February 23, 2020
Hear to Serve … IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED
Have you ever gotten those mailings with “Immediate Action Required” stamped on the envelope? They are usually sent by some less-than-stellar company trying to scare us into buying some insurance or identity theft protection. Well, I hate to scare you, but Lent is right around the corner. Ash Wednesday is this week. Immediate Action is Required by all of us who haven’t drawn up a plan to improve our spiritual growth this Lenten season. Don’t wait until it is too late. Act now.
Lent is a time of preparation. The Church tells us it is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is a time to renew ourselves spiritually, to clean out our minds, hearts, and souls of all the garbage that has accumulated over time. Because of Original Sin, mankind will always have a penchant for wandering over in the wrong direction of life. It’s a constant battle for us. So, it is important to draw up our battle plans now and not wait until this Wednesday when Lent starts. Procrastination will slip in, and before we know it, Lent will be over.
Prayer. Our parishes offer the standards. Stations of the Cross followed by Benediction, Penance Services, and Masses on Sunday and during the week are wonderful ways for us to pray as a community. Lent is a good time to start saying the Rosary to stop abortion, and a great way for a family to pray together. Turn off the radio and start saying the Jesus Prayer on your way to work and home again. Read the daily Scripture readings which you can find on www.usccb.org. Spoiler Alert: You are also going to have a chance to get a prayer partner, use it.
Fasting. The Church asks that we abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent. It also asks that we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This Lent can be our time to do more than the bare minimum. Fasting is more than giving up a favorite comfort food. It can be giving up anything that gives us pleasure such as watching a TV show we like or binge watching. Maybe we go out every Saturday night for dinner. Instead, stay home, say the rosary, and take the money you would have spent for your almsgiving. You get the idea.
Almsgiving. Our parish provides us with the CRS Rice Bowl, a worthy project to say the least. Put one in your car to collect all that change you get from drive throughs and when you come out of stores. Support a local group such as the monks at Holy Resurrection Monastery who pray for us each day. Also, this would be a good time to re-evaluate our gifts to the Bishop’s Appeal and our One-By-One Campaign and maybe offer a little something more into these worthy causes. Giving of your time is also part of almsgiving. Food pantries and hospitals are always looking for volunteers. Lent is the time to get out of your comfort zone and try a new ministry such as lector. Stop worrying about your fears. God will help you out.
Don’t Delay. Draw up your Lenten plan to clean out your heart, mind and soul. Strengthen your self-control. Let’s not drift aimlessly through another Lent. Bring yourself closer to Jesus and your Parish Family. Immediate Action is Required.
February 16, 2020
Hear to Serve … NO REST FOR THE WICKED
In the last couple of weeks I have had conversations with different individuals about the differences of venial vs. mortal sin. The questions of why it seems that we repeat the same sins over and over again, and our constant need for going to confes-sion has been the topic of several discussions. I also have had several conversations about purgatory and what it does for us. Then, the readings this week are all about sin where we are given a choice between fire and water and life and death. Jesus talks about being thrown into fiery Gehenna. With all this talk about sin, sinning, and the afterlife, I wondered, “Is there no rest for the wicked?” In Isaiah 57:20 we hear, “But the wicked are like a tossing sea, which cannot be calmed. And its waters cast up mud and filth. No peace for the wicked! Says my God.” What a grim thing it is, to live in a state of serious sin.
I guess it would be good to clarify what sin really is or what constitutes sin. It seems to me that society has really muddied the waters on this because we tend not to believe in Absolute Truth, and we have enrolled ourselves in the school of Relativism. We want to look at things through our human eyes and not the eyes of God.
Now sin isn’t a thing of itself. Sin, or evil, is an absence of good or the intentional distortion of what is good. St Augustine tells us that sin is looking for beauty, pleasure and truth not in Him, but in ourselves and His other Creatures. St. Paul breaks it down further by saying that sin is when we worship the creation and not the Creator.
