Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - CBy Fr. Gary Spencer
The words of the lawyer who tested Jesus are words that should be in our minds, and on our lips often. As a matter of fact, this question should always be in the forefront of our minds: “What must I do to gain eternal life?”
In our dioceses all of the priests receive a magazine called Emanuel that gives some insights on topics for homilies, as well as essays and other writings from various authors. In the May-June issue there was an article written by a Roman Catholic priest named Peter Schineller, titled, Love, and Believe What You Will. In it Father Schineller quotes from a book titled, The Discovery of God by Cardinal Henri de Lubac, One of the topics focused on were the Corporal Works of Mercy. To refresh your memory, the Corporal Works of Mercy are: Feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; shelter the homeless; visit the sick; visit those in prison; and, bury the dead. If you weren’t counting, there are seven corporal works of mercy. The gist of the article states that if we are to gain eternal life we must love one another and perform the Corporal Works of Mercy. How we respond to these questions Jesus asks of us will determine our eternal fate.
We first hear of these works from Jesus in His words as told in the Gospel of St. Matthew. He stated, “Come you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, Ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Jesus goes on to admonish those who did not do these things for Him telling them that they will have eternal punishment. Everyone listening to Jesus was a little confused and asked him when it was that he was hungry, thirty, a stranger, naked, sick, or in prison and they did, or failed to do, all these things? Jesus told them, and through the Gospel us, whatever you did for the least of my brothers or sisters you did for Me, and what ever you did not do for them, you did not do for Me. So if we do these works of mercy we inherit the kingdom; If we don’t, big trouble for eternity.
Our journey to eternal life begins with Baptism. Through baptism we become members of the Church, the Body of Christ, in which Jesus is the head. When one gets baptized he or she receives a special grace from God called Sanctifying Grace. This is the special Grace God bestows that is the key to the kingdom.
The second part, so to speak, of the Sacrament of Baptism is Confirmation. At Confirmation in the Catholic Church we receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and these gifts, in turn, perfect the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. It’s interesting how all these things are connected. Of the three virtues (Faith, Hope, and Love) St. Paul tells us that Love is the greatest. When the lawyer asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus answers him by asking him a question. He asks, “What is written in the Law?” The lawyer responds by reciting what we refer to as the Two Commandments of Love: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus tells him that he is correct, but this Scholar of the Law is trying to test Our Lord, so he asks him another question: “And who is my neighbor?” You see, in ancient Israel your neighbor was another Jew. Everyone else didn’t count. In the Book of Leviticus it is written, “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countryman. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So to answer the neighbor question Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, and makes the lawyer answer his own question, again. The neighbor of the Jewish victim in this story was a Samaritan – a people despised by the Jews because they were considered to be impure. Yet, because of the love this Samaritan had for his fellow man, even though he didn’t know who this victim was, because the man was naked and beaten bloody, he had mercy on him and probably saved his life. He had mercy on this stranger because he had love, and one of the fruits of love is mercy. Its all connected.
So it is through Love that we inherit eternal life. Love of God and love of neighbor. I think John and Paul hit the nail on the head when they wrote, “All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.” Oh ya. These men, of course, are not the saints they were named after, but their words are meaningful just the same, in this context anyway.
Today, when you receive the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus, when He is in you and you are in Him, ask Him to increase within you your love for Him, for your family, and for your neighbor. [Also, pray that you never loose sight of who your neighbor is: For it is how we love our neighbor that signifies to the world how we really love God.
Remember, we will be judged one day not by what doctrine we follow or what creed we confess, but rather by how we love God and one another.
14th Sunday in Ordinary TimeBy Fr. Gary Spencer
Again, this week, we find Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. As a kind of an advance team, Jesus sends out 72 specially chosen disciples. Jesus gives them specific instructions pertaining to what they should wear, eat, say, etc. to people they encounter in the various towns and villages they pass through.
The first thing Jesus tells the 72 to do when they enter someone’s house is to say, “Peace to this household.” Jesus, God the Son, wants to spread His offer of peace to everybody because of His love for each and every one of us.
Now, while we have not been chosen by Jesus in the same manner the 72 were we are still His disciples none-the-less.
As Christians, Our Lord Jesus instills in our hearts His Peace. Every time we pray; every time we attend Mass we receive Christ’s Peace. Sometimes, however, we feel a little spiritually run down. Maybe we even find ourselves praying the Our Father or Hail Mary without thinking about what we are saying. Kind of on cruise control. What we need to d is refocus our prayer life and we can do this at Mass.
