31st Sunday in Ordinary TimeBy Fr. Gary Spencer
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These, Jesus’ commandments of love, are taken from the Gospel of St. Mark.
As Christians our goal, ultimately, is to get to heaven; and so most Christians strive to achieve this goal. Let us all keep in mind, however, that we get to heaven one-way and one-way alone: By the grace of God. God’s grace is a free gift to us and is not something that we can earn. But, Jesus tells us through the Gospels that we can get near the kingdom of God by having faith, and by understanding His teachings and following them.
In a nutshell, Jesus teaches us that we must love God with everything we’ve got, and love all of our sisters and brothers here on earth. We must feast on the Lamb of God, we must seek forgiveness from our sins, and we must do corporal works of mercy.
These two commandments of love we heard in today’s gospel are proof that God loves us and wants us to be with Him in Heaven. But these commandments are also proof that God wants us all to get along!
I was just reading some thoughts about loving God by a Benedictine Monk who said that loving God is both hard and easy. He said that loving God is hard because God is not with us, not present, in a way that the person right next to you is. Physically present as Jesus was to the Apostles. So, due to an out of sight; out of mind type of thing our love for God is dampened down. The monk then turns around and says that it is easy to love God because He is not here, in our sight, telling us how we should love Him, so we can love Him more innocently, like a child faithfully loves God.
Isn’t it harder though, to love our neighbor than to love God? Jesus tells us that everyone we come into contact with is our neighbor, but so many people are so different from us. They’re not like us. It’s hard to like people who are different from us, let alone love them. Yet, this is what Jesus teaches us, and wants us to do.
We can do what Jesus teaches us to do because love is infectious. If we can expose people we meet to love, brotherly and sisterly love, they will catch it too, and there are a lot of ways to spread love. Just being courteous to others is one way. Trying never to be negative when we speak to others is another. Helping anyone in need is another. Encouraging someone when they are unsure, or praying with someone who needs God’s help are some of the ways we can spread love to our neighbors. We also have to stop thinking that because someone is different from us that we must distrust or suspect them. We have to stop thinking that way because distrust and suspicion breed fear, and when people are full of fear they forget about God, and the love of Christ.
If we all allow Christ’s love to flow from us to everyone we meet we will be united by His love to one another because that same love will be our “common good”.
I have this book at home with saying from kids on how to live our lives, and one of these sayings really struck home. It was said by a young lady named Christina, age 10. She said, “Just because God makes us different doesn’t mean He wants us to fight about it.” Boy, out of the mouth of babes.
So, my sisters and brothers, Jesus calls us to love God and love our neighbor. Let’s listen to Him, and in listening to Him only good things can happen. Who knows, by the power of God’s love we might even change the world.
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - BBy Fr. Gary Spencer
Most of us gathered here today tend to forget that like Bartimaeus, the blind beggar in today’s Gospel reading, we too can call on the Lord and ask Him to have pity on us. We, of course, must be humble in the same way Bartimaeus was when we call out in prayer to God, but we also must exhibit the same courage the blind man showed when he refused to be shut up by those around him. Everyday we must have this courage to pray to the Lord and ask him for what is lacking in our lives. I’m sure many people ask Our Lord for things like good general health, for food, for comfort, for help with personal problems, etc., and that’s fine. But, we can also ask God to increase our faith, hope, and love. Perhaps too often we forget to have this sort of conversation with God.
The prophet Jeremiah, who we heard from in our first reading today, tells us in a very clear manner that God is our Father and that He loves us very much. Like our earthly fathers, God wants to care for us and tend to our every need, and all He asks is that we turn to Him when we need help. What could be easier than to turn to God when we have problems, yet so many of us try to handle everything by ourselves. I don’t know whether it is pride or ignorance that keeps us from asking Our Heavenly Father for help, but it seems that more often than not we overlook, or forget, that God is there for us. Again, all we have to do is ask.
In the Letter to the Hebrews we are reminded that Jesus is our high priest and is there to intercede on our behalf with the Father. Jesus is God made man, and therefore understands what we humans go through day in and day out. And because He understands us so fully Christ is compassionate and will help us if we truly believe that He will.
Bartimaeus is the perfect example for us in this regard. He wanted healing so badly that he called out to Jesus for help even though others were trying to silence him. That’s the way we must be. We must call out to Jesus. We must do so, however, with humility, never demanding from God, but asking respectfully for whatever we want.
Bartimaeus could have just sat at the roadside hoping for a good take on alms for the day, but instead he cried out to Jesus for help. We too can just sit by the side of the road ignoring Jesus in our midst, or we can pray for our needs and the needs of others.
