May 28, 2017 – Reflections by Deacon Al

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Deacon Al

As we review the readings and Gospel for this weekend, we hear through the first reading the names of the Apostles, “Those chosen by Jesus, being sent on a mission to act with authority”. We hear how they returned to Jerusalem after the Assumption, to the upper room with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, possibly the room where the last supper was held – forming a community.

We know from Scripture, they were fearful and anxious; possibly unsure of what they were supposed to do, although they had the perfect teacher…

The second reading ties in well to the Apostles emotions. “Rejoice, Rejoice that we share in the sufferings of Christ!” Kind of paradoxical using the words rejoice and suffering in the same sentence, but isn’t this what Jesus has taught us in His own words thru one of his best known teachings “The Beatitudes?”

We’re being taught not to “Fear for our Faith!” That is, if we are insulted for the Faith we have and practice, we are blessed. We’re not to be ashamed of it whether we’re out to eat, beginning our workday or even driving in the car. Our Lord gives example of this through the Gospel this weekend, when Jesus prays!

Our Lord is with His Apostles at the Last Supper, the room from the first reading where they were gathered without him, and Jesus prays. He prays aloud and states: “The Hour has come” now ending what he had told His Blessed Mother when he started his public ministry in Cana. If you remember His words then at the wedding feast: “My hour has not yet come”, but the hour was now here.

In His praying aloud, we, along with His dis-ciples learn that Jesus’ hour is the departure from this world to the Father who had sent him. In his departure, Jesus’ work has been completed, but our work was just beginning…

May 21, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

The church’s liturgy this week is looking forward to the feast of Pentecost. Soon we will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit that comes to us in the sacrament of confirmation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the effects of this sacrament as a special outpouring of that Spirit. Furthermore, it brings “an increase and deepening” of the grace bestowed at baptism.

Living in the Spirit may bring hardship and downright suffering for those who follow Christ. Our selection from the First Letter of Peter encourages the early Christians (and us) to proclaim the faith with gentleness and reverence. We are to be ready to suffer persecution for our faith but we follow the example of Christ whose life, death, and resurrection brought salvation for all. Preparing for Pentecost we are reminded how we, in the gift of faith, are brought to life in the Spirit. With joy and strength of the Spirit we can live out our lives in fidelity and peace.

In the gospel of John we have Jesus’ last discourse with the apostles at the Last Supper. Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, the Spirit of Truth.”

Reflecting on our readings today as we move toward the great feast of Pentecost, we are filled with profound gratitude. We give thanks for our lives, our faith, our families, and our friends. We are deeply grateful for all the gifts God has showered upon us. We rejoice in the realization that God is with us. We hear the words of Jesus, “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” God’s loving care gives us the courage to face the challenges that the days bring—and we are grateful. Let us celebrate Pentecost remembering the graces we received in the sacrament of confirmation.

May 14, 2017 – Reflections by Deacon Al

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Deacon Al

Today’s first reading from Acts not only describes the calling of the first Seven Deacons of the Church and the First Christian Martyr, Saint Steven, but why the Hellenist were so upset with the Twelve – – their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve called together the community to select reputable men to take care of this task.

This also ties in well with the Second reading where we hear about the cornerstone. We know that Saint Peter was writing about Christ and the rejection, ridicule and pain he suffered for all of us, God’s adopted sons and daughters. But think about others who have been cornerstones in our lives.

In todays Gospel reading… One phrase stands out: “Do not let your hearts be troubled, in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”

This reminded me of the time RaeAnn and I were in Pittsburgh a few years back and stuck in traffic. A homeless man approached us looking for spare change and the only thing we could offer him was a cheeseburger that was a few hours old. The older gentleman looked at me dead in the eye and said “Sir this cheeseburger just got you a bigger mansion in Heaven!” I’ll never forget his eyes, and I’ll never forget saying to RaeAnn, could that man have been Christ?

All of these readings today remind of us the ones who have taught us from the beginning, our parents particularly our Moms. They were the first ones to serve us as infants and then through observing their love we ourselves have learned how to be caring and serving to others. We learn how to remain strong through words that hurt, times that are tough and our impatience. But most of all we learn Faith… Faith in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This is why these readings are so perfect for this day, they move us to honor those who first served us, those we call “Mom.”

A Blessed and Happy Mother’s Day to all Women in the World, without you we could not be who we are today!

May 7, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Today we celebrate what is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Each year we read a portion of John’s Gospel that uses this imagery to unpack the mystery that is God. Today’s passage ends with some of the most profound, powerful and edifying words in all of Scripture. From the mouth of Jesus we hear, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” God wants us to have the fullest life possible. The whole spiritual endeavor is about life. And not just any kind of life—the very best kind of life.

