November 19, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

In our world today it is obvious who have been given much, and similarly we can identify those who have little. What we must realize, however, is that we are not talking about money and prestige. We are talking about God’s gifts to us and God’s expectations. Jesus Christ came into this world and lived among people. He came to teach God’s people and to prepare them to carry on his work in this world. They were responsible for proclaiming the Gospel, for teaching others how to live as God’s people. It is our responsibility today to proclaim the Gospel, to reach out to others, and to accept others as our brothers and sisters.
The ones we must learn from are the servants who doubled what they had been given. The servant who buried away what was given is the wrong one to follow. He is like a person today who believes that the life of faith has nothing to do with anyone else but only with God, as if faith is a purely private enterprise. But faith is to be lived and seen. Think of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her order of sisters. Think of Oscar Romero of El Salvador or Dom Helder Camara of Brazil. What do they have in common?
They have lived their faith in the sight of the world. They show us how we are to live as well, even if our life is not as dramatic as theirs. Pope Francis speaks frequently of this kind of faith. He encourages all of us to live our faith and not bury it. In one of his homilies Pope Francis says, “All the goods that we received are to be given to others, and thus they increase, as if he were to tell us, ’Here is my mercy, my tenderness, my forgiveness; take them and make ample use of them.’” May we share our faith, our joy, our hope, and our love with others.

November 12, 2017 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

I need to begin this reflection from last week’s Gospel. As I absorbed the Words of Christ, talking about Scribes, Pharisees and people of the like, it all kept coming to me how important titles are to others in Jesus’ time as well as in ours to-day…
To know a person by name, being able to spell and pronounce their name correctly is definitely a sign of respect for that person. But for some, a title bears more weight from the person who holds it, as well as a demand for respect from others i.e. Scribe, Pharisee and so on.
The obligations that come with titles alone should be enough for anyone who holds them, let alone the re-sponsibility that the title carries for those the person is held accountable for. A demand for respect is some-thing that offers a far greater resistance, than respect that has been earned. The Scribes and Pharisees set unattainable ways / actions to be carried out by those under them, yet they themselves could not live up to the standards they held others accountable for. Can we think of times in our own lives that maybe this logic applied to similar situations that we’ve gone or are going through?
And then we have todays Gospel where Jesus gives the parable of the 10 virgins with half being prepared and the other half not. And you might ask how this relates to the Gospels proclaimed thus far this month, here’s my take on deciphering it:
We’re all given leaders in our lives. A President, King or Queen responsible for the land in which they have been appointed to govern. A Pope, Bishop, Priest, Minister to lead the congregation of Faith that they’ve been assigned to serve. Supervisors, Managers and team leaders to control different areas of corporate operations. The whole point being is that someone has to be held accountable, and if no one is “In Charge” as in today’s gospel, half of the people may fail and the other half may succeed all depending on the different types of personality involved.
The message that’s being given in the Gospel today by the one in charge (Christ) is to “Live Ready” Live ready by the examples he has given and shown us, and to live ready by the examples you show to others. If Jesus, who is our King with all the authority in Heaven being given to Him, lead the meek and humble life of a servant with His title, what an example He has given for us to follow as we walk with others…

