My dearest family in Christ, 

As many of you have heard, I was hospitalized at Ellis last Saturday evening (July 29th) with severe abdominal pain. That physical pain was compounded by the fact that I was inhibited from celebrating Holy Mass for and with you on Sunday. A partially completed bulletin was still on my computer at home.

I informed our Bishop as well as members of the Parish Committee and they reached most of you. We had hoped for a last-minute fill-in for Holy Mass but that could not be accomplished on such short notice.

On Sunday morning as you each prayed in your own ways, I underwent surgery at 11am. I remained in hospital through Wednesday afternoon. I am now at home continuing recovery. I have another procedure to undergo Monday morning and then on to the rest of my healing.

I made it through by God’s abundant blessing and the presence of Christ (thank you to Ellis’ ministry team), with the great support of my wife Renee and children, Adam and Victoria. Victoria took me to the hospital and stayed with me until 4am. Adam sat with me most nights – nearly around-the-clock. Renee took care of all that needed doing – she was there for me in every way she possibly could have been. I am also grateful to my daughter Stephanie and sister Andrea who kept in contact and kept my spirits going. Thank you to Paul, Larry, and Pete who informed you on Sunday. Thank you to everyone who visited, sent cards, texted, brought balloons, and most especially prayed.

Thank you to the entire Ellis team. They were phenomenal! Dr. Sanchez, the 3rd floor A nursing team, especially TerryAnn, Hadiye, and Jennifer, all the Techs, who worked so hard in the face of terrible staffing shortages. They are dedicated men and women who deserve our respect and support.

I thank God for those I was able to minister to while I was in hospital – God opens doors.

Speaking with Bishop Bernard, I so wanted to celebrate Holy Mass for the Solemnity of the Transfiguration, but he in his wisdom urged me to fully heal and not take risks. Thank you to Deacon Michael for coming out to minister on the Solemnity (he is wonderful).

Indeed, experiences like these if understood in light of God’s abundant mercy are transformative. They help you to understand things anew, to correct ways that have veered off, and to see things in clearer light. May God’s grace continue in transfiguring each of us into His image.

I expect to return next Sunday, August 13th. Weekday Holy Mass will resume August 14th. I love you all and miss you dearly. May Almighty God bless you for your goodness and compassion and your resolute faith.

– Fr. Jim

How to Overcome.

And He was transfigured before them; His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with Him.

Thank you for joining as we together journey through Lent.

We spent the weeks of Pre-Lent identifying the hot stoves of sin in our lives, those dangers we love to run toward. We planned our strategies for getting rid of them.

Those old, hot, rusty, greasy, ugly things in our lives must go. With that in mind, we discussed the tools available to us that will help us get rid of that sin problem. They are the same tools Jesus used and exemplified for us. It is why the Church recommends them.

The tools He used: prayer, studying scripture, speaking about the kingdom, fasting, communing in relationship centered on the Father. 

Seems easy enough until we set to doing them. Once we move toward that way of life, a deeper relationship with God, the Tempter enters., He comes with distractions, easy outs, and an appeal to our baser selves.

If we do stay on track, guess what? We will have the same success Jesus had. 

We know we are being successful, that our relationship with God is growing and deepening when we start feeling good, wonderful, and fulfilled. At the same time the Tempter comes again and this time as the Accuser. He will tell us just how bad we should feel, how God cannot possibly be in relationship with us, and most particularly how we have no right to feel good.

That is the true mark of success and know that the stove of sin is being removed the better we feel and the more we are accused.

St. Paul, writing to Timothy, reminds us: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Paul knew that those on the road to glory in God would face hardship, especially those brought on by the Tempter and Accuser. He also knew that if we ask, God will strengthen us in ignoring both the Tempter and Accuser.

Paul knew that each of us who has come to Jesus by faith has been saved and called to a holy life because God made it so for us. He chose us. He picked us out for His team.

We need to remind ourselves of that and take strength from it. When the Accuser says: God doesn’t want you! we can respond: Yes, He does, He chose me.

It may seem odd that we read the account of glorious Transfiguration of Jesus today. This grand event that fills us with joy and confidence doesn’t seem very Lent like. But there is reason. 

The glorious Jesus, our Lord and God to Whom the Law and Prophets pointed, Who the Old Testament predicts is here among us in glory. 

