Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Theme: Choose the Kingdom of Jesus!
Let us reflect on the word of Jesus he Himself said to palate: The Kingdom of Jesus does not belong to this world. This is the same vision that we have in the First reading from prophet Daniel 7:13-14. The solemnity of Christ the King, presents to us a figure, called the Son of Man. Some experts say that most probably this figure was about whole community which later on became concentrated on an individual and the vision is that of Son of Man, figure of Son of Man coming from above telling us that this glorious figure does not come from the earth, from worldly matters, and what he brings is not concerns of this world but from God. This figure is presented to another figure, called the ancient one. The figure of man is presented to God and before God. He was given dominion, glory and kingship over all people. The authority of this mysterious figure does not come from any human community, any human group, any forces but only from God. Dear brothers and sisters let us rejoice and be glad for having Jesus our King who has freed us from evil and especially from sin according to the second reading Rev. 1:5-8 the evil that destroys us. This is the type of kingship from above that not destroy any enemy but enemy called evil, sinfulness, that can only be defeated by a king who comes from God. For kings of this world might even propagate evil and sin the King from above, King from God will defeat evil. This king defeated sin with his blood and gave us life. We see this glorious king, affirmed by God, the alpha and the omega, this king defeated sin with his blood and as he descends from above, the people will look up to him saying that he is the one who was pierced. St John tells us that Jesus the King was a witness and the first born from the dead. This glorious king whose kingdom comes from God, whose kingdom does not come from the forces of this earth, exercises his kingship by dying, by being pierced, by going to the place of dead. This is totally different from the kingdom of this world. Our King Jesus Christ will not sacrifice us for his own safely but he will die saving us. Our king conquers evil by the power of Love. He said he came to the world to testify to the truth but what is truth in the gospel. The truth is the full revelation of who God is. The truth is the revelation of the kingdom of love, divine love. It is only where love reigns, where the evil and the beasts could be conquered. Dear brothers and sisters let turn to Jesus, behold him and like Pilate ask him, explain to me what type of King are you? and let us have the courage to tell Jesus that I want to belong to your Kingdom. I want to be one of your collaborators in spreading the Kingdom of love to the point of sacrifice so that evil and the kingdom of evil finally be conquered.
Dear brothers and sisters, this is the last Sunday of this liturgical year. May I ask you to please review your whole year and thank the Lord for your little acts of love, when you smiled to the strangers, when you offered your seat to an elderly person, when you assisted someone to cross the street, when in spite of your busy schedule you abandon yourself, preoccupation, in order to be with someone, the times when you could have earn extra money rather visited a sick and lonely person. In those moments beyond the spot light in the hiddenness of your heart you know Jesus rules and that is Kingdom does not belong to this world.
Fr. Nadeem Yaqoob
31st Sunday in Oridnary TimeBy Bishop John Mack
Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
What was with this scribe? Was he serious when he asked Jesus what was the first of all the commandments? Did he want to know the answer, or was he trying to make Jesus look bad in front everybody? There were 613 laws that Moses gave in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. They were treated with such importance that there were a whole series of laws written to protect these 613. For example, the law, Keep Holy the Sabbath, was protected by detailed laws on what was and wasn’t viewed as work during the Sabbath. These laws were called the Halaka. But then the Jewish scholars thought that there should be a greater weight given to the Halaka. More laws were created on how to keep the Halaka. These laws were the Mishna and Tosepta. The Halaka would say that a person could not carry water from a well if that well was not next to the house. That would be work. The Mishna and Tosepta would define how many steps a person could or couldn’t take with a bucket of water. This might seem peculiar to us, but really the heart of all this was how sacred those 613 laws were and how seriously the Hebrews followed them. But then the Jewish scholars asked another question, “Which of these 613 was the most important?” For centuries the learned scholars debated this question. And now, standing before one of these scholars, one of the scribes, there is this Jesus, a nobody from Galilee with no formal education, thinking that he could teach the people. The educated scribe could certainly make Jesus look bad, or so he thought. He was prodded by his companions to go for the kill. He probably had an attack ready to meet whatever Jesus said. He would use his intelligence and sarcasm to make Jesus look silly. We have all been in classes and in meetings with people like him, proud of their own intellectual skills and just looking for an opportunity to make someone else look bad. But then Jesus ruined the scribe’s game. Instead of arguing over the fine points of this or that law, he merely quoted two verses from the Torah, one from the Book of Deuteronomy and one from the Book of Leviticus. From Deuteronomy the Lord took, “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, whole mind and whole strength, and your whole soul.” And from Leviticus he quoted, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” How could the scribe mock that? We get the sense that this intellectual adversary stopped and struggled between his loyalty to those who put him up to challenging Jesus and this insight into righteousness.
The scribe reached the moment of truth, turned from his party bosses, turned from the establishment, and said, “You are right in saying that the love of God and love of neighbor are more important than all the burnt offering and sacrifices one could make.” The scribe then heard what his heart was yearning to hear. Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven.”
