The
knowing.

I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

On this Fourth Sunday after Christmas we hear the testimony of John. In the gospel, John twice says: “I did not know him.

It seems odd for John to say such a thing. Afterall, John and Jesus were cousins. It is true that they lived in different towns, and transportation was hard on foot. Based on Church Tradition, John lived with his family in Ein Kerem, an eighty-mile, three-day journey on foot from Nazareth. Yet, it is highly likely they did know each other. It was common for larger Jewish family gatherings to occur, especially during festivals, as well as in pilgrimages to Jerusalem. So why would John say: “I did not know him?

Remember, that this Epiphany season is about revelation, Jesus becoming known. What John experienced following Jesus’ baptism was a deeper knowing of Who Jesus is. He was no longer the cousin I knew back when. Actually, I probably knew Him better in my mother’s womb when I leapt for joy. Now, I really get it. The Holy Spirit has helped me to see; I see Jesus in fulness according to the Spirit.

Like John, seeing and experiencing the Lord in the fullness of His being and then acting upon that knowledge is the grace of God working in us. It is the Holy Spirit inspiring us. It is also a call to look beyond mere appearance and to see each and yes, every person, as the image of Emmanuel, the image of God among and with us.

John acted on his knowledge and spoke of it to the crowd. He pointed to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He spoke of what happened in his life. He is literally saying that his work, there by the river, was about making Jesus known.

As the faithful, we are called to make Jesus known. I would ask that we think about this work in a slightly different way. Christians often approach those who do not know as those who do not know, in other words, uninformed. What we might miss is in the saying of: “I did not know him,” they like John already do know. They exhibit the traits of one who knows Jesus, in their goodness and love. They are created in His image. We, in our work, just need to help them see the fulness of what they already know.

Getting to
work.

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” — And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.

Tomorrow we celebrate Labor Day. Our Holy Church has a long history of support for the Labor movement. Our founders were in tune with the struggles faced by working men and women. They experienced the reality of exploitation by the powerful moneyed interests of our nation. Bishop Hodur spoke out for the respect that was due workers, for fair treatment, payment of proper wages, and a fair share of the profits they produced. He advocated for the same kind of democracy in industry that was part of our Church. All worked against selfish interest and for the collective good of the community.

It would be one thing to advocate for workers from self-interest as an ends, but we well know that advocacy for the rights of workers and for the community comes from and is centered in our love for Jesus’ way of life.

As we see in today’s gospel, Jesus’ healing takes physical form. He works to make the deaf hear and the mute speak. In John 9:5-7 we see Jesus again healing physically: “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam ” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.

St. Paul reminds us that we cannot forego justice toward the weak, the downtrodden, the worker. We are not to make distinction, but look to the collective good of all – because Jesus showed no partiality: show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?

Our faith in Jesus requires that we work faithfully for the collective good. We must be unafraid of working to renew the world – to help those deaf to faith to hear; to help those who fear proclamation to cry out; to open streams of the life giving waters to the entire world; and to show no partiality, treating all as equal before God.

Happy Labor Day

labor-day-eight-hours

Almighty and everlasting God, by Whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified, receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before Thee for all estates of men and women who labor and seek justice for workers, that each in their vocation, ministry, and labor may truly and godly serve our society to Thy greater glory and his own sanctification and salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Youth Sunday, and Labor Day

Sacredness-of-Work

A call to be
changed.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Today we celebrate a call to be changed, to offer ourselves to God in all we do, and in doing so to make His kingdom a reality.

How will we make this change real? How will we respond and get to work? What will we do to be transformed into people completely focused on carrying out God’s will for humanity?

Our Holy Church has designated this Sunday as Youth Sunday. Our youth will be returning to school. They will study and grow in knowledge so that they may take their place in society, contributing their work and effort – but to what end?

If their studies are self-focused, if they are taken up without due consideration of God’s call to be changed and to change the world, they will only make their lives small and self-serving. They may achieve earthly success, but in the process lose their souls. If however, their study and growth remain focused on God’s call to change and affect change in accord with His call, their lives will be glorious and complete. They will use what they have gained to come into union with God and to carry out His will. We must help them by our example, prayer, and support. Our duty is to continually assist them in realizing that everything they learn and do is a gift from God and requires a response to His call to change.

This weekend we also celebrate Labor Day. Our work and labor must also been seen in light of the call to be changed and change the world. Paraphrasing our organizer, Bishop Hodur: ‘The time will come when our heroes emerging from the homes of farmers and laborers will sweat and sacrifice not for kings or the rights of the privileged or a single class, but will battle and work for freedom and the rights of man. Let us gather and strive to be first in good and last in wrong. Then shall we bring ourselves, our nation, and the whole world closer to happiness and salvation.’

We are thus called to change ourselves and the world, to transform life away from the money-driven values of this world to the bringing of the kingdom of God.

We are called to make change real in the lives of our youth and in our lives. This is true worship: “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” Do not live the status quo. It is not enough! Jesus put His body on the line for us. So we must put our lives on the line, changing them for Him and working for the coming of His kingdom.

