Liturgy of the Word

Why did you doubt?
Matthew 14:31

My Dear Friends in Christ,

I can almost hear the sadness in the voice of Jesus as He asks Peter, “Why did you doubt?” Putting his own life on the line, Peter had called on Jesus to take care of him in the storm. And before Peter realizes it, he is walking on water just like Jesus. Then Peter looks around and remembers that people don’t walk on water, that the waves and the wind and the storm are more powerful than he is, that Jesus is so far away. And because of these second thoughts, Peter begins to sink. IMMEDIATELY Jesus stretches out His hand, catches Peter and, together, they are both back in the boat. In the blink of an eye, with the grasp of His hand, Jesus calms the waves, the wind, and the storm along with the fear, confusion, doubt and violence.

The image to the right captures this story beautifully because it’s from Peter’s perspective. The view is so tight that front and center are Peter’s own hands, holding on for dear life to the hand of Jesus. The other disciples are in the background, fear written on their faces. They’re trapped, the boat floundering amid the waves, ready to break apart at any moment (They had set out on a thre- hour tour but the weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed…Oh wait… that’s a different story). Don’t know about you but this strikes a chord with me. Like the Apostles, I am rocked about by the waves and winds and storms, tossed about, afraid, feeling small and insignificant unable to see Jesus coming at me, unable to do as He commands “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Like Peter, I want out and, like Peter again, I set all kinds of tests for the Lord. “Lord’s if it’s you then do this…” And like Peter, I fail because I’m overwhelmed by everything that’s against me and seems so much greater than I can handle.

The image on the left, from our own Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, I think captures this story from Christ’s perspective. The Apostles are struggling amid the waves, the boat tossed, the sail torn. But, graceful, serene, unbothered, unshaken, Jesus stands, even looms, over them in their struggles, ready to the calm the storm as soon as they ask. This is what I forget that not only is Jesus with me, but that He is bigger than any challenge I face. Jesus tells as much to His disciples. Look to the storm, look through the storm and you will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. If only I could remember that, if only!! This dramatic shift in perspective should give us great insight as we continue our Message series, Mass: The Pearl of Great Price by looking at the Liturgy of the Word, the telling of our STORY. The readings, most especially the Gospels are not some fanciful story but one of the primary ways God makes the Divine Presence known, one of the most beautiful ways we can encounter Jesus Christ, living and present among us. We don’t tell our story only to remember the past. We tell our story to calm the present and point us to the future. It’s another reason the Mass is so important.

As we continue our journey following the order of Mass itself, we hope to unpack at least some of the goodness God seeks to give. The first week we looked at Mass as MYSTERY, not a riddle to be figured or a crime to be solved, but an encounter. Then last week we looked at the Introductory Rites as God’s call to create a STIRRING in our hearts to bring us together to form the Body of Christ. Next week, we’ll look at the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the heart of the Mass, bringing to the fore both SACRIFICE and SUPPER. Jesus offered Himself as the perfect gift both sacramentally at the Last Supper and then really, viscerally on the Cross. This is not only the heart of the Mass, but it is also the source and summit of who we are as Christians. Lastly, we’ll look at the end of Mass (fancy name Concluding Rites) in which God is SENDING us out, out into our lives and out into the world, to become what we have received: the Body of Christ.

In our journey, we’re following a two-pronged strategy. During Mass, I’ll focus on the encounter and the joy, but I’ll also release a short video each week to provide a bit more theology and some questions for reflection. In both the homilies and the videos, I’ll be leaning heavily on a great little book: What Happens at Mass? by Father Jeremy Driscoll, OSB. It’s a great book, accessible to all that I think every Catholic should read. I’ll be suggesting each week some reading from here that can help unpack both the mystery and the study of Mass.