We may we questioned about a moral or ethical i
sue by someone who is not looking to discredit us and truly values our opinion. Sometimes we may not feel qualified to respond. Yet, in the way that we live our lives and the things that we do, we have some knowledge and experience. So we shouldn’t ever discredit ourselves by thinking in those ways. Yesterday Fr. Nadeem used a quote from St. Augustine that says: “Love God and do as you will for the soul trained in loving God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.”
We can become overwhelmed by the number of laws we are told to follow. There are federal laws, and state laws and county laws. There are rules in families and in schools and in places of work. There are divine laws, natural laws, and civil laws. Certainly we can join the scribe in asking, "Bottom line it for us, Lord. What is it that God really wants us to do to please him?" And Jesus says, “It’s not so difficult, “Love God; Love Others.” People often have questions. You have questions. Is this right? Is that right? Everyone is taking this or that stuff, everyone is doing this or that. Why is it wrong? Just apply the law of Love. Is the love of God and the love of others seen in our actions? --- and if it Isn’t there– then stop doing it. Or is our own selfishness, our desire to take care of number one, even if that means using others, the real reason we want to do this or that? For example, sometimes a person says, “I really love you,” but means, “I’m not going to commit to you. Let’s just “live together.” We certainly live in confusing times. There often appear to be more questions than answers. We are confronted with questions which weren’t even considered fifty years ago: What is marriage? What is human life? How can we discern what is right and what is wrong? How do we discern on which side of each argument we Catholics belong? Just apply the law of Love. Love God and Love neighbor. When we do this, life become far less complicated. Anything that does not reflect the love of God and neighbor is just a leap into a void.
Today’s Gospel concludes by saying that after the people heard what Jesus said to the scribe, no one dared ask him any more questions. All answers to the complications of life are found here: We are to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul and love all those he created in his image and likeness as we love that image within ourselves. That’s it. It’s that simple. Live it out in your life and trust God! Amen.
The Christian FamilyBy Bishop John Mack
He went down with them then, and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. Luke 2
The PNCC today celebrates the solemnity of the Christian Family. Mary and Joseph had the authority of parents over him and he listened to them, though, as today’s Gospel relates, Jesus’ true father was the Eternal Father in heaven. We read in scripture that Joseph took leadership in the family, even getting them up in the middle of the night to flee to Egypt. We know that Mary cared for her child because he needed her to grow into the man the Eternal Father sent the Word to the earth to become. We know that Mary was present for her Son throughout his life, supporting him even as her Son was dying on the cross. We are certain that this family was indeed holy, separate for the Lord.
How about our families, the families you are part of right now, and, for the single and the young, the families that you might be forming in the future? Are they, or will they be holy families? The Kingdom of God needs holy families. The family is the main vehicle for the living of the faith. Yes, we have many other experiences of faith in the world, and yes, people can be people of great faith even when the faith of their own families is weak or non-existent. God’s grace is not limited by our failings. All of us have had the opportunity to grow closer to the Lord in situations outside of our families. But the main vehicle for His Grace is the Christian family. The Christian family is called to be holy, separate, set aside for the Lord. That means that the Christian family must be different than families where the Lord is an afterthought, if any thought at all. The Christian family must be the battlefield where evil is defeated now, and through the children, in the future. How can families be holy? What must families do to be set aside for the Lord? First all, families need to keep the presence of the Lord alive in their homes by nurturing the presence of the Lord in each individual in the family. Children need opportunities to pray in their own way. For most families these opportunities are before meals and at bedtime. That’s great. Moms and Dads also need the opportunity to pray, only their schedule is a lot more crowded. The best time for prayer might be the first thing in the morning, before the children get up, but sometimes that is impossible. One parent has to leave for work very early in the morning. Or perhaps the Mom spent the night caring
ith a baby who would not sleep, or, perhaps, caring for a sick child.
For many the easiest time to pray is at night, first as a couple who like Tobias and Sarah recognize the presence of the Lord in their marriage, then over their babies, then with their little children as they say night prayers, continuing to pray for them when they sleep. When the children get older and need their privacy, or when they move on in life, Mom and Dad should still pray for them every night. Young people, when you think about marriage, look for someone with whom you can pray for your children.
