Perfection among us.

But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.

The perfect King of Kings enters His holy city. As you may remember from past homilies of this day, the arrival of a king on a donkey was the sign of a king’s arrival in peace. And so, the Savior of the world enters in peace to shouts of Hosanna to the Son of David.

Jesus, God made man, the perfect Son, enters into a city far from perfect. In fact, it was a broken city. 

In one corner the Chief Priest and his council were planning to kill Jesus and were not too shy to use bribery to accomplish their ends. They were not afraid of soliciting false testimony or engaging their enemy to accomplish their ends.

The Temple was filled with salesmen and money changers. The House of God was turned into Crossgates Mall. The worship of God was nothing more than a reason for commerce.

There were revolutionaries in the street. There was the persecution of the Roman overlords who took advantage of the people. The Roman governor set up his palace opposite the Temple for all too see, so they would know who was really in charge.

The once great city of David had become a city without God. In fact, God had not spoken to His people for several hundred years. Malachi, the last prophet before the Baptist, pointed out that God loves Israel, but that the people do not return His love. The people withhold what is due to God, and if they do give, give only what is defective. People divorce their spouses to marry worshipers of other gods. Sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, and people who take advantage of workers and the needy abound. Priests tell people whatever they want to hear, suppressing God’s word. Things had not changed in the 478 years since Malachi! Talk about a losing streak! Things were far from perfect. 

The perfect Lamb enters breaking through people’s focus on everything wrong, calling their attention to Him. But it would not end there. Again, and again, Jesus broke through the whispers and silence of corruption. The Son of God broke through just as the sun breaks darkness.

Jesus, the perfect Savior, is finally lifted up over the city, and in that moment of salvation He changed the world. He crushed death and its fear and made us new FOREVER. Amidst our imperfection let us set fear aside and rejoice in the King’s power to destroy every imperfection and redeem what is broken.

These are extraordinary times we are living through. Our Parish and our entire Church, no less than any other institution, is adapting to these new realities in ways we have informed you of in recent calls, in social media, and via our website.

We remain committed to carrying out the worship and devotions of God’s Holy Church and to continue to plead for our people, and the whole world, before the altar of Jesus. We remind all to remain home and to join us in worship online, if you are able, or privately through prayer, scripture reading, and the joining of our hearts together as God’s holy people, a nation of priests pleading before the throne of God together.

Holy Week and the celebration of the Solemnity of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ are the true central point of our liturgical year. In this time, we are called in a special way to walk with Jesus from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to the Last Supper, through His passion, death, and entombment, to His glorious resurrection.

We have received direction from our bishops related to certain adjustments to the rubrics (the way we do things) for Holy Week and Easter. These adjustments will allow you to participate more fully while at home. We are to be mindful of the fact that the celebrations of the Passion of our Lord and His triumph over death in the Resurrection are not canceled but rather they must be celebrated by each of us separately in our homes, joined in prayer while the celebrations occur within our parish churches.

We have posted our schedule for Holy Week and the celebration of the Solemnity of the Resurrection of our Lord below.

  • April 5: Palm Sunday. Holy Mass with Blessing of Palms broadcast at 9:30am. Palms will be stored at church and you may pick them up once the current crisis is over.
  • April 9: Maundy Thursday. Holy Mass with Reposition and Stripping of the Altars broadcast at 7pm.
  • April 10: Good Friday broadcasts. Reflection on the Seven Last Words at 12pm. Liturgy of the Presanctified and Opening of the Tomb at 3pm. Bitter Lamentations, 7pm.
  • April 11: Holy Saturday, Liturgy of New Fire, Renewal of Baptismal Promises, broadcast at 4pm.
  • April 12: Solemnity of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (Easter). Proclamation of the Resurrection and Holy Mass broadcast at 9:30am.

Please know that this message is so difficult for me, as your pastor, to write. It represents a painful separation from you that I feel very deeply, and that I offer up to Jesus.  I could not be missing you, my family, more.  For now, we cannot safely join in the worship of our great God and in the celebration of the suffering, death and resurrection from the dead of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ.  But rest assured family of God, brothers and sisters all, one day soon – we will.

Fr. Jim

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Not the
Conclusion

The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Through Lent we encountered Dismas. We learned who he was and what brought him to the life he led.  

We discussed the issue of his equality and possibility; our call to rightly measure both; to recognize inherent human dignity. The image of God is in all. We are all provided the same possibility all those around Jesus have. 

Like Dismas, we are called to come to Jesus and be saved. We, like Dismas, must set aside the fear we have in the face of God’s honesty. 