Attending Mass is important for us if we want to deepen our prayer life and renew our spiritual strength.
In his book, The Lamb’s Supper, Dr. Scott Hahn states, “Of all things Catholic, there is nothing so familiar as the Mass. With its timeless prayers, hymns, and gestures, the Mass is like home to us. Yet most Catholics will go a lifetime without seeing beyond the surface of memorized prayers. Few will glimpse the powerful supernatural drama they enter into every Sunday. Pope John Paul II has called the Mass “heaven on earth,” explaining that “the liturgy we celebrate on earth is a mysterious participation in the heavenly liturgy.”
During the Mass the priest, who stands in for Jesus, re-presents the Last Supper and the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. And because Jesus is spiritually and physically with us during the Mass we all participate, once again, in the sacrificial gift Jesus gave us when He walked the earth. Every time we participate in the sacrifice of the Mass we have the opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries.
I ask you all to do this spiritual exercise: After you receive the Eucharist at Mass today, when you get back to your pew, close your eyes, feel Jesus’ Peace within you, and tell Him in your heart of hearts all the things you ever wanted to say to Him. He will be with you – right inside you. You and Jesus will be in Holy Communion with each other, so talk to Him. This will help bring your prayer life to the next level because you will see how easy it is to talk with Jesus, and you will be so comfortable doing it that you will do it more and more.
Jesus wants us to be comfortable, too, when we talk to others about Him and about what He teaches and promises us. As comfortable and peaceful as when you tell someone about your children, grandchildren, your family, or your close friends.
So, talk to Jesus and He and His Holy Spirit will help you be like one of the 72 He sent out ahead to prepare His way. Be strong, and may Christ’s Peace be with you.
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - CBy Fr. Gary Spencer
Today we meet Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. The Gospel reading begins a unique section of the Gospels, found only in Luke, where Jesus sets his sight on Jerusalem, the place of his suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus and his disciples were up around the Sea of Galilee and were to return to Jerusalem by way of Samaria. At that time there was bad blood between the Jews and Samaritans. The Samaritans, after being conquered by the Assyrians, intermarried with them and so the Jews considered the Samaritans to be impure, being a mixed race. This made it risky for a Samaritan to travel through Jewish territory, and a Jew to travel through Samaritan territory. Considering the animosity between the two groups it is no wonder the Samaritan’s did not welcome Jesus and his disciples. James and John want to punish the Samaritans by calling down fire from heaven, just as Elijah had done when the King of Samaria sent his men to capture him. But Jesus rebukes them for forgetting his doctrine of love, and they journey to another village instead. Jesus has a clear mission: to proclaim the Kingdom of God through his suffering and death. The mission of the disciples is also clear: to continue to proclaim the Kingdom after Jesus’ mission is complete.
Through the journey narratives St. Luke is encouraging Christians to live their lives as a journey with the Lord. This journey, however, can at times be uncomfortable, and inhospitable. Jesus warns, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” But Jesus’ journey had a purpose, and so does ours: Ultimately, our journey on earth should take us to the place where all lives have meaning and purpose. And that place is the Kingdom of God. To make this journey is to walk with Jesus.
Jesus never ceased inviting people to follow him on his journey. However, some of the people Jesus invited weren’t as enthusiastic as Jesus hoped they would be. One person invited to follow Our Savior responds, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” This person wants to put off the call to follow until later in life. This person’s father did not just die. The father is still alive, but elderly. First having to bury his or her father means that the person wants to wait several years until he or she is ready to join Jesus. The only trouble is, for that person and for us, is that Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem now! He calls now, and if we don’t follow, then the Lord may pass us by.
When Jesus invites us to follow how can we tell him to wait? He did not wait when His time came, even though he knew what was in store for him. He did not hesitate to die on the Cross so we could have everlasting life. You know, when we feel the need to be closer to God, or to help someone in need, or to stand up for moral principles, that’s the Lord calling us to follow Him now!
Oh, it’s easy to say, “I’ll do it later.” The trouble is that very often later never comes. How many times in our lives did we put off things we should have done? Perhaps we never went to visit a sick relative, friend or neighbor. Then that man or woman died. Maybe we intended to volunteer to help at a homeless shelter or food pantry at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but we procrastinate and before you know it the opportunity has passed. Or perhaps we wanted to set aside time everyday for prayer, but never got around to it. Now we feel spiritually drained. We can all look back on times we didn’t answer the Lord’s call.