November 5, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

What we do as a Christian is very important. Our example either brings people closer to God or pushes them further away. People do not have neutral effects. We have the challenge, therefore, to always direct people along the path that leads to life with God.
Malachi understood the importance of setting a good example. He writes to the Hebrews who have just returned from fifty years of exile in Babylon. Their nation is in disarray; the temple, their central place of worship, lies in ruins. The people, uncertain as to where to turn, go to their former leaders for guidance. But Malachi criticizes the Hebrew leaders for their failures in the past. It was because these leaders led the people astray that they were sent into exile. The teachings of these leaders have made many falter.
Setting a good example is very important. We know that it is one of the pillars of our common vocation to holiness. Fortunately we have been blessed with many people in our lives who have set a good example. When we were in school we met many teachers and coaches who opened whole new vistas to us. They inspired us to do our best and to never settle for less than 100 per-cent. They challenged us and were tough: but we received the message and were placed on the right path. We have been blessed with people even closer to us—parents, grandparents, godparents, other family members, neighbors, and colleagues at work. These people, too, have shown us examples and placed us on the proper path.
We have a responsibility, as parents and children, as teachers and students, as professionals and office workers, and as the church to set a good ex-ample, one that invites others to join us in the daily work of building the kingdom of God in our world. We must never abdicate our responsibility to be present to people and to show them the correct path—whether it be a spouse, a child, relative, neighbor, coworker, or even someone we barely know. Rather, we must be a positive sign to others. People look to us for guidance: they listen to our words and observe our actions. May we never disappoint them.

October 29, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Our readings these past weeks have reminded us of the immense and marvelous love that God has for each of us. We have been reminded that we must open ourselves to God so that we can draw closer to receive God’s love and in turn, give our love to God. In today’s readings we learn how important it is for us to return and share this love. The reading from Exodus begins with God’s commands to be careful in how we treat the needy. God speaks of strangers, widows and or-phans, and the poor. If these are mistreated and cry out, God will hear their cries because God says, “I am compassionate.” The idea ,of course, is that we too should be compassionate.
Our short gospel reading clearly spells this out. The Pharisees are out to trick Jesus once again, so they ask him which commandment in the law is the greatest. Without hesitation Jesus responds, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus was asked for the greatest commandment, and he gives it, but he doesn’t stop there. He goes on and gives the second commandment, and in doing that he is teaching us something very important—that the greatest commandment is not the ONLY commandment.
Of course the Pharisees and we Christians living today know that God comes first. We wouldn’t even be here if it hadn’t been for God who created each of us uniquely and loves each one of us as we are. Of course we are to love God first and foremost. But that’s not the whole story. Jesus went on to name the second commandment as similar to the first—and it too is about loving. We are to lover our neighbor as ourselves. This followed by something the Pharisees maybe hadn’t thought of, that the whole law and the prophets are contained in these two commandments. When we look at the other commandments we realize that if we keep the commandment of loving our neighbor, we will be keeping these other com-mandments as well. Jesus was right!

October 22, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Fr. Bill Terza

Fr. Bill Terza

Today’s readings are a good encouragement for us before our gospel reading, where we find the Pharisees plotting against Jesus, trying to set a trap. It seems there were special coins for paying tax. But those same Roman coins could not be used in the temple when making an offering. That is why there were moneychangers just outside the temple. These disciples of the Pharisees begin with hypocritical words: ”Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” And after that false praise comes the trick question, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
If Jesus would say it was not lawful, he would be in trouble with Caesar. And if he said it was lawful, the Jewish priests would make trouble for him. Jesus’ response, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?” shows that Jesus knows the harm they are trying to lay on him. When they show him a Roman coin with the image of Caesar on it, Jesus simply says, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
What God wants most of all is for us to give our-selves to God. This does not necessarily entail be-coming a martyr, although that has happened to some within the communion of saints. Nor does it mean that we must become priests or sisters or brothers or deacons. It does mean getting to know God, talking with God, and giving God private time.
One way to begin this is to spend even just a few minutes each day being with God right where you are: in the shower, on the bus or in the car, walking someplace, exercising, mowing the grass, or shoveling the snow. Another way is to think of all the ways God has blessed you—and thank God! Think of the earth, the moon and the stars, a lake or ocean or desert, your favorite animal or bird. God appreciates homey things too, so if you see chocolate chip cookies as a gift from God, thank him! The more often you do this, the more you will be able to give yourself to God in gratitude and love.

