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.

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Part 4

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation

Three Sundays ago, we met St. Dismas. We learned who he was. We considered what brought him to the life he led. We began considering questions about those times when we, like Dismas, turned from God, let temptation win. Then we set on the road to repentance. We set to take the same opportunity Dismas had; to ask ourselves questions and use those questions to grow into better and better images of Jesus.

We discussed the issue of equality and possibility; our call to rightly measure both.

We recognize inherent equality in human dignity. The image of God is in all. Dismas, like every other person around the cross, is us. None deserves hatred. None is less than we are. In our equality we acknowledge that we are all presented with the same possibility Dismas and Gestas had. Like Dismas, we are called to come to Jesus and be saved.

While we have that ability to come and be saved, we tend to get caught up in our weakness and fear. Fear is compounded when we face God’s absolute honesty. Dismas wasn’t strong enough and lived a sinful and destructive life even in the face of God’s truth. Until. Like Dismas, we must have the courage to grab the chance. We must not forego the chance like Gestas did. We are called to see the full honesty of God – truth and mercy that provides each of us the chance to grow and produce even in the direst of moments.

Dismas, on the cross, examined his life, asked questions, saw his innate dignity, the possibility before him. He overcame fear without neglecting Jesus’ truth, and grabbed the chance to grow and become, even in the last moment of his life.

Dismas, in his encounter with Jesus, spoke the prayer of faith. He spoke to be saved. In this short moment, Dismas acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus, admitted his sin, and asked for salvation. Dismas lived the parable of the Prodigal by coming back and received eternal life. We are called to do exactly the same. Our Lenten journey with Dismas is a model to be followed. If we follow it, take hold of Jesus’ promise, and live in Him, we are recreated as disciple ambassadors, ever new.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood

The words above are taken from the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 20, verse 28. St. Paul is meeting with the elders – the Bishop and leadership of the Church in Ephesus. Paul speaks of how he was plotted against, how he held to the truth, and how he preached repentance. Paul focused on the example he set. He is telling the leadership to follow that example – to live it. In other letters, Paul spoke of how he worked for his own bread, how he battled temptations, and how he went willingly into the unknown for Jesus.

Many Roman Catholic faithful have been shocked and disturbed by recent and past revelations of evil doing, abuse, and how those acts have been covered over/covered up for decades. You may be among them, asking: ‘What happened to the example laid down by Paul and the other Apostles?’

All Christian faithful are supposed to live, first are foremost, the life of Jesus. We are all called to walk in the footsteps of the Blessed Virgin and all the saints. Paul did that! We ask again: ‘Shouldn’t the leadership of the worldwide Roman Church be on the same page?’

We feel for you and are sad for your experience. It is heartbreaking to have one’s trust broken repeatedly, to see one’s role models and leaders fall so hard by their own fault.

You may feel conflicted because we are all taught to forgive, to reconcile, but we know there are lines we cannot cross. We know that calls to prayer and fasting among the faithful laity are not enough. Real change is needed now. Meetings months from now isn’t soon enough. Committees and focus groups cannot be left to debate issues without real resolution. Vows of sorrow and pleas for forgiveness do not really change anything unless it is followed by action and significant change. You do not want to just sit in a pew for weeks, months, and years awaiting change. No reasonable person would.

Brothers and sisters,

We offer you an invitation. If you are looking to get away, to take a break for awhile, we can help. We offer you that break, a time away for peace, quiet, and prayer. We offer you solid Catholic worship and a chance to take a step away for healing.

We are not asking you to join our parish, or to leave the Roman Church. Come, pray and worship in surroundings that are comfortable and safe. Then, when you are ready, go back to start anew.

Note that Roman Catholics are allowed to receive the sacraments in our parish under the provisions of Canon 844.2 of the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law. Canon 844.2 states that the sacraments are lawfully received from a priest in the National Catholic Church: “Whenever necessity requires, or, a genuine spiritual advantage requires it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ’s faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a [Roman] Catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-[Roman] Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid.”

Faith
lived.

“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” 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.

Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, a son of Israel had faith. Indeed, scripture notes that his faith saved him.

Bartimaeus had an amazing faith. It was a faith that allowed him to shout when others preferred silence. It was a faith that motivated him to throw aside his cloak – maybe his only earthly possession. It was a faith that motivated him to follow Jesus’ way. That we should have such faith! This is faith that is unafraid, courageous, not counting the cost, ready to go.

Friends, we are called to exactly that kind of faith in the face of anger, prejudice, political opinion, and current events. Our country and our world are turned upside down. Our ability to look past labels has been blurred. Our call to love each person as another self – to welcome each person as we would welcome Christ… What happened to that?

We spent a week in the midst of bomb scares. Yesterday, eleven killed and eight more wounded. Our elder brothers and sisters in faith come to worship God and celebrate community are slaughtered. We listen to the voice of self-interested politicians taking Jesus’ name in vain, creating an unholy drumbeat of prejudice and greed. We must in turn be more like Bartimaeus. We must stand witness to the truth of Jesus’ teaching – As I have loved you, so you must love one another. The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends.