Being a true disciple of Jesus is to be a special type of person indeed. I heard a story a few years back that demonstrated the type of person it takes to be a disciple of Jesus. It was during a time of war, and Christians were undergoing persecution. The Catholics in one village gathered for Mass in their church. Suddenly, the doors to the church burst open and standing in the doorway was a soldier carrying a machine gun. He shouted, “If you do not believe in your Christ, get out now for the time of reckoning has come.” A number of people slinked out one by one. After the last one left, the soldier slammed the doors shut and said to the remaining people, “I too believe in Jesus. We are better off without the one’s that left.”
None of those terrified people who remained in that church had looked back. Rather, they wanted to move forward at all costs into the Kingdom. None of them were fair weather disciples. Each was in it for the long haul, just as you and I must be. At the Eucharist today ask Jesus to give you the faith, strength and dedication to always heed His call to follow Him wherever He may lead you.
Today’s Gospel is a call to Christian action. But the Lord is not just standing on some street corner calling us. He’s on His way to Jerusalem! Like an old time train conductor he’s yelling, “All aboard”, and if we don’t hop on that train now we may never get to that place where our lives have meaning and purpose.
Trinity Sunday CBy Fr. Gary Spencer
At the heart of our Christian faith is the belief in the Holy Trinity – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although this concept, this truth, is hard to understand, we believe in the Holy Trinity because we are followers of Jesus Christ, and Jesus told us about Our Father in heaven, and how He and the Father are One. And Jesus also told us that He would send us His Holy Spirit who would help us understand some of the Mysteries of our Triune God. Through our Faith we believe this to be true, yet it is still hard to wrap our minds around God being three persons in one.
I don’t know if you know this, but the word Trinity is not even used in Holy Scripture. Jesus does, however, speak of the Holy Trinity, especially so in the Gospel of Matthew when He says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” We can also find evidence of the Holy Trinity at the Baptism of Jesus where the Father declares that Jesus is His Son, and the Holy Spirit descends from heaven like a dove.
We also hear about the Father and Son and how they are united, and we hear about the Spirit and His powers, but not how the three persons of the trinity are connected.
Another problem with understanding the Trinity is that the concept is so hard to explain in simple language. For example, the Father, Son, and HS are three persons in one God. All three are God, therefore, all three have always been and will always be. Yet, when we think of a son, we think of the son as being younger than the father. Not so with our Triune God. But, if the second person of the Trinity, the Son, is not younger than the Father, how does one explain that? How can He be the Son? In nature, the father is always older than the son simply because a human being cannot start generating, or procreating, the moment he exists; he must wait till he develops to the point where he can generate. But God didn’t have to wait for a certain amount of eternity to roll by before He matured and was able to generate offspring. With God there is no time as we know it. Eternity is an abiding now; and our Triune God has all perfection in His fullness, not needing to develop. Merely by being God, He knows Himself with infinite knowing power, and utters His total self-knowledge in the totally adequate idea of Himself which is His co-eternal Son. So now you understand how the Father and the Son can be co-eternal with no beginning and no end. No? Well, don’t feel like you’re alone. Let’s just say that God, most aspects of God anyway, is beyond our comprehension.
The God who is beyond our comprehension is also the God who reached down into our shameless, sinful world in order to save us. And, God isn’t gracious and merciful to us as a reward for acknowledging Him. No, God extends His mercy and grace to us even in our sinfulness. It is by the grace of God alone that we are saved from the abyss. God’s saving grace transforms us and we grow in faith and love, and in doing so we end up doing good works – bearing good fruit.
St. Paul tells us that we have peace with God through Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and that we have hope in God because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The three Persons working as One!
So, while we may never understand fully how God can be three persons in one God, we can fully know that our Triune God loves us and wants us to be with Him in heaven, and we can know the sacrifice He made for us because He loves us.
This week let us call on the power of the Holy Spirit to give us the words, and the courage, to tell others about the love and mercy of our heavenly Father, about how Jesus Christ died so we could live, and about God the Holy Spirit who is there to advocate for us and guide us on our journey to the kingdom. Amen.