Take some time this week to reflect on the storms we face right now as a world, as a nation as a Church, and as individuals. What’s your perspective of those storms? Where is Jesus? Can you find Him in the storm? How can Mass help you to search for and to find Jesus? Can you picture yourself in the Gospel this week? What is Jesus trying to tell you? In your reflection, remember most of all the words of Jesus (spoken not 2,000 years ago to Peter but to you, here and now, even in the midst of the storm you’re facing): “Take Courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.”

Take some time this week also to pray for our own beloved Emily Nelson and Josh Kaufman who are getting married next Saturday, August 15, 2020 at Mount Saint Mary’s University. They are such great young people who give me hope for the future of the world and of the Church. They inspire me with their faith and delight me in their love for one another. It’s so great to see God at work in the ways they are growing and maturing both as individual disciples and as a couple.

Peace,

Introductory Rites

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,Jesus said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied.”
Matthew 14:19-20

My Dear Friends in Christ,

My siblings and I never understood why the feeding of the 5,000 was considered such a miracle. After all we witnessed something similar at least a couple of times a week! My mother could stretch one dinner into hundreds of follow-up meals of leftovers. She was a master at the “stretch.” Sometimes we couldn’t even remember the original meal by the time the leftovers were finished! All kidding aside, though, this miracle speaks of the abundance of God, of the way that God seeks to provide for us, of the way that God looks to care for us, of the way that God loves us (and loves us and loves us and never stops loving us!). Not just some bread, not just enough bread, but 12 wicker baskets left over. And all from only five loaves and two fish.

The feeding of the 5,000 is also an image of the Eucharist where God offers us, not an abundance of bread, but an abundance of love in the sacrifice of His Son, in the total gift of Jesus on the Cross, in the sending down of the Spirit upon us. This is the abundance we share every time we celebrate Mass. It’s why we’ve embarked on our message series: Mass: The Pearl of Great Price. We want to break open the great gift we have in the Eucharist, a gift of love meant, as Isaiah says in our first reading to feed those who are hungry and to sate those who are thirsty, not with any food or drink but with the Body and Blood of Christ. We started last week with a challenge to understand Mass as the pearl of great price, referred to by Jesus in the Gospel, a gift of unimaginable beauty and value but one that requires something of us as well. The challenge was to see if we could break the bonds of familiarity and complacency and understand the Mass as an encounter with Jesus Christ. The challenge we face is to see, even in the Mass’s familiar objects, gestures, prayers, and readings an exciting encounter with One we know and love and One by who we are known and loved.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take a journey through the Mass, unpacking at least some of the goodness God seeks to give. Our examination is going to follow the order of Mass itself. This week we’ll look at the beginning of Mass, (fancy name: the Introductory Rites) and how God seeks to call and bring us together, to form us, to whet our appetites, to open our minds, to tell our story. In other words, how God seeks to create a STIRRING in our hearts and fan into flame the Spirit. Next week we’ll look at the Liturgy of the Word, the telling of our STORY, how the readings and prayers give us not just some historical narrative but our own story, past present and future. Then we’ll look at the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the heart of the Mass, bringing to the fore both SACRIFICE and SUPPER. Jesus offered Himself as the perfect gift both sacramentally at the Last Supper and then really, viscerally on the Cross. This is not only the heart of the Mass, but it is also the source and summit of who we are as Christians. Lastly, we’ll look at the end of Mass (fancy name: Concluding Rites) in which God is SENDING us out, out into our lives and out into the world, to become what we have received: the Body of Christ.

