Teaching love for
me too.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

Are ways of behaving learned or innate (i.e., natural)? A bit of research will show that behavioral scientists have opinions on both sides. This question seems to puzzle us more than in the past. Is parenting natural or learned? Is love natural or learned?

One of the best reflections on this subject states that it is a little of both. The Natural Law tells us that there are certain aspects of every person that are God created. We have built in tendencies to do right, moral, good things. We are naturally drawn to God. We have the call to love within us. Of course, those things can be thwarted by experience or by choice to sin.

Yet, one of the most wonderful aspects of the human person is an individual’s ability to overcome. A great illustration of the ability to overcome is “The Other Wes Moore.” Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence?

The Christian community faced a very hostile world. They were all Wes Moore. Life was cheap. The haves had, the have-nots were slaves. Women and children had no value – were no more than property. Power ruled all, all else bowed. Nevertheless, the natural call remained, the ability to overcome existed.

The love of Christ overcame for that very reason. The message of the gospel and the example of Jesus allow us to overcome and win. Jesus took what is innate in us and said follow me – and you will flourish. God so loved us – and we can be just like Him. People heard of the power of God’s love and said – me too!

So we must put message of the Gospel first. We must love, value, and break down barriers and obstacles like God. The world needed this then, the world needs this now. The old ways have re-emerged, so the triumph of God’s love must once again offer ‘me too’ to everyone through us.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

We can get caught up in the two ends of the spectrum that are part of every faithful Christian’s life. We either experience great joy, the uplifting graces of the Holy Spirit poured out on us, or we end up on the road to martyrdom. Is that all there is to the Christian life? Really, the struggle in a Christian’s life is that we live much of it in the middle. In considering our lives, lived in the middle, we may ask: How do I sacrifice what I want for what God wants? How do I proclaim God’s truth when the world, even my family, will hate me? How can I face day-to-day life with faithfulness? Those questions plague us – but thanks be to God, He offers us a way forward by example. Of course, Jesus stands first and foremost as one who came from the middle boldly. He proclaimed truth, to those, like us, who were in the middle, who faced daily challenges of faithfulness. He offered real truth that took them from the middle to the heights of heaven. He gave them strength for their ordinary lives because the promise was oh so much more. Yes, the popular folks rejected Him, but the Father welcomed Him. This is our hope. This month we look to the example of Mary. Talk about lives in the middle. Plain, ordinary folks like us – struggling day to day with ridicule, mockery, and exile. Mary, referred to by her community as worse than a prostitute. Joseph, seen as not man enough. Jesus – an illegitimate child. They faced the worst kind of ridicule and rejection, yet lived lives in the middle, working day-to-day, faithful to God at the deepest of levels. Their struggles, much like ours. They answer the essential question: How do I get by faithfully? As we live in the middle, let us look to their example, courage, and to God’s unfailing help. Let us count our ordinary struggles and our lives in the middle as a joy in Jesus.

So much going on. The first ever Gospel Concert at HNJ on May 19th at 2pm. Come out and experience 18 performers – song, dance, poetry, stories, and more… A lunch will be served as well. Bring mom and pray for her. Honor all the special women in our lives – wives, daughters, moms, grandmothers, godmothers, aunts, partners… We will have a special breakfast in their honor. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension on the actual day – Thursday, May 10th – no switching things around here. Check out our Men’s Spiritual Retreat, sign up for summer youth events, we honor those served and gave their lives for our country on Memorial Day. Oh, and Why Not Communion in the Hand – check out our article and more…

You may view and download a copy of our May 2018 Newsletter right here.

What?
Who?

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.

Today we hear a wonderful testament to what God’s love does when, through the Holy Spirit, He opens Himself to us and calls us into fellowship with Him.

Cornelius was a Roman Centurion – Centurion, like century, meaning one hundred. He had command of at least one hundred soldiers. That means that his commanders held him in some esteem. He was promotable. Acts attests that Cornelius was also a God fearing and generous man: a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms liberally to the people, and prayed constantly to God. He didn’t just do these things on his own, he led others to God, his family and friends. An angel tells him to send for Simon Peter, so he sends messengers to get him.