Seventh Sunday of Easter - Cycle CBy Fr. Gary Spencer
We humans are really a strange lot, especially when it comes to processing information. When we are young it is said that our brains are like sponges soaking up all kinds of information and knowledge. When we grow older it is said that our minds transform from sponges to cement. We become hard headed. Personally, I don’t think that is true. I believe that we humans can keep on learning even if we live to be over a hundred years old. We can keep learning, that is, if we want to. Some of us, however, don’t want to. We might want to convey the image that we are still learning, still seeking the truth, but because learning and seeking the truth requires work, many people just listen to what others say and repeat it, believing, I guess, that whatever the other person said is the truth. What is even worse is that some folk don’t want to know the truth. They go with whatever conforms to their own ideas and because that is the way they think, statements are never challenged and the truth is never fully revealed.
It was that way back when Jesus and the Apostles walked the earth. Jesus told everyone who listened to His words that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that He and the Father are One. Not only did Jesus tell His listeners about Himself and His Father in heaven, but He performed great signs – miracles – proofs that should have convinced even the most skeptical person that what He was preaching, what He was telling everyone was true. But, some people don’t want to hear the truth.
Today, we don’t have Jesus with us the way he was with us 2000 yrs ago. Jesus is not out walking from Buffalo to Batavia and all points in between, for example, performing miracles that attest to His oneness with the Father. All we have is the testimony of the men and women who witnessed Jesus’ miracles, especially His resurrection and ascension, and the words of people like you and I who heard about what Jesus did and said and believe with our whole hearts that Our Savior is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You know what another stumbling block is besides not wanting to work to find the truth? Self-centeredness!
Self-centeredness is a big obstacle to knowing the truth because when people are full of themselves there is no room for anything else. If someone convinces themselves that everything they have, that every good thing that takes place in their life is their own doing, their ego is so big that there is no room for humility, generosity, or love. Why there’s not even room for God in their life. I’ve mentioned this before, and will mention it many more times as a preacher: and that is in a former life of mine I was very involved in sport / martial art of Judo. Judo has three main philosophies which are: Minimum effort / maximum efficiency; mutual welfare and benefit; and to learn Judo one must empty his/her tea cup.
The first two are rather self-explanatory, so let me explain about emptying one’s tea cup. If I invite you for tea and when we sit down you pull out your own tea bag and fill your cup with your tea, how can you know what my tea tastes like. In other words, if you go to a dojo (judo training hall) and think you know everything thee is to know about judo then your tea cup is full. How can you learn Judo, or anything, if you think you have all the answers? You cannot learn anything new if you will not allow room for any new ideas. Those Jews that stoned Stephen didn’t empty their tea cups for Jesus, and certainly didn’t empty them for Stephen. They were so closed minded that that they didn’t even want to hear what Stephen had to say. St. Luke, the author of Acts, states that the men who stoned Stephen covered their ears so they would not hear what Stephen was telling them, and then they rushed him and killed him.
We can only hope and try to get our unbelieving and apathetic brothers and sisters to spill just a little tea out of their cups – making just enough room for some of God’s blessings to fill the void in their lives, thereby opening themselves up to the kind of faith that will compel them to empty their cups completely. Once empty, God will fill them with the Holy Spirit and their lives will be transformed.
Remember Jesus’ prayer in today’s Gospel reading: “Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but for those who will believe in me through their words…” The “them” who Jesus is praying for are all of us who believe that what Jesus taught is the truth, and He prays also for those that come to believe through our words to them. What that means is that every one of us is called to be an evangelist. To spread the Word of God to all who are in need of His graces.
This is a mighty big and difficult task for us, but we can succeed if we pray for help from the Holy Spirit. With the help of God we will succeed in pulling the hands of the unfaithful away from their ears, so they can hear the message of salvation through Christ Jesus. And even if we are stoned verbally when we attempt to spread the Good News, fear not, because we will receive special graces from God just for trying.
In John’s vision Jesus tells him that He is coming soon, and He is bringing recompense, giving each according to their deeds. So, my sisters and brothers, let our deeds be righteous, and our words be true, always giving glory to God. Who knows, maybe our words and deeds will be enough to convince some in need of God in their lives to uncover their ears, empty their tea cups, and open their hearts to God. This is the will of God, so let us all speak the Good News with courage, and when our end comes, like St. Stephen, we can face it with peace and joy.
Fifth Sunday of Easter CBy Fr. Gary Spencer
“I give you a new commandment: love one another.” John.
