Strength of Faith.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith.

We have talked for many weeks about Strength of Faith. We have seen the way people approached Jesus and how He told them to have faith, to not doubt. We have seen various ways we can put Strength of Faith into action and how we share our Strength of Faith with each other and the world. We have contemplated the ways we might invite others to experience God, right here, with the confidence that comes from Strength of Faith.

Today, we are presented with a reflection on the source of our Strength of Faith. Strength of Faith comes solely from Jesus, from doing what He did.

Wait a minute, you mean I can be like Jesus, I can live the way He did?

As we heard in today’s gospel, James and John got it wrong. They were looking for the sort of strength that does not come from faith, but rather comes from position and status. In short, Jesus tells them that they will also have to face what He had to face: “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” If you want to be like Me, you must be — like Me.

The rest of the disciples become upset, not because of what James and John asked, but because they wanted the same. Jesus tells them all, you must stop thinking the way the world thinks, but rather be like Me, be humble, serve, suffer if you are called to do so, and know that your strength comes from Strength of Faith. It comes from the sort of faith that says I am less so that God can be shown to be more.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews fully understands human weakness. The writer also knew that he himself was weak, had failed, had sinned, was constantly tempted by the desire for power and status. Facing what we all face, knowing what we all know, he arrives at an answer: My Strength of Faith comes from being most like Jesus Who was like us and did not sin.

You see, Jesus was tested exactly as we are. His humanity faced all we face. In fact, He was attacked constantly – yet He did not sin. He overcame. So can we.

You mean I can be like Jesus; I can live the way He did? The answer is yes. We are called to confidence, to walk and act in the Strength of Faith that tells us we can live as Jesus did.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

This month, in our years long discipleship study and journey, we are asked to pray both Psalm 42 and 121. Both of these Psalms pose longing and a response to longing. In each, the psalmist realizes that their hope is in God, that help comes from God. The introductory verse to Psalm 42 above is answered: Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. I can meet God by placing my hope in Him and trusting in Him. Our God is a saving God, not a punishing god. Can you imaging being as desirous as a deer in search of clear, cool, running water. The animal, parched with thirst happens upon that exact stream of water and is overjoyed in finding it and drinks deeply. So it is in our heart’s inner desire and need for God. Desire for God may seem more pronounced in difficult times, when we need extreme help for extreme troubles, but truthfully, that longing is always there. Our souls desire unity with God, for He is their source. They want Him for He is their refreshment. The cool, clear, running water of His grace is their answer, and we all seek to drink deeply of that grace. So, how do we do it. How do we find that water and drink of it? How do we meet God? We start by following Jesus’ gospel path. We do the things He said we must do. We live out the beatitudes and the rules from the Sermon on the Mount. We serve and sacrifice. To be a disciple means we live and love our Master’s instruction. Hard, yes. Impossible, no. From there we live in community. We live and worship as one family. This is the God designed, Jesus taught, Holy Spirit infused way we are to go. The cool, clear, running water of grace is found by those who do exactly this. As we follow Jesus’ gospel path He infuses us, through the Holy Spirit, with His grace. We receive actual help from on-high. As we live and worship as family we open the door to grace to others and support each other with that strength from on-high. We lift each other to that fountain of grace and in doing so our longing is answered.

Welcome to our October 2021 Newsletter. This month’s newsletter is filled with information about important events in the life of the parish: our centennial celebration; blessing of pets; healing; the rosary; family; the upcoming observance of All Souls; our discipleship focus on St. Teresa of Avila; and Ten Biblical Reminders for encouragement. We also pause to remember three beloved men who passed into eternal life.

Please come out to join us as we pray mightily, receive the sacraments, learn from the Word, and celebrate.

Check out all this and more in our October 2021 Newsletter.

Any good?

He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus.

This scripture, taken from the first chapter of John’s gospel, concerns the gathering of the first disciples. The next verses following today’s gospel concern the calling of Phillip and his friend Nathanael. We all recall their exchange: Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Nathanael isn’t buying it. After all, can anything worthwhile come out of that place? Nathanial saw Nazareth as a downer, no good. We encounter people like that. We say something, and they naysay it. It may seem to us that they are glass half-empty people, yet there is something more there. Perhaps they are projecting their own sense of personal worthlessness in their reaction.

In our sinful and broken world, we ask the same question about ourselves. Can anything good come from my life, my family situation, my personality, from someone who looks like me, is as old or young as me, or who has made mistakes like I have?

How about you? How are you feeling this morning? What motivated you to come here this morning or to join us virtually? Are we all feeling good and inspired, or has the past week taken its toll on us and put us at the end of our ropes?

