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.”

We are that place where you can belong. Come join us. Invite someone. Sing it out on your way here. You are invited.

Join in on Back To Church Sunday, September 17th. Services at 9:30am and 11:30am with a community breakfast at 10:30am. We look forward to seeing you!

All are
welcome.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to Him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming His servants—all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to My covenant, them I will bring to My holy mountain and make joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Is a picnic the right topic for a sermon? Today we hold our annual parish and community picnic. This is a long-standing tradition. It used to be held at Schenectady’s Central Park. Parishioners and their families would gather in one of the park’s wonderful shelters, near the rose garden, for a day of great food, games, and fellowship. Then, we skipped a year.

Something changed in that brief lull. We found that we missed the picnic. We thought of alternatives. Should we go back to the park? Maybe at pastor Jim’s house? At the same time, we had started our free lunch on Sunday program. We thought, why not combine these events. Why not a picnic right here on the parish grounds – open to all, free – a community event.

Ordinary Time, as we have stated, is a time for reflection, growth, renewal, and opportunity.

Didn’t God readily give us the grace of this chance? That is one of the most wonderful and remarkable things about our God. He actually considers each of us, our family, our community, and He shows up with the grace of opportunity.

This opportunity echoes what we hear in Isaiah. My house, My altar is open to all, free – a community event. This was an amazing and incredible statement uttered by the prophet. The traditional Jewish religious practice of drawing lines that excluded the foreigner and the eunuch are clear in Scripture. Eunuchs were not permitted to enter into the assembly of the Lord and foreigners were an abomination. Suddenly, this is ended by the Lord’s new opportunity. His declaration was not about offering an “olive branch” to the “outsider.” This was not about some kind of associate or junior membership in God’s family. It meant full inclusion for all who are seeking. God’s people, once outcasts, are to be a home for all the world sees as outcasts.

Our opportunity today, and every day, is inclusion and welcome. Our witness in our community, and in our troubled nation, is that the Lord draws no barrier and makes no distinction. The eunuch shall be given better than that given to a son or daughter. The foreigner will be made joyful. What great opportunity we have.

People will come to us. The opportunity is our allowing them to find Christ and home in us. Easy, tidy, not always – God’s word and opportunity – always!

Who is really
welcome?

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

Is the Holy Faith exclusive and unwelcoming? This is an important question and a challenge.
We know that Jesus sets forth what seems to be requirements for those who would follow Him, who would enter the kingdom. A lot of people think that makes up a list of requirements.

Let’s look at this a little deeper starting with an understanding of what requirements are. Going to the dictionary we find two ways of looking at the term: Requirement: a thing that is needed or wanted. Requirement: a thing that is compulsory or necessary.

Of course, if the Church were a social club we might have dues and membership requirements. If we were a sports club, we would have athletic skill requirements. If we were a music group, we would have talent requirements. We do not have any of those as Church.

Does the Church have things that are needed or wanted? Certainly, but that is not prerequisite. We do not screen based on needs or wants. Rather, we trust that whatever is wanted or needed will be provided. Does the Church have things that are compulsory? We might think baptism, the other sacraments, avoidance of sin. There too, they are not prerequisites. Rather, they are the means through which we grow deeper into relationship with God.

Requirements seem practical and organized. They seem to provide structure and can even be reassuring, but we would be very wrong in reducing God to a set of requirements: if you do x then you have a guaranteed ticket to heaven, paradise, etc.

Instead of requirements, Jesus spoke of love. Love changes our understanding. Love is never a response to requirements. Rather, love is a response to love. God didn’t wait for us to love him before He loved us. God’s love precedes and enables our love – He welcomes us. God then further responds to our love by entering into a unique, personal, intimate, affectionate, caring, and committed relationship welcoming those who respond to Him in love.

The thing to notice is that loving Jesus is not the same as keeping requirements (the Law as old Israel understood it). Love is an opening, a welcome. Love precedes and gives rise to a relationship that will last forever and out of which we seek to do what is asked of us: keeping the great commandment of loving God and each other. The call to feed, house, clothe, and visit.

For those who love and follow through on that love the promise awaits, the new, eternal and glorious heaven where we will live in love forever – totally welcome.

Reflection for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time and Back to Church Sunday 2014

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Come back
to Me!