As I read today’s scripture readings I noticed that all of them spoke of something “new.” In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we heard that Paul and Barnabas made many new disciples in Derbe (No. Not Derby by Angola. This Derbe was a city in what is now Turkey.) And after returning from Derbe Saints Paul and Barnabas traveled all over preaching the Good News - bringing in many more new disciples.
The Good News they were preaching was that through Jesus we have eternal life, eternal love, and eternal joy.
In the second reading St. John tells us that there will be a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ where we will all live with God and the angels and saints; a place so wonderful that it is hard, really, for us to comprehend or imagine it.
We can’t comprehend what heaven is like now, but there will come a time when we will. Often, at weddings, one of the readings is from the 13th Chapter of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It’s a very short chapter and it’s just packed with insights about love and life. Near the end of the chapter St. Paul speaks of how we understand God and the kingdom of heaven now, and how we will understand when we finally get to heaven. St. Paul says, “For now I see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” You may wonder what that has to do with understanding God and heaven? Well, when we read these letters and other scripture we must take into account not only what the meaning of certain words are, but take into account cultural aspects and lifestyles as well. Back in the first century mirrors weren’t like they are today. When we look at ourselves in a mirror our reflection is sharp and bright. If we get close enough we can see every pore in our skin. Back then mirrors were just polished pieces of metal. You can see yourself, but not very clearly. You could even say that you see yourself dimly in that type of mirror. When St. Paul next says, “…but then face to face” what he means is that when we see others face to face we see them clearly, in high definition. Quite a difference from the low definition image reflected off of an ancient mirror. What St. Paul is saying is that we kind of know a little about life, love, and God now, but when we get to heaven it will all be crystal clear. St. Paul finishes off this section of his letter by saying, “so faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”
Love IS the greatest virtue. Love is so important for us, and to Jesus, that He gave us a New Commandment to love one another as He loves us. That, my sisters and brothers, is a hard commandment to follow. I ask you, ‘Who can love as Jesus loved?’ Jesus loves us so much, after all, that He willingly accepted torture and death by being nailed to a cross with large, crude iron nails, so we could be saved from the great abyss. A hard commandment to follow to a tee, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try! God knows we are all sinners. God knows we are just weak people. But, God knows everything, including when we try our best to do what is right. When we try our hardest to love and forgive our friends and those close to us, we are trying to do what is right, and God sees this. But Jesus also wants us to try to do even more; He wants us to love and forgive our enemies too. We may not always succeed, but we must try, especially to forgive, because in forgiveness there is love. You know, if someone does something to us, or if they look different then us, or speak with a different accent, or their hair is a different texture, it is often hard to show our love to that person. But through prayer and meditation we can learn to overcome our human prejudices, even if only a little at a time.
This week, let us all try our best to love as Jesus loved. If we start with the people closest to us soon our love will spread like the concentric circles formed when a pebble is thrown into a pond. Eventually, this love will spread even to touch our enemies. So, let us all try to live this New Commandment from Our Lord. It won’t be easy, but if we pray for help and guidance from the Holy Spirit, forgive one another, and soften our hearts, we will all have a newness of spirit and a new outlook on this life, and the life to come, and will bring us closer to our goal of loving one another as Jesus loves us.
The Fourth Sunday of EasterBy Fr. Gary Spencer
This is a strange time we live in. People don’t seem to get along like they used to. Used to be people had more trust in their neighbors and gave one another the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. That trust in neighbor seems to have flown out the door. It seems just about every week there is a story in the news about neighbors calling the police on each other for ridicules things like having a barbeque at a public park, or because someone is not speaking English, or because of how someone is dressed or because of their attire.
On a lesser scale we see arguments erupt between friends over the smallest disagreements. And talking politics nowadays will definitely bring out the nasty in people.
On second thought maybe my memory is faulty. Maybe it just seems like people used to be more friendly and trusting. Looking back throughout recorded history it is amazing, and sad really, how people have treated one another. A look back through time reveals that people have been treating one another poorly, rudely, and very often with cruelty and malice since history was first recorded. Jesus too experienced this sort of treatment right in the town where he grew up. Part of the problem stems from people jumping to conclusions instead of calmly thinking things out. I know I have been guilty of doing this, and it’s something many of us need to change.
The people in the synagogue in Nazareth made some hasty decisions regarding Jesus too. They figured that they knew who Jesus was, and decided that he couldn’t possibly be the fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah. Isn’t he the son of Joseph, they asked? So how could he possibly be anything more than that kid we knew growing up? The carpenter’s son.