In the mean time… Peter was praying at home, and was hungry too. God sent him a vision of a cloth full of food – all kinds of foods considered unclean and impure by the Jewish people. God tells him to slaughter and eat. Peter, of course, objects: “No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” This happens three times and God clearly states: “What I have cleansed, you must not call common.”

Peter, perplexed by all this, is then visited by a delegation from a Centurion. Uh oh… The Romans were here to get him. God reassures Peter, and Peter sets off for Cornelius’ house. We heard the rest today.

The call to Christian love is to love like God, surpassing boundaries, growing fellowship, participating in the communal life of the Body.

This is a testament to the powerful work of God who accepts us and brings us into His Church. He takes what is unclean and common and makes it beautiful and acceptable before Him. He sends forth His Spirit, not as man expects or wills, but as He deems fit and proper. He sees what we do; even small acts of faithfulness and charity, and pours out His graces on us all the more. He sets the ultimate example of love – and if we listen to Jesus, we love one another exactly as He loves us.

The Pastor, Rev. James A. Konicki, and Congregation of Holy Name of Jesus, with Bishop Rev. Dr. Judy Murphy-Jack of Friends of Friends Universal Community Mission Church/Institute invite you to attend the Universal Praise in Classical Spiritual and Gospel Music, Skits, Liturgical Dancing and Poetry to be held at Holy Name Of Jesus, 1040 Pearl Street, Schenectady on Saturday, May 19th from 2pm to 5pm. Refreshments will be served. Please come to this worthy event and share with us this experience. All is welcome to support the program.

Condemned or
free?

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.

Today we witness the baptism of Finley Edward. It is the first step of the sacrament of Baptism-Confirmation by which we enter and grow in the regenerated life. While the two parts of this sacrament, both baptism and confirmation, seem like bookends, they are not. Rather they are steps in a journey, a journey from condemnation to freedom.

What is best and most amazing in the process of Baptism-Confirmation is that by our actions of faith, our proclamation of belief in Jesus and trust in His salvation, and rejection of all sin we are saved and are completely freed. We are changed in the most essential of ways. Theologians call it an ontological change. Really old folks like me were taught that our soul receives an indelible mark – something that can never be undone. This is why we call it what Jesus called it in speaking with Nicodemus – regeneration or rebirth: Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again… Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

Today, St. John reminds us of what we received. We have new hearts and sprits that will not condemn us. They have been freed and that should give us great confidence. At the same time, St. John knew that we know somewhat differently.

While we are able to have confidence, while we have been essentially changed and regenerated, we fall. We fail to keep the commandments of God – the two key ones – to love God enabled by our belief in Jesus because in Jesus we know God, and to love each other. When we fall short in those regards we loose confidence.

When we forget the commandments, are away from the vine, apart from the love of Jesus’ community, we lose confidence. That’s when our hearts condemn us. Yet if we remain on the path of transformation we are freed, and in freedom bear much good fruit.

Who carries
who?

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

The image of the Good Shepherd is one of the earliest Christian images and one of the most popular even to this day.

Early Christian images were often symbolic. This was due to the need to be discreet in a world where Christians were often viewed with suspicion at best and persecuted, even to death, at worst. The image summoned up by the words of Jesus, “I am the good shepherd.”

The image of the Good Shepherd often depicts Jesus carrying the lost sheep on His shoulders, bringing the lost back. The image is evocative of the power and strength of Jesus as well as of His care and concern for each of the sheep. We see Him going off among the brambles and thorns, the rocks and cliffs, among the wolves and other dangers, letting nothing stop Him from His mission of care, His rescue.

As Christians, we have the same call, but it can be muffled by our dual personality.

The call is to be imitators of the Good Shepherd. W e are to live up to our responsibility to search for the lost. How many do we know that have lost their relationship or have a broken relationship with Jesus – we need to seek them out and bring them back. Jesus gives us the grace to have the same strength He has, so we can go among the brambles, thorns, rocks, cliffs, wolves and other dangers of this world to bring them back. As He carried us back or into the fold, we are to carry others back or into the fold.