Hopefully, we can see at least some of what God has in store for us with each and every Mass, no matter how grand or how small, and get a sense of how God wants us to be active in our participation both within the liturgy and beyond. Oh, and I’ll give you a hint: the start of the Mass is not really the beginning nor is the completion of the Mass really the end. God is much bigger than that and, through the Mass, God wants to draw us close to support the rest of our lives by what is offered to us in the Mass. In our journey, we’re going to follow a two-pronged strategy. During Mass, I’ll focus on the encounter and the joy, but I’ll also release a short video each week to provide a bit more theology and some questions for reflection. The video will come out on the Friday following the homily because I want you to spend some time focusing on, reflecting on the encounter and the joy. If you’re anything like me, you want to rip it apart and see how it works rather than sit with the beauty and the mystery. In both the homilies and the videos, I’ll be leaning heavily on a great little book: What Happens at Mass? which can be purchased on the Liturgy Training Publications (LTP) website at https://ltp.org/search/index?searchQuery=what%20happens%20at%20Mass. It’s a great book, accessible to all that I think every Catholic should read. I’ll be suggesting each week some reading from here that can help unpack both the mystery and the study of Mass. I’m excited to share with you the GREAT GIFT GOD GIVES in the Eucharist, truly a Pearl of Great Price!

Peace,

The Pearl of Great Price

“When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
Matthew 13:46

My Dear Friends in Christ,

The idea of the “pearl of great price” has entered common usage and become an image for us of something that speaks of exquisite beauty and great value. But it is often separated from the clauses that follow in scripture. To obtain the pearl, the merchant must first “search” for it. Then the merchant must “go”, “sell”, and “buy” it. In other words, while the pearl is a great gift and of high value – uncreated, even unimagined, by the merchant – it does not come easily into the merchant’s possession and certainly not without cost. In other words, the merchant must search and sacrifice to find, receive and then obtain the great pearl.

This week, we are starting a new message series “The Mass: A Pearl of Great Price.” Over the next few weeks, we’re going to examine the exquisite beauty and great value of the amazing and splendid gift we have in the Mass. I love what happens at Mass. I love celebrating it. I love the community it draws, and the Body of Christ created by those same individuals. To me, Mass is the most important thing I do every day, but it is also joyful and exciting and fun. The Mass is the source of who we are as Church and the summit of who we seek to be as Church. I want this message series to challenge, to jolt out of what can become overly familiar (at least for me) place, to focus on the Mass as an encounter with Jesus Christ.

Using the readings the Church gives in the next few weeks, we’re going to search and to sacrifice to receive and obtain what Jesus offers us. Too easily, I think, we can take the Mass for granted (I know I can and, sad to say, sometimes do). Using (at least they were somewhat) familiar words and songs (when we could still sing), along with ordinary mundane things (like bread and wine) Jesus offers us the most intimate experience of and encounter with God. We can “taste and see” how good God is, how close God is, how awesome God is. But, like the merchant, we must search and sacrifice to obtain all that God seeks to give us.

Because I have a such a love for the Eucharist, which I taught for several years in the seminary, I can become overly academic, reducing the Mass to an intellectual exercise, something to be pulled part, studied and learned (it’s the professor in me). A sound understanding of what the Mass is and where the Mass comes from is essential to understanding how God comes to us. But this often overlooks the beauty and the mystery and the JOY that Mass should be. Therefore, we’re going to follow a two-pronged strategy. During Mass, I’ll focus on the encounter and the joy, but I’ll also release a short video each week to provide a bit more theology and some questions for reflection.

In both, I’ll be leaning heavily on a great little book: What Happens at Mass? It’s not available in electronic format nor is it cheaply available at Amazon.com. It can be purchased on Liturgy Training Publications (LTP) website at https://ltp.org/search/index?searchQuery=what%20happens%20at%20Mass. It’s a great book accessible to all that I think every Catholic should read. I rarely make such sweeping statements but this one is true. And it’s great beach reading at least for me! I’ll be suggesting each week some reading from here that can help unpack both the mystery and the study of Mass. I’m excited to share with you the GREAT GIFT GOD GIVES in the Eucharist, truly a Pearl of Great Price!

Peace,

Where Have the Weeds Come From?

“Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?”
He answered, “An enemy has done this.”
Matthew 13:27-28

My Dear Friends in Christ,

It is one of the most asked and pointed questions. Why does God permit the evil to grow alongside the good? Where do the weeds come from and why are they allowed to grow? Again, this week, Jesus uses a parable to answer and to offer us the harsh reality of God’s love in an often indifferent, if not hostile, world. Remember a parable is a story that uses the common and familiar, the immediate and the tangible, to speak a difficult truth. Today’s parable reveals a truth made difficult not only by its abstract nature but also by how tough it is to accept. 

And it is not a question easily answered, either. God does not create evil; the Sower does not sow the weeds. God allows evil so we can choose the Good, choose God. God is just. Jesus assures us – evildoers and those who cause others to sin will be thrown into the fiery furnace at the end of the age. By His patience, God is teaching us that, above all, repentance and love are most desired. The gentleness of love and mercy, the gentleness of Jesus is the only true way to glorify God and gather others to Jesus. Everything else, anything else (might, cleverness, wealth, fame, brute force) may seem to offer some change for the better but will ultimately fail. No easy task in a world that worships might, cleverness, wealth, fame, and brute force in one way or another.

But gentle and merciful love is not weak, is not merely permission for another to walk all over us. No, absolutely not! Again, it is Jesus who shows us the great strength and perseverance of the Cross. It’s why we are called to remain close, close to God, close to others that we might continue to offer mercy and gentle love. Even though we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit intercedes for us, Paul promises in today’s Epistle. But first we must turn and call upon God in the Spirit, committing ourselves to be fertile ground for the good seed of the Word to bear fruit in our lives. And then God will use us to help winnow out some of the weeds. To follow Christ, even as we encounter evil does not mean we throw our hands up in despair. It means we work all the harder, both to be and to help others grow as wheat, a 100, 60, or 30-fold.

So, we are not deceived, we do not lose heart when we see weeds among the wheat, when we encounter truth and holiness mixed with error, injustice and sin. For now, God makes the sun rise on the good and the bad. But the harvest draws near. Let’s work so that we might be numbered among the righteous children—who will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father. And… not only be numbered among them but drawing others in left and right.

I will be away for a few days this week, leaving after Mass on Sunday (July 20) and then returning for first Communion on Saturday, July 25. I’ll only be gone during the week, but it means there will be no daily Mass broadcast at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday. I’ll take some proper vacation at the end of August to beginning of September but I just need a little break now, a chance to pray and reflect, to be quiet. In these past few months, God has blessed us with so much grace, so much joy, even in the midst of the challenges we continue to face together. But the busy-ness of these times has also been draining. Please know of my continued thoughts and prayers for all of you and I ask for a place in your prayers as well. As Saint Paul says so beautifully:

“I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the One who began good work in us will continue it until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right that I should think this way.”

Peace,

Parable of the Sower

Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.
Matthew 13:16

My Dear Friends in Christ,

Sometimes God’s blessings are obvious.  A child gets exactly what she wants for Christmas. A student only studies part of the material and still aces the test. A parent holding a new-born child. A call from a long-lost friend. Sometimes it’s less obvious and, more than that, it is sometimes pretty difficult to accept God’s blessing, even sacrifice for it, and then share it. Getting underwear for Christmas. Studying all of the material and still failing the test. The sickness of a child. The call of a friend who’s hurt and angry at you. In our Gospel today, Jesus calls us to search for God, the Presence of God, the blessings of God, the LOVE of God. Jesus wants our eyes to see and our ears to hear. And today, Jesus helps us do just that. By telling a story, a parable.

Parables are stories that illustrate by analogy a deep spiritual truth by using symbols of everyday, familiar things and happenings. Through practical and tangible parables, Jesus seeks to share what is sublime, divine, eternal, and profound. Understanding the parables of Jesus is a way of “seeing God,” of penetrating God’s thoughts, of knowing God’s ways. Parables are always concrete in their language and, in that sense, easier than abstract concept or theological discourse. But Jesus also uses parables to unsettle us, move us beyond our comfort zone and upset our too comfortable prejudices. Jesus uses parable to bring about a crisis by drawing the listener into a disorienting flow of their events and images. True illumination comes from a parable only after the listener has changed and has come to accept the divine viewpoint Jesus reveals. Jesus uses parables as verbal strategies of grace that test our willingness to surrender to, and be enfolded by, the always surprising generosity of God’s Wisdom and God’s Love.