They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom as the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Throughout the Bible we hear of God speaking of His love for His people. The word ‘love’ can mean different things in the Hebrew, but when speaking of God’s love for His people, love is likened to the ideal love that should exist between spouses.

Reflecting on this love, we see a God who looks after people as a husband and wife should look after each other. As that husband and wife want to do only good for each other, God longs to do only good things for us. As that husband and wife should consider each other above all else, God does not think about Himself when He loves us. The things that we need are of primary importance to God.

This sort of analogy really makes sense when we consider the perfection of God’s love and dedication. In our earthly relationships we find spouses who stray from each other. Their relationship may break down for many reasons. It could be betrayal, a sense of separateness, emotional or physical desertion, and a whole host of other reasons. They rightly feel betrayed and may take actions to separate themselves permanently. But, on occasion, we find those unique relationships where the spouses work hard to rebuild their relationship despite breakdowns. They commit – and spend the time and forgiveness necessary – to rebuild their love.

While our human frailty has difficulty overcoming these hurts, except in unique circumstances, God’s perfect love never fails. He can be likened to those uniquely dedicated spouses. He remains faithful to His love commitment and is always willing and ready for us to return. Through His Holy Spirit He doesn’t give up on us, and calls us back. God’s love works to overcome everything.

The totality of good comes from God. So much so that He gave Himself for us in His Son Jesus. All so that no sin, no breakdown, will stand in the way of our relationship with God. He has already overcome, we don’t need to do anything but say yes to Him. Because of this, St. Paul was able to declare: I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

No matter past separation, God is ready for us and we can all partake of Him. He welcomes all and has already reconciled all things in Jesus. We can all join with Him, and in Him with each other. Jesus was careful to explain that those who would come to Him later will receive the same wage was those who came to Him first. God makes no distinction in loving us. In Him we are all loved.

Are You Observing Lent in Schenectady?

If you are, come and join with us and we can increase our Lenten prayer, sacrifice, fasting, charity, and forgiveness together.

ash_wednesdayThe season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, March 5th with our Service of Worship at 7:30pm at which ashes will be blessed and distributed. On this day we consciously receive ashes on our heads to symbolize penitence, humility and mortality. The powerful reminder in these ashes calls us into a Lent filled with sacred opportunities to return to a right relationship with Jesus.

We offer the Lenten Devotion of Stations of the Cross every Friday at 7:30pm – a great opportunity to add to your prayer life this Lent.

During Lent our Directed Giving program helps us to focus on sacrifice and charity as we gather food for those in need locally. Bring canned and dry goods each Sunday as an offering for those in need.

We also fast and abstain from meat every Wednesday and Friday in Lent and from Holy Wednesday through Holy Saturday. This practice helps us to remember Jesus’ sacrifice every time we sit down to eat a meal. By this small sacrifice we train with the easy stuff (but it seems so hard) so we can better fight the really tough things that try to draw us away from Jesus.

We hope and pray that you will join with us as we use these 40 very special days to the greatest possible good.

Soup on Sunday, this Sunday May 26th

Please come and join us for Soup on Sunday, this Sunday from 11:30am till 1:30pm. As always, Soup on Sunday is always free and open to all. Enjoy soup, sandwiches, special food for kids, dessert, coffee, and more. Soup on Sunday is held at Holy Name of Jesus in our parish hall located at 1040 Pearl St., Schenectady (CDTA Route 353 – Pearl Street stop).

Soup on Sunday Flyer 3

Rap with us on Back to Church Sunday – September 16th

Join and rap with us as we explore our relationship with Jesus.

Yes, Jesus who loves us.
Jesus, who is our friend.
Jesus, who doesn’t care how we dress or look, who doesn’t care whether we are rich or poor, who only longs to welcome us.

Back to Church Sunday at Holy Name – September 16th, 9:30am.
Breakfast served after services.

At our church – not better than any other church… here for you…

In 1904, at the First Synod of our Church, we declared: “Referring to other Christian communities, we state that we do not condemn any one of them. We sympathize with every Church whose object is to ennoble and sanctify man and bring the Gospel of Jesus and peace to humanity.” In a nutshell, that statement captures the aim and vision of a member of our Church, the desire for unity with and for God, God who lives and works among us in raising up humanity to its ultimate destiny. We won’t say we are better than any other Church because the key purpose of Church is to connect to Jesus in a community of faith.