Fr. Bill Terza
Think back to the beginning of our Lenten journey(about 14 weeks ago already!). When you were asked “What are you giving up for Lent?” you probably answered very quickly with things that are outside of ourselves(chocolate, smoking, desserts, liquor, ice cream, etc.). I’m sure none of us would want to give of ourselves as Stephen did in today’s reading. Yet God seems to be inviting us to something much more—and not just during Lent, but each and every day—asking us to embrace a degree of self-emptying that requires a whole other level of commitment and faith. Laying down our lives seems to be just too high a price, doesn’t it? And the truth of the matter is that most of us have no idea what we would do if we were in the same situation. However, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have opportunities to love in a similar way, to “lay down our lives” for God’s sake and for the sake of others.
And each time we are able to give of ourselves in love we enter into the very life of God in a deeper way. In fact, that’s precisely how we unite ourselves with the object of our deeper longing—not by saying the right prayers or putting a few cons in a basket—but by loving as he loves. If we want to be close to God, if we want our lives to be grace-filled, there is really only one way—by self-emptying, by giving of ourselves without counting the cost—as Stephen did, and as countless others have done in the two thousand years since.
Fr. Bill Terza
“ FIRST COMMUNION” – “ONLY COMMUNION?”
To pose that question may be an exaggeration and may not apply to every child that will be experiencing this great moment in their lives. Today our second graders will be experiencing that wonderful moment of receiving the Lord into their very being for the first time. Jesus becomes one with them in His real presence. Will this be the beginning of an every week experience or will it be a onetime event, or one that will only occur sporadically, or when the next event happens, or when the family has “time to attend Mass?” So many times when parents bring their children with them as they receive communion the two or three or four year old will reach out and say ”Can I have some?” It is the eagerness of the innocent child longing to receive God’s presence. They are so eagerly awaiting the time when they can receive what their parents are receiving. I give them a blessing and maybe say “Not just yet” As they now approach to participate in this wonderful sacrament they no longer have to wait for a future time. But once they receive First Communion will they have to “wait again” until they can receive this great gift on a regular basis? In Baptism their parents, godparents, families and all of the Baptised present promised “to bring them up in the practice of the faith”. For two years they have been preparing for this great moment. Will it be just a onetime event or will it be the beginning of a lifelong relationship? All of us share in the responsibility to make this happen.
Many times in the confession of young children, when assisting them to recall their sins, I ask them “Do you attend mass weekly?” Some answer very quickly and without even giving it a second thought that they do not. Asking the next logical question “Why?”, the traditional answers come. We’re too busy, we have sport practices or games, Sunday is our day to sleep in , we have to go here or go there, we don’t go to church regularly, etc., etc. I can’t fault the child who can’t drive to church or even walk on their own. We adults and especially parents must again assist our young people to fulfill their response to their Baptismal call. Until they are able on their own to respond to God’s invitation, we must make it possible for them. Don’t let First Communion be an Only Communion!
It’s like teaching a child to ride a bike but not getting a bike for the child to ride on daily. Or giving a child the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, but not providing the opportunity to play in a band or concert. Do we want our children to know about God but not have the opportunity to develop a relationship with him?
Fr. Bill Terza
Newness is at the heart of the Easter Season—at the heart of the Resurrection and at the heart of the outpouring of the Spirit (a few weeks away). Newness is at the heart of what it means to live a life of faith—a life in, with and for God. God is transforming the world in ways that are beyond our understanding or comprehension. Through John we hear “Behold, I make all things new.”
Don’t be fooled by John’s language. This new age is not simply something that is still “yet to be”. It is something that has already been ushered in through Jesus death and resurrection and will be brought to complete fulfillment at the end of time. And so when John has God speaking about making all things new, it means right now—in this time and place. God wants to change us more than anything, not simply the externals of our lives—but you and me—change our hearts, our minds, our attitudes, our priorities.
The way we experience this life, the way we encounter the newness of everything around us, is by being renewed from within, transformed within the very core of our being—a transformation that enables us and empowers us to look at the world in a whole new way—with joy and hope. The old order is passing away, but not because the external circumstances of our lives are necessarily changing—but because the OLD ME AND THE OLD YOU ARE PASSING AWAY.
We hear Paul speak boldly to the Jews this week that they were given the word of God first, but they rejected it. So they turn to the Gentiles and the Lord commanded that they be a light to them, an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.