Secondly, families need to keep the presence of the Lord alive in their homes by protecting their homes from anything that would lessen His presence. Obviously, there is plenty of bad stuff available on TV and internet that we cannot allow into our homes and into our lives. We need to be careful about the subtle ways that evil compromises the integrity of our family. One of evil’s main weapons is to bend our minds to accept immorality as part of life. In so many sitcoms the character with moral values is portrayed as right wing, mean, and hateful, politically incorrect while the characters who live blatantly immoral lives are presented as warm and loving. These shows wear us down into accepting immorality as a viable option in life. We need to be careful what we allow into our homes. We need to be vigilant as to what our children are encouraged to bring into our homes from other places. There is a war to be won. We must fight it in our families. Our motto must be Joshua 24:17, “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
A third action a family can and must embrace to be holy, separate for the Lord, is to seek out his presence in others, particularly those who need special care. What did Jesus do, during those three years of his public ministry? He healed the sick. He cared for people. The blind, the deaf, the lame, the poor, the repented thieves masquerading as tax collectors, and the women who sold themselves for money, all were all healed by the Lord. The family that seeks to reach out to the presence of the Lord in those who are suffering will come to a deeper appreciation of the presence of the Lord in the home. Or, to put it simply, they will be holy. In today’s gospel, twelve year old Jesus was left in the Temple. And they had only one to look out for. Well, the story of the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple is told to re-enforce that Jesus was the Son of the Eternal Father. Still, Mary and Joseph did appear to fail parenting 101. Actually, their mistake was quickly remedied. As Jesus said, they should have realized that he had to be about his father’s business and should have checked the Temple first. Perhaps, some of you folk can relate this to some of the mistakes you might make in your parenting and realize that it is impossible to be perfect parents. No family is ideal. Not the family you are part of now, nor the family you might form in the future. The family is made up of human beings. We humans have times that we are weak. So many of our families realize this and go to confession not just for the spiritual strength of each individual, but for the spiritual strength of the entire family. It is impossible for us to be perfect, but if we nurture the presence of the Lord in our families through prayer, if we are vigilant fighting against the attacks on the integrity of our families, and if we reach out to the Lord in others, we will be holy families, set aside for the Lord. And we will win for the Kingdom of God each battle that is waged in our homes.
25th Sunday in Ordinary TimeBy Bishop John Mack
They were arguing about who was the most important – St. Mark
In today’s world – people divide themselves up into varying groups and sub-groups; Cultures and sub-cultures. There are names attached today as there were when I was growing up. Back in the sixties – I wasn’t quite old enough for the “hippie generation” – didn’t go to Woodstock or serve in Nam – but I remember that we had flower children – acid heads – trippers – love children – greasers and jocks. Each had their own dress style, language expressions and music. Fast forward to today – There are hundreds of categories. I don’t profess to be “hip” to them all – to use a 60’s term. Even different generations have a niche. Baby Boomers, Baby Busters, & Generation X, Y & Z - with all the sub-categories.
I’d like to use a phrase that is popular in today’s world – especially in the world of RAP music. Now, I’m not an expert on this – it’s not exactly my favorite category of music – BUT the phrase is: gimme my props! Translated it means: Give me what is due to me / give me respect and recognition / sometimes in the sport world it means: give me your adulation and cheers!! Give me what I deserve deserve. Right here at home – people could say the Bills never got their “props” because they went to 4 straight Super Bowls – but never came out with the Lombardi trophy. But why do I highlight this phrase today – and what does it have to do with today’s readings. In all three readings, notice that the people mentioned are concerned with getting their props.
The wicked in the first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, hate the just one because instead of respecting them he reproaches them for transgressing the Law of God and violating their training as ministers of God. They weren’t getting their props. The argument against the just one that they voice with such intense hatred is the same argument voiced with equal hatred that would lead the priests, scribes and Pharisees to demand that Jesus be put to death. Jesus continually challenged them to return to a pure worship of God. But instead of listening to Him, they plotted to have him killed, and as quickly and as painfully as possible. Jesus told his disciples that this would happen in the first part of today’s Gospel reading, but the disciples were too busy considering who was the greatest among them. Each was looking for respect from the others. Each was demanding his own props. Finally, Jesus had enough of this talk. He turned the tables on them. He called over a child, and he said, “You want to be great? Well, take care of a child.” Now, changing diapers and wiping running noses did not seem to them to be the work of a great person. Don’t the high up in society hire someone to do that for them? But this is the work of the great in the Kingdom of God. For in the Kingdom of God anyone who wishes to be first, had to be last of all and a servant to all.
“Where jealousy and self ambition exist there is disorder and every foul practice,” James warns in the second reading. He goes on to say that wars, conflicts, and every sort of evil flow from an attitude that makes continual demands on others. The apostle James had learned the lesson that he was taught in today’s Gospel when he was just a follower of the Lord. True wisdom is pure, peaceful, compliant, full of mercy and good fruit, and without inconsistency or insincerity. The fruit of this type of selfless wisdom is peace.
We are all too concerned with getting the respect we think we are due in society, be that society in general, or the society of our home, workplace or school. We are more concerned with what others are saying or even thinking about us than we are concerned with who we are. Parents have a right to respect from their children, honoring your father and mother is the Fourth Commandment, but parents earn that respect by caring for their children not by making unreasonable demands for no reason other than their own self-gratification. People in authority over us at work, or in society, have a right to our respect, but only to the degree that they are exercising their authority in a just manner. We may have to put up with a boss who is unjust and endure him until he is replaced or we find another job, but we respect the boss who treats everyone fairly. Those who are still going to school often give far too much deference to popular classmates or to the members of an athletic team, or even to the top students. Who are the best people in the school? For that matter, who are the best people at work?