Perhaps this is how Nathanael was feeling as he listened to Phillip’s words. Perhaps, rather than Nazareth, he was thinking, “Nathanael! Can anything good come from me?”

There are times when we look at ourselves like that, perhaps because of a secret, an illness, trial, hurt, grief, or loneliness. Perhaps it is the state of our country, and we say it will never get any better. Nazareth, everything else, and me – Nothing is good!

When Jesus met the disciples, He met men who all felt small and were caught up in their own pasts. As with Nathanial, Jesus saw through that and said, “I see you and I know what you are like. I’ve got you all figured out. I know you better than you know yourself. Come follow Me.”

When someone sees you, welcomes you and believes in you, it is powerful, freeing, life-giving, and transformative.

Jesus knows us completely and all that troubles us. He understands our faults, failures and insecurities. He knows the things we’ve kept secret. Jesus isn’t shocked by anything about us and loves us no matter what. He died to set us free from all that and He has great plans for us. He says, Come, follow Me.

When we get up and go like those disciples we come to not only understanding and acceptance, but to love God and to a whole new way of seeing ourselves, everybody, and everything. We set aside the traps of anger, fear, prejudice, and self-centeredness.

Jesus saw something in the disciples that surprised them.  Instead of seeing rotten, no good sinners, people out of whom nothing good can come, Jesus saw people He loved and with a great future. Can anything good come from me? Yes! God has seen it and has said so. He has asked us in. Come, follow Me.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This month, along with the celebration of the Solemnity of the Christian Family, we also celebrate Heritage Sunday (October 18th). Why? Reading through the documents created in the Church’s organizing years we see so many references to humanity, established in nations, to be bearers and sharers of the gifts God has given them. In the Tenant and Aims Document it is recorded: “The most important objective of the Church… is to maintain, enrich and develop the life of God in the soul of man…” Likewise, the Confession of Faith, our Creedal Document. Familiarize yourself with these statements, for they are a call to us and to the world. We are to recognize the dignity and value of each person and nation in their contribution toward helping us know God. These documents from the early 1900’s a sure cure to the inequality we still face today. We are not called to division, but to celebrate each other in unity and equality. We celebrate heritage because God has given us gifts, attributes, and experiences that when shared adds to our collective knowledge of God. A paraphrase of the Preamble to our Constitution sums this up: “Religion is the source of life and regeneration. Religion [that] possess the character of a nation [transmits innate] moral principles from which we achieve real freedom and stature.” As we celebrate let us each experience God more fully in each other and in what we share of ourselves.

October, our next jam packed month of events and opportunities. We bless pets on Sunday, October 4th. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Christian Family, a feast unique to our Church as well as Heritage Sunday. We will pray the Rosary every Wednesday evening in church and virtually. And … Fr. Jim is in the kitchen cooking up a yummy take-out/take-away American Goulash Dinner for Sunday, October 25th. Your efforts at discipleship and evangelism are drawing people to church – keep up the good work in the ministries you each have. There are some great prayers for family and our nation and a wonderful reflection on Certainty in God.

Read about all it in our October 2020 Newsletter.

What do I say?

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen…”

Have you ever served on a Board of Directors? Certainly, our Parish Committee members do. It is an honor to serve as well as an interesting and challenging task. I have served on many Boards of Directors. Looking at my old resume, at least eight. One of the most interesting was my service with our homeowner’s association.

Some communities have a homeowner’s association. There are a set of rules and regulations you agree to when you buy your home. You pay some sort of annual dues that take care of maintenance in the neighborhood. These associations are governed by an annually elected Board of homeowners.

Being an accountant by training, I usually get selected to be the Treasurer of any Board I am on. Yep, they elected me treasurer. What did we do? We made sure common areas were mowed, our ponds were properly attended to, and that homeowners followed the rules they agreed to. If people wanted to make changes to their homes, they would have to seek approval. Generally, mundane stuff. Mundane until there was a problem.

The part that got the heads of the Board members shaking was when people would come to the Board with their little disputes. My neighbor’s grill sends smoke into my yard. You get the picture. Our general answer was – Talk to your neighbor. That never seemed to work. 

It is hard to talk with someone if they’re headed in the wrong direction. What to say? We have trouble doing it with those closest to us, and here Jesus tells us our obligation is toward the whole family of faith, to call people back to faithfulness.

There is a distinction and a caution. The distinction – our obligation is toward members of the Christian community, not to the worldly. If people are members of the Christian family, we have the same understanding of who we must be, and we can call them back. The caution – we refrain from judging. Because someone is heading in the wrong direction does not mean they are bad or evil.