The Parable of the Sower reveals the essential truth of a God who scatters the seeds of Divine Love far and wide, knowing that some of the seed will be wasted. But God is willing to do that out of love for us, so that, may, just maybe, we can provide a place for some of that seed, for some of God’s  love to take root and grow, 30, 60, 100 fold. In Jesus Christ God opens our eyes and ears for us to see and hear God, to know, even feel comforted by and comfortable in God’s Presence. That’s the blessing that’s pretty obvious.

However…. you and I are also challenged to ACT on what we have seen and heard. We are called to search for, to listen for the Presence of God. Wherever we are, we are called to bring that Presence to others. You and I, the Church, all Christians, are called to make the return God promises, as prophesied by Isaiah and called for by Jesus. Our goal is to prepare the soil of our hearts and lives that we may be fertile ground, not only in recognizing the Presence of God but in sharing God as well. How fertile is the soil of your heart? Are you willing, like the Sower, to scatter seeds of love and service that you know will fall on the path, find rocky ground,  or get crowded out by weeds? All so that some of that love and service may help others to know God’s presence? Not an easy sell but one that leads to the promise God made through Saint Paul: redemption and salvation.

Congratulations to those who received their first Holy Communion this weekend. We had two Masses on Saturday, one at 9am and 11am. This allowed us to have ServPro come in later on Saturday to sanitize and disinfect both spaces. What a blessing (one easily recognized!) to see our kids eager and excited. The COVID may have changed the celebration and what we were permitted to do but nothing could dampen the high spirits of those who had worked so hard to prepare for Jesus. When I see their eagerness and excitement, I’m always buoyed and reminded what a great gift we have in Jesus and in how close God seeks to be.

I hope you have some time to rest this summer, a chance to settle down and take it easy so that you can cultivate good soil for you and for your family. Please know of my continued thoughts and prayers for you and all those you love.

Peace,

Share Your Story

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.
Matthew 11:28-30

My Dear Friends in Christ,

I remember it like yesterday, a crisp clear Fall day. I was still adjusting to life in the seminary, having just left my job and moved out of my apartment only about 8 weeks before. The biggest challenge was sitting in the classroom taking notes and studying again after a 10-year hiatus. The professor stood at the front of the classroom droning on over some point of philosophy. The words had shrunk in my ears and in my mind to a nothing more than sounds as I looked out the window on a beautiful day. All of a sudden, I heard my name, Mr. Jaskot? Are you with us? I’ve asked you a question? SNAGGED! So much for the dutiful seminarian. After I mumbled hopefully, asking him to repeat it, he asked me to explain this truism, “Love is not a sandwich?” I had no idea what he was talking about or how it related to anything I had processed from the class. Stupidly I checked my notes. Finally, I had to give up and ask him what it meant. (To get the answer, tune into the Live stream Mass!)

I will tell you though, that the answer opens up our final STEP in discipleship. STEPS is an acronym offering us the way of discipleship, helping us to recognize how we can draw closer to God and take up our part in God’s plan.
S is SERVING IN MINISTRY OR ON MISSION. Jesus called Himself the servant all and wants us to serve all people as well.
T is TITHING AND GIVING. God is generous. God is a giver. God will use the money we offer to help others.
E is ENGAGING, like Connect Groups. Faith is personal, but not private; for faith to grow it must be lived in a community, people supporting and challenging one another.
P is PRACTICING PRAYER AND the SACRAMENTSGod seeks to draw us closer to Himself and to one another.
S is SHARING OUR FAITH. Our faith actually grows as we share this message, not merely in word but in service.