Who are the best people in your family? Who are the best people in our society? The best people are those who are kind, compassionate, just, full of mercy and all those good things that James wrote about in today’s second reading. Maybe we need to think about some of those grudges we still hold on to so tightly. “Who did she think she is, talking to me like that?” So many of our grudges come from our conviction that we were not treated with the respect we felt we had a right to, be that from a boss, a neighbor, a distant relative or even a member of our immediate family. We are very wrong when we behave in that manner.
The way of the Christian is not the way of being concerned with what he thinks he has coming to him. We are Christians. The basic attitude of our relationship with others must be that of Jesus Christ. His way was the way of service. Christianity is not a popularity contest. It is a contest of service. The Christian is not concerned with getting his props. He is concerned with giving God His props.
At the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer the celebrant and deacon hold up the Blessed Sacrament and proclaim: “Through Him, with Him and in Him, all glory and honor are yours, Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. The people either recite or as I prefer, sing a rousing -- “Amen.” That is both an affirmation of the miracle of the Eucharist and a proclamation that the only glory and honor we need to be concerned with is that which we give to God. That is the way of Jesus Christ. That is the way of the Christian. It must always be our way as well. St. Paul probably wrote it best when he penned the words: He must INCREASE – I must DECREASE. Six simple words – Let us follow them whenever we feel the need to “get our props” -- let us strive always to live these words out in our lives. Amen
23rd Sunday in Ordinary TimeBy Bishop John Mack
He took him away from the crowd. He touched his ears and his mouth and said, "Be open". And the man left singing the praises of God to the world.
This is a miracle story. This is a story that has baptismal overtones within, for during baptism the priest touches the neophytes ears and mouth and says be open. This is a story about our lives with the Lord.
There is a great deal of noise in our lives. We have been programmed to ”expect noise” wherever we go. We get noise (cleverly disguised as music) when we are in elevators (thus the term: elevator music) when we’re on hold on the phone; we can play tunes on the computer – even as we are multi-tasking something else. And if you ever want to drive someone crazy who is totally immersed in the noise of the world – Just put them in a soundproof room for about ten minutes. They will literally “climb the walls” and beg for some sort of aural stimulation. I was going to say “put a teenager into a quiet room” without their ear buds – but that wouldn’t be fair – because I have seen this be true of people of all ages.
Interesting word, noise. It even sounds bad. NOISE. Say the word out loud enough and you get a head ache. There is much noise in our lives, but not just in the sense of sound. There is noise in the sense of disturbance--like static on the phone line. The radio, the TV, the kids, the neighbors, those driving down the street with their radios on overkill – with the 25,000 watt woofer in the back. When they pull of next to you it sounds like the sound track to “battle of the bulge or the invasion of Normandy.” Your car literally shakes!! Now all these can be lumped into the category of audio noises, but there is also noise, disturbance, created by the continual worrying about tomorrow, the hanging on to the battle stories of the past. Noise. Noise. Noise. So perhaps we could say that there is external noise – perceived by our ears and minds and then there is noise that comes in the form of internalized stimulation – perhaps this comes from other people – from within our own minds – or from other people’s mouths (think back to last week with gossip and slander)
Noise in our lives might sound like this: "Did you see what b To Church of all places? / Guess who just broke up? / Noise Noise Noise. Mom, Dad, can I have.....? go......? would you buy me......?” Arguments over who played what role in a movie, or who did what on a sports team. The phone rings, "You have a tremendous opportunity to save money now by having your driveway resurfaced this week instead of putting it off and have to redo the entire driveway three years from now." NOISE.
Contrast all this with how Jesus operates: And Jesus took the man away from the crowd. away from the noise. He took him to have a personal encounter with the Messiah. You know – there are really two ways that we essentially encounter our Lord. One is in public worship – that’s what we’re doing here and now / We gather in community with our common beliefs, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. We come in community to acknowledge that yes – we have sinned. In the 2nd form of the Confiteor we say: and to “you my brothers and sisters” (and in the old days we even pivoted to the left and right to signify this) We share prayers, intercessions, hymns and ultimately Eucharist at the table of the Lord. All that is public worship.The other is called private worship / or prayer / or meditation or whatever you want to label it, That is the time that we spend individually with Jesus. He calls us away from the crowd, away from the noise to his quiet. And the quiet could be anywhere – it doesn’t have to be in a church or on a secluded mountaintop or the a deep forest. You can even find that quietness on a crowded subway in New York city – or at a football game with 65,000 other Bills fans. That might be a little harder – but it’s still possible. The important thing to remember is that we cannot be
t peace, or fulfilled or spiritually in tune with God without it.
Quiet before the Lord is so important. Here’s some hints or examples:
A few moments before and after Mass,--out of respect for the presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament,
Out of respect for the needs of others to get away from the noise, Out of respect for our own need to listen to the Lord in the quiet. Quiet in our homes. Fifteen minutes of quiet, before the morning gets going,or after the kids are in bed or together as a family, just a little quiet time. A little time to get away from the noise. A little time with the Lord so he can touch us.
Remember today’s Gospel He touched the man's ears and he said, "Be opened."He calls us to hear to REALLY HEAR! Hear the still small voice Elijah heard, whispering that God loves us and has a plan for each of us.
