June 24, 2018 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

We hear in the first reading on the eve, then the day of “The Nativity of John the Baptist” Before I formed you in the Womb I knew you, thus giving us the notion that God had a Plan for our lives before we even came about from our earthly parents loins.
A lot of the times in stating this, we might hear disagreements on the words of “Gods Free Will” questioning: If free will is “My will” how then, can God already have planned out a life before it was formed? Well, my friends we have to look at the answer as Catholic Christians, with logic, being open and mindful to the options that come with bringing forth life.
In 1973 there were 1.36 Million choices to voluntarily end pregnancies verses 926,240 choices in 2014. We’re improving, but overall the choice of “God’s Free will” had been used a staggering 53 Million times from 1973-2014. Thus resulting in a “Free Will choice” of women ranging in age from 20-34 stating the reasons in making their choices were:
Not wanting any more children, Can’t afford, or Not ready for children in their lives. These three reasons alone attributed to 67% of reasons given, for end of life decisions – in using our own free will…
Not just pointing out woman in using their free will, but with men as well. The best example coming to mind is “Judas Iscariot” Some use the logic that Judas was possessed by the devil, therefore he couldn’t have made the choice to betray our Lord on his own… I kind of have to negate this! Again, we are all given the choice by God to sin, or walk away from sin. To turn our back towards God, or to turn our backs to the evil one. Judas was created as a Child of the most High God, it was in his weakness, and the evil temptation of money, that he chose to betray our Lord.
Thus comes the question: Could he have repented on the last day of his life, being truly sorry for his sin? Sure, but in the taking of his own life, Judas admits to his guilt in choosing sin over God, thus admitting he chose evil over good.
A few other words, or lines from Scripture that stood out in preparing this week’s Homily are:
*Fear, *Although you have not seen Him, You Love Him *My reward is with the Lord *I will make you a light to the Nations.
These are some additional thoughts we’ll dialogue on this weekend as we try to work in a back and forth discussion for all to be involved with the Homily, letting those who want to, be involved with what we take home from Holy Mass for the week.
Peace, Gods Blessings and Love, Deacon Al

June 17, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Fr. Bill Terza

Fr. Bill Terza

The reading from Ezekiel offers an attractive description of God’s kingdom. It can be compared to the growth process found in a gigantic and magnificent cedar of Lebanon. The comparison Jesus uses to describe the kingdom of God moves in the opposite direction to that of Ezekiel. He begins with a tiny mustard seed that will eventually grow into quite an underwhelming shrub, usually no taller than seven feet, not particularly attractive, not having strong branches, totally ordinary.
The point Jesus wants to make by using these seed parables is that the reality of God’s presence (God’s kingdom) is not found in things powerful, great, and grandiose. The reality of the kingdom of God is first and foremost to be found in the ordinary, humdrum experiences and things of daily life. Many people are convinced that the reality of God’s kingdom can only be found in places other than the one they are in. They chase all over the world after every strange vision or so-called apparition. To get there they walk by the homeless, the struggling single parents, the immigrants, and the many other “mustard shrubs” along the way.
Today’s message in the liturgy is for everyone to reexamine what she or he is really seeking in life. The reality of God’s kingdom can be found and experienced in the things of ordinary daily life. There is no need to chase after the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God dwells within you and wherever you are. Jesus came preaching a countercultural reality. He presented a vision of God and the kingdom of God that is rooted in everyday human life and experience.