Too often, I think people hesitate to share their faith because they think they have to know everything, afraid of being asked a question they don’t know, or getting it wrong. Some are worried that being tolerant means any mention of faith is an unwelcome imposition on another. Some are just unsure of their faith, struggling to understand who God is and how God works. With all these objections, I think of my beloved mother. She was a cashier at the local Shop-Rite Supermarket. I think she took the job because she wanted to be in the know about anything and everything going on in Franklin, New Jersey. Secondarily she was a charter member of the Foodies Club, watching The Food Network from the very first moment of its conception and going through newspapers and magazines cutting out recipes and making notes how to tweak them. As a cashier then, she was in her element, seeing new food products, different flavors, and other interesting things come across the aisle. She would not hesitate to ask questions and, even more importantly, tell the shopper what she liked about the product, what worked for her, how it helped. 

Sharing our faith is no different than Ms. Mary Ellen sharing what she knew, what she liked, what worked for her. It’s having something you know is of value and wanting to offer the opportunity to see it help another. We have a very simple way to do this called “Invest and Invite.” Invest in someone you know would be open to the possibility of what faith can do. As you spend time together, pray with and for them. Be open about how your faith helps you, nothing more. And then, when you have planted the seed, invite that person to come with you (if we are able to come to Church) to celebrate and worship with you.

Last week, I asked you think about your giving in relation to God’s love for and generosity to you. I want you to think in a similar vein today about what faith does in your life and how God helps you. What does your relationship with Christ look like and what does God offer you in that relationship? How are you at sharing just that with another? If you struggle with it, ask why? Then think about something that may help overcome any hesitation. How can you get better at helping another to know the grace Jesus offers in today’s Gospel? “find rest . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

Peace,

Tithe and Give

Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink
– because the little one is a disciple –
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward. Matthew 10:32

My Dear Friends in Christ,

It always seems odd to me that Jesus, as He speaks of being generous, of giving to others, almost always provides incentives and offers a reward for being generous. Shouldn’t we do this anyway? Why speak of a reward? Perhaps, because, if we’re generous with our hearts and lives, our purses and wallets, we will receive more than we have given away. Even for a cup of water, Jesus promises reward.

All of our readings today talk about sacrifice and making a sacrifice to mirror God’s. An unnamed woman and her unnamed husband receive Elisha, simply because he is a prophet. The prophet is one who speaks for the Lord, even when it’s difficult. More times than not, the prophet’s reward is to be treated with violence and disdain because God’s word can challenge a community’s way of thinking and acting, even as they (read we) claim to be the chosen people of God. But the woman and her husband chose a path of generosity and they are blessed with far greater reward than they could ever have imagined. In our Gospel today, Jesus makes clear that His follower must be one who gives and gives and gives, no matter the cost. And Saint Paul gives us the reason for and the possibility of any generosity we offer: Jesus Christ, who did not hesitate to suffer and die for us, after living and giving his whole life in teaching, service, love, compassion and forgiveness.

Tithing and giving focuses our generosity on the financial. Just as the other STEPS call us beyond ourselves in other areas. We should look at placing our treasure in God’s hands. STEPS is an acronym offering us the way of discipleship, helping us to recognize how we can mirror in our own lives who God is and how God works:

S is SERVING IN MINISTRY OR ON MISSION. Jesus called Himself a servant and that’s what He wants us, His followers, to be. 
T is TITHING AND GIVING. God is generous. God is a giver and we can use our money to become more like God.
E is ENGAGING which is about small groups, like our Connect Groups. Faith is always personal but it is never private. It’s lived out in a community of people supporting one another.
P is PRACTICING PRAYER AND the SACRAMENTSGod seeks to draw us closer to Himself and to one another.
S is SHARING OUR FAITH. Our faith actually grows as we share this message with others.

