Blessed those.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

One of the wonderful things about our Holy Church is the great emphasis it places on the Word of God. 

In September 1909 the Holy Synod of the Church developed an understanding of the preaching and teaching of the Word of God as having sacramental action. A later report of the Synod, printed in 1913 said: “Hearing of the Word of God preached according to the teachings of Christ the Lord and the Apostles, has sacramental force, that is, it causes in us the same effects as does the receiving of the other sacraments.”

The sacramental effect of the Word is included in the Church’s Confession of Faith (Article 7).

This understanding is based on the many references throughout Scripture, spoken by Jesus, relating the power of the Word. In fact, Jesus, as the Word of God Himself, comes to us in our hearing of the Word.

That union with Jesus in the Word is the very definition of sacrament, for a sacrament is an encounter with the sacred in a physical way. In baptism, it is washing with water, in communion the reception of the Bread and Blood of Life, in marriage the binding of the couple by the priest, in Unction the anointing and laying on of hands. In the Word it is the speaking and hearing. Each of these a physical manifestation of the encounter with God.

In our Church, our clergy are admonished to have proper preparation, intention, and conformity with the Gospel. Listeners too must be prepared and open to reception.

Today, Jesus speaks of the power of the Word and its effect on those who are properly prepared to receive.

If we receive without the intention of understanding, just frittering off the Word, we lose the grace provided to our condemnation. If we receive the Word with joy, and then walk away ignoring it soon after the hearing, or when confronted, set it aside, grace is lost, and we again fall to condemnation. But if we prepare, provide rich soil for the Word, and allow it to grow and prosper in us, then we have the fullness of grace that makes us effective Christians, bearers of the Word. We are fruitful carriers of Jesus. Blessed we are.

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:12-13

King David sat down to write a psalm, a hymn of thanksgiving. How appropriate that it be proclaimed this evening. 

On this very night, Jesus gifted us with means by which we remain in union with Him whether in good times or bad, whether celebrating or in danger. By this union with Jesus, we have the means and grace necessary to transcend all things. On this night Jesus took the bread and cup and left us His body and blood. On this night, Jesus left us the power to wipe away sin, to lose and to bind. On this night, Jesus gave to His Church a share in His ministerial priesthood so that His great grace, our source of strength and transcendence, might live on in a real and effective manner.

We receive His grace in a real and effective manner as we gather, in person or even remotely, before the altar. What is the altar? It is Jesus Himself. On this night Jesus gave us Himself as the altar, the sacrifice, and the priesthood that offers the sacrifice so that we might always remain part of, really full participants in His eternal transcendent reality.

It is interesting that on this night we read from John’s gospel. John focused completely on the nature of Jesus as transcendent. Transcendence is a rich word meaning “that which is divinely other and loftier, wholly independent of the material universe, beyond all known physical laws and rules.” John most aptly expresses the great truth that our Lord Jesus Christ is God. On this night Jesus provides us with Himself so that we might receive His grace and be pulled up into Him, to transcend with Him as sharers and partakers in His nature. To move beyond.

In repeating David’s hymn of thanksgiving, we acknowledge our deliverance in a lively, i.e., joy filled, expression of devotion, love, and gratitude. We must now, in this moment, lift our souls up to God. We are called to be a thankful people, thankful in the midst of every situation because we are not just in the here and now. In the midst of struggle, fear, and anxiety. In the here and now we are more than the here and now. We are transcendent beings whose eternity surpasses all.

David was once in great distress and danger, so much so that it almost drove him to despair. He seeks God and cries out to Him in that distress. David experiences God’s goodness and his prayers are answered. God heard him, pitied him, and delivered him. Note that David took care to acknowledge the goodness of God, even asking, ‘how could I possibly make a return to God for His goodness?’ He does it by taking up, as we are privileged to do at every Holy Mass, the cup of salvation. He vows to continue calling on the name of the LORD. God helped David to transcend his situational problems as a symbol of what God’s Son, a descendent of David, would do for us. Jesus’ gift to us is complete and eternal transcendence over problems, situations, sin, and death itself.

David certainly gave thanks, only understanding in shadows what we know fully. We know that God graciously delivers us from every trouble. His deliverance is beyond the here and now – and why the Eucharist is so important, for in our time before the altar we are pulled into God’s eternity. This is important! Our troubles are but for a time, but our assurance transcends. Jesus delivers us from the now to the forever. Draw strength from that brothers and sisters, all who partake at the Lord’s table and who share in Jesus’s transcendence. Amen!