In our society today where Relativism is the main philosophy, we like to stand and feign ignorance. We like to say, “How can I look through the eyes of God? How do I know what God wants?” Well, God has given us three tools: Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church. This three-legged stool has been around since the Apostles. It’s up to us to choose, do we say, “I believe in You Lord Jesus and the Church that You started,” or do we follow the teachings of society and continue to worship and to seek beauty and truth in ourselves and not in the Creator? Too often, we choose our own path. We cause our own separation from God.
This all may sound pretty bleak and hopeless but that is the furthest thing from the truth. Even though mankind has a penchant for sin, God in all His wisdom and mercy has offered us a way out, a way to re-establish the relationship between the creation and the Creator. That way out is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession for all you old timers. Going to Confession isn’t about us only. It’s about God, it’s about Jesus. It’s about God initiating action to restore the relationship that we intentionally broke.
Imagine the beauty in this. We intentionally turn our backs on God, and we say, “I know what You want, but I don’t care what You want. I want what I want. My wants come before You, my God.” Then, God who is pure love and full of a mercy that we can never understand, says to us, “Please turn around. I am right here. I want a relationship with you. I want to restore our relationship because I love you.” This is what God says through His gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. With love like that from God, and His offer of lasting peace, how can we not want to go?
Tossing, turning, mud, and filth? No Rest For The Wicked? It doesn’t have to be.
February 9, 2020
Hear to Serve … PASS THE SALT
Salt is something we take for granted today. It’s cheap; it’s stable; it adds flavor. Food can be preserved with it. It melts the ice on our sidewalks and driveways and gives us traction on slippery roads. Salt also has a number of medicinal purposes. With all these amazing uses, we don’t think much about it, we kind of take it for granted.
Well, in Jesus’ day, salt was as amazing as it is today and even more so. Besides adding flavor, preserving food, being used in medicines, it was also used to pay wages and was used in trade. So, when Jesus tells the disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” He was giving them not only a great compliment, but also a great responsibility. Jesus’ words apply to us today just as much as they applied to His disciples.
At our Baptism we are given the opportunity to enter into the Divine Life. We become a brother or sister of Christ. We are called to become salt of the earth. In the New Testament salt symbolizes wisdom. Wisdom is a gift given to us by the Holy Spirit and is unleashed in us when our Baptismal promises are sealed by the Sacrament of Confirmation. Wisdom enlightens our minds and gives us a longing for the Divine. It helps us see things through God’s eyes and not just our own perspective. Every time we receive the Eucharist and say, “Amen,” we are signifying that we will live a Christ-like life and bring the flavor of Christ to others. We have been called to use the gift of Wisdom given to us and to spread the salt of Christ to all that we meet.
Jesus warns us against losing our flavor. Jesus knows it is all too easy for us to become worldly. We have to guard ourselves from just having the name Christian and not retaining the realities of Christianity. If we love ourselves more than Jesus, and call ourselves Christian, then we are living a lie. If we do not share the love and teachings of Jesus and be of service to others, then we are living a lie. If this happens, we will be a living contradiction to the Sacraments that we have received. We will be a contradiction to all that Jesus has taught us, and all that His Church stands for. We will have lost our flavor; we are not living the life we were created to live.
Jesus tells us we are “the salt of the earth.” Let's pray that we see with the eyes of Wisdom, what a great responsibility Jesus is entrusting us with. Let us remember that salt only works when it is out of the shaker. Let us add flavor where Jesus sprinkles us.
February 2, 2020
THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD CANDLEMAS
We have so much going on today I’m surprised Mass didn’t take two hours to celebrate instead of just one. Today is 40 days after Christmas. Did you know you could have left your Christmas decorations up until today? You didn’t need to rush to take them down on December 26th.