--Hear the whisper of Christ on the cross, telling us in the darkest moments of our lives that we will get through this together. Hear the beautiful voice of the Holy Spirit singing the Love Song of God in our hearts. Hear the voice of Mary, reassuring the concerned wine steward at the wedding feast of Cana, and reassuring us, saying, "Do whatever he tells you." Hear the voice of our conscience within, calling us to the new life of the Lord's love, calling us to holiness. He calls us to Hear the Word of God. Alive in the Bible, proclaimed in the Church, proclaimed by the Church through its members proclaimed by the loving husband and wife in their continual gifts of themselves to each other, proclaimed by parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, all good people, giving themselves to the children, to others who need help. He calls us to Hear the Word of God proclaimed by children in their steps away from self centeredness. Proclaimed by the retiree concerned with the future of others, not just himself or herself.
Hear the Word of God. He touches our ears. He touched the man's mouth and said, "Be opened". He tells us not to be afraid to stand up for our beliefs and our lifestyle, even if we are told that we are not in step with modern society and its hedonistic lifestyle. He says that he needs our voices. He needs us to proclaim that he is indeed alive. The Resurrection continues. We celebrate his resurrection on Sundays so we can have the spiritual strength to proclaim his life. He opens our mouths to proclaim his praise to the world. He drew the man away from the crowd. He touched his ears and his mouth and he said, "Be opened." And the man left proclaiming the love of God and we should TOO!!
Jesus touched him & Jesus touches us – every day and in every way The question is: Will we respond in like manner by touching those around us in acts of service / charity / goodness and love????
I pray that we ALL MAY – and by doing so – be the living presence of Christ in the world today. Amen
18th Sunday in Ordinary TimeBy Bishop John Mack
The bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. - St. John
Today’s Gospel reading, the third of the five Sundays from the Sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, begins with the Jews murmuring. That’s a great word, murmur. It’s an onomatopoeia, a word that sounds like its meaning, like screech, or bloop, or splash, or grunt, or giggle, etc. Murmur. Mom makes a large meatloaf on Sunday. On Monday it returns to the table with red sauce on it. On Tuesday it’s mixed in with vegetables, and all the family murmurs. Or school starts on a Wednesday, and on Friday the teacher assigns two hours of homework, and amongst the students there is murmuring.
The Hebrews of the Bible were world class murmurers, especially those who lived in the times of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt. These people murmured because the Pharaoh increased their work load. It was all Moses’ fault they said angrily. They murmured when they camped next to the Red Sea and heard that the Pharaoh’s chariots were approaching. They murmured when they had no bread, or no meat, or no water. You would have thought that they would have had faith in God who had cared for their every need, but no, instead of faith there was murmuring.
The murmuring of the Jews of the Exodus was recalled in the murmuring of the Jews in the beginning of today’s Gospel. They complained about Jesus. He had fed them with loaves and fish, but now He said that He was all the bread they needed. He was the Bread of Life that came down from heaven. They were convinced that He did not come down from heaven. They said that they knew his family. And they would have been correct if that was all there was to Jesus. If He were simply human, He could not be the Bread from heaven. He could not give them that which was infinitely greater than the Bread their ancestors ate, the manna. To accept the gift of the Bread of Life, they had to first accept that Jesus was more than human. He was Divine. This is the same for us. To understand the miracle and mystery of communion, our starting point must be that Jesus is Divine, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He gives us who He is, Eternal Life. Our Founding Fathers, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, etc, gave us liberty, but they were not liberty. Abraham Lincoln gave the slaves freedom, but he was not freedom. But Jesus gave the Bread of the Eternal Life because He is the Bread of Life. He is not just a great man. He is Divine. The Bread of Life is Jesus, our Divine sustenance. And we take Him into ourselves.
When we receive the Eucharist, we are united to Him, to each other and to the whole Body of Christ. It is no wonder that those who wish to destroy the Church begin by attacking the Eucharist. In England of the Sixteenth Century, France of the Eighteenth Century, Mexico of the Twentieth Century, and throughout the world in the Twenty-first century, wherever ISIS or its affiliates rears its head, Christianity is attacked by attacking the Eucharist as well as those who can provide the Eucharist for others. Throughout history and continuing to the present day priests are tortured and killed for saying Mass for the people who long for the Bread of Life.
You can see the hand of the devil here. In the diabolical battle against God’s people, the devil attacks that which binds them to God, the Eucharist. His attacks are not just overt, though. The Father of Lies works subtlety. He tries to convince us that Jesus was a wonderful man, but just that, a man. When Jesus is equated with other great men of history, then the Eucharist has no meaning. It then becomes a pious Catholic practice with no real significance beyond that of holy water. The unbelieving murmur that Catholics are not really receiving the Lord when they go to communion. Some Catholics are swayed by their arguments. And the devil wins a battle in his war on the Kingdom of God.