As we heard today, Dismas, on the cross, examined his life, asked questions, saw his innate dignity, the possibility before him, overcame fear, and grabbed the chance to grow and become, even in the last moment of his life. 

From the cross, Dismas proclaimed his faith in Jesus, confessed his sin, and allowed Jesus to take hold of him.

Today, we walked with Jesus, from the supper table, to the garden, through arrest, questioning and torture, prison, conviction, the journey to Calvary, crucifixion, and this encounter with Dismas and Gestas. Seemingly the end.

There is so much here but reflect on the words of Dismas: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Isn’t that what we all want. Isn’t that what touches us so deeply.

We, who await the supper of the Lord, who have joined ourselves to Him, who are dedicated to Him, have come to realize that all He did, His finishing of the work the Father sent Him to accomplish, was exactly for this reason. God remembered us.

As we reflect on what Dismas asked and what Jesus did, what His sacrifice promises us, let us give thanks. Jesus indeed remembers us eternally. Our life is now, like Dismas, without conclusion.

Why so
long?

The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.

Father, why is he gospel so long?

Jesus was sent to earth as a man. As the Gospel of St. John tells us, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word dwelt among us. The Word lives with us. Jesus, who is God’s Word came to preach the Gospel, the Good News.

God had news for us. It is Good News and was delivered by Jesus as the prophets foretold: Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God (see Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Luke 4:43; Luke 8:1); or the “good news of God” (see Mark 1:14-15). Jesus was going all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom. The whole point of Jesus’ saving mission is in His words of life.

Today we read of the accomplishment, the completion of the Father’s work. The Good News of Jesus is that the barrier is broken. The curtain is torn. The graves have been opened. Curse and separation have ended. Reconciliation is here. What is in heaven is for us on earth. We have full access to the kingdom of God. Thanks be to God we have these words in all their fullness.

Today, we pause to hear the Good News in full. No shortcuts. Nothing – no concerns or worries about our time – getting in the way of God’s time. Like John, the faithful disciple, and the women, we walk through all the words, from Bethany to the cross and to the tomb.

We don’t look for a shortcut – like Judas did, trying to bring on the kingdom through treachery and betrayal. We stand unafraid before God’s word and accept it and Him in full. We do not walk away, denying Him like Peter did.

In my years of ministry and proclaiming the word, I have immersed myself in the Gospel. This is the good news, given for us who are weary. I, and I know you; have said, even in our weariness, this is the word that rouses us.

Again, Father, why is the gospel so long?

It is so we may wallow in it, swim in it, live in it. We are here to live in the moment. From the spectacle of Palm Sunday to the mystery of the Eucharist, to the foot of the cross, to the tomb; every nuance, every emotion, every tear is ours to own.

We are people of the word who center our lives on Jesus, the Word. There can be no compromise in that. We don’t want the watered down version. So today we stood, stood with Jesus, loyal to His word. Roused, energized, ready, we live faithful to His command: to proclaim the kingdom of God, and they went out and traveled from place to place, proclaiming the good news.

God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Escape is really popular. Whether we think of our everyday trials and challenges (I wish i could leave this all behind), or amazing escapes after a tragedy has struck (I can’t believe they found them under all that rubble), or the things we do just to get away (TV, music, gaming, virtual reality) we connect with the idea of escape. You might expect a church newsletter to go on about staying connected to reality – a lecture about being responsible and staying connected and involved. Even though it is Lent, we won’t go there. Everyone needs a little escape time, some respite from the everyday. What faith and Church is more about is the fact that our “reality,” the struggles, pains, failings, sins, disappointments, weaknesses we all know too well will not win or overcome us. We have escaped. More than two thousand years ago, God’s plan of redemption altered our reality forever. The reality and power of sin and death was broken through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ that first Easter. Death was defeated. True life, spiritual life, God’s life triumphed. We have escaped sin and death in Him. Over the next weeks, we will complete our Lenten journey, enter into Passiontide, and journey together through the events of Holy Week. We will connect with the brutal reality that changed our reality and provided us escape. Escape from sin and death in Jesus is true life. We are alive to Jesus’s life, sacrifice, and power. The new escaped life Jesus provides us is reason to celebrate! It is reason to respond to God’s open arms and His invitation to draw near to Him. Join us in these weeks and days as we experience the life-giving truth of God’s power. Find freedom, real escape, and transformation. Become part of God’s new life and creation.

Join us for the final weeks of the Lenten season, our Lenten retreat, Passiontide, Holy Week, and Easter – April 1st. A huge thank you to all who supported Souper Bowl Sunday and our Valentine’s Raffle. Need ideas for celebrating lent as a family, check out our suggestions. We look forward to having you in our family!

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

Acceptance today.
The gift of glory.