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.”

The storm has
no power.

A violent windstorm came up. The waves were breaking into the boat so that it was quickly filling up. But he was sleeping on a cushion in the back of the boat. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to die?” Then he got up, ordered the wind to stop, and said to the sea, “Be still, absolutely still!” The wind stopped blowing, and the sea became very calm.

What glory we have in the Lord, what marvelous love and power reign over us. Storms never win.

Today we celebrate two very special occasions. Our young brother Traviss is receiving his First Holy Communion. Our brother and sister, Larry and Donna, are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage. The Lord is His infinite goodness and wisdom has given us supporting scriptures and a Gospel reading that so speaks to these two events.

These events mark the way God lives with us. They witness to what God will do for Traviss – going forward, had done and will do for Larry and Donna – past and future, and is doing for us each moment of our lives. The power of God is displayed here today. His power protects us as it did Job in his struggles; as it did on the night of the storm. Storms never win. Jesus’ faithful people, living in Him, do.

Traviss – you will face challenges and will have drama in your life. We all have – and you know what? We win, because of our faith in Jesus, because of His awesome power and love for us. Remain faithful, just like Job did in the middle of all his troubles. As you start in your deeper relationship with Jesus, as you become more and more like Him, stand and be brave, because Jesus has you. That’s what God said to Job – you don’t get it man. I created everything and have total power. Don’t be afraid or question, just trust. The storm won’t win.

Larry and Donna – you’ve stood strong against the storm in your love for each other and your trust in the Lord. Fifty years ago you invited Jesus to stand at your side. You learned from Jesus’ question to His disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith yet?” You said – Jesus won’t be asking that of us. You are proof that with God love wins. The storm never wins.

Jesus chilled out in the boat because He knew the storm wouldn’t win. We have examples before us of the glory and victory that is ours. Each of us, no matter the storm, is in God’s loving care. Standing faithful – joined to Jesus the storm never wins.

To read the original version as a PDF file.

June 1, 2018

To the Very Reverend, Reverend Fathers and the Reverend Messrs., and my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord:

¡Viva el mes de junio! That’s Spanish for “Long live June,” “Hurray for June.” Hurray, indeed! And welcome to the month of vocations in the Polish National Catholic Church: June is Sacred Vocations month for us. June is the month we focus on our great need for priests, and on the need for significant donations throughout the PNCC to be made to the Clergy Pension Plan.

Our need of priests is dire and critical, but I am nonetheless hopeful and optimistic. Even though no Polish National Catholic families have sacrificed even one of their men, young or old, to our altars in the past twelve years, (and it doesn’t look like any family will in the near future), I remain optimistic. Even though our seminary has been empty for that period of time, except for the occasional priest from another Church orienting himself there to work as a priest in the PNCC, I have good reason to hope because I have experienced God’s providence. Our parish in Denver was declining but was pulled back from the brink of closure by an Hispanic priest from Mexico and 90 people of Mexican heritage who now comprise the great majority of that parish. St Francis, Denver, is growing, and is enthusiastically PNCC, and is flying 18 young people and 6 adults to Convo 2018 here next month.

Because Father Alfonso Castillo needs pastoral help there, I enthusiastically agreed to review applications from priest friends of his in Mexico to provide assistance to him, and subsequently serve our American parishes desperate for priests. In our Diocese, two priests, in fine parishes, are retiring next year. I have no one to fill them. A priest in our Diocese is on three parishes in Jersey. Three priests are on two parishes each. And there are ailing and aging priests all over the place! And yet I am hopeful. So I say, ¡Viva México!

With the increase in aging clergy comes the need for our Clergy Pension Plan to support them all. We collect for this vital entitlement throughout the year and especially in the month of June. We need more capital to invest, the interest from which the pension payments are made. From age 70, a PNCC priest can look forward to a monthly check in the amount of $600; and his widow, a check in the amount of $300. Please be generous in this drive. And so I say, in my optimism, ¡Viva el Plan de Pensión del Clero! (Hurray for our Clergy Pension plan!)

