Trust in Jesus.

Jesus said, “I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

I am so thankful that we have joined together in worship this Sunday as we celebrate the confidence we have in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Confidence is so important to us. We think of confidence in many ways – being sure of what we are doing, choosing our words carefully, and studying various approaches so to choose the best one for the most positive outcome. We don’t like making mistakes. We don’t like being embarrassed in our interactions with others or by our decisions.

Jesus sends His seventy-two disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom of God, to evangelize talking about God and the way God wants us to live. They were people just like us with the same worries, the same need for confidence. Unlike us, they had not yet seen the resurrection of Jesus in power and glory, nor had they experienced the descent of the Holy Spirit.

They were to go in trust, asking people to change their lives completely – to prepare themselves because the Messiah was about to come into their town. The Kingdom was at hand for them.

Jesus prepares the seventy-two with certain instructions, how they were to travel, where they were to lodge. In these first few instructions Jesus asks them to make a leap of faith, to put their trust in Him. He even insisted they trust so far as to leave their money, their bags, and sandals behind. They were to trust that they would be fed and housed – it was all about trust.

He also gives them the words and authority they are to use: “cure the sick and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”

Those seventy-two went out and did as Jesus asked in complete trust. Because they did that, they were able to come back rejoicing. The rejoiced not because of who they were, nor because of their sneakers, backpacks, or money, nor because they had confidence. It was because they learned that trusting in Jesus gave them real victory over fear, doubt, hesitation, and being timid.

I began saying that we celebrate the confidence we have in Jesus today. You see, Jesus fully understands what we face if we do all He asks us to do. So, Jesus shows us that trust is enough. We don’t have to be sure of what we are doing because Jesus oversees the accomplishment. We don’t need to choose our words carefully. We have Jesus’ gospel. We don’t have to study various approaches to get the most positive outcome. All outcomes in Jesus are the best. Trusting in Jesus gives us ultimate victory, names inscribed in heaven.

Spread the Word.

So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Good morning, Church! I am so thankful you have chosen to worship with us this Low Sunday. 

Christ. is risen! Church declare: He is risen indeed!

We once again focus in this Easter season on our call to evangelize – to spread the Gospel message and to invite people to know, love, and serve the Lord.

This is a great time to do that – for we are filled with Easter joy, the excitement of the season, the promise of everlasting life made apparent in Jesus, who taking on our human form continuers in that form – yet glorified as we will be when we are resurrected.

But, you know, even the most ardent evangelist, those most deeply committed, and those most filled with Easter joy sometimes run across a problem.

The scene is set for us in the gospel we just heard. Jesus appears to the disciples. HE IS ALIVE – HE IS RIGHT HERE. Can you imagine the energy, the joy and wonder? The Gospel tells us that they rejoiced. In Greek the word is Echarēsan -they were delighted and filled with joy.

Can you imagine being that filled with that joy? This was a joy unlike any other for it filled them with immediate thanksgiving, gratefulness.

Those disciples were on top of the world, literally amid the Kingdom – and then Jesus fills them with the Holy Spirit. His power is now in them. They were supercharged.

Now it is time to spread the word – the Lord is risen; He is risen indeed! 

The first to receive that proclamation, to be evangelized, was one of their own – Thomas. 

Yep – their own brother would be the first to push back on their joy and to rail against their evangelism. “I will not believe.” he says.

Jesus answered the dilemma for the disciples and showed them the way forward as He does for us. He visits them again and says to Thomas – come and see. Know what it is to meet Me.

And… there is the answer when in our joy we meet that person who doubts, who says they’ll think about it, who says maybe next week or in a month or in a year. We must invite them over again to come and see, to meet the Lord. We need to spread the word of joy, the Echarēsan so that they can know what it is to meet Jesus by meeting His people. Just try it. Come and see. See so that: you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. 

Called to Live Anew.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.”

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.

What better way to connect with the word anew than to enter this new season in our Church life, the Season of Septuagesima, Pre-Lent.

This Pre-Lenten season is one in which we prepare ourselves for the rigors of the Lenten season because it is between now and Easter that we endeavor and strive at the vast changes we need in our lives. To live anew we set to the hard work that is a re-valuing of our priorities, and the doing of God’s work.

Let us start with the one beatitude that is very hard for most of us: Accepting the fact that we will be hated, excluded, insulted, and denounced as evil because we proclaim the name of Jesus. We know it happens to those who follow and speak Jesus’ teachings, because those teachings call worldly people to repentance and change. Who really wants to change and live anew anyway? We know it can and will happen to us as we live anew and call people to know, love, and serve the Lord and His Holy Church

We all want to be liked, we all want to be fabulous, funny, accepted, spectacular, and spoken well of. But there is a cost. The cost is the truth of God’s word and our place in the Kingdom. So, we set out in this season and the season ahead to re-value what is important and to live the way we must – not should – but must. Life anew.

If we are to live lives anew, things must change in us. We each have those inner issues we need to overcome. We each have attitudes, really bad-i-tudes, that must be rooted out and replaced with Jesus’ beatitudes. We must weigh the cost of silence versus the loss of souls on the scale of eternity and do all we can to speak about our God, our faith, and our Church and how they hold forever promise for each person we encounter.

Knowing we live in the Kingdom of God we must be willing to accept polite and not so polite no’s when we invite people to meet Jesus, to join us in fellowship. We must be willing to speak truth in the face of worldly values so that hearts might be converted, and people might be saved.