June 10, 2018 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

This week we experience the word “Blame” The word “Blame” is to hold responsible; find fault with; to place the responsibility for (a fault, error, etc.) on someone other than oneself.
Adam Blamed Eve for trickery. As well, Eve blamed the serpent. Jesus’ own family “Blamed” him of being out of His mind, and blamed /or accused Him of being possessed by the devil.
But Jesus gives us the example of not being defensive against those in our lives who don’t see things as we do, but teaches us to look at life from a different point of view, the view of the other person and rationalization.
Just yesterday, I had two experiences with two different people. The first was with someone very close to me, my sister. We were talking about friendships, and how her daughter reconnected with a former friend that she no longer associates with. She was kind of upset with her daughter for talking with this former friend, and went on to say the former friend was angry with my sister for not calling her first. My sister came back with what many of us say: “The phone rings both ways, why should I have to be the one who calls first”???
The second person approached things in a different way. He had told me that a co-worker had found a mistake in the work he was doing. My friend openly admitted he had made the mistake, and with that his co-worker said “You’re” admitting to this? Why would you do such a thing? My friends reply basically was: I made the mistake and I’m not going to lie about it. It’s easier to admit my own fault, than to try and tell lies to cover things up. Let’s just fix what I did wrong and move on.
Place yourself in these scenario’s, which one can you relate to in your own life? Being the one who throws away something as valuable as a long term friendship over stubbornness or being the one to admit your faults and fix things, giving a living example to others?
Or approaching it like Christ, thinking about things from the other person’s point of view and coming up with a solution that can make things better?
You decide, as Jesus states in the Gospel, we’re all given the gift of the Holy Spirit’s wisdom through Baptism and Confirmation.

June 3, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

It’s a well known saying: We are what we eat. But what happens when we take that saying and apply it to our spiritual lives as well as our physical lives? Something wonderful: when we eat the Body of Christ, we become the body of Christ. We are joined with him and with each other. Here are some of the effects of this marvelous truth:
The Body of Christ gives us peace. At the Last Supper, Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you” and “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:27). Just a short time later, Jesus himself demonstrated that peace as he was arrested, tried, tortured, and crucified. And be-cause of his peace, his Body and Blood can fill us with peace, no matter what we face.
The Eucharist deepens our relationship with Jesus. At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “I have called you friends” and “No one has greater love than . . . to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:15, 13). Every time we receive the Eucharist, Jesus reminds us that he gave up his life for us because he loves us.
The Eucharist helps us to see him more clearly. Isn’t that what happened when Jesus broke bread with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:30)? Or when he multi-plied the loaves and fishes for the people (John 6:14)? Every time we receive the Eucharist, we grow a little bit closer to the Lord.
The Eucharist not only opens our eyes to Jesus, it opens our eyes to one another. Jesus told us that when we give to the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, and anyone else in need, we are doing it to him (Matthew 25:35-40). We are meeting him in the poor, just as we meet him in the Eucharist.
So as we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi today, take a moment to reflect on all the blessings Jesus gives every time you eat his Body and drink his Blood.

May 27, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Today we reflect on the Trinity and our understanding of who God is and how we understand him. I rely today on the words of The Word Among Us reflection on this day. Often enough, our thoughts about the Holy Trinity tend to focus on the question of logistics: how can there be one God in three Persons? We may think of St. Patrick’s analogy of the shamrock with its three leaves to help us. But no single picture can possibly explain the complexity, the depth, and the beauty of our God. Rather than a mathematical mystery to be solved, the Trinity is a spiritual mystery to be savored. It is God revealing himself to us and convincing us of his love and care for us.
FATHER. Revealing himself as our heavenly Father, God proved that he is not a distant, fickle, or vindictive god. He is a God for whom family is everything. Like a father, he wants to be close to you. He promises to care for you and look after you. He wants nothing but good for you. He has gone so far as to name you his heir!
SON. When God came to earth, he didn’t come in power and majesty. Rather, he “emptied him-self” and became one like us. Many were expecting a Messiah who would lead Israel to military victory and political independence. But Jesus came as a brother and friend. He established his kingdom, not by force, but by self-sacrificial love. The message of mercy is meant to melt our hearts, not make us cower in fear.
HOLY SPIRIT. God didn’t disappear when Jesus ascended to heaven. Quite the opposite: he became even closer. God dwells in your heart. He is always with you, always ready to pour out his love and to make you more like him. He is always with the Church, feeding us with word and sacrament. He is always in the world, forming us into one family in Christ. This is the true mystery of the Trinity: that our God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—loves us deeply and treats us with great tenderness and mercy.