They jumped to a quick conclusion and in doing so missed out on a ton of love and grace they could have received had they just opened their minds and hearts to Jesus. They had closed hearts and closed minds, so they could neither give or receive love or knowledge, and all the blessings that come with them. I have a bumper sticker that reads, “Minds are like parachutes – they only work when open.” I would guess that hearts are like that too!
Therefore, in order for all of us to be better Catholic Christians, we must never close our minds to the voice of God or neighbor, and we must open our hearts in order to give, and receive, love.
Ch. 13 of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we heard part of it in our second reading, tells us what love is, and is not, and gives us the ideal way to relate to others.
“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Reading this beautiful description of love reminds me that I fall short of loving as I should love. All of us can see how well, or how badly, we measure up by omitting the word, “love,” in this passage and inserting words for ourselves in its place. Here’s how it goes: I am patient and kind; I am not jealous or boastful; I am not arrogant or rude. I do not insist on my own way; I am not irritable or resentful; I do not rejoice in wrong, but rejoice in the right. I bear all things, hope all things, endure all things.
Does that describe you? I know I fall short. If this little test doesn’t describe you then ask Jesus to help you love the way He loves. Ask Him when he is present here this morning in the Holy Eucharist. But to hear His answer we must open our hearts and minds. God will help us to be better people because He loves us more than we can ever imagine.
This week, keep the description of love in your thoughts and try your hardest to love as Jesus wants us to. Being a good Christian is a full time job, not just something we do on Sunday, so instead of trying to shove Jesus off of a cliff we must open our arms and embrace Him, and His love will lead us on the path to eternal bliss.
Third Sunday of EasterBy Fr. Gary Spencer
Did you ever do something and feel funny about it? Something in public that you maybe don’t normally do, and after doing it you feel so embarrassed you try to make excuses about it? That happened to me once while marching next to the Cathedral Dancers float at the Pulaski Day parade. It was hot and misting rain on and off and I was dressed in a wool Polish mountaineers costume that, once it was damp, smelled like an old goat. Anyway the parade stopped almost in front of the grandstand on Harlem Rd. when the leader of the Polish Dancers here at HMRC, Michelle, grabbed me and informed me we were going to Polka! Terror flashed through my mind; I don’t really know how to polka, I thought. But polka we did, or at least she did. When the music stopped I was so embarrassed, and relieved, but mostly embarrassed at my attempt at dancing the polka. I kind of knew the basics, but I am in the company of many Polish people, and seasoned polka dancers, who were watching me hop around in my goat-wool costume not knowing what in the world I was doing. I kept saying that I didn’t know how to polka hoping Michelle would have mercy on me, but there was polka music playing, so off we went. It was like being in an old Twilight Zone TV episode. I half expected to see Rod Serling out of the corner of my eye, holding a cigarette and explaining to everyone my predicament. But, for the sake of the float I marched, or should I say ‘hopped’ on.
Unfortunately, when it comes time to give thanks to Our Heavenly Father, for many of us, circumstances dictate our actions. Even little things like saying grace in public before meals makes some people feel uneasy. Some even make excuses for not giving thanks.
Those Apostles we heard about in our first reading certainly weren’t afraid to give thanks to God, and they were facing some serious consequences. The Apostles were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they couldn’t help but extol the graces of God and the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
We can be filled with the Holy Spirit too! All we have to do is pray for God the Holy Spirit to touch us with Godly grace, and we too could have the courage of the Apostles to always and everywhere give thanks to the Lord.
You know, maybe if I practiced dancing the polka more I wouldn’t be self-conscience of polkaing in public. And maybe if all of us would practice praying to God the Holy Spirit we might be more comfortable about giving thanks to God no matter the place or circumstance. When you think about it other people in other religions aren’t ashamed to be who they are in public. I regularly see Jewish men wearing yarmulke, and Muslim women wearing hajibs, so why should Christians be uncomfortable about showing their love of God no matter what they are doing? As a matter of fact, one cold Sunday earlier this year my wife, Donna, and I were walking around McKinley mall for exercise when we went down one of the now dead end sections where an anchor store used to be and witnessed a woman on a prayer rug deep in prayer. In the mall! She didn’t seem to be embarrassed one bit.
So my dear friends pray to God the Holy Spirit for help in being the best Christian you can be right now, and never feel uncomfortable about giving thanks and showing your love of God no matter where you are. I will leave you with a quote from a sign I saw in an antique shop regarding God being everywhere. It read, “Wash your hands and say your prayers because Jesus and germs are everywhere!”