So often we think of God as someone who made some arbitrary rules which we are obligated to follow. So often we think of God as someone whose love we have to earn, someone who will only be good to us if we do everything right. So often we think of God as “ready to pounce”, someone who is angry and disappointed and hard to please. And when we think of God in those terms, no wonder we sometimes follow without our hearts being fully in it.

And yet a true life of faith is ultimately not about any of those things. It’s about wanting to follow God’s will because God’s way is always the best way. It’s about wanting to follow Jesus because that’s the safest place to be. And it’s about wanting to choose life—choose a direction and an attitude and outlook and vision that will bring about the most abundant life possible. Following Jesus is all about embracing a life that is overflowing—overflowing with love, mercy, kindness, compassion, generosity, forgiveness and all good things.

April 30, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

We hear a familiar story in the gospel of Luke today. Put yourselves in the place of those two disciples of Jesus on their way to Emmaus. They just cannot understand the situation. They are probably visiting Jerusalem filled with hope that this Jesus whom they had heard about was going to change their lives for the better. They saw Jesus and probably saw how he was treated by the authorities—tortured and crucified like a criminal. But now there were disciples claiming that they had actually seen him alive. When a stranger comes along and asks them what the hubbub is about, they spill out the problem, and Jesus, whom they do not recognize, rebukes them for being slow of heart in believing what the prophets had proclaimed. He explains the words of Moses and the prophets, and these two disciples still do not recognize him.

When do these two disciples recognize this man as Jesus? It is only after they ask him to stay with them. As they sit at table for a meal, it is as if their blinders fall off. They recognize Jesus as he breaks the bread and gives it to them. Usually the host serves the bread, but Jesus takes the bread, says the blessing, breaks the bread, and gives it to them. When they realize who has been with them Jesus disappears. Back in Jerusalem they tell the apostles and others what has happened and how they knew Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

We have the breaking of the bread in every Eucharist. And now it is our turn to recognize Jesus. What we must do is think about how we see Jesus in the breaking of the bread. This is what we each must think and pray about. How does the risen Jesus open Scripture for us, change our hearts, or encourage us in our daily lives? How does the breaking of the bread not only reveal the risen Jesus but challenge us to break open our lives in service for others? Let us pray for each other—that we may learn how to recognize the risen Jesus in the breaking of the bread. And may our own hearts burn within us.

 

April 23, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. bill

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. It’s a special day for us to re-flect on and rejoice in the merciful love God has for us. It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate the eternal inheritance Jesus has won for us, an inher-itance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.”(1 Peter 1:4).

The Old Testament tells us about God’s mer-ciful love. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, he promised to show mercy to everyone who loves him and obeys his word. King David sang about the Lord who pardons, heals and redeems us because he is merciful and gracious. Even the prophets, who regularly spoke about doom and destruction for the “rebel Israel”, also recalled God’s desire to pour his merciful love on his people.

The teaching of God’s merciful love shines even brighter in the Gospels. It runs through every one of Jesus’ parables, miracles, and teachings, until it reaches its climax on the cross, when he prays, “Father forgive them”.

Pause for a moment and picture God’s mer-ciful love flowing into you. See yourself as the imperfect, sinful person you know you are. Now, see Jesus washing you clean and embracing you. If we were to forget about God’s mercy, the guilt and shame of our sins could weigh heavily on us. If we were to forget that we are sinners in need of mercy, we would risk being blinded by our sins and unable to enjoy God’s wonderful fountain of merciful love. May we never forget! May we always rejoice!

April 16, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

 ALLELUIA! ALLELUIA! ALLELUIA!

Happy Easter Everyone! ALLELUIA! HE IS RISEN! It is so wonderful to gather and celebrate as a people of faith, to celebrate an incredible sacred mystery, a mystery beyond any thing we can imagine or hope for, a mystery which clearly shows the immense power of love over everything else. This is a mystery which reveals to us a God who loves us in ways we can’t even begin to understand, wants the very best for each of us, knows what we are going through—and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep us close to him and to one another. That is the loving God who is intimately connected to and involved with our lives and our world. And so we rejoice! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Sometime we are burdened with sufferings and difficulties and we think that no one cares. Today is a day to put those thoughts aside , put them to rest, and instead recognize and trust in and rejoice in an image of God unlike any god humankind has ever imagined or tried to understand. For God to do what he did, he must love us beyond our wildest imagination. For God to suffer as he did he must want to know in a concrete way what we feel like when we are hurting. For God to allow himself to die he must want us to know that he is willing to go anywhere and do anything for us—that love conquers all and that no matter what happens in this life, we have nothing to fear. Love wins. Life wins. God wins.

And so, we rejoice, for this is GOOD NEWS—the very best kind of news. May this day fill you with a peace and joy beyond your wildest expectations. We are not alone. Never have been. NEVER WILL BE. Believing that deeply changes everything. Alleluia! He is Risen!