In 1938, Dietrich Bonhoeffer commented to a colleague, “If the synagogues are set on fire today, it will be the churches that will be burned tomorrow.” At the same time, Catholic priest Bernhard Lichtenberg declared from the pulpit “Let us pray for the persecuted ones… Outside, the temple is in flames. That too is a place of worship to God.” He included all Jews in his prayers and for that he was arrested, imprisoned for two years, released, arrested again and killed on the way to Dachau. They lived the faith as Bartimaeus did. So must we. “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling us.”

He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

We have been through a lot. The stresses and strains in our country, the sins in a particular Church, the judgyness of some church people, upcoming elections, old and upcoming investigations, and even family drama. It is all terrible. It all seems inconsistent with our ideals, with everything we have learned is right and good. As a pastor, I have been asked all kinds of issue questions, anything that would seem to press a reverend’s hot-button and provoke an extremist reaction. Let’s see if Jesus’ representatives blow a fuse over this or that. Jesus’ words to the crowd ready to stone the prostitute tell us two things. The first thing is that sin is real. Let him who is without… Jesus knows our reality. He Himself had to fight against it in the dessert after fasting for forty days. The second thing is the possibility of forgiveness and a road out – to salvation that Jesus conveyed to the prostitute. Both parties had a choice to make. The crowd could have rejected Jesus’ truth and could have thrown the stones. The prostitute could have also walked away and could have gone back to her ‘profession.’ One of the Church’s earliest thinkers, St. John Climacus, in his writing used the example of a ladder. He noted that when we chose Jesus, when we enter the life of the Church, we get on the first step of the ladder to heaven. The key to all of this is not Jesus’ tolerance, nor the rightness of the Church’s teaching. Jesus is indeed tolerant and the Church, by the light of the Holy Spirit, teaches the truth. Rather, the key is the light we need to see, the right we need to do. In the end, it is about our tolerance. None of us should have a ‘hot button’ that sets us off to judge, and if we do, we must get it in check. As followers of Jesus, we are called to the ultimate in tolerance. We are to see the person next to us, the person with the ‘hot button’ issue, and support them on their climb on the ladder to heaven.

Our October newsletter goes along side the season of change – and calls us to remember unchangeable things – love of family, acceptance and tolerance, lending a hand up the ladder. We celebrate family and heritage. We have a full calendar of events, Holy Synod, a rummage sale, and so much more. Check out all the activities coming up in November too. Find out why it is better to climb…

Check out all this and more in our October 2018 Newsletter.

I am looking for a Catholic parish home.
I have serious questions and concerns.
I am a single parent.
I am divorced.
I have addictions.
I am not a typical catholic.

Can I attend Holy Mass in this parish?
YES YOU CAN!

Can I receive Holy Communion in this parish?
YES YOU CAN!

Can I be Catholic without being Roman Catholic?
YES YOU CAN!

Can our priests and bishops marry?
YES THEY CAN!

Can I receive valid sacraments?
YES YOU CAN!

Can I remarry in this parish?
YES YOU CAN!

Can I or my children be baptized in this parish?
YES YOU AND THEY CAN!

Can I be confirmed in this parish?
YES YOU CAN!

Can I ask questions and will I receive direct and honest answers?
YES YOU CAN!

Can I join you for Sunday Mass?
YES YOU CAN and YOU SHOULD!

Holy Name of Jesus professes the faith of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

We hold worship every Sunday at 9:30am and 11:30am.

When people think Catholic they may picture an old church, a city across the sea, rules and regulations, and formal worship… The Catholic Church is over 2,000 years old and is far more than that. It is faith that is universal and everlasting. It is faith expressed in many ways.

Many Churches refer to themselves as Catholic including the Orthodox, Oriental, Roman, and our National Catholic Church. Like all of these, the National Catholic Church is a Catholic Church. You will find that it helps you grow in your relationship with God, your community, and the wider world. We worship regularly and place special emphasis on proclaiming and teaching God’s Word as found in the Holy Bible. We are democratic in our organization. Every member has a voice and a vote in how the parish and the wider Church is run. We are fully accountable to our members.

We are here to be a home for you and yours.

Welcome!

Getting out of
the fire.

Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

As I was listening to the radio the other day, the song: ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ by Billy Joel came on. Throughout the song he provides a retrospective on the past seventy-eight years. That story is retold in the hearing of names and events that range from Nazis to modern terrorism. He explains that the bad (mostly) has been with us since the world began. The song sets a somewhat hopeless perspective on the state of the world. We didn’t start the fire, but it was always like this. It will still be like this after we are gone. We tried to fight against it, but lost because nothing will change. The flood of people and events leaves the singer crying out – I can’t take it anymore.

As we walk through our readings we get the same sort of narrative. Wisdom foretells the way the Son of God would be treated in the fire of evil. Let’s attack Him, He is obnoxious, He shows the world our horrible truth, our hypocrisy. Let’s deliver Him to His enemies. Let them mock and torture Him. Mockingly they say – Let’s see what He will do. Let’s see if God defends Him. The writer of Wisdom was not making this up out of whole cloth. He knew what people, particularly powerful people, were like – the hypocrisy, arrogance – the fire of evil they burned with.