I believe God is showing us a potential direction for the future of our Church; and that pathway seems to be presenting itself from south of the border. For the Methodist Church, that pathway is from South Korea, and for the Roman Catholic Church, from India among other sources. In light of all of this, Bishop Hodur has indeed blessed us with a most optimistic motto for our Church when he penned: A través de la Verdad, el Trabajo y las Dificultades ¡Venceremos!

Yours in Christ,

Bishop Bernard

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

We can get caught up in the two ends of the spectrum that are part of every faithful Christian’s life. We either experience great joy, the uplifting graces of the Holy Spirit poured out on us, or we end up on the road to martyrdom. Is that all there is to the Christian life? Really, the struggle in a Christian’s life is that we live much of it in the middle. In considering our lives, lived in the middle, we may ask: How do I sacrifice what I want for what God wants? How do I proclaim God’s truth when the world, even my family, will hate me? How can I face day-to-day life with faithfulness? Those questions plague us – but thanks be to God, He offers us a way forward by example. Of course, Jesus stands first and foremost as one who came from the middle boldly. He proclaimed truth, to those, like us, who were in the middle, who faced daily challenges of faithfulness. He offered real truth that took them from the middle to the heights of heaven. He gave them strength for their ordinary lives because the promise was oh so much more. Yes, the popular folks rejected Him, but the Father welcomed Him. This is our hope. This month we look to the example of Mary. Talk about lives in the middle. Plain, ordinary folks like us – struggling day to day with ridicule, mockery, and exile. Mary, referred to by her community as worse than a prostitute. Joseph, seen as not man enough. Jesus – an illegitimate child. They faced the worst kind of ridicule and rejection, yet lived lives in the middle, working day-to-day, faithful to God at the deepest of levels. Their struggles, much like ours. They answer the essential question: How do I get by faithfully? As we live in the middle, let us look to their example, courage, and to God’s unfailing help. Let us count our ordinary struggles and our lives in the middle as a joy in Jesus.

So much going on. The first ever Gospel Concert at HNJ on May 19th at 2pm. Come out and experience 18 performers – song, dance, poetry, stories, and more… A lunch will be served as well. Bring mom and pray for her. Honor all the special women in our lives – wives, daughters, moms, grandmothers, godmothers, aunts, partners… We will have a special breakfast in their honor. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension on the actual day – Thursday, May 10th – no switching things around here. Check out our Men’s Spiritual Retreat, sign up for summer youth events, we honor those served and gave their lives for our country on Memorial Day. Oh, and Why Not Communion in the Hand – check out our article and more…

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

Condemned or
free?

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.

Today we witness the baptism of Finley Edward. It is the first step of the sacrament of Baptism-Confirmation by which we enter and grow in the regenerated life. While the two parts of this sacrament, both baptism and confirmation, seem like bookends, they are not. Rather they are steps in a journey, a journey from condemnation to freedom.

What is best and most amazing in the process of Baptism-Confirmation is that by our actions of faith, our proclamation of belief in Jesus and trust in His salvation, and rejection of all sin we are saved and are completely freed. We are changed in the most essential of ways. Theologians call it an ontological change. Really old folks like me were taught that our soul receives an indelible mark – something that can never be undone. This is why we call it what Jesus called it in speaking with Nicodemus – regeneration or rebirth: Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again… Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

Today, St. John reminds us of what we received. We have new hearts and sprits that will not condemn us. They have been freed and that should give us great confidence. At the same time, St. John knew that we know somewhat differently.

While we are able to have confidence, while we have been essentially changed and regenerated, we fall. We fail to keep the commandments of God – the two key ones – to love God enabled by our belief in Jesus because in Jesus we know God, and to love each other. When we fall short in those regards we loose confidence.

When we forget the commandments, are away from the vine, apart from the love of Jesus’ community, we lose confidence. That’s when our hearts condemn us. Yet if we remain on the path of transformation we are freed, and in freedom bear much good fruit.

Turn up the
dial!

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

When I was young, it seemed everyone had a big old console stereo system. You may remember these, a really big and long wooden piece of furniture with built-in stereo speakers and all kinds of electronic equipment.

These systems had various doors and hinges that opened sections of the system. They typically had a built-in record player under a hinged top. The front doors would open to access the radio and volume controls. interestingly, these furnishings are making a comeback.

These systems were very elegant, and for me, a great temptation! (especially at home, but not only).

