April 15, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

In these weeks after Easter, we will be hearing about the first believers, the early community of faith which came to life in the light of the resurrection. It wasn’t always easy. There wasn’t some sort of blueprint that was crystal-clear. There were disagreements. There were growing pains. There was uncertainty and doubt and maybe even a little fear. But one thing was obvious. They had to get the message out. They had to tell the story. And so they went from town to town proclaiming loud and clear that this man Jesus, this person they knew personally, had died and rose from the dead. Talk about a story to tell! They had the very best.
They were to be witnesses—people who told others what they had seen and heard and experienced. If the message of Jesus was to get out—it would have to start with them. It wasn’t long before people who didn’t know Jesus personally, or who hadn’t seen him after his resurrection, were also telling that same story.
We can’t overemphasize the importance of continuing to tell the story of Jesus in every time and place, to every person and in every circumstance. The story was powerful two millennia ago, and it is powerful today. This is THE story—the Greatest Story Ever Told—the story that changed the world!
But at some point we need to be telling our own stories, stories of the difference Jesus makes in our lives, stories of how God continues to give us hope and joy and peace, stories of how believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus gives real meaning and purpose to our lives.
Am I a changed person because of what I believe?
Am I a changed person because of what God continues to do in my life?
Am I a changed person because I allow God to pour new life into me?
Am I a changed person because I accept God’s forgiveness and strive to be better?
Am I a changed person because the cross of Jesus gives my own crosses meaning?

April 8, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

The disciples were quite fearful after Jesus’ death. Gathered together they stayed behind locked doors. Suddenly Jesus came and stood in their midst. “Peace be with you,” he said. Imagine how this greeting changed their fear. John says they rejoiced. Their joy was not just returned but was renewed.
When Jesus stood in the midst of the disciples he brought them peace. Peace of heart and not just rest. This peace the risen Christ brings gives courage and confidence, and this is exactly what the disciples need. Jesus says again, ”Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” In these simple words Jesus commissions his disciples to go and proclaim the Gospel with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Just as the disciples had their joy in Jesus restored, they also experienced a new birth. They are reborn as God’s children. Their lives are transformed. And what about us today? After all we are also sons and daughters of God. Has Easter brought us new joy? Are we transformed? Have we even thought of what Easter brings us?
The first disciples of Jesus, the new Christians, entered into communion. This union was like a family. Everything they owned was kept in common. Everyone in need had those needs met. “The community of believers was of one heart and one mind. . . they had everything in common.” That is amazing. Together they knew what to do as God’s sons and daughters.
Our duty, our challenge, our gift is to make the resurrection of Jesus the Christ believable to others. How do we do that? Today each of us and all of us need to observe our world and see how we can give signs of life to others. We can do this together and we can do this alone, but we must do it as sons and daughters of God. After all, the love of God and the love of God’s children are inseparable. The first community of Christians, by sharing everything they owned so that no one was in need, showed signs of life, of resurrection to each other and to all who observed them.

April 1, 2018 – 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!

March 25, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

As we begin Holy Week our theme is best expressed by the meditation from “The Word Among Us” for Palm Sunday:
Today is one of the most important days of the year. It’s a day to fix our eyes on Jesus and watch him empty himself on a cross—for us and for our salvation. It’s a day to honor the One whose entire life was one of giving, not grasping, one of healing and restoration, not division and rivalry. It’s a day to praise Jesus for over-coming sin and death through his act of pure, sacrificial love.
By his humility and obedience, Jesus has un-done Adam’s prideful attempt to become God—and every attempt that all of Adam’s children have made ever since. He has shown that the way to heaven is not by grasping for ourselves and striving against one another. It’s not something we earn, and it’s not a kingdom we conquer. No, Jesus’ death on the cross proves that the way to heaven is one of receiving graciously instead of possessing selfishly.
This can sound so grandiose and heroic that we might think it’s out of reach. But nothing can be further from the truth. God sees every act of self-sacrifice, every decision to put someone else’s needs ahead of ours, every decision to empty ourselves. When we give up time to help our child with yet another math problem, God sees it. When we listen carefully to a spouse who tells us about his/her difficult day at work, even if ours was no better, God sees it. When we put down our car window and offer some food or money to a homeless person, God sees it. He sees them all, and he rewards them.
Every single act of self-giving is a reflection of the cross. And because of that, every act of self-giving warms our Father’s heart and moves him to raise us up a little bit more—just as he did for Jesus. So fix your eyes on Jesus today, and let his self-giving love move you to be a little more like him.

