and difficult job prospects while apprenticeships cost nothing and provide learners with health care and pension benefits, paid practical training, highly marketable and in-demand skills, no debt, and earning prospects of $145,000 to $175,000 per year. We might feel it is difficult to go back and start over, but there is one apprenticeship that is always open and available to everyone: Being a Disciple of Jesus. Factually, that is what being a disciple means – a learner, a student, an apprentice. In 2019 we are called to renewed discipleship, to apprenticing with the Master and Teacher of all. This year we are to dedicate ourselves to learning and doing with Jesus as His disciples! This apprenticeship is to focus on aligning our lives with that of the Teacher, learning His ways, first imitating and then integrating His behaviors, approaching people as He does, and inviting them into this school of discipleship. The key to this year of learning is our doing. A plumber’s apprentice has to get in there and carry the pipes, sweat them together. An electrician’s apprentice has to splice wire with his teacher. In the same way, as Jesus sent out the seventy-two learners/apprentices/disciples, we must apply our efforts in practical ways alongside our Master. Ready to learn something new, and put that learning into practice? Ready to do the one thing that guarantees success and great benefits? Sign the Jesus Union card and Disciple now!

January, the New Year, and we wish all of our followers, Jesus’ disciples in training, a very happy and blessed new year.

There is much going on – and we want to make sure you are well informed and ready to put your resolutions into high gear. It is about doing what is healthful and positive and we cannot get any greater health and positive force than from Jesus.

Read about our upcoming annual meeting, put yourself in running and do something to keep YOUR parish going. For the 18th year we are participating in the SouperBowl of Caring – feeding the hungry in our local community. Get your Valentine’s Raffle tickets sold and in. It is really important. Offer Holy Mass for a loved one. Set up a house blessing. Get in on Music Scholarships. Read and integrate “The Most Important Thing We Can Do To Be Successful In The New Year.”

Check out all this and more in our January 2019 Newsletter.

January, 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you in our Central Diocesan family, and welcome to the Year of Discipleship in our holy Church!

In the words of our national PNCC Future Direction Sub-Committee recently given to us..…..As our Lord said to His disciples “Follow Me” for His public ministry, He continues to call us to follow Him and wants our relationship with Him to grow and strengthen as the days, months and years goes by.  Our PNCC is calling us to renew our Discipleship in our Lord this year and as we begin 2019…. 

Soooo – let’s get a handle on this idea of discipleship, shall we?

Not too long ago I was watching a Netflix presentation about the Masons, with a focus on their place of origin, Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street, London.  As I became drawn into the narrative of this society’s founding and growth, I was struck by how clearly they laid out the expectations of a mason.  By contrast, I was struck by how often our Church is hesitant to name the expectations of discipleship for its members. 

Our Future Directions Sub-Committee has begun laying out these expectations and will continue that effort throughout the year.  I’d say, it all boils down to five basic opportunities to “grow and strengthen our relationship with Jesus.” 

Worship – We worship God together, through his Son Jesus.  Worshipping regularly is a part of who we are as Catholic Christians. The people of God join together in the house of God to worship and honor God (Psalm 150). Worship is about community: the Christian community gathers to worship, to pray together, and to continue its growth in the faith.

Grow – We become affiliated with a parish society, Bible study, the School of Christian Living to grow in faith and our walk with Jesus.  Jesus went to the synagogue “as was His custom” (Luke 4:16).  Synagogue for Jesus was a place of discernment, learning scripture, and growing in the knowledge and love of God and neighbor.  We join with other PNCC-ers here in order to grow together.

Mission – We are called to love our neighbors.  We are encouraged to be involved in some mission emphasis.  Jesus had a special place in His heart for the poor, marginalized, outcast, and lost. We are called to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus Christ in our world.  We seek to love and serve others and believe this is vital in our Christian walk.

Talents and Abilities – All of us have talents and abilities that can be used for the glory of God.  Some have the gift of teaching or leading.  Others have the gift of administration, or may be gifted in finance and can help the church to be faithful stewards of the gifts offered for ministry and mission.  Some have the gift of compassion, or love to send cards to those who are sick. Some feel called to reach out to the unchurched, while others have the gift of hospitality.  Yes, all of us have some God-given gift, talent, or ability that we can use for the glory of God.

Proportional Giving – Stewardship is a spiritual discipline and an act of worship.  Our offering is a recognition that everything we have and are is a gift to us from God.  We are all blessed.  We are all called by God to offer our first-fruits and our [portion] to God for the work of His kingdom (Leviticus 27:30-33; Deuteronomy 14:22-29).  Our offering at a regular percentage of giving is an act of gratitude, an act of obedience, and an act of our covenantal agreement with God.  Our offering is used, then, in ministry and mission on behalf of our Lord Jesus Christ.     

So let’s take time to reflect on these five expectations as we undertake a life of Catholic Christian discipleship.  After all, God proved he loves us so much by giving His only begotten Son to live among us, to teach us of God’s love and kingdom, to die that we might be forgiven, and to rise that we may have eternal life.  God has promised to be with us always.  Discipleship, then, is our faithful response to this God who “so loves the world”  (John 3:16)      

Peace and grace to all.

Bishop Bernard