So let us start now, living anew in each encounter and invite others to that same new life for Jesus’ sake no matter the outcome. If we do, we hold onto our forever promise and await the day we rejoice and leap for joy as we accept Jesus’ great reward in heaven. 

Called to live anew!

But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

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.

As you may recall, last week we discussed certainty. We considered how certainty assists us in living and bearing witness to the gospel and drawing others into the life of faith, the kingdom life which Jesus has created for us.

Today we are given entrée into the things that make up the kingdom life – the things we are to share.

St. Paul reminds of the great gift that marks our lives as Christians – that of love also translated charity. This love is far more powerful than any other gift, than any intellect. It overpowers and overcomes all things. Pick a topic – something seemingly insurmountable by human standards – and know and proclaim that Kingdom love will conquer it.  Yes, we can say that.

Last week we heard Jesus read from the Isaiah in the synagogue; speaking of the things He had come to fulfill – the great gift of freedom from captivity and poverty, from blindness and oppression. He indeed had come to conquer all by His love, to invite all to repentance and membership in the Kingdom. Unfortunately, the people of His hometown were not quite onboard with such an expansive view of love.

For context, the people in Nazareth had heard of all Jesus had done in Capernaum – the preaching, the healings, the freedom He was granting, though love, by inviting sinners and people who were quite different from themselves – for Capernaum was diverse and included Gentiles and Samaritans.

The Nazarenes did not want to hear that kind of good news, the gospel message and membership in the Kingdom needed to be more limited. Their wonder and amazement were not positive, rather it was negative – the way of love must be within established standards, and only for some.

Jesus shows them and us that the freedom and love of the Kingdom life is not for the expected, but rather the unexpected. Jesus’ quoting of two examples of God’s love and charity to ungodly pagans relates the expansive power of God’s love overcoming.

At the end of the gospel, Jesus walked away from those who closed themselves off – who were unwilling to share the Kingdom life and wished to deny it to others. In doing so, He invites us, those already in the Kingdom, to do as the Kingdom life requires, i.e., to share in love that overcomes all things and to offer the gifts of the Kingdom in unexpected ways and places, to unexpected people.

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.

Deciding…

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

We live in a time of decision, a time marked by outpourings of incredible passion focused on issues pressing on all of our hearts. It is an opportune time to hear Jesus ask us: ‘What and who do you love?’

Jesus defined love as only God can, perfectly. His love is a love open to everyone who will accept Him. His love is for those who come to Him when facing hopelessness or fear, or when they are just in search of understanding. His love is there for doubters and the even the angry.

Jesus’ definition of love calls us to be God directed and other directed. He calls us to an all-consuming and selfless expression of love each and every day. His definition of love requires us to acknowledge what we know inwardly and to express it outwardly. We are required to share His love, invite all to this love, and to avoid all hypocrisy. This is why the Pharisees and Sadducees and lawyers failed, they lived in hypocrisy and refused to acknowledge what they knew.

We are to love with right passion. What kind of passion is that? It is one that places Jesus and His kingdom front and center as our sole focus. It is passion for the gospel message and the great commandment. It is a passion for evangelism, to baptize the world in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It is often said (going back to college Latin), ‘O tempora, o mores!’ ‘O the times, o the customs!’ We have this knack of looking at our times and thinking them the worst, the verge of disaster. That phrase goes back to 70 B.C. This time is indeed a time of decision, and passion. We face the same decision we have faced from time immemorial: Will I receive Jesus, or will I let misplaced passion block me from Him? Will I love like Jesus and lose my life, or will personal passions block by heart?

What and Who do we love? If our love is formed and conducted in the way of Jesus and our passions are for all that is His, we live properly. Our passions are rightly focused. If our passions and love are for anything else, for just having our way (i.e., not losing our life), it is the time to re-evaluate and find true life, to decide to live and spread Jesus’ way of love.

How do you do
religion?

He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

Welcome to September, a time of change and transition. We move from the activities of summer to pumpkin everything, apple cider donuts, and crisper air.

Our scriptures today are about essential change. Moses starts out with a long dissertation about the new Law of God. The people were to observe it, were not to change it, and in honoring the Law, they would find themselves the envy of nations and peoples. In honoring, maintaining, and keeping the Law, the people of Israel would show a unique wisdom and a very special closeness to God.

It seems kind of obvious to us, at least at first glance. God gives us something remarkably special, and if we have any sense at all, we honor it and respect it. We would want to brag about it, ‘look at what God has done for me.’ We would follow the dictates of whatever God has given us. Who would hide what God had done for them? Who would ever want to go against God? To do so, we would show ourselves as the opposite of smart.

Similarly, St. Paul speaks of the great gifts we have received. He was the biggest bragger of all – look what we have, look what God has done and revealed. Let’s live it large: welcome the word, be doers of the word, don’t delude yourselves.

Jesus brings this all together. He chastises the Pharisees because they had let the Law become only a series of doing – not living. They not only did that, they didn’t evangelize God’s word. They kept it all locked up and just for them. Jesus said on other occasions that they: “shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.” And in another: “you have taken away the key to knowledge. You have hindered those who were entering.” Not only were they failing to live God’s commands from the heart, going against them, they were hiding away His gifts.

Our call is to do religion right. Let us honor God with our lips and our worship – and from there do evangelization. Right religion means changed living – faith from the heart, showing God’s gifts, putting it all out there for the world to see. Tell the great gifts. Show them off. Listen to that little voice that prompts you to stop, turn, and invite.