What do I say when a believer goes off track? We are to seek after them like Jesus seeks after the lost sheep, with love and compassion. We are to call people back to faithfulness, remind them of what we hold in common as the regenerated. Let us make every effort in calling those who stray back to God’s standard and to live faithfully ourselves.

The
knowing.

I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

On this Fourth Sunday after Christmas we hear the testimony of John. In the gospel, John twice says: “I did not know him.

It seems odd for John to say such a thing. Afterall, John and Jesus were cousins. It is true that they lived in different towns, and transportation was hard on foot. Based on Church Tradition, John lived with his family in Ein Kerem, an eighty-mile, three-day journey on foot from Nazareth. Yet, it is highly likely they did know each other. It was common for larger Jewish family gatherings to occur, especially during festivals, as well as in pilgrimages to Jerusalem. So why would John say: “I did not know him?

Remember, that this Epiphany season is about revelation, Jesus becoming known. What John experienced following Jesus’ baptism was a deeper knowing of Who Jesus is. He was no longer the cousin I knew back when. Actually, I probably knew Him better in my mother’s womb when I leapt for joy. Now, I really get it. The Holy Spirit has helped me to see; I see Jesus in fulness according to the Spirit.

Like John, seeing and experiencing the Lord in the fullness of His being and then acting upon that knowledge is the grace of God working in us. It is the Holy Spirit inspiring us. It is also a call to look beyond mere appearance and to see each and yes, every person, as the image of Emmanuel, the image of God among and with us.

John acted on his knowledge and spoke of it to the crowd. He pointed to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He spoke of what happened in his life. He is literally saying that his work, there by the river, was about making Jesus known.

As the faithful, we are called to make Jesus known. I would ask that we think about this work in a slightly different way. Christians often approach those who do not know as those who do not know, in other words, uninformed. What we might miss is in the saying of: “I did not know him,” they like John already do know. They exhibit the traits of one who knows Jesus, in their goodness and love. They are created in His image. We, in our work, just need to help them see the fulness of what they already know.

Discount
entry fee?

I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them

Our first reading starts out and ends so hopeful. God is going to gather together many nations and peoples. There is to be no exclusivity in His kingdom. God’s glory will be proclaimed by these many peoples, and they shall gather others into the family of God. From among all these people, God will raise up priests and Levites from all people, not from some families.

Indeed, this hopeful message is what has been proclaimed by our Holy Church from its first days on Pentecost, when people of many nations and languages came to faith in Jesus Christ. This hope filled message was music to the ears of the downcast, the poor, widows, orphans, slaves, anyone in any sort of bondage, particularly sin bondage. The Church thrived amidst persecution, with people entering each week, to learn about the message of Jesus (and study over 3 years before being allowed full participation).

People heard the hopeful message of Jesus in the streets, in homes, from the mouths of His followers. Jesus’ followers could not help but speak of Him and what He offered. By their work and words, people came to be saved.

What does Jesus offer? He offers inclusivity for those who come to Him in faith, who believe on Him with their entire being. He includes those who seek freedom by confession. He offers eternal promise and inheritance. The things and ways of the world are broken and without value. God came Himself, for them, to set them free. They were worthwhile children and coheirs.

We have to ask ourselves: In the midst of torture, prosecution, potential loss of life (and long study), in the midst of an everything and anything goes pagan culture, where I can have whatever I desire, why did the hope of Jesus, the Messiah, resonate so deeply. Why were people willing to sacrifice all to have Jesus? This was the way it was for nearly 500 years! And more came to Jesus every week. More and more sought His community – the Church.

Today, we live in a neo-pagan culture. The old ways are back. What we forgot for 1500 years is real again. We are called to reassess, to see there is no cheap entry fee. We will not just get by. We are the sign among them– the world. We are therefore called to live faithfully, speak boldly, and offer what is priceless to all.

And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh He brought you to life along with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, He also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.

Last week we found Abraham sitting in the entrance of his test on a hot summer day. Today, his three visitors walked on toward Sodom, intent on destroying the city for its sinfulness, while the Spirit of God remained with Abraham. In one of the most classic dialogs in scripture, Abraham presumes to bargain with God. He wonders, can God forget the serious sinfulness of Sodom for the sake of those who try to live justly? Not once, but three times, he sets a challenge to God – can He look past the sins of so many for the sake of the few innocents. Perhaps it is a bit too far to say, at least at that stage of salvation history, that God would forget the sins of so many. Yet, He could look past their serious sinfulness so that that those, innocent of those serious sins, might not perish. God shows forth His mercy. God previews His approachability.