March 18, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

As Lent comes to a conclusion the liturgy focuses our attention more sharply on the imminent death of Jesus. Jeremiah sets the tone by describing a new covenant that God will establish with the people. It carries a message of hope, forgiveness, and transformation. Unlike the covenants of the past, this new covenant will be interior and written on the heart of each individual. In effect this will move the responsibility of covenant faithfulness to each individual. It will inaugurate personal responsibility rooted in interior commitment and transformation. As the responsorial psalm will emphasize, this new covenant will create a clean heart in each and every Israelite. God’s mercy will cleanse each person from sin..
Jesus exemplifies the importance of his hour by describing how a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die before it can produce much fruit. One type of life must be surrendered in order that a better form emerge. The life that must be forfeited is the life built around domination, power, wealth, and possessions. This is a false sense of life and it must be given up and replaced by the authentic life rooted in love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self. This life produces much fruit and leads to eternal life.
Everything is now in place for the coming of holy week. This last week of Lent offers a symbolic overview of the journey that is about to begin. The “hour” of Jesus refers to the whole passion event that he will undertake beginning with the entrance into Jerusalem. Whoever serves him must follow him. That means that Jesus’ hour is meant also for his followers. To accept his hour was a challenge and a choice that Jesus had to make. Likewise for his followers. We must accept the challenge and respond to what we have seen and heard.

March 11, 2018 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians today, must open our eyes, ears and hearts to the goings on around us, along with the message of the Gospel “John 3:16”.
Paul’s words, Mercy & Grace, are for some a stumbling block as is the message of the Cross to non-Christians. To define God’s Mercy, is to define unimaginable forgiveness for the person who is sincerely sorry or repent-ant for the wrongs that they have willfully done or were ignorant to the fact that they were involved in something they should not have been.
God’s Grace, His undeserved favor that we receive as His adopted daughters and sons, is God looking upon us with a Love and trust that we cannot possibly know experience or imagine as earthly dwellers. We’re given the benefit of the doubt that we know and will do the right thing. As humans, we’ve become more resilient to doing the right thing verses giving into our temptations which lead us astray. Take patience for example, we have very little patience to wait for anything any longer than we think we should. We are who we are, and our best interest should come above everyone else’s, and along with that, we think everyone should or has the same mindset as we do, for example:
In Paul’s letter today he states that it is by Grace you have been saved through faith, it is not from works. But in (James 2:26) We hear Faith without works is a dead faith because the lack of works reveals an unchanged life or a spiritually dead heart. I tried reasoning, rationalizing this with a family member who is not Catholic, and their mindset was “You Catholics think you have to work your way into Heaven” and when I came back with the question “What about the Beatitudes” they quickly changed the subject.
Our Gospel message is another Supreme example of God’s Mercy & Grace:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life, that the world maybe saved through Him…
I know of no greater love than a Father (or parent) letting his only child’s life be taken to save others. Others the child may have never physically known, others who could care less, others would nail that child to a tree, taking his life, others who perform deeds of sin in darkness and hide their deeds from the light.
Ponder this question in living out your week: Do we run to the Light (The Cross) and strive to do the right things in life and for others, or are we dark dwellers who per-form our deeds in secrete hoping not to be caught, forget-ting God is always there and in knowing He is always there, this leads us to the guilt of the darkness in which we live …

March 4, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

The book of Exodus speaks about how God brought the law to the Hebrew people. Moses is given two stone tablets upon which God has written a plan for life, loving God and loving neighbor, by paying respect to both in all that we do and say. The Decalogue was given by God to the Israelites as a means to free them from the past and to provide a clear path for the future. The Israelites knew the proper way, but they did not always follow it. We often find ourselves in the same predicament.
Jesus in the gospel again shows the proper path. He forcefully removes the buyers and sellers from the temple, thereby showing all those present what God wanted. The temple was to be a house of prayer, not a marketplace for thieves. John goes on, however, to say something more emphatic—Jesus was well aware of what was in the human heart. He knows our intentions. The Jews had the law; they knew what was right and proper. Yet, many chose another route, thinking they could fool God.
Lent is the perfect time to see where we stand in our relationship with God. We know the law perfectly well; we know what is right and what we should do. Yet, too often personal desire, the allure of the world, and even societal pressures cause us to go astray. Often today the world sees God’s law as rather foolish and possibly not applicable in the twenty-first century. St. Paul, writing almost two-thousand years ago en-countered the same situation and thus he writes to the Corinthians that, while the cross seems to be folly to some, it is the source of salvation for those who believe, for God’s folly is wiser than human wisdom and God’s perceived weakness is greater than human strength.
Warnings of problems and consequences come our way and we choose to ignore them. The path that leads to life is clear, but we often choose another path. Let us in this Lenten journey choose to follow Christ.