Our dual personality is such, that while we are His sheep, we too go astray at times. Our call can be muffled by the sinful attraction of the world. It is in those moments that we may have confidence that Jesus will not leave us alone and abandoned in the wild. Jesus will marshal all His resources, graces, and people to bring us back. As we carry others back, Jesus carries us.

There are great temptations and sadness, seemingly impossible obstacles in our journey with Jesus’ flock. Yet we have great power in Jesus and the strong shoulders of a great God. It is time to have confidence; it is time to work out our shoulders in scripture, prayer, and the grace of sacramental encounter. The question is not who carries who, but the confidence that that Jesus carries us and we are strong to carry each other.

We have a gift
to deliver.

He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Beside ourselves, who are the sinners we know? Who are the least of sinners, who are the worst?

Our minds might have wandered to that person who had annoyed us, the one who treated us badly, the one who cut us off in traffic. Perhaps our minds dwell on ourselves, how we fall short.

It is probably best to start with ourselves. There is an old story about a person who went to confession after many, many, years. They sat down with the priest and said ‘I haven’t been to confession in years.’ The priest asks: ‘So my child, what sins do you have to confess?’ The person said: ‘Well, I really don’t have any.’ The priest looks up, takes off his glasses, and said: Well now you do, for St. John tells us: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us.” In other words child, you just lied a big lie.

Frankly, as St. Paul instructed the Church at Rome: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Knowing this, we know we have a real problem, and it is not the problem our minds go to.

Who here is forgetful? I know that I am getting more and more forgetful. Without a calendar filled with appointments, I just might not be where I need to be. Thankfully I have a loving wife and a great secretary who keep me on track. I forget stuff at home and leave things behind. Then I have to figure out where I left it. Is it in the car, on my desk, on the kitchen table? Did you ever go to a party and forget the gift you were supposed to bring?

Today, Jesus reminds us that sin and forgetfulness go hand in hand. Being forgetful isn’t sin, but forgetting what we are about is.

The problem is that we are quick to count sin and offense, either our own or that of others. Every person, even those worst at math, deserves a degree in accounting. We can add up sins with real expertise. Yes, all have fallen short. So we can leave that message to scripture. The part of scripture, the gift we forget is what Jesus says today (and every day). We need to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. We are to be witnesses of these things.” We have a gift to give and it isn’t our ability to count! Our gift is word of Jesus’s redemption. Through Him all who confess are free.

All we need is
faith and love!

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.

We were looking through the closet in our office at home – a closet that has been changed into a set of storage shelves. We were looking for bags and ribbon for our basket social baskets – ribbons found, no bags. A trip to Michael’s and all set.

While looking through the closet I came across a lovely table runner from Poland. It is intricately woven together. That is what today is all about.

The community to whom First John was written was facing a crisis. Former members were denying that Jesus was God’s flesh and blood Son, fully human and fully God. Like many churches facing doctrinal conflict, the community was confused, afraid, and unsure of what to do. Who should they believe? How could they know what was true, and what was not? How should they react? Their closely woven life of faith and love was coming undone.

John’s response in a lesson to the community was both simple and confident: You know who you are – the faithful. You know whose you are – you are God’s. You know what you have been told from the beginning – love God, love the brethren, and keep God’s commandments. God’s own Spirit is with us to show us the way forward. There’s no need for confusion, anxiety, or fear. Focus on living your faith woven together in unity and love.

John echoes Jesus’ conversation with his disciples on the night before his death: “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them;” and “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”

Loving God, loving God’s children, and keeping God’s commandments are all an inseparable part of our life in Christ. They are links in the chain of faith. We live in an interwoven reality that is the Church of God – the basic principles of Christianity. Like that beautiful table runner, every thread is linked together into something beautiful; something that gives joy and that makes love strong and real.

