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.

 

September 10, 2017 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

As I read last week’s Gospel, when Jesus tells His disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me, must deny himself, take up his cross and fol-low me”… it reminded me of the story of the man who thought he was living a horrible, troublesome life.

One day while he was praying for help in his life, Jesus appeared and asked: My child why are you so troubled? The man replied, Lord, I know your cross was a heavy load to bear, but the one you’ve given me is much too heavy for me to carry.

Jesus being the compassionate God He is, takes the man’s cross and whisks him away to Heaven in a room where many are carrying their crosses. As the man watches the people struggling, he walks along side of Jesus and his heart begins to ache for the souls he witnesses struggle with each step. As they exit the one room, they walk into a room full of empty crosses and our Lord tells the man to choose the cross he wishes to carry back on earth. The man walks around for a good while and finally over in the corner he finds a cross, by itself and tells Jesus “this is the one I want” Jesus looks at the man and smiles and says: My Child that is the Cross I found you with…

Jesus was teaching us a lesson that sometimes we make mountains out of molehills. If we would only look at the entire story, think about our situa-tion, pray then react with calm thoughts, we’d realize a lot of the times life really isn’t as bad as we make it out to be and there is a reason we go through what we do.

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus continues His teaching from that lesson: “Take the rough times and learn from them” The Gospel along with the 1st and 2nd readings, gives us instruction that we are in essence our brother/sisters keeper. Admonishment is something that we should not be afraid, embarrassed or shy about, but as we hear today: Warn those you care about, love your neighbor as yourself, and in situations where you cannot settle things yourselves, seek the advice of others who may have gone through similar situations, to keep the peace between you. For where the two of you are gathered in His Name (or in love) He will be with us. AMEN!

 

September 3, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

In the gospel reading Jesus makes clear and profound the need to sacrifice for others. Responding to Peter, who simply cannot understand the need for Jesus to suffer and die, the Lord says that anyone who wishes to follow in his footsteps must deny their very self, pick up their cross, and follow him. Those who wish to save their life in this world will lose it, but those who are willing to lose their lives for others will gain eternal life.

The goal that Jesus presents in the gospel cannot be attained without assistance. How can we sacrifice for the sake of others? The only possible way is described by St. Paul who tells the Romans that if they seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus they must be transformed through the renewal of their minds.

Clearly many people live for others, whether they be young people in school, those working outside the home, or those who are retired. Many people, unfortunately, will only go out of their way to assist others by providing EXCESS time, energy, or material possessions—that is, not by sacrificing, but giving what they don’t need anyway. Jesus asks us to go further than this, however; he calls us to give up our life for others. This means to go beyond where we are comfortable to a point where we experience pain in our desire to serve others.

Jesus is clearly the best example of one who gave up everything so that all of us could have the possibility of eternal life. “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8) Let us believe and profess the same!

 

August 27, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

“Who do you say that am?” In today’s gospel Jesus poses the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples respond, ”Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jesus then probes deeper, ”And you, who do you say that I am?” Peter answers: “You are the messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus is pleased with Peter’s response, but his answer incurs responsibility. What happens if we refuse to carry out the responsibilities that our Christian life demands? Isaiah answers by speaking of Shebna, a royal official and master of the palace. Shebna’s position incurred responsibility, but he failed to carry out his duties. Thus God would bring him down from his position, giving his position and responsibility to Eliakim instead.
“Who do you say that I am?” If Jesus was not important, if his message had no relevance for us, then we would have no responsibility; but as Christians we have both privilege and re-sponsibility. Young people have the responsibility to bring Jesus to the situation in which they find themselves—the classroom, the ath-letic field, relationships with family and friends. Working people and parents also have significant responsibility. The jungle of the workplace promotes an unchristian work ethic. Parents must never take their responsibilities lightly. Retired people have the responsibility to use their time, expertise, and resources for the betterment of all, as a means of exercising their Christian responsibility.
We have been baptized in the waters of salvation, confirmed in the faith and feasted at the table of the Lord. Our profession of faith gives us the privilege of being children of God, but it also asks something of us. Let us never be sidetracked from this most important of all responsibilities—responding yes to God’s call.