Sometimes, when we hear or read readings such as these, we let our humanity take the place of faith, not listening to what is right, what should be, what God places in our hearts. After reflecting/meditating on this, I thought about the similarities of gifts given to the Jews and the gifts given to us as Catholics in the Eucharist.
It truly moved me to the point of approaching those who no longer practice their Catholic faith. So I began to inquire why they no longer come to Mass, do they not miss the traditions of the Church and most important the Eucharist? I was really taken back by some of the answers I got and pray that God used me to stir some feelings up in those I approached.
In the Gospel message today Jesus stated “My sheep hear my voice.” If we do, should we not listen?
Fr. Bill Terza
Living the Christian life is not the easiest thing to do every day. This reluctance to always try to do the right thing—toward every single person and in every situation – can take basically two forms. Sometimes it can be found in our unwillingness to say exactly what we mean, stand for, and believe. Often it’s simply easier to water things down, change the subject, or say nothing at all. The second way we can fail is through our failure to act in a loving way—choosing to do what is easiest, simplest, or least demanding. At times, we may even choose to look the other way and do nothing at all. But, if following God’s will is what I’m supposed to be about, if following the Lord is precisely what I am called to do,why is it so difficult?
Ever since our first parents chose their own paths, the created world has been damaged, wounded by their disobedience. And this is particularly true for human beings. Theologians often talk about this darkening of our intellect and the weakening of our will. We don’t see what is right quite as clearly as we should, and when we do recognize what we should do, our will to choose the good is not quite as strong as it should be. And sometimes, the things God is asking us to do, the way he is inviting us to live, the choices he is expecting us to make, just don’t seem to fit.
No one understands the dilemma we find ourselves in more than Jesus. Following Jesus will never be easy. It will always be full of challenges, difficulties, and at times, negative consequences. And we will always face temptations that will attempt to lure us down a different path. But that doesn’t mean that “doing the right thing” doesn’t fit us. In fact “doing the right thing” is about the only thing that fits us perfectly—because God made us that way. The challenge for each of us this day and every day is to strive to not go about the Lord’s work grudgingly, as something we “have” to do, but don’t really “want” to do. So today let us pray for similar hearts, hearts that are passionate about continuing the Lord’s work, enthused about following the Lord wherever he leads!
Fr. Bill Terza
Our Lenten Journey is complete and we are celebrating the joy of Resurrection and new life. We thank our Lord for this great gift of love. But it is also a time for us to thank those who dedicate themselves to St. Damien Parish. First let me thank Deacon Al and his Fish Fry crew who diligently worked on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent to prepare and serve our delicious fish dinners and take-outs.
A special thanks to Mary Anne Battaglia and Kathy Miller who worked with the middle school children of our Faith Formation program to provide an egg hunt for our little ones.
Thanks to Gloria Walsh and the ladies who provided St. Damien’s participation in the local Ministerial Lenten Luncheon and Dr. Linda Ritzer who provided the worship part of the Luncheon. Thanks to Carol Pollock and crew for the ravioli dinner and Gloria Walsh and our monthly donut crew.
And then we come to the crowning of the Lenten Journey, our Holy Week celebration. I take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed to make the services very meaningful, uplifting and prayerful. I thank all those who participated by volunteering for special roles of reading, ushering, serving, cantoring, and the washing of the feet. I thank those who took time to decorate our two churches and create a fitting space to celebrate. I especially want to thank the choir, the instrumentalists, the soloists under the direction of our music directors Kathy Wray and Patty Forsyth who provided most beautiful and prayerful music that made Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday such moving celebrations. We are truly blessed to have such dedicated people with such talent. You all made Lent and Holy Week at St. Damien truly blessed.
Fr. Bill Terza
Today is all about a mystery—THE MYSTERY—the Paschal Mystery, the mystery of the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection. This mystery is unlike any other. The Lord Jesus gave his life for our sake and for the sake of the world. And we clearly know the motive. He did it for one reason and one reason only—because he loves us.
Unlike other mysteries, this mystery is not one we should try to figure out, solve, or explain. In fact, we can’t—partly be cause of our limitations as creatures, but mostly because it’s just not that kind of mystery. Rather, this is a mystery we are called to embrace. This is a mystery which we are called to let empower and enliven us. This is a profound mystery which, although it happened once and for all—is repeated continually in our day-to-day lives—in our countless risings from our everyday struggles, failings, and disappointments. Put simply, this is a mystery which we are invited to enter into.