April 9, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

HOSANNA TO THE SON OF DAVID!

Today we begin the celebration of the holiest week of the church year. As Jesus enters into Jerusalem he is greeted with accla-mations of praise as he is about to begin his journey to the cross. Saints Ignatius of Loyola and St. Teresa of Avila have taught us that using our imagination in prayer can help us grow in our faith. Today as we listen and reflect on the passion let us take their advice.

First, picture yourself with Jesus as he is arrested and brought before the chief priests. Listen as they level false charges against him. See him mourn over the way these men are bound in an-ger and hatred toward him. Next picture Jesus being humiliated by the soldiers. Watch as they spit upon him, mock him, and beat him. The challenge to hold his peace is overwhelming, but Jesus remains resolute and focused on his mission.

Now picture him at Calvary. He is exhausted. His body is wracked with pain and weariness. Nails have pierced his hands and feet. The pain sears through his body as the soldiers raise the cross. The suffering is enormous as the crowd continues to jeer and hurl accusations against him. Nonetheless, Jesus looks at us with compassion, understanding, and mercy. He will not accuse!. He will not condemn! All he wants is our salvation.

As he nears the end, you hear Jesus speak to one of the thieves crucified with him. You think to yourself, “Even now he is still leading people to his Father!”. Finally you hear him cry out in a loud voice as he hands over his spirit—for you!

Try to read and reflect on these scenes, or choose some other scenes from today’s Gospel: the Last Supper, Jesus’ agony in the garden, or Peter’s denial. Contemplate the Passion-story today. Let it move you to treasure Jesus above all others. This is the greatest story ever told!

 

April 2, 2017 – Reflections by Deacon Al

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Deacon Al

All so the works of God may be visible through him… All for the Glory of God!

These two lines from last week’s and this week’s Gospel boldly stood out in preparing the homily for this week. At first I thought in pre-reading the Gospels the main purpose was to point out the sickness or death of those being healed or brought back to life through Jesus. But after praying and thinking on Jesus’ words, it became abundantly clear why Christ performed these miracles – “All so the works of God may be visible… All for the Glory of God”.

Through John’s Gospel, he is giving us the example of the divine reality to live in the light of Christ as believers in the humanity of Jesus – “God made flesh” or, as John points out there are those who also chose to live with their eyes and ears closed to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, in essence not believing and remaining in darkness.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, God gives us the choice – our free will. To follow and believe, or to doubt and walk away. This choice is something we decide daily, hourly or even minute by minute. If we are truly living in the Spirit, we all have the Honor of seeing it alive in the Church today by observing our second grade students on the beautiful gift of the Eucharist and the Mercy of God through their first reconciliation. Or through our 9th grade students on the completion of their Baptismal call as living members of Christ’ Church – Growing from youthful adolescents to young adults making it their own choice to follow Jesus. And finally our RCIA elect – As they’ve grown in Christ’s call on their lives over these past eight months preparing for the Easter Sacraments drawing ever so closely to being one with Him.

In these things we are truly blessed as a parish to be witnesses of Gods Glory on earth through these visible signs and to continue “The Mission” The choice is ours as servants in ministry for God. As Paul states in the second reading for today: Are we of the Flesh, or, are we of the Spirt letting God dwell through our lives leading others to Him and living all for His Glory…

March 26, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Like last Sunday’s Gospel read-ing about the woman at the well, today’s story about the blind man contains four elements: a person is touched by Jesus; the person accepts Jesus; the person witnesses about Jesus; and other people react to the person’s witness.

The experience of the blind man and the woman are especially similar when we look at the first three points. Both the woman and the blind man encounter Jesus and are healed by him. She was healed from her past sins, and he from physical blindness. Both came to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. And both began to witness about him.

The main difference in these two stories lies in the way that the other people responded. The people of Samaria were moved by the woman’s witness and came to believe in Jesus. But many of the people surrounding the blind man closed their hearts and rejected him.

Both stories tell us that Jesus wants to enliven our faith. Although we can’t touch Jesus phys-ically, we can still experience his presence. Jesus is always reaching out to us. Each day, he is with us, urging us to look to him for help and inspiration. The Holy Spirit is in us, convincing us that we are God’s beloved children.

Without Jesus’ healing, it’s unlikely that the woman at the well or the blind man would ever have changed. She was stuck in a fruitless search for love and belonging. He was trapped in the indifference of the people around him. But Jesus lifted them out of their prisons and set them on a new path.

We are all stuck in one way or another. Sometimes it’s because of our poor choices, and sometimes it’s just part of living. But regardless of how you got stuck, Jesus is still reaching out to you. So let him put his arms around you today and lift you up.