God’s generosity should be evident in our checkbooks as well as on our hearts. I am not called to give because the Church needs it. (Although She does.) I am not called to give because my pastor asks me to do so (Although he will without hesitation). I am not called to give out of obligation or duty (although I should feel compelled).  Very simply, I am called to give because God has given me everything and asks me to make a return out of gratitude, recognizing what I have as blessing and trusting in the giver of those blessings rather than in the blessings themselves. God asks me to give because He loves me and wants me to trust in Him. Trusting in God means offering our financial resources in a way that stretches us, helps us count on God, rather than ourselves. And God uses what we have offered to serve others both within and beyond our community. God calls me to give because I seek to demonstrate better my love for God.

Think today about your giving, both to our community and to other
charities. God’s not so interested in the amount as percentage of what He has given you. Does your giving reflect true gratitude for God’s many blessings, and does it represent a proper return to God? Why do you give? Can your giving become a reflection of the other ways you live your faith?  Do you really trust in God and give accordingly? Or do you trust too much in the safety, security and comfort that your money provides? These are tough questions, made all the more so in times of challenge and a failing economy.

Peace,

Father’s Day

Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. Matthew 10:32

My Dear Friends in Christ,

It hardly seems possible that we’re into the third week of June already. It seems like we’ve been quarantined for several years but each one of them has passed slowly and there are many days that I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day! Time and quarantine has given me great insight into who I am called to be as your pastor and what I do. One of the hardest elements for me is the lack of contact with people. Don’t get me wrong I love and need some solitude. But as the saying goes you can have too much of a good thing! What I missed was the contact in the engagement, the opportunity to share Jesus Christ whether it is with the family celebrating the baptism or with someone preparing to die. Even as the quarantine gave me more time to pray, it made me fully aware that somehow my faith is incomplete if I don’t engage with others. Faith is not complete until I give it away. Love is not true unless I offer it to another.

That’s why we called our message series, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” Tina Turner asked this question boldly, trying to write love off as a “second-hand emotion,” outdated and confusing. But she also recognizes, even as she tries to write love off, that she is affected by love, moved by love, challenged by love, both afraid of and excited by love. As we examine the STEPS of becoming a disciple, we can see very clearly that love has everything to do with it, that who we are and what we do flows beautifully and naturally from the love of God, from who God is and how God works. Ours is a God who is close and always willing to sacrifice for us. All that we are and all that we have flow from these two graces which are the fullness of God’s love. The communion of who God is calls us to mirror that communion in our service to one another, to place the other first, to offer who we are and what we have to create a communion with the other that overflows with love. The sacrifices God makes for us, call us to mirror sacrifice as well, especially in the practice of prayer and the sacraments. In these ways, we grow as disciples and take STEPS in faith. Remember STEPS is an acronym offering us the way of discipleship, helping us to recognize how we can mirror in our own lives who God is and how God works:

S is SERVING IN MINISTRY OR ON MISSION. Jesus called Himself a servant and that’s what He wants us, His followers, to be.
T is TITHING AND GIVING. God is generous. God is a giver and we can use our money to become more like God.
E is ENGAGING which is about small groups, like our Connect Groups. Faith is always personal but it is never private. It’s lived out in a community of people supporting one another.
P is PRACTICING PRAYER AND the SACRAMENTSGod seeks to draw us closer to Himself and to one another.
S is SHARING OUR FAITH. Our faith actually grows as we share this message with others.

This week, we’re looking at how God engages us and asks us to engage with others to allow our faith to spread from Sunday morning to the rest of the week. God wants our hearts and our lives, all of us: the good, the bad, and the ugly. God wants our faith to seep into the other areas of our life, that in our thoughts and actions as well as our words, we may acknowledge Jesus Christ before others. This is not merely holding up a bible or going to Mass on Sunday. It is allowing our faith to influence, even direct (guess what?) who we are and how we work, it is about being supported in that faith by the challenge of others and challenging others to support them in their faith. To engage another in faith allows faith to take hold and to grow beyond the boundaries of religious acts.