And so today we gather with joyful hearts—grateful for all that our God has done for us and continues to do. May the joy of this day stay with you, comfort you, inspire you, and transform you.
ALLELUIA! ALLELUIA! HE IS RISEN! ALLELUIA! ALLELUIA!
May Easter joy and blessings be with you year round!
Fr. Bill Terza
We stand on the threshold of a pretty important week, Holy Week, the most dramatic and solemn seven days of the entire Church year. This week has the potential to make a real and lasting difference in our lives as we recall the greatest act of love the world has ever known. However, the “difference in our lives” will not happen by accident. We first must make ourselves a “part of the action”, so-to-speak, by being present at the sacred celebrations and to be there not simply as “observers”, audience members watching a great movie or play from a distance. The only way this week will change us significantly and forever is if we allow it to, if we fully immerse ourselves in the sacred mystery that is unfolding before us—thereby allowing the power that has been unleashed to transform us into new creations. One way we can do this is by not simply admiring Jesus from afar, but by actually walking with him, step for step, journeying with him during the most difficult days of his earthly life. When we faithfully journey with the Lord, when we truly take to heart all that takes place during this holiest of weeks, when we reflect on the great mystery that changed the world forever, we will come to understand something critical to a life of faith: by journeying with the Lord, we will come to understand that it is our Lord who is journeying with us. It is first and foremost because of his great love for us.
But none of this will happen if we don’t partake in the celebrations of Holy Week and especially the Triduum(Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil). I invite all to make this a special Holy Week celebration by attending all of the liturgies and really participating. Cap off your Lenten journey by a true celebration of Easter! JOIN US !!!!
These past few weeks we’ve been on a journey on the three R’s. No, not reading, writing and arithmetic, but words that should mean so much to us as a society of people serving, learning and growing with one another. Repent – Feel or truly be sorry, contrite ‐have deep sorrow for past actions as we journey through Lent towards a new beginning. Return – As the prodigal son returned home to his father’s open and waiting arms, so our Heavenly Father stands waiting for us. Are we reaching out for his hand? Respect – As the Scribes and Pharisees brought the adulteress woman before Jesus, he looked beyond their accusations and remained firm in his words on judging others. Are we like Christ? Do we live by good morals, and not in an argumentative way, do we stand up for what we believe when it matters most?
In this Year of Faith, the Church is running TV commercials, opening its doors at night for reconciliation, asking Catholic Brothers/Sisters to come home. But are we ready?
A month ago, we began this journey of preparation by committing our lives to more prayer, penance, almsgiving in order to make ourselves better people. We’re two weeks from Easter. Can we say our Lenten journey has made a difference in who we are? Are we ready to allow those who have not joined us for a while to repent and return? Will we give them respect and say ”Welcome home”?
Fr. Bill Terza
Today we hear the story of the man and his two sons. This story offers us three models. First, we can be the younger son who asks for his inheritance while the father is still alive. To call the younger boy brash would not be a stretch. Then, he does not invest wisely or build for the future, but he “set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.” Eventually, broke and hungry, he comes to his senses, returns to his family, and accepts the forgiveness and reconciliation the truly bountiful father offers. The second model is the father. His forgiveness is more than one could expect or even hope for. This father is the very model of mercy tempering justice. The third model is the older brother. As the story closes, we are unsure if he can celebrate the brother’s new life. He will not lose what is his, but he had not yet decided if he could rejoice in the brother’s return. We don’t know how things end up with him. We can see and understand, but not admire his disgruntled soul. So we hear the challenge to allow ourselves both to forgive and to be forgiven. Better, it seems, to be the dad or the younger son.
Lent reminds us of our own ministry of reconciliation, inviting us to enter deeply into that mystery. We might think that the Scriptures and prayers appointed for today are something of a call to our own examination of conscience and confession of sins as stops along the road to reconciliation. Perhaps they are. We who want to live for Christ, and who seek to do it for a long time, do well to humble ourselves before God in the sacrament of reconciliation, and so prepare ourselves for the great celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ in the Easter feast that approaches.
St. Damien of Molokai Parish
722 West Main Street
Monongahela, PA 15063
Sat: 4:00 pm - Park Avenue Site
Sun: 8:30 am, 11:00 am - Main Street Site
Daily: 8:00 am - Main Street Site
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