I would sit on the floor before this impressive set of electronics and dream of all sorts of adventures. I could control a spaceship, launch missiles and destroy the Russians, wherever the mind could take me, I could go.

The one thing my fiddling around always seemed to accomplish was the shock and surprise my parents and their guests would get when they turned the system on. Boom! the radio was turned all the way up, and people jumped. So would I when I heard my name called…

For these days, where we particularly reflect on the mystery of the Body and Blood of Jesus, we are called to do what I did with those stereo systems; turn up the volume.

This solemnity offers a unique opportunity to turn up the volume of our praise and worship, to acknowledge a love so great that its giver desired to stay with us forever. During this eight day period, we focus on celebrating and proclaiming more than a mere symbol or a nice memory – who would waste time doing that! We turn up the volume on the truth – the great giver of all love is with us here, now, and forever.

The great giver of love, Jesus Christ, is really present – body, blood, soul, and divinity in what appear to be simple bread and wine. He is in our hands. Sadly, only 40 to 91 percent of catholic churchgoers recognize Jesus. It should never be less than 100%. So, we need to turn up the volume. We need to sing out and proclaim His praises, revel in His presence. Let the world know.

Love isn’t something far off. Our great God allows us to eat His flesh and drink His blood and because of it we have eternal life. This simple fact must fill us, envelop us with such joy that we cannot help but turn up the dial on our praise. We need to live praise filled lives, overwhelmed by the fact that He is so close by, ready for a visit. Call the world to Him by loud thankful praise.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Christians, in attempting to understand the tremendous nature of God, Who sent and sacrificed Himself out of love for us, adopted the Greek word agape to describe God’s love for us and how our love is to be. Agape is love that is universal, unconditional and extraordinary. Agape its stronger than circumstances… We are invited to accept God’s real love and to let it envelop us. Accepting His love we are overcome by its unconditional nature. We move from saying, ‘How can He love me.’ to swimming in the sea of His tremendous love, letting it draw us in, allowing it to refresh and renew us and finally allowing it to become agape love in action in our lives.

Join us as we move from the season of Christmas into the Pre-Lenten season. Check out all the great events we have planned for the month ahead, find some beautiful prayers, reflect on the true meaning of stewardship, and so much more.

You may view and download a copy of our February 2017 Newsletter right here.

Fed by what is
simple.

Brothers and sisters, I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you…

A little girl asked her mother, “Why do you cut the ends off the meat before you cook it?” Her mother told her that she thought the meat absorbed the spices better if you did that. “Maybe check with grandpa, because he taught me to cook.” The little girl went to her grandfather and asked the same question. He told her that he believed the meat absorbed cooking juices better if you cut the ends off. “It keeps the meat tender.” He told her that to be really sure she should ask her great-grandmother because she taught him to cook.

The little girl, determined to know why, went ahead and called great-grandma and asked her the same question. Great-grandma told her very simply, “My cooking pot was too small.” Simple answers.

Some of us are newer to the communion table and others have been approaching for years. We seem to all have our reasons and understandings.

We could go into a long theological discussion on the Eucharistic moment, and our encounter with the Divine in communion. We could consider the Church as a single body fed by the Lord. Those are great lines of thought that should be pursued as time and prayer allow. But there is something much simpler.

We can liken God to the deepest lake or the highest mountain. Just by gazing and encountering Him, standing in His presence, we instinctively know and feel His majesty. God speaks to our hearts by His mere presence. We are here in His house, in His presence in a very special way, and we can simply know that we are with Him. That is beautiful, but there is more.

A theologian or philosopher would want to not only scale the mountain or dive into lake, they would want to explore its every nook and cranny. That is wonderful, but we don’t have to go that far. God provides an answer.

The wonderful thing about God is that He is not wiling to just be looked at. He wants a full-on encounter with us at the deepest level. While some of us might be uncomfortable climbing a mountain or diving into a lake to experience it full on, God does not wait for us to do so. He brings the refreshment of the lake, the depth of His love and care, and the majesty of His being and goodness right into our lives. He does not stand apart, separated from us. He is with us.

God answers our most basic need – to be fed, to be strengthened, to be made complete, and to fully experience Him. He comes to us in the Eucharistic moment – giving us His eternity – for which we proclaim our thanks and then He simply feeds our every need. He is simply and completely with us.