Jesus is with us here today, both spiritually and physically, and when we receive Holy Communion Jesus is right inside of us, so what better chance do we have to say to Him, “Have pity on me.” As our high priest, Jesus will take our prayers to Our most loving Heavenly Father, who loves us more than we can imagine, and is just waiting for us to turn to Him.
This week let us not only be aware of Christ’s presence as we go about our daily lives, but do our best to remind others of His presence among us as well. And let us not forget that it is our faith that makes God’s presence and miracles real as we follow Jesus on the road to salvation.
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time BBy Fr. Gary Spencer
Today, and throughout history, the standard for greatness is, and has been, determined by who has the most power. The country with the most powerful army can set the world standard. For instance, look at Alexander the Great. He and his army conquered much of the known world about 335 years before Jesus was born, and because of his great power and influence, the standard language in those countries he conquered became Greek. Greek was still the standard language of commerce and government during the time of Jesus. So powerful was Alexander the Great and his army that the standard he set lasted hundreds of years.
In business, politics, sports, you name it, the person, people, or team with the most power sets the standard, they are seen as the greatest, and that’s the way it is. Yet it is not that way with God.
Jesus tells us, through the Gospels, that His standard is not power, but servitude. Contrary to what the human race was used to, in Jesus’ kingdom the way to the top, that is, the way to heaven, is not through the wielding of power, but through service to others.
Jesus is God, yet He did not come to earth as God, demonstrating His awesome power to scare people so much that one would have to be a total fool to ignore the consequences of disobeying Him. But because He gave us all free will, He became man; weak and fragile just like all of us, to give us an example of how we should behave once He went back to His Father’s house.
Isaiah prophesized the Messiah’s coming as the suffering servant, and that is just what Jesus was. He came among us to show us, by example and through His teachings, that being rich and powerful won’t help us one bit to get to heaven. If we want to live forever in the presence of God then we must put aside our self centeredness and help one another.
James and John had not yet received the Holy Spirit when they ask Jesus if they could sit at His side in heaven. If they had received the Holy Spirit such thoughts of power would have never crossed their minds. No, when they asked Jesus for special treatment in His kingdom they were just normal people like you and I. Jesus, I suppose, was hoping that His disciples would get the message after He told them on a number of occasions that if they want to be first, then they must humble themselves and become a servant to all.
The message remains the same today as it was 2000 yrs ago – we must, if we want to obtain the kingdom of heaven, if we want to become great in the eyes of God, we must become a servant to all. But how do we do this? Well, it’s easier then you might think. We just need to take care of one another. Whenever we see or hear about someone in need we must help. Remember, Jesus told us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick and those imprisoned, and bury the dead. These are guidelines for us servants to follow, but we are also called upon to do anything we can to help the needy in any situation.
If you think you are above all that then I say to you enjoy the little time you have here on earth because, according to scripture, the afterlife is going to be the pits, literally. No man, woman or child is too good to reach out a helping hand to someone in need. And you know what? When you help someone who is truly in need you get such a feeling of peace and accomplishment that you have to experience it to understand it.
Now, besides serving one another Jesus also wants us to do those other things He told us. We have to love God, love our neighbor, and eat His Body, and drink His Blood. If we do all of these things eternal life will be ours.
So let’s start today. Anytime we see someone who needs help let’s not hesitate to give a hand. Serving others could be as simple as being courteous and respectful to someone, or it could be more complicated like traveling to the site of a hurricane or some other natural disaster to help rebuild a whole community. The thing is we have many opportunities, every day, to be of service to another.
Hey, we all want to be first; that seems to be human nature. The trick is in knowing that in order to be first, we must humble ourselves and be last. It sounds contrary to our nature, and it probably is, but that is what Jesus tells us to do. And if He can do it, if He, Jesus, God the Son, can serve us, then we can certainly serve one another, and Him in the process.
Christian Family SundayBy Fr. Gary Spencer
We National Catholics are blessed to celebrate in prayer, Christian Family Sunday: A day to focus on the Christian Family unit. As Christian families, we must love, and we must live our lives full of Jesus. That is, we must keep Jesus Christ right out there, front and center in our lives, and follow His teachings to the best of our ability.
We are to clothe ourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, forgive one another, and over all these virtues we are to put on love. We are to do this because this is exactly what Jesus did, and, if we are to imitate Jesus, then this is the way we are to try to live our lives everyday.