October 15, 2017 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

Today’s Gospel can be somewhat complex for some who are just reading and not interpreting the Scripture to the ways in which we live today.
In today’s parable, the king has a specific list of those he wanted to attend his son’s wedding. When those guest on the list refused and went back to their own lives, farms and businesses, the king becomes irate and sends out his troops to destroy their villages. He then sends his reaming servants to invite anyone in the town who might come.
The sketchy part of this parable is when one of the guests who did come, was found not wearing a wedding garment. It makes the king irate and he has the man’s hands and feet bound and the man is thrown out into the darkness… Why? The man was asked to attend and did, unlike the original guest who never showed, why was he being punished?
Interpreting Scripture, is a practice that takes time, patience and a lot of openness in listening to what or how the Spirit is speaking. I believe this is what Jesus taught through the parables to the disciples and continues doing so in teaching us to this very day. Just as we have to work for food, shelter and clothing, we must also work to understand the teachings set before us which can only be done by putting our time into some-thing we desire to have and or learn.
The meaning of today’s Gospel parable is that God invites all, the good and the bad. The Man without a wedding garment may be symbolism of someone refusing to be clothed in Christ “Possibly an early way of describing baptism” or being of good faith or good works. This type of person wants life to work both ways in their favor. They know the rules, but sometimes think not all apply to them. So they go on to reap the rewards at the hope of not getting caught, but in this case the man’s plan backfires.

October 8, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Jesus speaks today of a vineyard, and this vineyard bears good fruit. It’s tenants, however, are another story. Imagine tenants who are responsible for harvesting the crops but ignore the owner’s representatives who come to collect the harvest. And not only do they ignore the representatives, but they harm and even kill them. And then they go further and kill the owner’s son, thinking that they can inherit the land. In Jesus parable he goes ono to say that the owner will get rid of those wicked tenants and will get new tenants who will give him the fruits of the harvest on time.

Scripture scholars will tell you that Jesus is warning the chief priests and elders of what will happen when they reject him who was sent by his Father. These chief priests and elders are the wicked, greedy tenants of God’s vineyard. But there is another story being told today as well, that of Isaiah’s wild grapes and Matthew’s good grapes.

Neither Isaiah nor Jesus was talking about avocados, mangos, or whatever your favorite fruit might be. In one sense, however, we are those wicked tenants who are greedy and want the harvest for ourselves. But what is the good fruit that we need to cultivate and give back to Jesus rather than greedily keep for ourselves?

We all know that in our world there are many needy persons. There are problems where we live that need our help We know it is important to share whatever wealth we might have, but money is not the only answer—we are the answer. Are you able to do any volunteer work? There are so many places in our world that need our willing help. Before we can do any good we must open ourselves to God, who is the best grower of good fruit. If we are faithful to God, then we are on our way to bearing good fruit. How we relate to God will determine how we live, how we reach out to others, and how well we bear rich, beautiful, and good fruit.

October 1, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Fr. Bill Terza

Fr. Bill Terza

Every once in a while we need a good reality check. We must ask ourselves: “Am I really living my life well? Am I being guided by the values for which I say I stand? Does my life give concrete evidence of my Christian faith?”

In today’s gospel Jesus tells a parable about two sons, and he gives the chief priests and elders a good lesson. Both sons are told by their father to get to work in the family vineyard. One of the sons initially refuses but later repents and goes to work diligently. The other immediately says he will work but doesn’t actually do so. When Jesus asks which son obeyed the father, he gets the right answer.

Jesus does not spare the feelings of the chief priests and elders. His parable is crystal clear. These prominent leaders, these experts in religion, have missed the boat. It’s the little people—the poor, the despised, the prostitutes, and the tax collectors—who get the message and let it change them. Their conversion is a process, taking some time and reflection, but finally they grasp the truth and allow it to shape their lives. They may not be articulate preachers, but their lives testify to the power of gospel living.

