Gifts from heritage.

“Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that He said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Today, our Church celebrates Heritage Sunday. Scripture provides reasons to celebrate this particular aspect of God’s creation.

When our Church was organized, it took care to stress the fact that God makes Himself and His teaching manifest through the use of nations and peoples.  Each nation is given gifts, unique perspectives and charisms that, when shared, enrich our faith in Jesus and teach us more about Him. We are called to respect, cherish, and celebrate what God has created and to learn from it.

Jesus came to God’s own people, the Jewish nation, to reveal all that God is and to call them to walk in the Way of the Gospel. They were called to see kingdom already but not yet fully present. Then, they were to cooperate in bringing the Kingdom of God to completion.

Paul, in writing to the Church at Galatia, reminds the gentiles that the Gospel preached to the Children of Abraham contained within it the promise that through them, all nations would be blessed (Galatians 3:8). The scriptural promise is fulfilled in that Abraham becomes the father of many nations.

While each nation has: allotted periods and boundaries, as well as the call to seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him (Acts 17:26-27), scripture also calls us to use great care in recognizing that we are citizens of heaven. Thus, we are never to place nation over God, or over the Holy Church, or over our call to first a foremost find our way toward God.

So, our Church set out to do exactly that. We honor heritage and all nations as a gift and as a means by which we find our way to God and build His kingdom.

Instructive in the way God works through nations is our first reading. Cyrus was called by God to free the people of Israel. Cyrus did not know God. As ruler over many nations he saw many gods and forms of worship. Cyrus himself likely worshiped Marduk. Yet, God used him and his nation to free and restore Israel.

Jesus understood that we will be established in nations as a means by which the Gospel is known and experienced. No one nation is good, and in all cases, we are to maintain perspective. Practical societal requirements (like taxes), are not what is important. Our growth in knowing God, appreciating His gits, and in building His kingdom, which has no coins, is what matters.

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.

Coming from…
Going to…

“But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Today, we celebrate Heritage Sunday in our Holy Church. It is not a Liturgical Solemnity or Feast, but rather something added on to our typical Liturgical celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. It helps us to remember what the Lord’s Passion, death, and resurrection hand down to us. It also helps us remember what has been handed down to us by our ancestors.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews has a lot of focus on what has been handed down. After all, the Jewish people were all about what had been handed down by their ancestors – the Law with all its resulting customs and traditions. So, the writer riffs on the meaningfulness of what is handed down. Namely, in today’s passage, that Jesus went through all we face. That through faith and obedience to the Father’s will, Jesus became the premier servant of all – and gave up His life to serve all. The Father’s reward was resurrection and the opening of the gates of heaven to all who follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Jesus came to serve and to set the example for us. The Apostles, the generations of saints and other holy men and women that followed in Jesus’ footsteps, lived out the writer’s advice to the Hebrews – it shall not be so among you. They made things different. They brought the change Jesus instituted forward.

This change applied down to the day of our grandparents and parents. They passed the gift of Jesus to us. It is now our gift to pass along.

This is what heritage is. It is all those wonderful things we own – the food, songs, pictures, stories, histories, legends, and heroism of our ancestors. More so, it is their greatest gift – the way they acted as Jesus acted, as servants. They served the people of our community and each of us by holding fast to Jesus’ way, His teachings.

We know where we come from, our heritage. It is a direct line back to Jesus – a testimony of our ancestors who faithfully served and passed that gift to us. Understanding that, we know where we come from and set our hearts on what we pass along and where we are going.

Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time/Heritage Sunday

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Celebrating heritage
Making God known to all

Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

St. Paul calls us to remain faithful. Faith is imparted to us by our hearing, by someone who proclaims and models faith for us. This is not any faith – but faith in the one true source of salvation who is Jesus Christ.

Jesus told His apostles and disciples: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.

Someone had to inform us of this fact. Indeed they did – the apostles and disciples set out to every corner of the world and proclaimed what they had seen and heard. They spoke it, they held the liturgy – bringing the sacraments to all, and they witnessed to the truth of Christ by offering their lives without fear. These witnesses, mostly uneducated and formerly fearful, brought the faith to every nation.

Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity in 301. Tiridates III was the first ruler to officially Christianize his people predating the date of Constantine the Great’s personal acceptance of Christianity on behalf of the Roman Empire. Subsequently many nations adopted Christianity and assumed the role of imparting the faith to their people. A mosaic of peoples and cultures went on to make salvation known through faith in Jesus known.

Bishop Hodur saw nations as a tool in God’s hands. Each people is endowed with specific gifts and insights that add to the totality of Christian evangelism.

Religion cannot espouse the dissolution of national and cultural boundaries as its goal — an argument made by those who define everything in terms of separation. Our faith, and the expression of our faith – our religion – is focused on making Jesus known through the gift of nations and cultures. Nations and cultures speak of God who works through them to fulfill Jesus’ command to: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

God speaks to and values every nation and culture. He works through them to make His will known, to offer salvation to every person.

Today we celebrate the individual heritage of every nation and culture. We celebrate the gifts God has given us – those gifts intended to make salvation known, to bring all to know and worship Him who created us for His purpose.