May 20, 2018 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

Today, marks 7 years since the first time that I stood at the pulpit of the former St Anthony’s and was gifted to preach the message and words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I’d been assigned by Bishop Zubik to serve the Churches of St Anthony’s and Transfiguration in Monongahela, but was unable to serve here until Father’s Bob and George agreed to do a pulpit switch. I came along with Fr Bob and preached/served my first mass here in what is now our beautiful Church of St Damien’s.
Being called to serve God’s Holy Church has a lot of self-examining, self-worth, doubts and questions, asking a lot “Lord are you sure, why me? I’m sure were the thoughts/questions on our minds as we walked up that Cathedral aisle on that day of our Holy Ordination.
In reviewing the readings for this week, as I reflected on the words from the Acts of the Apostles, Saints Paul and John, writing this alone, in a quiet home, I could actually feel the presence of the Spirt with me as the words poured from my fingers to the keyboard as if someone else were writing.
The meanings of each reading and Gospel be-comes so much clearer each time when read this time of year.
We, like the Apostles, are called to spread the message, “The Good News Message” of God, all being an integral part of the Body of Christ. This Holy Day, this most special day the “Birthday of the Church – Pentecost” is the day when the Spirit nudges us and says WAKE UP! It’s time for your mission! Don’t just sit here week after week because it’s the thing you were raised to do, but live the Faith you’ve been given… Go out and tell the world, I’M A CHRISTIAN, a follower of the Most High, Loving and Forgiving God!
As we (the ordained) were gifted with the Book of the Gospels, and told by our Bishop, Believe what you read, Teach what you believe, Live what you teach, don’t just sit there, put your faith into action, and help others come to believe through your lives!
Gods Blessings, Deacon Al

May 13, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

In the last few weeks we have been celebrating the events of Holy Week and Easter, and today we hear more about the implications of these events in the lives of Christians. In the Gospel of John we listen to Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples. The scene is the Last Supper, and Jesus is preparing for his departure, leaving his followers to carry on the work of bringing the message of salvation to the world. Jesus knows that this work of ministry to the world will not be easy. The values and lifestyle of Christians are not popular in the world at large. Nevertheless, Jesus prays that the disciples will go into the often hostile, worldly environment with joy. They are prepared for their mission, being consecrated in the truth of God’s word. With this prayer, they are sent forth.
Our readings today provide us with a good reality check. How real is our faith? What does our faith mean to us in our everyday lives? If we truly strive to live as Christ taught, we will experience joy and fulfillment, but also suffering, disappointment, and frustration. However, we are not alone. That’s why we come here regularly to worship together. We draw strength from the Word and the Eucharist but also from one another. When we look around and see each other, we encourage each other simply by our presence. We know we are not alone in practicing our faith, Sometimes the best sermons at Mass are the people around us. There are the elderly and infirm for whom coming to church means leaving the comfort of home. Their journey may entail pain and inconvenience, but they are here. We have to admire parents who come with young ones, teaching them how important it is to worship together. We also see people whom we know lead very busy lives with daily responsibilities and challenges. They are here. Noticing the presence of all these people strengthens our faith.
As the letter of John says, “we are thankful to our loving God for the gift of faith and we draw inspiration and support from each other as we journey in faith together. And so, the work of the apostles continues today.