But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.

We walked through Lent and have reflected on God’s conviction from all sorts of angles.

We started by reflecting on the necessity of choosing differently. Confronted by our conviction, we recognize that the natural outcome of our choices is a judgment of guilty and certain death. Yet, if we chose differently, with Jesus as our model, we are acquitted and receive the abundance of grace and the gift of justification.

We learned that our acceptance of conviction leads to moving from the conviction of guilt to conviction in righteousness. That acceptance and the righteousness that comes from it, allows us to move mountains, change the world, bear much fruit, and be truly victorious.

We know that God waits to meet us. That encounter offers the opportunity to accept our conviction – something that is never compulsory. If we accept our conviction we obtain immediate salvation and begin bearing the fruits that come from that acceptance. We witness and draw many to Jesus.

We found that in Jesus, wherever we come from or whatever we have done is of no account once we accept conviction. We move from who we were to being His children of light. The only reality that matters.

We realized that encounter and conviction, if accepted, provides a gift of faith so deep and powerful that not even death can diminish it. Not death, not disappointment, nothing! We develop a powerful ‘even now’ faith that actively trusts.

This Lenten journey and exploration begins its ending today. As we reflect on the road to the cross and grave we see many seeming to work contrary to God. We see a parade of human sinfulness and its apparent consequences. Those who failed to accept conviction held onto their alleged power. Judas, holding onto the purse, betrays Jesus. The disciples holding onto their perceptions of love and faithfulness, run away because their opinions do not stand up to challenge. The religious leaders hang onto external acts of religion over deep internal change. Pilate and the Roman soldiers hold unto political power, a power that only lasts for a time. The crowds hold unto whatever opinion is popular now. Jesus alone – the one who could never be convicted – accepts conviction.

Jesus submitted to the Father’s will, took up the cross, and staggered through a parade of non-acceptance powerfully displaying total acceptance. He fulfills His mission, opens the door for our ability to accept, and our entry into the powerful and glorious future we live today.

Making
choices.

And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed.

Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week. Palm Sunday marks the start of a week in which tremendous, world-changing choices would be made and would be followed up on.

Choices big and small confronted the people we meet today. Would the disciples go and get the colt? Would the owner of the colt let them take it? Small matters, but unless Jesus arrived on that colt He could not be proclaimed the peace bringing King and Messiah of Israel.

There are those in the party of Jesus. They had made or were making choices. Peter would choose to react without thinking. Thomas would choose to doubt. John chose to stand by Jesus. After Jesus fed the multitudes Judas heard and saw Him refuse political power. Judas heard Jesus tell the crowds that He must be betrayed and must die. Judas chose to follow Jesus to Jerusalem so me might destroy Him. Jesus was not living up to the choices Judas made for Him.

The crowds appeared after they had all made their choice. They chose to cut branches and lay their cloaks on the road – honoring the King of kings. They shook their fists in the air proclaiming, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” They did this right under the nose of the Roman governor and his troops. Important stuff.

St. Paul tells us “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Yet so many choose to walk away from the Name of Jesus or even to step all over it.

Jesus had to choose. We think He was on autopilot and that everything He did was pre-arranged. Not so. At the supper He had to chose to leave us a lasting memorial, His body and blood to be real and present to us so we might partake of Him. In the garden He prayed: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” He struggled and chose to accept and follow the Father’s will. He did so, not because it was easy, but because it was the ultimate act of love and surrender. Love freely given.

Each day we make good and bad choices. We live our Christian virtues and rejoice in doing so. We confront the ease with which we fall in our day-to-day choices. Who among them would do such a deed? We are weak Lord. Our deeds not yet one with You, not completely loving. Yet Your cross lifts us up when our choices fail You. Help us to choose You, Your way, Your love. “Jesus, remember me.

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Let us be poured
out for Him.

When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor.” They were infuriated with her. Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me.”

Twelve days after Christmas we celebrate the visit of the Magi, the Kings, the Wise men. They came to pour out their gifts for Jesus – gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. So too they poured out the time (almost a year), effort, and treasure it took to make the journey. Their gifts were poured out with joy in recognition of Jesus’ kingship and were also poured out in preparation for His burial.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, well aware of what was to occur. As He enters the city the people pour out praise. They acclaim Him King, the One who comes in the Name of the Lord.

Today a woman comes and pours out costly perfume for Jesus. Mark notes that she anoints His head. John says she anointed His feet and washed them with her tears. In either case, she pours out her time, treasure, and tears for Jesus. She stands up to ridicule and pours out an embarrassing amount of love for Jesus, her Savior.