Similarly James was pointing out how the people of earliest Church – his was probably the first letter written – were already at each other’s throats. They had the evil fires of jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder, foul practice, wars, conflicts, and covetousness. They had already lost sight of Jesus.

Jesus is explaining what will happen to Him in the fire of worldly evil as He and His disciples walk along. They paid no attention; they were fighting over which one of them was the best, the greatest, the most important. They were in the midst of the fire of evil ambition.

Jesus puts out the fire of evil this way. He places a child, a symbol of innocence in their midst. He wraps the child in His arms – the perfect absence of evil. He says that we have the answer, the antidote to the fire of evil. Receive and live in Jesus – free and out of the fire.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

The world is in our face, and the struggles of many are on our conscience. In this constant onslaught, we are called by many voices into judgment on matters of human dignity. Many voices call us to make judgments – and in many respects to value one thing over and against another, one person over another, one policy over another. Because this is the perpetual situation in the world, the words of Jesus must be first and foremost in our minds and hearts. His teaching and way must be our guide. I have heard many of these voices: A man shouting in a store: “No one cares about kids killing each other in Chicago, why should we care about these kids.” Posts on Facebook that call out all the ways children suffer in our nation – those killed in the womb, those separated from parents by imprisonment or divorce, and other factors. The writer implies that our concerns for ‘each’ child is not good enough. In all of these the speaker or writer is calling us to chose, to judge. What many seem to miss is our call as Christians to respect the dignity of each and every human being. No sin, no misstep in God’s eyes, decreases a person’s dignity. No color, background, ethnic identity, financial standing, orientation, national origin, or self-identity makes a human being less in God’s eyes. Nothing ever must lessen the respect and honor we owe to all. True, Jesus calls all to reformation, to change and reconciliation. He often said: Go, and sin no more. People responded and did exactly that – they were changed. What we must remember is that Jesus never allowed the sin of anyone to bar the door. He called all to change because all have equal dignity in His eyes. Our call is to live our aspirations – to be the absolute best by living in full accord with God’s call. Let us never aspire to exclude, but to include. Let us aspire to open hearts and open doors, to reform and love as Jesus says we must. To respect and protect the dignity of each person.

Our July/August newsletter offers congratulations on several very special events in our parish, highlights our great summer activities, celebrates our Country’s independence, remembers our dearly departed brother śp. Richard, and gets to preparations for Back to Church Sunday – September 16th. The newsletter offers tips and advice for homebound faithful so they can stay sacramentally involved and connected. Let us know if we can help.

We also sadly reflect on the decline of the Roman Catholic Church in Schenectady and the challenges facing that Church. The National Catholic Church program is the best and strongest response and protection for its members. Parish property, finances, and the future of each parish are fully in the hands of its members, not distant bishops and ‘popes.’ We are thankful for that legacy. If you know someone who seeks the fulness of Catholic life and all the sacraments each Sunday, invite them to Holy Name. If you are looking for a place to express the Catholic faith as believed and celebrated by the undivided Church of the first millennium, join us here in Mont Pleasant. You Belong Here!


Check out all this and more in our July/August 2018 Newsletter.

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.

Faith discovered.
Faith lived.

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.

This past week we heard news of the death of Stephen William Hawking who was a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author. He offered the world wonderful scientific insights, theories, and suggestions. We could also connect with his long standing health issues and his courage in moving forward, in spite of challenges. He believed and lived like a person of faith, yet he was not a person of faith. He was an avowed atheist and did not believe in God, heaven, or eternal life. This sermon is not a judgment on his life. Rather, it is an exploration of how we come to and live faith. Can we do at least as much for God as he did for science?

Faith and science are processes of discovery, however their conclusions vary. The ‘scientific method’ is one lengthy testing to find results that are never really final. Science never draws absolute and bulletproof conclusions because a scientist knows that information or thinking might require they back up, re-test, refine, expand, or reject previous thinking. Faith, in contrast, is about making a clear and absolute statement: I believe.

In today’s gospel, Jesus calls the world to faith and to live out faith. For those who seek leadership He sets forth His example that also calls us to leadership. For those who connect with story, he provides analogy and asks us to preach His words. For the scientist, He provides evidence and calls us to testimony. Jesus calls us to get to faith, to accept it, and once there, to live faithfully.

Jesus is drawing near to His death. Hear His words: “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” Jesus was totally tuned in to the will of His Father. He makes an absolute statement of trust, placing His faith in the Father’s will alone, no matter where it might lead, even to his death. Jesus calls us to the same faith through His example. He calls us to act in absolute faith. Not ‘oh, but…’ Instead, ‘yes, Lord.’ Yes and, I will live it Lord!

Jesus gives us the grain of wheat and its lesson. We have to let go of the notions we cling to; we have to let our grains of wheat die so that new revelations come to us. Letting go of what we cling to is an act of faith-filled trust. Letting go is an act of living our faith.

God does not leave us to guess. We have Jesus, first hand testimony, and evidence for our sake, yet some will not hear, accept or live faith. Thanks be, we have come to faith and live it.