Today we celebrate the presentation of the Lord in the Temple. According to Jewish custom, the first male child to open the womb was to be dedicated to God. Just as Jesus was presented and dedicated to God, we too are presented by our parents to God at our Baptism. We are
presented so we too can be grafted into the life of Christ, a life in relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
One prayer in particular in the baptismal rite talks about the light of Christ. It is said over the child by the priest or deacon. “Receive the light of Christ. Parents, Godparents, this light has been entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by
Christ. May they always walk as a child of this light. May they keep the flame of faith alive in their heart. When the Lord comes may they go out to meet Him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.” Just as Christ is the one true light of the world, our parents have the responsibility to keep the light of Christ burning in our lives, so that we can carry the Light of Christ to others when we are of age. We are then responsible to carry this Light of Christ to others throughout our lives.
On Candlemas we walk around the Church with our candles. Why do we do this? This procession represents the entry of Christ who is the light of the world into the temple.
We bring our candles from home to have them blessed. Why do we do this? These blessed candles should remind us that Jesus is the light of the world, Jesus is the light that should be burning brightly in our lives every day. Simeon proclaimed as he was holding the infant Jesus,
“A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Jesus also tells us this in JN. 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.” What a beautiful promise of hope!
So, take your candles home and use them throughout the year. Don’t throw them on a shelf in your hall closet. Light them at prayer time, use them for birthdays, baptismal anniversaries, light them when someone is sick, and light them when you have company over for dinner. Let
these candles remind you of the Light of Christ. Let them remind you that in good times and in bad, Jesus is always there to show us the way to life in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Lord Jesus Christ, true light that enlightens every man who comes into this world, bestow thy blessing upon these candles, and sanctify them with the light of thy grace. As these tapers burn with visible fire and dispel the darkness of night, so may our hearts with the help of thy grace
be enlightened by the invisible fire of the splendor of the Holy SPIRIT, and may be free from all blindness of sin. Clarify the eyes of our minds that we may see what is pleasing to thee and conducive to our salvation. (www.catholic-saints.info)
January 26, 2020
Pastor’s Perspective …
EVANGELIZATION -TIME TO BEGIN
Today’s Gospel reading is about Jesus begin-ning his public ministry. After living a private life for thirty years, how did Jesus know exactly when to end the private life and begin his public ministry? Our first thoughts are to suppose that, of course, God his father spoke to him and commu-nicated to him exactly when to begin. He got a special green light from God. But today’s Gospel passage suggests that Jesus probably arrived at this decision the way most people do. That is by judging from the things happening in their lives and knowing what God is trying to say to them.
According to today’s Gospel passage, when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea. Jesus hears that John has been arrested. He figures out that the renewal movement that John started would be in need of a leader. He looks around and finds that none is more qualified to assume the leadership of the movement than he himself. That’s it. That is all the sign he needed. He says farewell to his family and moves on to meet the challenges of his public calling. Un-like some of us, Jesus did not sit there and wait for a special supernatural sign from above. Rather, Jesus read the “signs of the times,” that is, to infer from what was happening around him, what God might be saying to him.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, what signs do we see in the world around us? Do you for example, see the need for more messengers of God’s love and peace in our world today? What can you personally do about it, given the personal circumstances of your life? When are you actually going to start doing something about it, or are you among those waiting for a special sign from God? Well, that sign may never come. We, like Jesus, must learn to read the “signs of the times” in which we live.
Note that Jesus did not start preaching immediately. If he had started preaching right away from his hometown in Nazareth, they would probably have silenced him there and then. The first thing he did was to look for a location and a community that would support his ministry. He found it in Capernaum where he quickly attracted a group of friends and disciples. Even though he is the son of God, Jesus did not work like a lone ranger. He shared his vision and his ministry with people. That is why, even though he was stopped and killed just three years later, they could not stop his work and his vision for a new world of sisters and brothers. In Jesus, we see not only what it means to do God’s work but also how to do God’s work.
Let us ask God today to give us the wisdom to read the “signs” of our own times, so that we can correctly infer from events in the world around us, what demands God is making of us as individuals and as a parish. And let us ask for the courage to start doing it, not just praying about it.
Remain Blessed, Father Tony