you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.

Jesus again enters the public scene. What better place to do that than at a wedding?

From Christmas forward we see the revelation of Jesus increasing. First, His obvious revelation to Mary and Joseph, the first to behold Him. Soon the crowd starts finding their way to Jesus. Helped by angels, the shepherds see Him, believe, and go forth to proclaim Him. Simeon, the priest and Anna, the prophetess, behold Him in the Temple. The wise men, guided by a star, find Him and the nations of the world pay Him homage. The people of Egypt come to know Him as a refugee and exile. Next, it is the inhabitants of Nazareth, the crowd on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the teachers in the Temple, John and his disciples at the Jordan and the heavenly proclamation: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

What’s amazing about the Christmas season is the repeated opportunities the world had and has to encounter Jesus. We don’t just jump from shepherds to Magi to John the Baptist to Cana. Rather, it is thousands of smaller, more intimate encounters with Jesus. It is chances (focus on the plural) to encounter Him, be changed by Him and be something different.

The wedding at Cana is a reminder of the encountering and the changing, as well as the work of those who point to Jesus (at Cana, it was Mary). Cana reminds us that things have changed. We are called to reconnect, to re-recognize the ways in which we are different and the ways we fall short of how different we must be. Things have changed – we are changed by our meeting with Jesus. We have more capacity and room for encounter and change.

At Cana, the usual was changed. The good wine came our later. The disciples came to believe. The usual became wonderfully unusual.

Isaiah reminded us that things would be and must be different. We get a new name – we are called differently. What was usual in us becomes wonderfully unusual. Encounter to change, change to further encounter, more change.

Encounter be changed. Call to mind and bring to action the discipleship of being something different in Jesus. 

Enter the
realm.

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.

All of our readings and Gospel today preach one essential lesson about our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ: He is King, Lord, and Ruler. He owns all dominion and glory. He is to be served by all, and will be lamented by those who missed the opportunity to do what we do today.

I have been in many church buildings in my life. Cathedrals, Basilicas, large imposing structures build through the hard work and sacrificial pennies of immigrant ancestors, small and humble wooden structures. No matter what kind or type, even in the most modern, blank wall, social realism inspired church buildings, or older buildings that have been wreck-o-vated, you can always find one point, one corner at least, that glorifies God and His Son Jesus. Those buildings while human built monuments, praise the only King, the only government that matters. They call us into His realm.

Those places, in their simplicity, or in their grandeur, call to us; they draw our eyes and hearts to Jesus and focus us on His realm, all the varied and wonderful aspects of Jesus as our King.

More than just the buildings, the gathering of the elect, that’s you and me, is what puts it over the top. We are here to praise, magnify, and petition. We kneel and adore. We offer and we trust. We sign and call out with joyful noise to our King. Our human action, through His grace, draws us closer into His Kingdom, his realm, and sets forth an eternal sign and action through which we meet Jesus.

Lord, how good it is for us to be Yours, to worship You, to be drawn into Your realm.

God’s eternal love, Jesus’ setting aside of heavenly glory to save us, is now owned by us. Jesus came not just to save, not just to teach, not just to open heaven to us, but all-in-all to leave us a gift. Put together, all those things are what He most intended, the things that allow us to change, to be different, to be His ministers and heirs to the Kingdom. As St. John saw, He brought us into a kingdom, and made us priests for his God and Father. Our call is to be His, accept His gift, and enter the realm of the King.

Who lit the
fire?

“In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

There are many jobs that require a moment’s notice to be ready. Included are emergency workers, utility crewmen, soldiers and sailors. Today, Jesus speaks of the end of the world. Telling what it will be like, He reminds us that we too have to be ready at a moment’s notice. We will talk today about what we should be ready for and what we should do to prepare.

Our preparation must be centered on belief in Jesus. More easily said than done! It is very difficult for the people to believe in Jesus, not just today, but even when He walked among us. The world questioned and still questions His abilities, background, and leadership. True belief lived begets dedication, proclamation, and a deepening of relationship. We must check in to make sure our belief is doing that in our lives.

If we know Jesus, if we are growing in relationship with Him, we should consider ourselves specially blessed – and be thankful. Jesus promised that He would raise those who do believe in Him on “the last day.” What a great gift, an everlasting gift, a gift for everyone no matter who we are – as long as we believe in the Name of Jesus; no matter where or when, a gift just for us.

What we should be ready for are those things Jesus laid out for us. There is and will be tribulation. There are choices to be made, and we want to be in the group of his elect.

If you have looked into the history of our Church, you would note, as some do with a bit of humor, that our organizer, Bishop Hodur, ‘extinguished the fires of Hell.’ Well not exactly (some took it that way). What he did rather was work to remove fear of Hell fire as the motivator for preparation. We must not have fear as our motivator. Our motivator must be to grow in belief through more intimate knowledge of the grace and glory of God – to know Him, to experience the Holy Spirit, so to desire preparation for what is to come: Us on fire with belief, ready for that moment’s notice, and thankful to be so.

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.”

All
in.

A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Before I begin discussion of today’s readings and Gospel, I am going to clue you in on next week; give you a preview of what is to come. It is, in fact, about what is to come: “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory”

The widow in today’s Gospel had all that in mind. She knew it before Jesus even said it. It was written on her heart. The end will come. God will gather His elect. Where will I stand? She decided to stand with God’s warriors; with those who were, and are today, all in.