August 20, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

World War I created a problem of displaced persons that the world had never seen. Every-where one turned the streets of the cities and towns were filled with people who “did not belong”. Europe, because the war was fought there, was certainly the main concern. For various reasons post-War America saw an alarming rise in homeless children. Most of these were cast-offs from homes, forced to fend for themselves, and live on the streets as best as they could. No one seemed to care about them.

There was, however, one who cared: Edward Flanagan, a priest from New York. Father Flanagan decided that something needed to be done for those children who had been forced, for one reason or another, into life on the streets. Flanagan purchased 1,500 acres of land in eastern Nebraska, where he invited those rejected by society to come live. No one was a foreigner or outsider to Father Flanagan. After twenty years the property had been incorporated into a village, and less than 50 years later “Boys Town” had over 6,000 residents.

The work of Father Flanagan and his establishment of Boys Town is a good example of what our readings present today—that God accepts all, whoever we are and whatever we have done. God’s house is a house of prayer for all who choose to come. The Gospel speaks of how the mission has expanded beyond the Jews.

The only thing that can separate us from God is ourselves. Paul says that the gifts and mercy of God are never lost. God wants to be merciful. His arms are open on the cross; he waits for our return. Since God forgives and welcomes us we must do the same to those who enter our lives. Let us today welcome the for-eigner, the refugee, the outcast. May we accept the loving embrace of God this day.

 

August 13, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

I think we would find that the vast majority of experiences in life are “ordinary”. Much of life involves doing the same things over and over again, day after day, week after week. We get up, get ready for the day with the same routine, get in our car and drive to the same places, bump into the same people, and even eat the same foods over and over and over again. And none of that is a bad thing. It’s called life. And yet, unfortunately, it’s easy to not think much about God during most of that. And it’s even more difficult to be prepared to encounter God—to actually have an experience of him—as we go about these “ordinary” things.
The “dramatic” experiences are easy. Most of us go into them fully expecting to have an experience of God, fully expecting to feel close to God, fully expecting to know that something holy was happening. The day we got engaged, the day we married, the days our children were born, the day we got a promotion—These are the times when it’s easy to feel God’s presence. It’s why retreats can be such powerful things. We go on them fully expecting to have an experience of God, and we are rarely disappointed. Years later people talk about retreats as special moments, as times when they felt incredibly close to God.
And yet, God isn’t simply on retreat with you or me. Nor is he just in the engagement or the marriage or the birth of a child. He’s also in the family movie night when you are curled up on the couch with your kids. He’s in our visits to our elderly parents at the Senior Living Center. He’s at the countless athletic events we find ourselves at. He’s even in our grocery shopping and when we’re painting a bedroom or stuck in traffic or whenever or in whatever. He’s even on the holy place of the church when you don’t want to be there, or when the homily is putting you to sleep, or when the music isn’t really doing it for you.
God, in all of those things, all of those “whispers” that can pass us by undetected if we don’t pay attention.

August 6, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

The Transfiguration is one of the most memorable stories in scripture. Jesus takes Peter , James, and John up the mountain, where he is transfigured right before their eyes.

So often, we approach growing in our faith as something we have to do. We say, “I need to be more kind and generous to people, especially to the poor. I need to get to Mass more often.” Growing in faith does require a change in the ways we think and act. But that is only part of it.

There is another side to the equation—God’s side. We need his grace. And that grace can move mountains! At the Transfiguration, Jesus, the divine Son of God, wanted to give his disciples a glimpse of his glory before he entered into his passion. He wanted to help them grow in their faith, just as he wants to help us.

The mystics of the Church, saints like Bernard of Clairvaux, Catherine of Siena, and Teresa of Avila, remind us that words fail when we perceive even the slightest glimpse of the glory of God. Just as Peter rattled on excitedly, we can find ourselves reaching for the right words to describe what God’s presence feels like. But that’s okay. Our ac-tions—the witness of our peace and our joy—can speak much louder than our words.