The model for today’s Christian Family, as throughout Christian history, is the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Through Scripture we know quite a bit about Jesus, a little about Mary, and very little about Joseph. As a matter of fact, there are no recorded words of Joseph in any of the New Testament writings. Yet, we know that Joseph was a kind and caring step-father to Jesus. Back during the time of Jesus men ruled the roost. The father of the house was the master of the house who controlled the lives of his wife, children, and servants. Yet, when Joseph and Mary finally find 12 yr. old Jesus in the Temple after three days of searching, it is Mary who begins to scold Jesus, not Joseph, he was silent. A kind, patient, forgiving, and loving step-father if ever there was one.
Those of us who are fathers must never forget that kids are more fragile then we think, so we need to treat them with love and kindness, and be patient with them. Just like St. Joseph was.
Mothers, of course, have Blessed Mother Mary as their roll model. Our heavenly Mother is the perfect example of the loving mother who wraps her arms around any of her children who run to her for protection, comfort, or help. Rosary devotions are a wonderful way to get a spiritual hug from our heavenly mother - our Holy Mother of the Rosary- who just loves to hear from her children.
Another thing Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, did as devote Jews was pray together, and as Christian families we should pray together too. Remember that old saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” It’s true. You know, a lot of people have trouble praying aloud, or in front of people, but there’s a way to get past that. Start saying grace before meals with the family. If the family is unaccustomed to saying grace, take turns among family members and soon it will become second nature. And never be shy about saying grace out in public – after all, Jesus hung on the Cross suffering, in public, for three hours for us, so we can do these little things for Him.
And, of course, Christian families should attend Mass together. Receiving the Sacraments together is so important because it not only bonds the family to one another, but it bonds families to Christ as well, through the hearing of God’s Word, and through Holy Communion.
So today and everyday, we need to pray for our families constantly that we all may be merciful, kind, humble, meek, patient, forgiving, and loving. By doing this our lives together here on earth will be so much more pleasant, and our reward in heaven will be great.
27th Sunday in Ordinary TimeFr. Gary Spencer’s blog
This morning our readings, or at least two of the three readings, have to do with marriage and divorce. Also, through these readings we get an insight into what God wanted His people to know about men, women, and marriage. Starting in Genesis God gives us a clue as to the nature and proper relationship between men and women. What we must understand is that the creation story in Genesis is not to be taken literally, but rather in the way it was meant to be understood. While it is true that God created everything, including us, the way it is described and explained in the bible was written in such a way so that men and women in ancient times could wrap their minds around how things came to be, and to understand the truth that there is only one true God. However, even though God tried to explain things in a manner that everyone could understand, (I guess you could say) ancient man spun this story in such a way that made it seem that man was superior to woman, and as a result women were suppressed for centuries.
Early man, hearing that God made woman from Adam’s rib, decided that this shows that men are superior to women. Woman was made from a man, so their logic dictated that women, therefore, cannot be equal to men. And, because of all this, they believed that women should serve men, and especially that wives should serve their husbands.
Because of this mind set, during the time that Jesus walked this earth women couldn’t divorce their husbands for any reason. Men, however, could write a divorce decree for any reason they could come up with. A wife was considered the property of her husband, and therefore, had no rights. As a result, women were not respected. As an example, recall the Gospel story about the woman caught in the act of adultery. It concludes with Jesus saying, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Remember it? This woman was accused of adultery, but, what happened to her partner in crime? Why wasn’t he brought to the outskirts of town to get sentenced to stoning too? He probably wasn’t persecuted because in situations like this men always got a pass. And much of this attitude probably stemmed from the incorrect interpretation of Genesis.
When I was in seminary Prime Bishop Emeritus Swantek was our sacramental theology teacher, and he taught us to look differently at the creation story in 2nd Genesis. The reason God inspired the writer of 2nd Genesis to use the image of woman being made from the rib of man was not to give the impression that women are to be inferior to men. Rather, it was just the opposite interpretation God intended.
You see, if God wanted man to believe that he was superior to woman He would have probably inspired the writer to say that woman was made from the man’s thumb bone, thereby showing that a woman should always be under man’s constant pressure. Or, maybe He would have used a bone from man’s foot to show that a man’s wife could be used as a doormat that the husband could walk all over.
But He didn’t. God used the rib from Adam’s side to show everyone that men and women are to walk side by side. Equal in the eyes of God. Male and female, made in God’s image, so how could one be inferior to the other.
As I said earlier men could divorce for any reason during the time of Jesus, so Jesus wanted to let men know that marriage is more than a man owning a wife. If he comes up with some goofy reason to divorce his wife so he could marry another Jesus is saying, this is wrong. This is adultery. He goes on to say the same about the woman divorcing to show that men and women are equal because, again, women weren’t allowed to divorce back then.