But the devil loses a battle every time that Mass is celebrated and every time that people receive the Bread of Life. Every Sunday, and for some of us, every day, we enter into the Mystery of the Eucharist. We receive the One who is the Bread of Life. This is Jesus who unites Himself to Us with His Body and Blood. This is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Son of the Father, who humbled Himself to become one of us, to die for us, and then gave the gift of His Life and Death, to us in the form to the Blessed Sacrament. This is Jesus whom we will take into ourselves today when we receive communion. We don’t murmur. We proclaim.
17th Sunday in Ordinary TimeBy Bishop John Mack
Five loaves and two fish. The skeptical disciple Phillips says, "How in the world are we going to feed these people? Are you kidding me? Five thousand people." But that's what the little boy had and he offered it to Jesus. Five loaves and two fish. Kind of hard to believe what happened next. Jesus blesses those five loaves and two fish. He asks the 5000 people to sit down and he told his disciples, "Distribute the food to the people and feed the people." They did. So much so that after the people had eaten, Jesus had the disciples collect the leftovers and filled 12 baskets with the bread left over. The lesson is very simple with Jesus, a little becomes a lot.
On Monday and Tuesday of this past week, I took a trip to Scranton with Fr. Adam Kotas to meet with Prime Bishop and to Incardinate him into the PNCC. Thursday Fr. Adam came by for a quick instructional on our liturgy (2 hours) and I asked him to stay for dinner along with Fr. Matt. As it was a last-minute decision (that morning) we had pork chops in the freezer which were placed out to thaw. Normally I prepare the pork chops – I pride myself on making them --- they’re almost as good as Peggy’s (church caterer)
Fr. Adam Kotas’ vocation to be a priest started about 15 years ago, when he studied his theology at Orchard Lake Seminary – North of Detroit in Michigan. It was founded in 1885. He had come from Poland and that was where Polish Seminarians were sent to study. He shared that once he graduated he had to find a diocese who was willing to accept him to serve in parish ministry. His first assignment found him serving in the Diocese of Sacramento in California. He had known about our church prior however, as he lived in the Chicagoland area and had visited our Cathedral and then Diocesan – Bp Robert Nemkovich as a teenager. His parents and brother are still in Chicago. He continued to work in California, but suffered from a severe asthma condition due to the smog and unhealthy air in that state. He was allowed to serve the diocese of Las Vegas on LOAN for two years. There His health improved dramatically due to the hot, dry climate. When the two years expired – he asked to stay but was told he must return – and he did. While in Las Vegas he met one of our bingo players, Donna Kirsh who used to winter in Vegas. She truly enjoyed Fr. Adam and is now a close friend. She asked me a couple of years ago around thanksgiving if I would be willing to talk to a Roman priest who was thinking of leaving. Of course – I met with him over thanksgiving weekend and the relationship began. He said that he wished to stay until he had ten years of service in the RCC because he would then be vested in at least a partial pension. I certainly understood. His 10-year date was May of this year. Things began to heat up as they say and conversations became more frequent.
As I said – we welcomed this young priest into our diocese on Tuesday last. Fr. Adam is so happy to be a priest of the PNCC. He has no church building (at least until recently) but this grand idea that he would like to start a PNCC Parish in Las Vegas. He had met many Polish National Catholics who were sheep without a shepherd Only 36, this enthusiastic young man was willing to start a new church from scratch. Like the disciples who wondered how would they be able to feed such a large crowd with so little food. Fr. Adam trusted our Lord and with the help of his dad and some Polish people found an available building that once served as a church. But it was empty building, no stained glass windows, no statues of saints, no holy water fonts, no altar or candles. I told Fr. Adam that about two years ago – he could have taken the contents of St. Casimir in Rochester, but those items were gone. Then the miracle occurred, Bishop Bernie in New Jersey had a church that had closed in Linden NJ. Fr, Adam inquired if the church had anything he could take with him to fill his new church. Bishop Bernie agreed and a plan was set in motion.
The five loaves and two fish became a baptismal font, stations of the cross, statures of St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother, a paschal candle holder, a pulpit, holy water fonts, even a tabernacle that somehow, he would have to figure out how to pry out of the marble altar. So, our young priest changed his flight plans and instead of visiting his parents in Chicago, which was his original plan -- He rerouted his plane ticket to fly to New Jersy. A parishioner from Las Vegas (Eric) would join him in New Jersey.
Adam is somewhat slight of build – about 5’4” and about 120 pounds – soaking wet!! I ddin’t think he’s be much help for Eric --- not to worry. Eric knows people in Yonkers, NY who operate a moving service. Again – something out of nothing!! The two men planned to rent a U-Haul truck and bring their new-found church supplies to the empty building and create a scared space that Fr. Adam would call his new church “Divine Mercy.”
Fr. Adam plans to start celebrating Mass in September when the building officially becomes church property. He still needs to find an altar, a sound system, computer, copier, chairs for the congregations and what he would like is a painting of the image of Jesus as Divine Mercy.