That’s why small faith groups are so important. Small groups, like our Connect Groups, create a safe space, a platform that allows members to ask questions, share thoughts and pray with and for one another. Small groups are not forced sharing; they are not one and done; they are not just boxes to be ticked. Someone just recently shared with me how important their Connect Group had become in the face of the pandemic, how it provided comfort, consolation, and a little connection, even if it had to be by Zoom. God wants us to come together in faith, not just on Sundays not just in prayer but in learning and serving and giving and parenting and working and studying and… well, you get the idea. My faith becomes more practical, becomes stronger, becomes complete when I am engaged with and by others who share that faith.  No one is an island (as John Donne reminded us) and no one can be a Christian on his or her own! We need one another.

As we focus on love, a special word of greeting and the promise of prayers for our fathers on Fathers’ Day. What a blessing you are, not only to your individual families but to me and to our community as well.  I have learned a great deal about our Heavenly Father and about being a priest and pastor by watching you. May God bless you today.

Peace,

Corpus Christi

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. John 6:55-57

My Dear Friends in Christ,

Today we celebrate the great Feast of Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi is Latin for “body of Christ” and we celebrate today that Jesus gave us His Life. At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and wine. With His words and actions, Jesus set in motion the definitive intervention of God into human history. What was sacramental on Holy Thursday, became absolute on Good Friday, the sacrifice of His Body and Blood offered from the Cross.

Mark 14:22-24
Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body. Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, they all drank from it. “This is the blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
John 20:30,33-34
Jesus said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, Jesus handed over the spirit…when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. 
Rite of the Roman Missal
At the time he was betrayed and entered willingly into his passion, Jesus took bread and, giving thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you. In a similar way, when supper was ended, he took the chalice and, once more giving thanks, he gave it to his disciples, saying: Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.

Continue reading “Corpus Christi”

Trinity Sunday

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 2 Corinthians 13:13

My Dear Friends in Christ,

We’ve spent the whole Easter season looking at how God makes the impossible possible. We looked at God’s presence with us, at God’s care for us and at our inclusion in God’s plan of salvation for us and all the world. We also asked you to look at your hopes and how you can achieve them on the way to your ultimate hope: eternal life with God in Heaven. As we move into Ordinary Time, (liturgically at least because nothing is ordinary about this time in history!) we’re looking at how we can move forward with and take up the call of God’s plan. As the Spirit sent the Apostles out from the Upper Room and into the world, God’s plan also takes us on a journey. And every journey is made of a series of steps. So, we’re going to look at the STEPS towards realizing God’s plan.

As you’ve heard before, STEPS is an acronym:

S is SERVING IN MINISTRY OR ON MISSION. Jesus called Himself a servant and that’s what He wants us, His followers, to be.
T is TITHING AND GIVING. God is generous. God is a giver and we can use our money to become more like God.
E is ENGAGING which is about small groups, like our Connect Groups. Faith is always personal but it is never private. It’s lived out in a community of people supporting one another.
P is PRACTICING PRAYER AND the SACRAMENTS
S is SHARING OUR FAITH. Our faith actually grows as we share this message with others.

The foundation for all of this is love and that foundation is God Himself. And the Church starts us back after Easter season with a look at Who God Is and How God Works. Who God Is we celebrate this week with Trinity Sunday. Our God is a Trinity of love, so real and vital and intense, They give to Each Other everything They have, an exchange so dynamic it spills over to form and transform creation. The God who created us, who sustains us, who redeemed us, and who will judge us is not a God infinitely removed from us. No. Our God is a God who (get this!) loves and loves us and never stops loving us.

And next week, we’ll celebrate How God Works with the feast of Corpus Christ, the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Father send His Son, the Son sacrifices His life to offer the Spirit. It starts with love, includes us in love and draws us back to love. It’s why, for good measure as leave the Easter season, the Church also throws in an extra feast of the Sacred Heart. Join us this on Friday as we celebrate that Feast then again on Sunday as we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ, the sacrifice God made that we might know that love.

Peace,