When we marry we form a covenant with God and with one another; to be true to each other, and be there for one another through thick and thin. The marriage license is not a certificate of ownership.
Jesus also talks about children in this Gospel reading. Children were another group of people in ancient times who didn’t have rights either. Children, like wives, were considered little more than property, and we can see that by the attitude of the disciples, who wanted the kids out of there because they thought the children would just be a bother to Jesus. But Jesus rebukes His disciples and calls the children to come to Him. Not only does Jesus call the children to him, He blesses them and tells everyone present that they all need to receive the kingdom of God like a child. Jesus knows how children believe, and wants all of us to have that same enthusiasm, that same sureness, in our belief in God and His promise of salvation.
When we have faith like that of a child we know without a doubt that there is a life beyond this life we are all now experiencing. We know without a doubt that God loves us. We know for sure that Jesus died on the Cross and rose on the third day, and that He is with us now, both physically and Spiritually, in the Eucharist present in the tabernacle and shortly, on this altar.
Now it is our job to learn from what Scripture teaches us, and put those lessons into practice. Those of us that are married need to try our best to treat each other with love, respect and equality. In doing that we will strengthen our marriage and create stronger bonds within our families. As a matter of fact, everyone should strive to treat each other respectfully and as equals, because by doing so we are doing God’s will. Also, we need to be as enthusiastic as children at Christmas time in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Because when we are enthusiastic and eager to tell people about our worship of God, they will catch some of that excitement, and will want to join us as we celebrate Holy Mass.
So let us go forth this week loving and respecting our mates, family members, and our neighbors with love and respect, and let us always speak out with enthusiasm when proclaiming the kingdom of God. In doing this we will be comforted and blessed by God, and by spreading the Word will add value to the lives of those we touch.
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary TimeBy Fr. Gary Spencer
St. James, in today’s second reading, is speaking to fellow Jewish converts and is trying to explain why the Christian community is not thriving and growing the way it should be. He is explaining that Christians should be one body and members should cooperate with each other for the good of that body; to act toward one another out of brotherly love. He is teaching them, and through this letter, us, that Christianity equals unselfishness, and that one of the biggest things that violates Christianity is egocentricism – that is, being self-centered.
I read in the paper recently that the number of people who claim no religious affiliation is growing. That more and more people think that religion is irrelevant and that to believe in God is superstition. Ok – that’s fine – people can believe what they want. That’s why God gave us free will. But look at the results. Is the world becoming a better place? A safer place? A more peaceful place?
Without God there is more jealousy, more coveting, more crime, more violence, and less morality! It’s that way because when people look at themselves as the center of their universe, they are the only one’s who count – in their minds, that is.
In the Gospel, Jesus is telling His disciples that He is going to be handed over to some men and that these men will kill Him. That He is going to be sold out and betrayed. He also tells them that in three days He will rise from the grave. / This is serious and extreme stuff He is telling His disciples, but what were they discussing, even though they didn’t appear to understand what Jesus was talking about? They were discussing who among them was the greatest. Jesus is telling them about His Passion, death, and resurrection, and all they could think about was themselves.
That’s what’s happening today. Instead of following Our Lord’s teachings and commandments and helping our underprivileged sisters and brothers, so many people just think of themselves.
So, what can we do about this situation? Can we even do anything about it? We can’t force people to believe in God and to follow the teachings and example of Jesus, but we can help the needy, express our love and honor of God and neighbor, attend Mass, and still lead happy, normal lives. And by doing this we show the world, by example, that loving God and neighbor is not some abstract, or superstitious thing, but that it is a way to bring about peace and comfort to the entire world.
I often wonder what all the people who have turned away from God are thinking? I know that many people believe that religion and belief in God are what causes war and suppresses people. They site the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition as proof of their position. Well, all that the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition proved is that people can succumb to the temptations of the devil and become corrupt no matter what their position in life. Jesus never taught us to torture. Jesus never taught us to be greedy or power hungry. Jesus never told us to steal or kill anyone. These things happen when people become self-centered instead of being Christ-centered.
Many times in the past I have stated that love spreads like a fire, and so it does. Love spreads and consumes all that it touches. That’s one of the reasons thousands of people would follow Jesus around because they knew of His demonstrations of love for everyone by feeding, healing and teaching them. And Jesus didn’t discriminate because He would invite even the lowest people in society to join Him. Therefore, if we love like Jesus we will gladly serve each other and accept our neighbors with brotherly and sisterly love.