Jesus overcoming all things for us, from the dessert to the cross, and is how we were chosen. Paul told us we are on the road to heaven (we just got a glimpse of it) and that in using the tools available to us can overcome all hardship and opposition by a holy life wrapped in God’s glorious strength.

Encountering
Him.

He was transfigured before them, and His clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.

The absolute purity, perfection, wisdom, and justice of God make encounters with Him a fearful event. None of us is really worthy of such an opportunity. Additionally, what would we say? How could or would we explain ourselves. His all-knowing presence would see into the deepest parts of our hearts and minds. All would be revealed. We would be crushed in our own sins.

Very few in Old Testament times sought out an encounter with God. Those who knew Him either lived in fear and trembling or ignored Him and went their own way. Yet, God did not let Himself remain distant and unknown.

In Old Testament times, God set forth to walk with men and women. He encountered them, called to them, and led them. Among those who encountered God were: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham (as we hear in today’s first reading and at other times in his life), Sarah, Hagar, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Solomon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, Daniel, and many of the prophets.

With Jesus coming, all who saw and met Him met God in the flesh. The people who recognized Him as Messiah prior to His resurrection included: Mary, John the Baptist (in the womb and when they met at Jesus at the Jordan), Simeon and Anna, Peter, the Samaritan woman at the well, Martha and Mary, the Thief on the Cross, the Centurion at the cross. After the resurrection, the remaining Apostles and 500 disciples and the two traveling to Emmaus recognized who He was.

We, like those who met Jesus after His Ascension (Stephen, Paul, and Ananias) are also able to encounter God. He remains close and accessible to us

St. Paul offers us the same reassurance he had. He does not say that that we are somehow perfect or worthy of encountering God on our own, but that God has extended Himself to us. He has chosen us and has reconciled us so that we may encounter Him in love and fellowship. By His effort – the graces won by his Son, Jesus – we are able to freely draw close to Him. Our sins no longer crush us. In fact, they have been washed away.

Today we see the three accompany Jesus up the mountain. There, they are treated to the Divine vision; the eternal breaking into the world. Jesus is completely revealed to them. Again, God reaches out to us. The encounter with God did not kill the three. Instead, they saw all God is and all He offers.
This Lent is the chance. It is the time to draw close encountering God, to remain with Him and to enter into His Divine life in new freedom without fear.

Did that
happen?

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.

As we look into the experience of Peter, James, John, and Jesus at the Transfiguration we first face the question of: Why did this happen? Is there a specific purpose for this account? Let’s take a moment to analyze the possibilities.

The Transfiguration was limited to only a few of the apostles. Why weren’t all apostles invited? Often times the Transfiguration is used to point to the fact that Jesus wanted to give His apostles reassurance before his Passion. If they were to face His humiliation and death, and maintain some level of faith, seeing Jesus in His Divine state would provide this reassurance. So, the question, why weren’t the rest of the apostles there, why were they excluded from this Divine reassurance?

Perhaps the Transfiguration was to point to the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of both the Law and the prophecies. The appearance of Moses and Elijah who represent all the Law and the words of the prophets signifies that fact. More than that, Jesus transcends the Law and the Prophet as the Father’s voice directs the apostles, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Again, who would know all this except Jesus and the three apostles?

The whole episode of the Transfiguration adds little to nothing to the public ministry and teaching of Jesus. It had no direct import on the wider public Jesus was trying to draw into the Kingdom. In fact, Jesus told the apostles to keep silent about it, to tell no one, until after His resurrection. Yet it is recorded in three gospels and Peter speaks of it in his second letter. Why so?

When something totally and remarkably unusual happens, a lot of people refuse to believe it. We can see this with the moon landing in 1969. There are people, who to this very day, refuse to believe it happened. The Transfiguration event is certainly amazing, it is certainly beyond our comprehension, and that’s exactly why it is recorded. It is recorded because it is unique to people of faith. We, Christians own this event by our faith in Jesus. Only the faithful get it and are changed by it.

The word “transfigured” means a change to the outside so that it matches what is inside. The remembrance of Jesus’ transfiguration is our call to get it and be changed by it. It is our call to show faith that holds hope greater than fear, that allows us to shine in godly destiny, to overcomes the earthly with glory. Let us then be changed – believing our astounding God holds amazing joyous life for us.