So dwell on this great mystery of Light today. Imagine the glorified Jesus appearing before you. Let his love, his majesty, and his mercy render you speechless. Let him remind you that he is always pouring out divine grace, always revealing his love. And that revelation can soften even the hardest hearts.

 

July 30, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Who would expect to find a treasure chest in an ordinary field? Probably no one. We might expect to find rocks, plants, a few squirrels, or maybe and empty soda can—but not treasure. Of course Jesus isn’t talking about a physical treasure. He is talking about something far more valuable—the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus describes the kingdom as something extraordinary that is “hidden in plain sight.” In truth the kingdom can be found anywhere because it is God himself. It’s his love and his presence made manifest among us. So wherever love is, that’s where the kingdom is.
Today at church you may see a longtime parishioner who has fallen ill or a family in a tight financial spot. You may also see someone new, a person who doesn’t know anyone and could use a warm welcome. If you respond generously to these opportunities to reach out, you will find the kingdom of heaven.
You can also touch the kingdom as you go about your business in the world. A coworker gets cancer and receives an outpouring of support. One of your children is troubled, and your rush to help. A neighbor’s spouse dies, and you help the community organize meals. Every time you overlook someone’s faults or say encouraging and grateful words to someone, you are both discovering and bringing forth God’s kingdom, his presence in ordinary places.
So be on the lookout for God’s kingdom in your midst. Although the treasures of heaven cannot be bought with dollars, you can “buy that field” every time you offer your love to God and his people. Remember, Jesus said it is infinitely worth it!

July 23, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Today we focus on the parable of the Weeds and the Wheat, as it is sometimes called. These are some tough words from the mouth of Jesus. He doesn’t paint a rosy picture—describing angels harvesting the weeds and tossing them into the fire. And even though that statement is dramatic and attention-getting, it really isn’t the main point he seems to be making. At the heart of the story is the idea that we need to refrain from doing what we often do—judging others. In the story, Jesus describes the Master telling his servants “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”

Not judging others is a tough thing to do. And make no mistake about it—at some level we must make some judgments about behavior. It’s part and parcel of trying our best to live peacefully and justly with others. But what Jesus seems to be cautioning us against is the temptation to presume that we can see what God sees or know what God knows.

There is one situation in which we must attempt to distinguish the weeds from the wheat, must try to know the good from the bad, what should be and what must not be. The reality is that people aren’t simply one thing or another. Life is more complicated than that. Motives are more mixed than that. Human freedom and culpability are not black and white. They involve many factors. And that means that each of us have weeds and wheat growing side by side within each of us. And knowing the difference is not just something we can know, but is something we must know if we truly want to live a good life, a holy life, a life that makes a difference in this world, a life in, with, and for God.

 

July 16, 2017 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

To develop hope is to cultivate mystery. All too often, we are fooled into thinking that only the present counts. We are encouraged to believe that nothing can really be changed. We are constantly exhorted to hold that there is only one way to go—namely, the party line. We thereby become victims of despair. In such a debacle only hope can save us. But to develop hope is to cultivate mystery.

In the first reading the exiles in Babylon had written off the Lord. They accepted what they believed to be their fate. For them the Lord could not do anything and, if he could, he was not interested. In the second reading Paul refers to material creation that shares a certain solidarity with Christians. Because of Adam’s sin and all subsequent sin, creation has been frustrated.

In the Gospel the disciples had begun to write Jesus off. Some were no longer walking with him. Jesus, however, responded to this situation by noting the natural agricul-tural process of failure and success. To hope is to let God work in his own mysterious fashion and not impose human restraints.

There are countless ways in which we may develop hope and thereby cultivate mystery. The Eucharist communicates this as well, reflecting Jesus’ anxiety before his death and communicating Jesus’ acceptance of the Father’s mysterious plan for him. All who share in the Eucharist confess that the paths, rocks, and thorns of Jesus’ passion and death are transformed into the abundant harvest of the resurrection. The Eucharist articulates a hope, but a hope based on God’s freedom to act. The Eucharist asserts that to develop hope is to cultivate mystery.