Loving our neighbors is one thing we can do. Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers, but I know who does. He is with us today in church, right in the Blessed Sacrament, and will gladly help each of us find the right answers in life. All we have to do is ask Him.
So this week, let us all try our hardest to accept and help the underprivileged and all whose rights are being compromised, and do so in the name of Jesus Christ. Therefore, if we truly follow Jesus and try to love like Him, Our Father in heaven will look out for us both now and forever.
25th Sunday in Ordinary TimeBy Fr. Gary Spencer
Our scripture readings today give us a great message – a message that we hear over and over again throughout the New Testament – a message telling us that even though life isn’t easy, we must follow the example of Jesus and the saints and help one another; even if it causes us some hardship.
Being self-centered is not the way to attain the kingdom of heaven, yet we are constantly being bombarded with messages telling us to take care of ourselves, and to pamper ourselves in one way or another. Pick up any magazine, or watch TV and this is the message we see. Sometimes, there are other messages telling us that not only are we the special ones, but that we need to distrust those who are different. The result of this is a less Christian outlook on life. He’s not like us, so we distrust him. Yet, our faith tells us that we are to see the face of Jesus on every person we encounter.
Jesus and the saints, on the other hand, teach us to help one another. To give the downtrodden a hand up, not a push down. To love God and love our neighbors like ourselves, and to do onto others as we would want them to do to, and for, us. To do works of mercy even if it means giving up a little of what we have. To sacrifice in order that others may benefit in some way. This is one essential way we take up our cross and follow Jesus.
St. James asks; “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” We, as Catholic Christians, need to do more than pay lip service to our faith: We must live it! Jesus also tells us that what we give to others will be measured out and given back to us, so let us all make sure that we get a full measure back by helping anyone in need every time we get a chance.
Now, God knows that we all have different crosses to bear. But if our cross isn’t one of sickness, or mourning, or poverty, then let us all be a Simon of Cyrene to those whose cross is too much for them to bear.
This week let us all try to help someone stumbling under the weight of their cross to relieve some of their suffering. In this way we will be doing the work of God. We will only lose us a little bit of our life, but in doing so we will save it.
Solemnity of Brotherly LoveBy Fr. Gary Spencer
Brotherly love; what a beautiful concept. It is one of the basic teachings of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus taught this virtue over and over to His disciples and to the masses of people who would come out to listen to His teachings. Jesus wants His disciples – that includes you and I – to love God and to love one another. This is such a clear and wonderful virtue, yet so difficult to put into practice.
So how come such a wonderful virtue, the virtue of love, especially brotherly love, is so difficult to outwardly express? Well now, as in the past, people are more absorbed in self love than brotherly love. This self love is so prevalent in today’s society that those who try to love their neighbor, or brother, are in a minority.
Maybe it is some sort of survival instinct that causes many people the world over to not love, or even care for, anyone but themselves. Instead of the word, love, being front and center in their minds, in their hearts, and in their lives, we find it replaced by the word, more. People from all over the world seem to want more money, more power, more toys, more security for themselves, and so on. The antithesis of what Jesus taught and lived. Instead of caring for our neighbors near and far, as Jesus taught us to, people tend to care for themselves, and occasionally their close family. The word love has been replaced with the word, more, and harnessed itself to the word, me!
Obviously, we are not doing our best to relay the teachings of Jesus to our flock, and to the world. Jesus tells us to love one another as He loves us. Jesus showed His love to the world when He laid down His life for us, His friends. It’s not like Jesus didn’t give us a schematic of what we are to do, either. Jesus instructs us to love God with everything we have, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. A simple instruction, yet so very hard to accomplish.
You know, Jesus not only showed His love to the world by laying down His life for us, he showed His love by giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, healing of the lame, and love to the underprivileged. Now, we can’t directly give sight to the blind and help others who are crippled or deaf, but we can help those afflicted through expressions of love such as donating to certain charities who help our sisters and brothers in need, or even by donating our physical bodies to science after our spiritual souls depart for judgment.
So who are we to follow? The world whose mantra is me, me, me, and more, more, more, or Jesus who tells us to love and help one another? It is a hard choice when we are bombarded by commercials telling us that we must have everything that is the newest, the shiniest, and the best, and by influential people who flaunt their wealth, power, and disdain of the powerless thereby enticing the have-nots of the world to try to be like them.