Job Opportunity: Applications Being Accepted for Editor, God’s Field

The Click here to view/download a copy of the job description and necessary qualifications. The position will be compensated at $1,000 per issue with the expectation of 12 issues annually.

Interested applicants email qualifications to the Office of the Prime Bishop by E-mail. The deadline for applications is June 30, 2013.

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent

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Cut it off!
Give it a bit.

“‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”

We have all felt like the orchard owner. We try at things and put a lot of effort into them. It seems some are an uphill battle; we don’t seem to be getting anywhere for our effort. We’d like to cut that failure out of our lives and start over; put it behind us.

This experience can happen on lots of levels. Perhaps it is that plant that just won’t flourish on our windowsill, perhaps it is bigger things: our job, friendships, education, or our marriage.

Today’s first lesson is about perseverance. Jesus tells us the story of the orchard owner who has invested a lot to get this tree to grow, and it has failed him every year. He’s ready to cut it off, cut it down, get that failure out of his life, start over, or just put it behind him. The gardener tells the orchard owner and us that we need to give it more time.

Imagine that you’ve had a couple tough years in a marriage, or at work. You’re ready for that divorce or to quit. Then this parable comes to mind and you relent, you give it another year. A year later you look back and…

Hopefully you look back at your marriage and find that it has settled down, flourished, and produced fruit – love, a deeper relationship, and respect. You look back at your job and find good productivity, a promotion and success.

Our Lenten message is that that we cannot just leave the fix to itself for a year. The gardener didn’t just tell the orchard owner and us to give it more time. He understood that the owner needed to “cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it.” In other words, time alone is not enough – we have to put the work in.

That marriage, job, education, friendship, plant on the windowsill all need work and commitment to flourish. Our investment in our faith in Jesus, our love for Him and His Church take commitment and work. Our sinfulness doesn’t end by itself. Things don’t fix themselves.

Thankfully, we don’t work at any of this alone. The gardener by our side is Jesus. He offers us those graces of forgiveness, fellowship in faith, communion with Him and each other. He cultivates and fertilizes our work with His grace that heals perfectly. The next time we’re ready to cut it off, don’t. Turn instead to Him and get to work.

Bible Study for the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time and on the theme of Labor

  • 9/2 – John 5:17 – Lord Jesus, You came among us not to be master, but to be servant. You came to labor in Your Father’s vineyard. You and Your Father stand with us as a co-workers. Grant us the strength to carry on in our mutual work.
  • 9/3 – Matthew 20 – Lord Jesus, grant sight to those who oppress workers and turn their hearts. Grant the blessing of work to all who are unemployed or under-employed. Grant that no one lord their authority over others, but that employers and their managers act with the generous and open heart of a servant. Grant accord among all workers and strengthen their collective effort for justice.
  • 9/4 – Deuteronomy 24:14-15 – Lord God, grant justice to all workers who have had their wages withheld or have been underpaid for their work. Open the minds and hearts of their employers to the decrees and blessings that come from carrying out Your Holy law.
  • 9/5 – Jeremiah 22:1-5 – Heavenly Father, guide us by Your Holy word and grant that all may abide in it, doing justice, righteousness, and delivering all who are oppressed. Provide Your abundant blessings to those who follow Your will, and bring back those who reject Your way.
  • 9/6 – Jeremiah 22:11-17 – Lord of Heaven and earth, grant that all may build upon justice and right. May no one build by unrighteousness, by making a neighbor work for nothing; stealing wages. Send forth Your Spirit to judge the cause of the poor and needy and grant them restoration. Set the ways of those practicing oppression and violence to naught.
  • 9/7 – Luke 7:1-10 – Lord Jesus, grant that all employers may act as the centurion, for the good of their workers. Grant that we may break down the barriers of class and nationality and focus instead on the good of everyone. Grant all workers access to healthcare and paid sick leave. Heal all those injured in their work.
  • 9/8 – Isaiah 58:6-12 – Lord Jesus, bring us to restoration and healing. Grant that all our work and effort be one with Your gospel By the justice we do may Your light may shine forth and our communities may become the home of peace, generosity, light, strength, and vindication.

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, bless our work and all who labor. Provide justice for those oppressed.

Volunteers needed

Once again, we turn to the parish family and ask for assistance in the liturgical and parochial tasks we share as a community:

  • Altar Servers- This ministry is open to all who have made their First Holy Communion. If you would like to begin training for this ministry, please give your name to Father Stan.
  • Lectors- This ministry is open to all adult members of our parish, including those who have made their Confirmation. Additionally, if you would like to enter into this ministry, please give your name to Father Stan.
  • Women’s Society for The Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament – We are always looking for more of our parish women to join this long-standing organization. We thank the women thus organized for their ministry thus far in the service of our Lord and to this Parish. Please consider this invitation.
  • Saturday Night Workers – We are entering into a new chapter in our efforts on Saturday evening. We could always use some extra help, even if you can only give a few hours between 5-7 pm. If you can offer these or a few more, please see Father Stan.