February 25, 2018 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

Transfiguration- A willful change, being open to and of full consent to something “New” something we’ve not experienced before, something that may frighten us.
Transfiguration, a word we hear often, but give little thought too. It was this building/parishes former name that has been transfigured or transformed along with the former St Anthony’s into the beautiful new “St Damien’s” We’ve been transformed as one to work together in service to and for God’s people.
At the Transfiguration in the Gospel, I can only imagine… To be in the presence of friends, those with whom you work, live with and love, and experience what Peter, James & John had seen. It becomes so overwhelming to St Peter, he begins bumbling (becoming clumsily incompetent or ineffectual) about building tents… What does tents have to do with seeing the person you believe is the Messiah, become dazzling white and speaking with two others who weren’t there a moment ago?
To be frank, the Church places this Gospel message for this time of year, the “Lenten Season” as an example for us to consider change. Change in our behaviors, mind-sets, attitudes. This Gospel in the beginning of the Len-ten Season, is given to us to think about our past year(s) and maybe reflect where change needs to happen in our lives for the future.
Last Sunday, we had a guest speaker address the confirmation class, retired Brigadier General David Papak of our parish. General Papak goes around the country speaking with our youth, encouraging them on how the decisions they make today will impact their lives of to-morrow. The class heard of the Travis Manion foundation and developing character in the future along with the theme of the Foundation “If not Me then Who? They were given wristbands with these words imprinted on them, and introduced to the fallen hero’s life story of how this young man from an early age on, did what he knew was right and set the examples for others long after his death in 2007 and continues doing so with other young people as well as those of us who have matured, to take the step in transforming our lives.
The four topics General Papak spoke on with the class were: Integrity, Courage, Service and Character, as we sat there listening to the presentation, I thought of how well this fit with the Church’s message this weekend, and how this young man’s story can affect the decisions or opportunities we make and are given to change. Not only in ourselves during this Lenten season, but as well the lives of others that God places on our paths in this life’s journey.
That my friends will be the message we focus on today, how the change we want to see in others, is the change we need to begin within ourselves today.
God’s Lenten Blessings to all, Deacon Al …

February 18, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

This past week we began the Holy Season of Lent. Lent is a time when we are tested and challenged to find ourselves and experience our faith in greater and fuller ways. In the gospel Jesus goes to the desert to find himself, to discover his mission. While in the desert, he undergoes a series of temptations to all the allurements of this world. Jesus survives the period of trial; he is found worthy. Angels come to wait on him. Jesus is now ready to go forth and perform his mission.

In our daily lives God sets before us many challenges, many situations which appear to be great trials. Like Jesus’ journey to the desert our Lenten journey, if accepted properly, will be a great challenge, a desert experience. The challenge we will face will make us better and more complete people. Jesus became perfect, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us, through his trial of suffering. Our lives are filled with trials. There are challenges at work with our business associates, with the boss, with our duties. There are challenges at school, with classmates, teachers, and homework assignments. There are trials and challenges in life, with problems, illness, suffering, and death.

How do we handle these trials, these challenges from God? The answer is to go, like Jesus, to the desert. The solution will be found there. The solutions to life’s trials are found in prayer, works of mercy, and fasting—the traditional Lenten observances. Through prayer, works of mercy, and fasting we change. We can then accept the trials and challenges of life, and more importantly, God’s will in our lives. Through trial and challenge we grow, through prayer we learn acceptance. Today, therefore, let us seek the challenge of the desert. Let us turn to prayer in our lives. Let us be transformed on our personal journey to Calvary and resurrection.

 

February 11, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

The first reading and our gospel are about leprosy. Leprosy is not something that we encounter frequently. So to appreciate the full impact of these readings it helps to understand the context in which they were written. Lepers were required to be examined by a priest. When their disease was verified, lepers were expelled from society. Only a priest could certify their cure if they ever recovered from the disease.
In Mark’s gospel a leper does not hesitate to come to Jesus and ask for a cure. In the miraculous cure, Jesus touches him! To talk to a leper, let alone touch him was unheard of in that setting. The message is overwhelming. Jesus reaches out to all in the human family, even those expelled by accepted social standards. In curing the leper Jesus reaches out to the dregs of society. The message is clear. Jesus is the savior of all people. This includes Jews and Gentiles, men and women, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, even those whom society ignores and considers worthless. All in the human family are God’s children and deserve dignity and respect. Our readings today teach that all people are worthy of salvation in Christ. We have to admit that power, position, and wealth in today’s world do seem to make some people’s lives more important and obviously more worthwhile. This is an instance in which the gospel is clearly countercultural.
So often the happiest people are those who forget themselves and do whatever they can to serve others. It seems that the way to be happy is to forget yourself and give yourself and give your life to someone or something bigger than you are. Jesus gave his life for all!