Only God knows where the two fish and five loaves of bread will become. From an abandoned church, his could become a campus for medicine and healing, a hospice or hospital, or a school for physically challenged children or recovery center for people with various addictions. I shared with Fr. Adam that there are many hurting people in the world and his sacred space would be a sign of hope that God is in our midst to bring comfort and strength to his community in Las Vegas. He shared that he liked that vison. We might pray that the Lord will bless this young priest and his new community that from so little, many will come to join this faith community. Like the multitude who followed Jesus and grew hungry, people would be fed with the Bread of Life and find a home that will bring them to the heart of Christ.
You get the point. Jesus Christ lives in you. With you, he can do extraordinary things because all things are possible. The five loaves and two fish didn’t look like much – yet the young boy offered them to Jesus. Don’t ever think that God can’t use your gift – meager or large to work miracles --- Take the 1st step and be bold!!
You just might plant a church in the middle of a desert – that will grow and flourish!!
16th Sunday OrdinaryFr. Matt Kawiak
REFLECTION: Miserable Shepherds
It’s raining outside and I am shepherd of piece of land that I can best described as an enchanted forest. Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother and St. Theresa I purchased an abandoned sugar maple forest that needed a shepherd.
I have trimmed thousands of grapevines to keep the trees from being strangled, Last Sunday afternoon while it was raining I decided to walk alongside a deer trail to pick up the litter and garbage from the past hundred years. You see if you are a shepherd of people or land, someone has to pick up the garbage. Along the path, I find rubber tubing, glass bottles, electric outlets and assorted pieces of plastic. The path is slanted, I need to be hugging the ground with a trash bag in one hand and my other hands grabbing onto a limb or tree truck to prevent from falling. As I follow the deer trail, it reminds me of Our Lord who as our Good Shepherd leads the way.
However, in the First Reading God thunders against the human shepherds who are failures at shepherding.
Every person has many of God’s children in their care.
Who are these miserable shepherds, these failures, with whom God is so indignant? Well, you can tell who they are by what God is angry at in them. They are the human beings who have not cared for the sheep, and those sheep are God’s people.
Well, what did the shepherds fail to do when they failed to care for the sheep?
They didn’t help the sheep get nurture; they drove the sheep away. They led the sheep in wrong directions. They scattered the sheep, so that instead of being one flock, the sheep were divided against each other into diverse small groups.
So, think about it this way.
Do you spend your time on foolish, frivolous things that help nobody? Do you babble about things in your family or church on Facebook that are not your business? Do you think you are caring for God’s people when you do this? Do you gossip and undermine the reputation of others? Do you sow discord in your neighborhood, in your church, in your family? Are you a divisive presence in your community? Do you think you are caring for God’s children when you are doing this stuff? This is like the trash that I was picking up in my enchanted forest. It had been here before I purchased the land put here by people who were not mindful that their actions would harm the land.
Surely no one of us is so stupid or ignorant as to suppose that God’s thundering against miserable shepherds is meant only for priests who aren’t good enough. We priestsread about our feet of clay everyday. However, that thundering is a warning for each one of us.
Every person has many of God’s children in his care. The people who collect your trash and recyclables on your street, the child in the row behind you who kicks your seat on the plane, the annoying non-stop talker at your dinner table, your grouchy parishioners who blame politicians for the Covid pandemic, your old and highly dependent mother-in-law, your very imperfect spouse—each of these is one of God’s children, and each of them is in your care—a little or maybe even a lot.
I had collected 40 pounds of trash when I came across a piece of wire on the ground, I pulled and another three feet came out of the ground. Next to this wire I spotted barbed wire wrapped around a tree trunk. I thought I had gotten rid of all the barbed wire. Yes, there always seems to be more trash that comes to the surface that needs to be removed. For this job, I would have to come back with some wire cutters to complete this cleanup.
I imagine that barbed wire is like all the people you are ask to shepherd especially, the ones that don’t bend and are hard to work with. But all things are possible with our Shepherd, whose grace we need to do it well.
Let us be more careful not to be miserable shepherds for him. You are welcomed to borrow my barbed wire cutters anytime if you need to remove some nasty habits and trash from your life. May Our Lord bless you with the humility to admit your weaknesses and may we be grateful for His mercy that inspires us to be the best of shepherds to those in our care and to one another in this cathedral.
15th Sunday Ordinary TimeFr. Matt Kawiak
REFLECTION: The Check is in the Mail
On the Fourth of July, my wife and I were invited to a picnic at my sister and brother’s in-laws’ home in Buffalo. Mary, my wife sister, brings out desserts and she is fantastic cookie baker. On the tray are a variety of cookies, so I reach for one and it was delicious. I ask what’s in the middle of the cookie and Mary responds “cinnamon.” Well, since I am in my “senior status” learning new hobbies, I asked for the recipe. Didn’t need rhubarb, but where does one find “cinnamon chips.” So off I search at TOPS in the baking section and wouldn’t you know it, they have chocolate chips, butterscotch and mint, but no cinnamon. Yes, there I go to Google and it says Wal Mart carries cinnamon chips, but once again I come up empty handed for they have a dozen variety of chips but no cinnamon. Lucky for me I know there’s a bakery supply store called Lori’s in the Rochester regional market. I ask the clerk and he immediately shows me a section with hundreds of jars that ontain all kinds if spices including to my delight cinnamon.