So I beg you; today when you are in Holy Communion with Jesus ask Him to help you love as He loves. Ask Him to give you the courage to love your neighbor for both His sake and yours. And take the words I found in Hebrews 13: 1-2 to heart: “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
21st Sunday in Ordinary TimeBy Fr. Gary Spencer
This week’s Gospel reading concludes the Lord’s discourse on the Holy Eucharist. Today, the importance of eating Christ’s Body and drinking His Blood is reinforced not only with what is said, but with what is not said. The short Gospel passage I read is used by some Christians to prove that Jesus was only speaking symbolically when He tells us to Eat His Body and Drink His Blood. They say, “See, Jesus said His flesh is of no avail, and it’s the Spirit that counts.” Well, if you re-read John 6: 48-69, you will see that every time Jesus talks about eating His Flesh He says, “Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood, in every instance Jesus emphasizes His Blood and His Flesh! If Jesus, then, was talking about His flesh being of no avail would He not have said His flesh, and not the flesh. The flesh Jesus is speaking about is humankind. We all need to be touched by the Holy Spirit to have everlasting life. Without the Holy Spirit our flesh is of no avail.
Furthermore, upon finishing this Eucharistic discourse about eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood many of Jesus’ followers left Him saying, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” Now, if Jesus was only speaking symbolically about eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, He might have encouraged everyone to stay with Him by saying something like, “Wait, wait, don’t go! I didn’t mean that you must actually eat my body and drink my blood. I was just trying to make a point”, or something along those lines. But He didn’t.
You see, in order to believe His words on the Eucharist, and everything else Jesus teaches us, we must be touched by the Holy Spirit. That is why Jesus says, “It is the Spirit that gives life…”, and “No one can come to me unless it is granted by my Father.” The Holy Spirit bolsters our faith, Faith, my friends, is a virtue given to us by God. For our part, we must grow and strengthen our faith, and we do this through the Sacraments.
So, when Jesus says, “the flesh is of no avail” what He means is that we humans, of and by ourselves, cannot obtain everlasting life. We need God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is God the Father who created us; God the Son who saved us from eternal death; and God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us and gives us the faith to know, love, and believe our Triune God.
Jesus asked the twelve, and through the Gospel, us, “Will you also go away?” We, like the Apostles, must believe in our heart of hearts that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and allow the love of God to pour over us like a late summer rainfall.
St. Paul tells us that the Church – that’s us – is the bride of Christ, and in his letter to the Ephesians on governing the relationship between a wife and a husband, married couples should always try to emulate Jesus and His love for us. When St. Paul says, “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord” he is not telling wives to be slaves to their husbands because he also tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves His bride, the Church. St. Paul is trying to teach and encourage married couples to live in harmony. Not as two separate entities, but as one; Loving each other as Christ Jesus loves – without any restraints.
Through the Sacraments our faith is strengthened, so I urge all who believe in Jesus to eat His Body and drink His Blood because through this true food from heaven your Faith, Hope, and Love will grow, making not only your life here on earth more peaceful, but every life you touch as well.
"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!
"Prepare Ye the Way"Reflections of Advent, By Fr. Gary Spencer
This past Sunday, the first Sunday in Advent, and for the past few weeks, we have heard warnings from Jesus telling us to be prepared for the end because we never know when it will come. Jesus is not necessarily warning us that the end of the world is coming, although that may be true, but rather He is warning us in general that we could die when we least expect it. It’s sad to say, but we probably have all known someone who died, or was killed unexpectedly. Maybe it was a car accident, or a heart attack. Maybe the person was a casualty of war, or died of a brain aneurysm, or some other form of sudden death. Whatever it was that caused the death, it is always a shock. (Our response is usually something like, ‘You’re kidding me,’ or ‘Wow, he or she was so young,’ or we reaffirm who exactly it was that died. Maybe we bless ourselves and say a prayer. Sometimes we are too shocked to do anything except stare off into space.
However, we react to devastating news, it tends to remind us that we are very fragile mortal beings whose end could come without warning, like a thief in the night, or, as Sunday’s Gospel says, like the master of the house returning unexpectedly from a long trip.
We just never know when we will meet Jesus. Jesus tells us again and again to be prepared, and He does this so that we can live our lives without fear of death and dying. Basically Jesus is telling us that if we are prepared, then death is nothing more than a transition from this life of work, and pain, and disappointment, and occasional bliss, to a life of total bliss, in paradise in the presence of God.
But being prepared is no easy task. There are so many distractions in our busy lives: family matters, our jobs and the interactions we experience with our bosses and work mates, school responsibilities, and the ever present lure of the forbidden, made so alluring by television, movies, video games, and certain reading materials.