St. Paul brings our new reality in Jesus to the fore. We are all guilty, all liable, yet God mercifully sent His Son to free us, literally to obliterate every sin (every failing, serious and minor, big and small) that held us captive. Paul tells us that we have been buried with Jesus by our baptism. In those waters we, by God’s grace, the cross of Jesus, and the working of the Holy Spirit, leave sin behind. Uncleanness is abandoned, and we come alive – alive for ever. In that moment, we were raised.

The question before us, what do we do with this new freedom? What are the next steps? How should we act?

Remember that Paul refers to when we were dead. It is past tense, it was before. It is addressed to every one of us, Gentiles in the old order and the new Israel in our rebirth. Freed from our sin, we must respect and honor the fact of our freedom. Again, but how?

Respect and honor our position of freedom in the kingdom. Stand tall, look straight ahead, and pray to the Father looking Him in the eye. Ask in faith. Believe that we will receive. Give praise and thanks. The Lord has forgotten our sin and invites us to approach Him right now.

He’s
everywhere!

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

Happy Birthday Church!!!

Pentecost marks the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit is central to every act of creation. Genesis tells us at creation the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. He was there as all that was created for us came into being. How much more would He be there as we were returned to the fullness of creation. His work in us was and is focused on bringing the word to the world, on proclaiming and spreading the Good News of repentance for salvation in Jesus so all might be re-created, might be re-born, might be regenerated.

St. Paul says: But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News? Exactly! So, the Spirit was there to call us, to motivate us, to infuse us with the gifts necessary to spread the word.

In Jerusalem, tongues of fire were created into tongues of proclamation. It is not lost on us that these tongues were world-wide tongues. Every nation heard. Jews, Arabs, Romans heard. The Holy Spirit is with us everywhere. In every corner, to every place needing re-creation, He accompanies us and gives us all necessary to get the job done.

St. Paul expounds on the gifts: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts. There are different forms of service. There are different workings. The Spirit produces all of them in everyone (who is in the Spirit) for some benefit.

Notice, there is no delay. There is no questioning. There is no debate. The Spirit floods and fills us. He empowers us to get the job done. Feeling lazy? Feeling unable? Feeling afraid of this God stuff? Call on the Holy Spirit and the job will be done (by you and me) before we even realize it. That’s how we know. That’s how we are sure of the Spirit’s presence, the reality of God and heaven. It is when we are amazed that it got done. Then we know He is everywhere in our proclamation of salvation.

Jesus’ disciples gathered around him, and he taught them: I tell you not to worry…

Matthew 6:25

I believe we often wonder whether Jesus is really speaking to us. Are those particular words meant for me? The answer is always yes, and reflecting on our passage for this month, we can certainly see how it applies to us. Jesus’ friends and followers got together, and He COMMANDED them: Chill out! Indeed, Matthew 6:25, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, is a direct command from Jesus to His followers. His language was not a suggestion or a recommendation, or an option. If you are following me, you need to relax, chill out, throw out all fear and anxiety. If we experience God, church, family, and everyday life from a perspective of fear and anxiety we are missing the blessings of a true relationship with Jesus and each other. Instead of living in Jesus – life to the fullest – we are just functioning and killing ourselves. Fear, worry and anxiety are a wall, a thick, high, deep, and strong wall that blocks the way between me and Jesus. We look at those walls, and our instinct is not to break through the wall, after all. who am I? Rather, we start immediately to make the wall bigger, stronger, higher, and deeper. We forget the dynamite we really have. The power we have is faith as small as a mustard seed. Go to the local supermarket or spice store. Find a jar of mustard seed, and look how small those seeds are. Buy that jar, and then go find a big ‘ol wall – a brick or stone one, and take one of those seeds. just one, and throw it at the wall. In our minds and hearts, see that wall explode and fall. That’s the power we have in Jesus. That is the order He has given us. With the simplest of faith, the least amount of faith, the wall of fear, worry and anxiety is destroyed. When we come to church, let us use the opportunity to stand up and follow Jesus’ order. He’s speaking to us. Destroy the wall. Relax the shoulders, throw out the obligation, and step over the broken parts of that wall. See Jesus for real, no fear.

Join us in June for the fullness of the Holy Spirit experience. Confirmation and Installation, Father’s Day BBQ, all done in a chill out manner with faith in Jesus who overcomes all. Plus check out all the great upcoming national and local events now and throughout the summer.

Read more in our June 2019 Newsletter.