Today’s gospel is a challenge for some of Jesus closest friends, he tells his apostles, time to get going and spread the good news. Notice, he didn’t say advertise on TV, go on the internet, buy billboard space, organize a community fun festival to pack the synagogue. He simply sent his disciples to the villages and we learn that they are able to perform miracles.
Nice story you say, but what does that have to do with us. Don’t you know? Something that Jesus does in all his amazing miracle stories. He collaborates with humanity. He needs Mary to be born in her womb. He needs his disciples to pass around two fish and five loaves to feed five thousand hungry people. He sends his disciples out two by two to spread the good news of God’s love that comes through by their compassion for the sick and possessed.
You are being asked by God this morning to spread the good news and perform miracles. What is the miracle...to pack the pews with young faces who are lost, to bring families and their children to this place to find rest from their chaos of their lives. Believe me, just ask any young parent and they will tell you their life is a rat race.
But you have tried how many times in the past, and when you look around how do you feel? More like a failure. Sounds like Jesus from last week, he had performed amazing feats, brought a child back from the dead, healed the blind, forgave sinners and what’s the response of his neghbors in his own village. Rejection. Did he think he was a failure?
I had this idea that I would bake cinnamon cookies for all of you in church and hand them out after Mass. Following Mary’s recipe, I mixed the ingredients using the cinnamon chips, rolled them out into logs and placed them on the cookie tray into the oven. As I am making the second batch, Susan, my spouse, notices the chips and says are they the right kind for the recipe? So, the first batch of cookies are done and I pulled them out of the oven. I decide to taste one and sure enough, she is right. The clerk did not sell me cinnamon chips like chocolate chips, but these were hard like bark, the kind of you brew to make herbal tea. I never knew the difference and of course being a novice baker never checked. I had to throw out the whole batch of cookies and the ingredients and felt like a total failure. Maybe I need to give up baking anything. So what’s the lesson Jesus is trying to teach me this time.
What was Jesus response when he was not accepted by his neighbors, he simply left his village, told his disciples I need your help in spreading the good news, that’s collaboration. So, this morning, you are a disciple and Jesus is empowering you with the grace to invite people to come to our cathedral, despite the fact that we feel that we have tried and failed.
In the Second Reading, Paul says that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing and chosen us to be holy and without blemish before him. These are wonderful words, aren’t they? And some spiritual blessing that come to mind are: love, joy, peace, patience, long-suffering. So, what does Paul mean by saying that God has blessed us with all these good things?
To see the answer, imagine that you are desperately poor, unable to pay the medical bills, worried about the mortgage, afraid the car will give out, anxious because your recipe did not turn out as expected. And then you get a phone call: you have won the lottery. No, no, the caller says, it’s really true! You have won millions in the lottery. The state administrators of the lottery are now doing the paperwork, and by the end of next month the check will be in the mail.
Now what? Well, you still can’t pay the medical bills this month, and all the other bills are going to be a big problem, too. You are still desperately poor—this month. The problems are all still exactly the same, except that you know you have won the lottery. Your problems are not going to last. The check is in the mail.
This is what Paul is talking about. We are what we are now, but we have won the lottery of life. God’s grace works its way slowly in our lives, but his blessings are promised and sure. And so, our struggle with our sins and failures is not desperate, but hope-filled.
Hope is one of God’s spiritual blessings to us.
Instead of feeling like a failure, I use the wrong kind of cinnamon chips, the spiritual blessing we receive when we are desperate about life is to go and find the right kind of cinnamon chips and start baking again. When we worry that our pews are empty, we are given the spiritual grace to collaborate with God and spread the good news.
How do you do that? Here’s the recipe. When you’re having breakfast at the restaurant, you tell the server you just came back from church and invite them next week to join us. Or, call your kids and tell them we have some fantastic fun days planned and they are invited to join us. Next time, you are talking with your neighbors and relatives you tell them it time to come back to church and pray with us.
The challenge for me in making cinnamon chip logs was finding the cinnamon chips. it meant to persevere and keep on searching for the right ingredients. This morning I have a surprise for each of you. I persevered and found the right kind of cinnamon chips. Don’t leave without taking home a tasty treat that I made specially for you.
The ingredients I want you to leave with this morning is hope, faith and collaboration. As Jesus sent out his disciples into the villages, he is sending you out this morning into your neighborhoods to get the word out that Holy Mother of the Rosary is a joyful community and we want our relatives, our children, grandchildren and neighbors to taste the sweet word of God that promises eternal life.
Tell them, we have won the lottery at Holy Mother of the Rosary and we want them to share in our riches. On July 31st you are hosting a wonderful gathering, don’t make the mistake, a flyer won’t pack the grounds, Rather, God needs your collaboration to personally invite all your friends and neighbors to come and play and pray with us. So when you get home this morning, pick up that phone and start calling everyone on your contact list.