It seems clear that the message for all of us today is the need to do a reality check. We must ask ourselves some pertinent questions. How sincere am I in my faith? How do I spend my time, my energy, my resources? Do I take opportunities to be of service to others? Or do I routinely give my own preferences top priority? Is there any evidence in my daily life that I am a committed Christian?

Following Christ entails participation in the Spirit with compassion and mercy for all. It means doing nothing out of selfishness and vainglory but always putting others’ needs and interests ahead of oneself. Do I have the courage for a reality check today?

 

September 24, 2017 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

Just about this entire month of September, we’re hearing about becoming more like Christ. Admonishment, Forgiveness and the Responsibility of bringing others to know the Gospel, is a task that many are called too, but only a few reply. (Matthew 22:14)

Through todays Gospel parable, the message has to be in the last line of the reading “The Last will be First, and the First will be Last” Gods offering of salvation to those who appear to be last or least in the world as well as those who welcome Gods generosity at the last moment of life, is the point Christ is making for His disciples who needed to hear this and not become resentful of others who have labored long years as they had. Some are called early on in life, and although still sinners, choose to follow Christ’ work that He began here on earth in calling others to the Father and serving as He did while here. Others may tend to ignore the tug on their hearts and live in the world and wait until old age or their dying moment to answer the call. With today’s mentality, some might ponder the question, if I can wait, why spend my entire life trying? The answer lies in Matthew 13:12

To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have, it will be taken away from them.

I used to look at this passage and think why on earth would it be right, to give more to those who have, and for those who have little, take it away… Well it’s easy to assume that only wealthy people have been “given much,” but, in truth, we have all been given much. We have been granted the abundant grace of God, the Word of God, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. +

Each of us must use whatever gift we have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” We should also not assume that the less we know about God and His gifts, the less we’ll have to do. As evident in Jesus’ parable, we are held responsible to know our master’s will, through the asking of questions, study and getting our information correct in the beginning as did the land owner with those he had hired telling them their days wage up front. God has plainly shown us what He requires and gives us resources such as finances, time, talents, skills and spiritual gifts. We should ask God for the wisdom on how to use those re-sources and commit ourselves to expending them according to His will so that He may be glorified through our lives, part of the purpose for which we have been created.

 

September 17, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Imagine that we are in the community of early Christians living in Rome and we get this letter from Paul, in which he tells us that we must live—and die—for the Lord. What can this possibly mean? Well, dying for the Lord does seem pretty clear. For the Romans it could mean embracing martyrdom, and they understand that all too clearly. But what does it mean to live for the Lord?

The message is loud and clear in our readings today: we are to live as sisters and brothers in God’s human family. There is no misunderstanding possible of what we hear before the gospel: “I give you a new commandment says the Lord; love one another as I have loved you.” We are called to love, a love that is genuine and all-inclusive. In reality, because of our human failings and our selfishness, we fail in our love and hurt one another. When this happens, we must forgive and be forgiven.

The climax of our message today comes in the gospel reading from Matthew. Jesus could not be more emphatic about our mandate to forgive. Peter wants to know the limits of forgiveness. Jesus’ answer is crystal clear: you must forgive” seventy-seven times!’ He is saying that there is absolutely no limit to forgiveness.

Matthew’s account continues with the parable of the unjust steward. Out of mercy and compassion, a king forgives an enormous debt owed him by one of his servants. Then this same servant viciously demands payment for a tiny debt owed by a fellow servant. He does not listen to the debtor’s plea for more time. He fails to forgive as he has been forgiven. When the master learns about the unjust steward’s failure to forgive, he rescinds his forgiveness of this steward’s debt and exacts pay-ment.

What does it mean to live for the Lord? In short, we must forgive one another. Recognizing that we need God’s forgiveness, we must forgive. And such forgiveness is not simply a legal procedure. We are to forgive “from our hearts.” This forgiveness is rooted in our sincere love for all in God’s family. It means doing all we can for others so that they will have a full life. It recognizes the uniqueness of every person as a child of God and that all of us belong to one family.