As a result of all of this, we sin. And the sad thing is, for the most part we don’t even care that we sin. It seems now-a-days worrying about committing a sin is for losers. The current mind-set seems to be to look out for number one, do what you please, and as long as it appears that no one gets hurt, anything goes. People act as if God does not even exist. And if He doesn’t exist you can’t offend Him.
My sisters and brothers, it amazes me that there are people just about everywhere who will look at something as simple as a piece of paper and it is obvious to them that someone made it. Yet they will look at the heavens with all the stars and planets, or look at the structure of DNA, and believe that it was chance that created these things, just some random act of nature that happened. No need for God to be involved. But you know by denying the existence of God they can justify their actions, or inactions. They can put their mind at ease because there are no consequences for what they do or don’t do. They respect civil law, but disrespect God’s law. Fortunate for them, and us, that God is a merciful God who happily forgives those who ask for forgiveness.
You know, today begins Advent, and for many of us it is a time of anticipation when we get ready to celebrate the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. A baby, born in a stable among farm animals, who, through His sacrifice, saved humankind from the neither word, and opened wide the Gates of Heaven for everyone!
For others it is a time to prepare for Santa and plan a party or something along those lines. And you know, Advent can be all those things, but there is more. Advent is a time when we should not only think about the birth of the Christ child, but also a time to think about, and prepare ourselves for the return of the King of Kings. The King who, after examining the lives of the flock, will invite His sheep into paradise.
So, let us live our lives the way He taught us. Love God with every fiber of our being, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Eat the bread of life, spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and perform the corporal works of mercy. My sisters and brothers, if we do these things the kingdom of God will assuredly be ours.
Yes, we don’t know when the end will be for us, but if we are prepared it doesn’t matter. Our bodies are temporary vessels for our eternal souls, and by living as Christ prescribed, eternal bliss will be ours. So my sisters and let us REJOICE. Rejoice and prepare not only to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but also prepare for that day when we meet Jesus face to face and feel His embrace. Amen.
Sharing Your Catholic FaithFr. Gary Spencer’s blog
Why is it that Catholics seem to find it difficult to share our Catholic Faith? That is a question we Catholics, and especially we National Catholics, need to ask ourselves. It doesn’t seem to be a problem for Protestant Christians, however. They can be seen on street corners handing out pamphlets, flyers and other reading materials to passersby, or shouting questions such as, “Have you taken Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?!”, or “Are you saved?!” or some other type of in your face question or statement. But we don’t see Catholics doing the same.
I don’t know about you, but I am turned off by this type of evangelism. I think, ‘Of course I have taken Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I have also taken Jesus Christ into my very being through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.’ To me this is a personal relationship with Christ that I need not shout to the world on a street corner. And as for the question of 'am I saved?' well, I’m working on it. You see, I don’t believe Jesus ever told us that once we take Him as Our Lord and Savior that’s it! We are saved and cannot be denied entry into heaven no matter what sins we commit? A reading of St. Matthew’s Gospel says otherwise.
So, how do we Catholics spread the Word? Well, I read an interesting article in an issue of St. Anthony’s Messenger magazine from a few years back by Father Martin Pable that dealt with what he called “Relational Evangelism”. Relational Evangelism is a simple method of sharing our Catholic faith through three guiding principles: Listening; Sharing; and Inviting.
Father Martin explains that we Catholics need to learn how to evangelize in a whole new way. First and foremost, Fr. Martin states that we Catholics must continue to be prayerful people, and we must nourish our faith through scripture study and participating in the Sunday Eucharist. We must treat people with dignity and respect; we must share our time and resources with the less fortunate; we must not gossip or backstab; and we must be peaceful and positive.
Next, we must know who our target audience is. Basically, there are two groups: the UNCHURCHED and the DECHURCHED. The unchurched are those people who have never really known God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The dechurched are those people who used to attend Mass and have fallen away.
Once we zero in on our targets all we have to do is three things: First, we LISTEN. Most people encounter problems in their lives. Problems that cause them much stress or anguish, and just talking about these problems gives some people comfort. They just need someone to listen to them. By listening carefully, and responding to them in an empathetic, non-judgmental way the person feels understood and a little bond of trust grows between that person and you.
Next, we need to SHARE our own story. Most of us have had a spiritual experience of being in the presence of God. At some point in our lives God has touched us by guiding us, or healing us, strengthened us by the Holy Spirit, or opened our eyes to some truth. If we truly look at our lives, we will find a time when God was with us.