The Second Sunday of EasterBy Fr. Gary Spencer
The Apostles are witnesses that we rely on to give us proof of Jesus’ Passion, death, and Resurrection . They are the ones who testify, by their words and deeds, that what we know from the New Testament is the truth. Yet, the Apostles, even though Jesus told them repeatedly that He was going to be put to death and in three days rise up again, didn’t understand what occurred on Easter morning. All, that is, except John. When John got to the tomb on that first Easter morning and saw that it was empty and that the burial cloths were strewn about, he knew what had happened because he alone remembered Jesus’ words. The Gospel states, “He saw and believed.”
Eventually, all the remaining Apostles saw the resurrected Jesus and all believed. And what did Jesus tell them after His encounter with Thomas? “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
So all of us present here today, and Christians throughout the world who believe in Jesus Christ, who believe that Jesus died and rose from the grave are “blessed”.
Many of us believe, but don’t really know why. This is what we were taught in Catechism class, and because we received the Holy Spirit through our baptisms, we believe because that same Holy Spirit opened our hearts to these truths. It is because of the Holy Spirit within us that we believe with all our mind, with all our heart, and with all our strength that Jesus is God the Son – one being with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
And as I said, we first received the Holy Spirit through baptism. The Apostles received the Holy Spirit like us through baptism, but also received the Holy Spirit through Jesus when he breathed on them, and again on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on them as tongues of fire. This triple blessing of being touched by the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the ability to be conduits of Gods miraculous powers. It also gave them the courage, first of all, to come out of hiding after the Crucifixion, to preach God’s Word and heal the sick, and to withstand torture and death rather than proclaim anything other than the truth about Our Lord and Savior.
All of us gathered here today are also disciples of Jesus Christ, and we are, therefore, commissioned to tell others about the truths and Good News of the Gospels.
You know, the Apostles were persecuted for spreading the Word of God because they were confronted by people who didn’t know Jesus, and didn’t want to know Him, and today is really no different. More and more people are turning away from God, and want others to join them. These people are atheists and they don’t just want others to not believe in God too, they hate God. They confuse the teachings of Jesus with the actions of bad men throughout Christian history. Men who disregarded Jesus’ command to love one another, and instead perpetrated many bad crimes in His name; crimes for which they surely received their just judgment before God.
So we, my sisters and brothers, being disciples of Jesus, have a big task to carry out, but with the help of the Holy Spirit we can do it! We can do it not by preaching on a street corner or by going from house to house, but we can spread the Gospel through our actions. Remember what St. Francis was purported to have said, “Preach the Gospel always, and use words when you have to.”
Whenever we are in the presence of Our Lord, especially in the Eucharist, we must ask Him fro help from the Holy Spirit to have the courage of the Apostles and Christian martyrs, and the words to proclaim the Gospel, that we might shine Christ’s light on a world that seems to be covered more and more in darkness. With Jesus’ help and guidance from the Holy Spirit our words and deeds of love will get through to those who do not know, or have turned their backs on God. So let us go forth in the Peace of Christ reminding all that there is more to life then this little time we have on earth, that salvation comes from God, and that blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.
"Joyfully Remembered, Already Missed!"Bishop Thaddeus Peplowski 1936 - 2018
The Right Rev. Thaddeus S. Peplowski, Bishop Emeritus of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese of the Polish National Catholic Church, died Friday in the Macauley Residence, Town of Tonawanda, after nine months of declining health. He was 81
Bishop Peplowski was born on Nov. 4, 1936, in Albany, the son of Joseph and Sophia (Zalenski) Peplowski, and baptized in the Polish National Catholic Church. As a youth, he received his Catholic education at Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Albany and his formal education in the Albany public education system.
He entered the Savonarola Theological Seminary, in Scranton, PA, in September 1954, and completed a four year course of study. He was ordained to priesthood on May 15, 1958 by Most Rev. Leon Grochowski. His first assignment was, ironically, at the parish he is serving presently, the Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral, which he served for nine years. Of his first assignment in Buffalo he stressed involvement with the youth of the parish, and organized a strong Youth Club of whom members are still very active in the parish.
After leaving Buffalo he was assigned to All Saints Parish in Rome, New York and St. Joseph Parish in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, until 1971. After those assignments he organized the St. Barbara Parish in Houtzdale, PA, and stayed there until 1990 when he was assigned to the Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral in Buffalo which he served until his retirement in 2012.