In today’s Gospel we have all the markers from the First John community. Perhaps the first display of fear and anxiety in the Christian community. Jesus settled the Apostles crises quickly. Yet the Apostle Thomas was missing. He was the one thread missing. He exhibits some aggressive non-belief. His thread was not just unraveled, but frayed and nearly broken. We get that way. The comfort is that Jesus returns for him as He returns for us – Jesus won’t let us stay unraveled. Easter is to live restored, interwoven, and unbroken.

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us

April first and we are at Easter. The wonderful thing about this timing is how it all coincides and works together to represent a restart. A new month, a new day, a renewal of our Easter life – if we are willing to take Him up. The passage above from Titus 3:3-4 compares and contrasts what we once were, before Jesus, and what we can become – if we chose Him. St. Paul points out that people were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hating one another. Paul in writing to Titus had recognized what the world was like. But rather than staying focused on what was wrong with the world, Paul is pointing out how much has changed because of Jesus. Jesus has restarted the world, He has renewed, regenerated, and re-energized the lives of those who choose to believe and are faithful to Him. The key to Paul’s writing is instruction on how life is to be lived. The life we can take up post-Easter is completely different than the life we had before. It is fresh, washed clean, and a call to continued faithfulness. The Easter life can be dangerous and demanding. Easter witness collides with the powers of “the age” that want us to stay stuck in old unredeemed ways. Worldly powers want us to chose a replay or repeat of yesterday – not an encounter with the new day of Jesus. Instead, if we chose Easter living we gain a new saved existence of joy and well-being. We join to build community in worship and work. We reach out to draw-in all who desire to set aside yesterday for today and tomorrow. Will we give up what we know, what we are comfortable with, for a new saved life? The crucified, buried, and resurrected Lord’s offer is so much better. His goodness and loving kindness is for us. Let us take Him up on Easter and leave yesterday behind.

Join us for the Easter Season. A wonderful time of joyful service in our Holy Church. Our Amazing Basket Social is Sunday, April 15th starting at noon at the Rotterdam Senior Citizens Center. Come out and bid on some really amazing (and valuable) baskets.

Our schedule is really filling up. Throughout Spring and into the summer months we are going to be so busy. Be part of it. Events include:

  • The Eighteenth Annual National Mission and Evangelism Conference, April 27th through 29th at All Saints Parish, Carnegie, PA.
  • Men’s Spiritual Retreat sponsored by the National YMS of R from May 17th through 19th in Walmart, PA. More information here.
  • Gospel Concert at Holy Name, Saturday, May 19th from 2-5pm. Come out and praise!
  • The 73rd Annual National Bowling Tournament will be held In Waymart, PA from June 8th through 10th. Check out YMSofR Bowl for registration documents and information.
  • Kurs Encampment being held June 30th through July 7th at the Bishop Hour Retreat and recreation Center in Waymart, PA. This year’s fun theme is “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Sign up forms are available here.
  • Convo 2018 will be held on the campus of The University of Scranton in Scranton, PA, July 23rd through July 27th. This year’s theme is “Anointed Lifeguards.” Application forms are due by May 20th for a discounted price. Registration forms and more information is available here.
  • The United Y.M.S. of R. 4th Annual Golf Outing will be hosted by Y.M.S. of R. Branch 20 at Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral, Lancaster, NY. The golf outing will be held on August 18th.
  • The XXV Holy Synod of the Polish National Catholic Church, will be held within the Western Diocese of the Polish National Catholic Church.  The dates and site of the XXV General Synod have been set by the Western Diocese as October 1-3, 2018 at Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, IL, nine miles from St. Louis, MO.

You may view and download a copy of our April 2018 Newsletter right here.

This week’s memory verse: Who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself. — Philippians 3:21

  • 4/1 – John 11:25-26
  • 4/2 – 2 Corinthians 5:8
  • 4/3 – 1 Corinthians 15:22
  • 4/4 – John 3:16
  • 4/5 – Matthew 28:2
  • 4/6 – 2 Timothy 1:10
  • 4/7 – 1 Corinthians 15:43

Pray the week: Lord, You have risen from the tomb and abolished death. Draw me ever closer to You in this life so that I may have life with You eternally.