Many gloss over today’s gospel as a lesson in generosity, about giving to the church. There is that lesson which is pretty easy to grasp. As Christians however, we are asked to look beyond mere appearance, outward signs, to what lies beneath. In the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus tells us: “Stop judging by outward appearances, and start judging justly.” Jesus wants us to get at deeper truth, the full impact of His Good News.

Going deeper into the Word of God calls us to go deeper into His life giving way. We are called to do as the widow did, to throw it all in, to say – nothing is more valuable than God’s way, to walk with Him in complete faith and confidence.

Oh, how we long for miracles. Our hearts desire healing, safety, the good of children and family, long life, financial freedom, love, comfort, security, and so much else. Yet, when we are called to be fierce warriors for God, to proclaim His name, to gather souls, to stand for God’s truth and justice over opinion and politics… Do we throw it all in? Do we go all the way? Do we believe in His miracles? Do we trust?

These are hard choices. It is a choice one poor widow made in the Temple, a choice another poor widow made in giving the last of her water, oil, and flour to an unknown holy man. They went all in in the presence of the Holy. That is the deeper truth, recognizing God’s ask and doing it. We are called to that kind of faith and courage – to all-in warrior status for God.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

The month of November is dedicated to remembering our dearly departed. As I reflect on this month, I cannot help but pause to consider what will happen to me. I do not do this to be morbid or to dwell on dark things, in fact I try to focus on those I will leave behind. I guess that’s one of those habits of a part time genealogist. I also like to annoy my family by telling them the songs I would like played at the post funeral repast. The one song I would love to have played is “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” Any version is fine: Bob Dylan, Guns N’ Roses, or Eric Clapton. I particularly like Warren Zevon’s version or the Polish version by Babsztyl – “Pukając do nieba bram.” We often feel we are standing just outside heaven’s door. We stand there knocking. This takes two forms. One form of knocking is the kind we do every day – looking for reasons, seeking help, trying to get to an answer. The other form of knocking is the one we anticipate doing. What it will be like when I get there. Will I be left on the porch, at the gate, knocking and waiting? The hardest thing to get in our walk of faith is the sort of confidence that tells us ‘the door will be open.’ Yet, that is what Jesus promises us. The words above, taken from Matthew, Chapter 7, are the start of His promise. Jesus goes on to say: “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” He goes on to describe how our Heavenly Father will provide good to those who ask. He didn’t say these things so we would wonder or be fearful. In the Polish version, the singer cries out: Błagam Panie otwórz mi Zanim mrok pochłonie mnie. [I beg You, Lord, open the door Before darkness consumes me.] As we face this month of memory, and perhaps some self-reflection, let us take time to ask Jesus to reinforce our confidence. Let us realize we are never outside the door. We don’t have to knock, He has already opened the door for us.

Our newsletter discusses the month of November, the remembrance of our dearly departed, and includes a memorial for our former Pastor, Rt. Rev. śp. Stanley Bilinski, who entered his eternal rest just as the month began. Taking a simultaneously somber and hopeful approach, our newsletter covers events throughout the month. We prepare for the mailing of our Valentine’s Raffle tickets, the events of Advent, and two beautiful reflections on sharing our faith – plus one positive missionary step each of us can take. We also wish everyone a great Thanksgiving. Consider using the prayer included in the Newsletter.

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

In
dialogue.

And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Today’s reading and gospel ask us to realize the power of dialogue with Jesus. The dictionary tells us that dialogue, used as a noun, is a conversation between two or more people, especially one directed toward exploration of a particular subject or resolution of a problem. It goes on to point out all the synonyms for dialogue: conversation, talk, discussion, interchange, discourse, debate, or consultation. As a verb, dialogue means to take part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem.

Looking at these definitions, we see relationship is essential to dialogue. One must enter into dialogue with another, be part of it rather than just a subject of it – i.e., being talked at. Dialogue has an aim, it is not just entertainment – i.e., listening and speaking for the sake of words alone. Dialogue is about going deeper in learning and toward resolution of questions or problems.

Jesus enters into dialogue with the Scribe. The Scribe asks a question and he and Jesus have a back and forth exchange of ideas that leads to understanding. At the end, the Scribe gained understanding and both the Scribe and Jesus speak with joy.

The previous encounters between Jesus and the religious and political leaders were never a dialogue. Those were meant to entrap Jesus by stealth. Jesus silenced them. The one person who breaks the pattern is the Scribe. He enters genuine dialogue – he is close to the kingdom because he used the chance of dialogue to get closer to real understanding.

We have heard Jesus’ teachings. Now we too must break through and go deeper to real understanding of what it means to bring about the kingdom – the truth of God’s Law of love.

Bishop Stan entered dialog with Jesus. He went deeper with Jesus to understand the kingdom. He had questions answered. He met with Jesus, spoke regularly with Him, and came to understand the work Jesus was calling him to do to grow His kingdom. He worked diligently, taking those ongoing dialogues with Jesus and bringing them into his dialogue with us, with our Church’s youth, with our community. Let us take this time to honor him by taking his example to heart and living in dialogue toward the kingdom.

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.”

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.