He was elevated to the office of Monsignor (Senior Priest) in July 1982 by Most Rev. John Swantek and served as the dean of the Central Deanery of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese. He was elected a bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church at the 19th General Synod of the Polish National Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada. On Nov. 30, 1995 he was consecrated bishop by Most Rev. John Swantek, and installed as Ordinary of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh diocese on the same day at Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral.
During his time as priest and bishop, he was responsible in organizing several parishes that include St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Canada in 1969, St. Barbara Parish in Houtzdale in 1970, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Lilly, PA, in 1995. Later he organized St. Martin & Rose Parish and Annunciation Parish, both in San Antonio, TX, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mesa, AZ, Transfiguration Parish in Mt. Pleasant, PA, in 2003, Our Lady of Good Health in Dallas, TX, and St. Anne Parish in New Millport, PA, with the last two in 2008.
He has performed mission work at St. Thomas Mission in Tyrone, PA, Blessed Sacrament Mission in Fayetteville, NC, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Denver, CO, and Holy Cross Mission in Pe Ell, WA. Mission work was also performed in North and South Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Canada. Mission work over ten years was done with the Nordic Catholic Church which had eight parishes in Norway where he served as its Missionary Bishop.
He instituted many items of importance, that exist to this day, such as the National Youth Convocations, first held in Buffalo in 1964, Altar Boy Retreats, Diocesan Basketball Tournaments, Youth Tours to Poland where he served four times as Youth Chaplain, the Diocesan Holy Mount Retreat Program, and helped to establish the bi-annual Music Workshop of the United Choirs of the PNCC.
His other activities in the Polish National Catholic Church are: representative in the Old/Orthodox Dialogue Commission, which produced the book, “Road to Unity,” served for six years on the Dialogue Commission with the Roman Catholic Church, which produced “Journeying Together in Christ,” signed a Convenant agreement between the Buffalo Roman Catholic Diocese and the PNCC Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese with Bishop Edward Head, taught Liturgy for five years at the Savonarola Seminary, and authored a “Handbook on Liturgy” in 1981, for students and priests of the Polish National Catholic Church. He then was appointed to chair the PNCC/Orthodox Dialogue Commission.
He directed a Polish Cultural Program in Houtzdale which included weekly Polish language and pisanki classes. He directed Polish dance groups that performed in Buffalo, Cheektowaga, in Poland, in the State Education Building in Harrisburg, PA, and many other performances in New York State, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and at the rededication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty. While serving on the board of directors of the Polish National Union for eight years the Bishop Hodur Center was built, and a new office was constructed.
However his biggest achievement, as far as his present parishioners are concerned, was the building of the multi-million dollar cathedral complex, located on Broadway in Lancaster. His foresight, courage, guidance, and inspiration were essential to the successful completion of this project.
During his 50 years in the priesthood he has traveled extensively, and has visited Poland fourteen times, Holland, Germany, Italy on several occasions, Switzerland, England, Greece, Turkey, Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. He has had an audience with Pope John Paul II in 1992 and met with the Patriarch, Bartholomew II in Istanbul, Turkey. At one time Bishop Peplowski had a private pilot’s license, and wishes he still had it to help him in his journeys.
His many recent awards include the General Pulaski Association of the Niagara Frontier Recognition of his spiritual guidance to Polonia in 2002, the Polish National Union of America award in recognition of many years of dedicated service in 1999, the Diocesan Union of Holy Name Societies (Roman Catholic) Ecumenical Award for outstanding work for God, church and community in 1993, the 1991 Am-Pol Eagle Citizen of the Year Award in the religion category, the 2005 Am-Pol Eagle Citizen Award in the heritage category, and the Buffalo Bisons and the Polish Community of WNY award of Polish American Citizen of the Year award in 2006. He is listed in Strathmore’s Who’s Who in 2006-2007.
On June 7, 2008 Bishop Peplowski was honored at the Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral, in Lancaster, the See of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese, bishop, pastor, and spiritual leader on his 50th anniversary of priesthood. He retired in 2012.
The parishioners of Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral know how blessed we were to have Bishop Peplowski as our pastor and spiritual leader. While our hearts are deeply saddened in his passing, it was our greatest honor to know and love him.
God bless you Bishop Peplowski or Bishop Pep as we fondly referred to him, you will remain forever in our hearts!