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Transfiguration

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. — 1 John 3:1-2

Transfiguration IconA Solemnity Fighting Fear

Today we observe the Solemnity of the Transfiguration of our Lord. We read in the 17th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew: Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.

Jesus chose this moment, before the great struggles, persecution, suffering, and death He was about to encounter, to reveal the blessing of His heavenly Father and His glory in Him. While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

In our time the Holy Church is facing greater and greater struggles. In the Middle East, North Korea, Africa, and elsewhere Christians are actively being persecuted and martyred. Some Christians in our country are losing jobs for their beliefs and face other forms of prejudice. When faced with all this – and we may be in ways subtle or not so subtle – recall this holy day and let us say in confidence that our God is bigger and His promises are more important than anything anyone can do to us. Trust in Him and have NO fear for His promise is that “we shall be like Him!

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Lent – 2014

WeWillBeChanged

He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

The Lord appeared in all His heavenly glory before three chosen Apostles at the Transfiguration.

Just a short time before Jesus had asked His disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist; but others say, Eli’jah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.”

The Church Fathers tell us that the primary purpose of this Transfiguration was to clarify, for them, Who and What He is – God come to earth. It was also to reassure them.

Jesus knew the suffering, pain, humiliation, and disgrace He was about to face. He would be whipped and spit on, nailed naked to a tree in front of the entire city, His mother, brothers, and sisters. And, He would die. If He had not provided this glimpse of heaven, of Himself, His followers would have been completely crushed.

To further strengthen them they heard the voice of the Father – “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Going forth from that mountain Peter and James and John had a lot to think about. So do we.

We know that Peter, after having seen and experienced all this, still denied Jesus. Peter, James, and John would fall asleep in the Garden twice on the night of the Lord’s arrest. None listened very well.

We have the benefit of having the testimony of witnesses to this singular event, and the testimony of these witnesses to all Jesus said and did. We know that His death was not it, but that He would return gloriously resurrected. We have the witness of centuries of holy men and women, the saints, and our own ancestors who found strength, comfort, and power through faith and in and following Jesus. Yet, we too fall and fail. We may not outwardly deny Jesus, but we do fall asleep. We falter in our commitment. We fail to listen.

During this season of repentance and self-denial we are presented with the picture of Jesus in glory – the glory He offers to all of us. As Jesus did with the Apostles, He gives us this moment to strengthen our faith while we work toward the changes we must make in our lives. We are called to stay awake, to listen, to be changed. We clearly see not only His glory, but are helped in understanding that the struggles of today are nothing compared to the glory we will see, and change we will share, in the life to come.

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent

NewView

What do I look like?
Jesus!

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body”

Our theme for this year is You + Jesus + Community = Success.

Today we recall Jesus’ transfiguration. In this moment we see the glory of Jesus, which is also the promise of our glory in Him.

When we join ourselves to Jesus in faith and baptism we are made part of all that He is. This includes every aspect of what Jesus is: priest, king, servant, healer, prophet, light, teacher, and so many more things. He is everything good, wonderful, and righteous.

The world looks at us and tries to discern in our words and actions what Jesus might be for the world. As such, they will only know Him, and what they can be, if they see Him in us.

It is said that six out of every ten people do not know Jesus, what He truly represents. Certainly, many might think Jesus was a nice person who gave us wise words. They may look at Him as a teacher on par with their favorite teacher or philosopher. How is He any different from those others?

They will only know His difference and the value of His promises if we proclaim and model what oneness with Him is.

We must take on all that He is and represent that before the world. We are to be Jesus as priest, king, servant, healer, prophet, light, and teacher to everyone we encounter.
In the transfiguration we see Jesus as more than just Moses – who delivered the law to the Jewish people and led them out of captivity. We see He is more than the prophets, represented by Elijah, who offered wise teachings and guidance to the Jewish people when they were going astray. He is what Moses and Elijah represent, but so much more too. He is God. We hear the Father acknowledge and state that from the cloud, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!

When we join ourselves to Jesus we obtain the fullness of His promises, including the fact that we will share in His glory as citizens of heaven – the glory we observe today. As St. Paul tells the Philippians: He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.

By joining ourselves to Jesus, by being Him before the world, we proclaim His truth. He is God who has joined Himself to us, and asks us to join ourselves to Him. In union with Him we offer the truth of His promises – that by joining with Him we will achieve eternal glory and true success.