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 

This is how I
respond.

He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

The restoration of Bartimae’us sight appears to be a rather ordinary. Yet understood within the context of the Gospel of Mark, it serves as a profound revelation about seeing rightly and living in discipleship.

Mark 8:22 tells of the healing of another blind man. In this case, Jesus has to try twice to bring clear sight to the man at Bethsaida. At face value it seems odd that Jesus cannot restore the man’s sight the first time around, but when seen as a parallel to how Jesus deals with His disciples and us it becomes clearer.

Jesus doesn’t give up on making things clear to us. He tries over and over to help us see clearly by the light of faith. Later in Mark 8:29 Jesus asks His disciples their opinion – “Who do you say that I am?” The disciples finally see Jesus for who He is as Peter declares, “You are the Messiah.” As soon as Peter has said that, Jesus begins to teach them about the suffering He must endure. Peter rebukes Jesus and tells Him how he thinks things should go. Jesus plainly tells Peter to get behind Him because Peter doesn’t see clearly. Jesus teaches His disciples over and over that as Messiah he must suffer and die, yet the disciples repeatedly fail to see clearly. Like James and John they think that following Jesus will bring them glory and power.

Jesus repeatedly tries to help His disciples see. Thanks be that He does that for us too since we too can miss the fact that discipleship requires a radical change in our vision, in our way of seeing and understanding.

Now in Mark 10:46 we come across blind Bartimae’us. The blind man lights the way to discipleship and response as it should be. We see Bartimae’us doing all that is required of Jesus’ disciples – a way of living and acting that is hope-filled and authentic.

Bartimae’us, the son of Timae’us, which means ‘the honorable one and son of honor,’ shows how we are to respond to Jesus’ call. Bartimae’us hears that Jesus is near and calls out to Him. As Jesus’ disciples we need to recognize when Jesus is near – indeed how near He is – and we must call out to Him in prayer and petition. The crowd attempts to shout Bartimae’us down yet he cries all the louder. As Jesus disciples we need to speak the truth regardless of the voice of the world. Bartimae’us responds to Jesus’ healing not by going his own way, but by leaving behind his cloak, his all, to follow Jesus. This is the essence of discipleship: to see Jesus clearly and follow along His way.

7612_Disciple

Following the call to
discipleship.

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD’S bidding.

The call to discipleship is not a one-time event. If it were, most of us would likely miss it the first few times. Thankfully our God is constant in His call and He understands our stubbornness, the fact that we need to be reminded and called over and over.

Jonah is one example of God’s persistence. Jonah was a prophet of Israel, and for the most part he got to deliver happy messages. Then God’s call came: “Arise, go to Nin’eveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”

This was a tough call. Jonah wouldn’t be delivering a happy message to his people, but would have to go to a foreign city, among non-believers, to deliver a very hard message. As we know: Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

Jonah literally went in the opposite direction.

Last week we heard John telling His disciples, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” So, The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.

Today those same disciples are back to fishing. What happened in between? Perhaps they were scared by John’s arrest. Their prior discipleship ended in their leader going to a horrible prison. We could speculate as to the reasons that they went back to fishing, to being non-disciples. But, here comes Jesus, calling again saying: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Jesus didn’t give up on them. He called again and they abandoned their nets and followed him.

There will be times in our life where faithfulness, where our discipleship wanes. There are times when we will go back to our old nets, our former ways. When we do Jesus will come again and say once again: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

It is up to us to hear and follow. Will we again leave our nets, our old ways and follow Him? Will we announce His message (even if its uncomfortable and against what the world tells us is ‘right’)?

When we are called, let us leave fear behind and get busy as true disciples. Jesus calls us for a reason. Like Jonah, we can make a real difference by helping people to repent and believe. Like Jesus’ first disciples, we can make His name known everywhere we go.

Reflection for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 2014

Thess_2

Living the model
Church

But we were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children. For you remember our labor and toil, brethren; we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you, while we preached to you the gospel of God. And we also thank God constantly for this.

What is the model Church? Paul’s letter to the Church at Thessalonica gives us some clues of what it means to live the model Church, to be part of it, to live lives as models of Jesus’ call to discipleship.

This weekend also presents us with a vision of what will happen for those who have modeled discipleship in the model Church – they will become saints.

A model is an ideal. It may be a model practice, a model process – it is the best way of going about something so to reach success. In business we might see model sales practices or model accountability processes.

So what does it mean to be model Christians in the model Church? As mentioned, Paul gave us some clues.

To live model lives of discipleship in the model Church we must allow the Gospel to make an impact on our lives as it did on the Thessalonians. They received and lived the Gospel faithfully and Paul had praised them for it. If we take up their model practices we will live faithfully, labor diligently, and remain steadfast in the love of the Lord. We will be fully convicted of the absolute truth of Jesus’ way of life. We will imitate the lives of the saints. We will receive and proclaim God’s way of life – the Gospel – even in the face of much suffering and opposition because our true joy is in the Holy Spirit and the promise of everlasting life (something we particularly remember all of November). The model Church proclaims and teaches all these things, is godly in its conduct, and has its sole focus on leading people to God’s truth, in no way ‘watering it down.’

Paul himself lived a model life – calling non-believers to the faith, being gentle in teaching those new to the faith, working hard, not making a burden of himself, and boldly proclaiming the Gospel – never being ashamed of it; fully trusting in the Holy Spirit.

God has placed opportunity all around us. We meet people and are called to model Christ to them, to share the true faith, and to welcome them into faith. We are to work hard and even suffer by being counter-cultural – saying no to the sin of ‘everything goes.’ True and eternal freedom comes through Jesus, and faithfulness to Him. Model discipleship in the model Church, sainthood, calls us to live and work in such a way as to advance the cause of the gospel in our lives and the lives of others. We receive the word of God… accept it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God. And, we put it to work.