Finally, we need to INVITE. For instance, if someone shares their troubles with you ask them if they ever considered turning to God for help. If they seem receptive to what you say to them offer to say a prayer for them, and even ask them to join you. Some people are reluctant to pray, so invite them to pray in their heart while you pray aloud. Explain to them how prayer is a beautiful way to build a relationship with God. We can also invite that person to an activity at the parish, or, better yet, invite them to Mass with you on Sunday. The author mentions, however, that you must promise to meet that person outside of church before Mass as some people are uncomfortable going into a strange place on their own.
The author concludes by saying that Catholics need to break the habit of keeping our faith to ourselves!
The beauty of this approach is that it is simple and can encourage others to seek God. If you feel unsure of attempting to evangelize in this manner the next time you receive the Holy Eucharist ask Jesus to help make His word like a burning fire in your heart, and to empower you with courage and confidence to tell others about His Good News.
In the PNCC we have wonderful traditions and celebrate a beautiful liturgy, so we all need to ask God to help us become evangelists for Christ and bring others to Him through our Catholic Church. Relational Evangelism isn’t hard, so lets all give it a try. After all, Jesus did tell us to go forth and make disciples of nations, and we can never go wrong by following Our Lord’s instructions.
May God’s blessings be with you all.
"When Our Thoughts And Prayers Are With You Is Not Enough"Fr. Gary Spencer’s blog
A good number of terrible things have been happening in the U.S. and U.S. territories lately: A terrorist attack in Charlottesville, VA., three hurricanes hitting the Southern U.S. and Puerto Rico, tremendous wildfires in California, and a madman gunning down concert goers in Las Vegas, NV. have cost many people their lives and devastated many families. Of course our thoughts and prayers are with them, and in most of the cases our support too.
In the scenarios mentioned above that involve a natural disaster our thoughts and prayers were accompanied by support of some type. An action, or works, occurred following the tragedies. The Federal government sent FEMA in to help with the hurricane recoveries, and PNCC parishes and other organizations gave monetary support through donations collected during Sunday Mass and other types of contributions to help those suffering the consequences of the catastrophes. The terrorist who drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, VA. was apprehended and is awaiting trial, and the mayor of that city has put stricter guidelines and increased police presence for rallies since that deadly incident.
U.S. citizens and the U.S. government implemented the teachings of Jesus who told us to help those in need, and thank God for that. Good people know that while thoughts and prayers are very important they are not always enough. Granted, for many that is all they can do not having the means or wherewithal to do more. And prayers are always a good and important way to show our care for others and to petition Our Lord for help, so we must always pray for others in need. Novenas and praying the Rosary are, in my opinion, great means of petitioning Our Lord in times of distress. But those that can do more should do more. Yet, whenever a mass murder takes place in the U.S., and they occur more frequently than any civilized nation should accept, all we hear from those that can do something is that their thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the victims families.
Many people apparently think that thoughts and prayers are enough, but I don’t. I am praying and speaking out that those who can do something act on this matter. My hope is that enough people are as fed up with these mass murders as I am, and will pray, and take action, so that some sort of remedy can be implemented. I wonder what Jesus would do in this situation?
May God’s peace and love of God be with you all.
"A Word About the Word"FR. GARY SPENCER'S blog
On Sunday last (the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time) Our Lord gave a mandate for all of His disciples to follow: forgive one another! In response to St. Peter asking Our Lord how often we should forgive those who wrong us Jesus told the parable of the servant who was forgiven a large debt he owed his master, but would not even allow a fellow servant a little more time to pay back the debt owed him. When his master found out how he treated his fellow servant he was very displeased and threw him in jail where he was tortured.
The act of loving and forgiving one another is a basic teaching of Jesus. As I stated above it is more than just a teaching, it is a mandate from Christ. Jesus warns us that if we do not forgive those who wrong us there will be a price to pay. Jesus states that His heavenly Father will treat us the way the master treated his servant unless we forgive one another from our heart. The parable from Sunday’s gospel is not the only warning Jesus gives us regarding how we treat out brothers and sisters either. Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are asking God to treat us the way we treat others. Think about that for a moment. If we go through life refusing to forgive some offense that was perpetrated against us we are asking God to deal with us in that same manner.
To be good disciples of Jesus Christ we must always try our best to truly forgive those who wrong us, or hurt us or those we care about. Sure it is hard to forgive – it is one of the hardest things Jesus asks of us – yet we must try! Thankfully, we have a loving God who will help us be better Christians. God gave us His only begotten Son who, along with His Holy Spirit, will help us be more forgiving. All we have to do is ask sincerely from our heart and God will give us the strength to forgive and to love. It’s either that, or stop praying the Lord’s Prayer, and calling ourselves Christians. The choice is up to us, but the mandate is from God.