In Good Friday’s reading of the Passion we hear of Joseph of Arimathe’a and Nicode’mus who will come, risking their lives before Pilate and those who plotted against Jesus, asking for His body. Nicode’mus pours out a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight.

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry people came to Him. They poured out their sins, needs, troubles and tears. They poured out their expectations and their love. They poured out hatred and mistrust as well. For thousands of years since people have continued to do the same.

For all that humanity has poured out, Jesus came to pour out far more. He did not limit His ministry to what was being poured out to Him, but rather poured Himself out to take all darkness away. Through His pouring out we have been freed. Even what we fear to pour out is taken away. The deepest and darkest recesses of our lives – the places were sin and evil have taken root – Jesus came to take those away. Psalm 116 asks: What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me? Let us pour out faithfulness, love, praise, worship and thanksgiving to Jesus who poured Himself out for us.

Reflection for Palm Sunday 2014

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Then Jesus said to them, “This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed; but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.”

The Liturgy of the Palms is one of the most emotional liturgies for many clergy members and the faithful.

While we know that this day marks Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we also know how the week will progress. It will later be marked by the betrayal of friends, a harsh night before false witnesses and a fixed court, mockery, a cold night in prison, the degradation in the Court of Pilate, crucifixion, death, and burial. These realities stand in stark contrast to this moment of joyous entry.

During the Liturgy of the Palms we hear the loud knock of the cross upon the door of the church. The doors swing wide and we enter as Jesus entered.

The congregation gathers around the church’s center aisle carrying palm branches. The veiled cross goes before us – always before us.

When we reach the center of the church we stop and kneel singing: Let us adore the Savior who rode in royal triumph into Jerusalem.

Then we progress to the front of the church, on the step before the altar, laying the Holy Cross down upon a pillow. We recall Jesus’ words: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed. As those words are sung we scourge the crucifix, a solemn, salient, and very emotional recollection that His triumphal entry leads to the pillar and the cross. This is sung three times. Three times we are brought to that moment in Jesus sufferings where our sin, our abandonment of Him wounded Him so deeply.

We now enter Holy Week and we are called to live very deeply in this moment. We are called to walk with Jesus not just in His moment of triumphal entry, but also through the entirety of His Holy Week journey.

Peter stood up to boldly say (as usual): “Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be.”

We boldly say the same, and often fail as Peter did. Our faith is too often shaken and we, like Peter and the others, fail. We deny Him in big and small ways.

The key question for the week ahead and for the rest of our lives is: Will we persevere in our walk with Jesus daily? This Holy Week let us commit to walking with Him. Let us enter in triumph with Him today. Let us walk with Him to the upper room on Thursday, along the way of the cross on Friday. Let us walk to the tomb and wait there watching. Finally, let us take His hand on Easter Sunday and walk with Him into the promise of everlasting life.

Reflection for Palm Sunday

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Who is that?
It is the Messiah! Hosanna!

And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.”

Scripture tells us that Jesus reacted emotionally to the things He witnessed: When He saw the poor, the hungry, the ill, and people sinning. Scripture says repeatedly that “…He had compassion on them.

There are only two references, however, to Jesus crying, once at the grave of His friend Lazarus along with Mary & Martha. Jesus wept with them. He wept for them. He entered into their grief with compassion and He identified with their sorrow and despair.

This was the 2nd time, as He looked at the city of Jerusalem. He saw the faces, the mass of humanity crowding there and realized the emptiness of their lives. They had not heard the message of peace. They did not understand the purpose of His coming. The people had eyes, but they didn’t see. They had ears, but they didn’t hear. They missed the whole point of the message that God had given to them.

Certainly they waved palm branches, because that is exactly what their great-grandparents had done when the Maccabees overthrew the Syrian oppressors and reestablished worship in the temple. By waving palm branches they were showing that they expected Jesus to be another warlord, another general of the armies one who would lead them to overthrow the Romans. They were saying that they were ready to pick up their swords and shields. They were ready to go to war if He would lead them!

That wasn’t Jesus way. His was the way of love, not of war. The nation of Israel had completely misunderstood Jesus’ mission. He wept over them because these were His chosen people but they did not recognize or understand His as He walked in their midst. They saw His healing as sinister, His words as a challenge to their authority.

Both Matthew & Luke tell us that earlier Jesus had looked down upon the city crying out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

Today, like Jerusalem, we find ourselves in the presence of Jesus. If Jesus sees us as worried about ourselves, our lives and our fixes to every problem, He would have to cry. If Jesus sees people who recognize Him for who He is – The Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, He would rejoice.

What’s all the commotion – here we are, waving branches, because we recognize You Jesus, our Lord and God. Hosanna in the highest!!!