May 6, 2018 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

It’s important to note that the readings this week, pinpoint the word “Love”
Love can be described in many ways:
Love as a word describes an emotion with vastly differing degrees of intensity. We can say we love ice cream and chocolate, and we can pledge our love to a husband or wife until our dying breath. Love is one of the most powerful emotions we can experience. Humans crave love from the moment of existence. And the Bible tells us that God is love. For Christian believers, love is the true test of genuine faith.
Four unique forms of love are found in the Bible. They are communicated through four Greek words: Eros, Storge, Philia, and Agape. We’ll explore these different types of love characterized by romantic love, family love, brotherly love, and God’s divine love. As we do, we’ll discover what love really means, and how to follow Jesus Christ’s command to “love one another.”
Eros (Pronounced: AIR-ohs) is the Greek word for sensual or romantic love. The term originated from the mythological Greek goddess of love, sexual desire, physical attraction, and physical love. Even though the term is not found in the Old Testament, Song of Solomon vividly portrays the passion of erotic love.
Storge (Pronounced: STOR-jay) is a term for love in the Bible that you may not be familiar with. This Greek word describes family love, the affectionate bond that develops naturally between parents and children, and brothers and sisters. Many examples of family love are found in Scripture, such as the mutual protection among Noah and his wife, the love of Jacob for his sons, and the strong love the sisters Martha and Mary had for their brother Lazarus.
Philia (Pronounced: FILL-ee-uh) is the type of intimate love in the Bible that most Christians practice toward each other. This Greek term describes the powerful emotional bond seen in deep friendships. Philia is the most general type of love in Scripture, encompassing love for fellow humans, care, respect, and compassion for people in need. The concept of brotherly love that unites believers is unique to Christianity.
Agape (Pronounced: Uh-GAH-pay) is the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. This term defines God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for humankind. It is the divine love that comes from God. Agape love is perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure. Jesus Christ demonstrated this kind of divine love to his Father and to all humanity in the way he lived and died.
This week, as we explore, give examples of and define the different types of Love, you decide when you leave your understanding of and the spreading of the Gospel through your own life.
Pray for one another, Deacon AL

April 29, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Our special image today is the vine and its branches as Jesus described to his disciples at his last discourse with them before he was arrested. Imagine being at table with him, enjoying some wine and being caught up in what Jesus was saying. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. That speaks of intimacy. We are children of God. The Father of Jesus loves him and that same Father is ours as well and loves us. Is there a catch somewhere here? Does it sound too good to be true?
It is true and it deserves some prayerful thought on our part. Jesus loves us enough to suffer terrible torture and crucifixion. Jesus died for forgiveness of sin—our sin. And it was done in love. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. If we bear much fruit from this life we have in Jesus, the Father will be glorified in us as he was through Jesus.
This union of love is breathtaking. However, we are also free. We can accept this loving union, or we can reject it. We reject it by chasing after something else we think we would rather have. It might be greed, it might be fame or power. They must be kept in perspective, or they can pull us away from the amazing and wonderful union of love with the Father and the Son.
The Father sent the Son into the world to bring all of creation back to the Father. All of creation is stunningly beautiful. God gave humans the gift of freedom. He also told us that “We should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded”. This is our calling or vocation from God. When our freedom gets in the way, however, we can easily chase after something lesser. Possessions, fame, and power are not bad in themselves. It is when they get in the way of our loving union with the Father and the Son, that we must care. If we leave this loving union, where will we ever have hope or joy or love?

April 22, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Our gospel reading today is the favorite of many of Jesus’ disciples. This good shepherd knows his sheep, and they know him. The life of a shepherd can be difficult. It isn’t as glamorous as we might think. In Jesus’ day the job of a shepherd was lonely, harsh, and dangerous. If the sheep were attacked, whether by animal or human, the shepherd had to be ready to lay down his life for his sheep.
Jesus, of course, isn’t talking about real sheep-herding. He is talking about his relationship to his people, that intimate personal bond that Jesus has for his followers—for us. He did lay down his life for us. We know about that close bond between sheep and shepherd. In Scripture, to know is to love. The shepherd loves his sheep and they love him. Jesus and his people are united by mutual love. Our model for this is the relationship between the Father and Jesus his Son. It was this bond that enabled Jesus to lay down his life for us.
Hired hands on the contrary are different. They care for the sheep out of self-interest, so when there is danger they run away. It’s just a job, a way of earning money. These shepherds look out for themselves rather than the sheep. Jesus wants us to be honest in how we care for our families, our neighbors, all of his people, but especially for those most exploited, the weakest. If we want to be called children of God, then we must truly care for these and truly be persons who know and love Jesus.
This is what the imitation of Jesus is all about. We are shepherds of our brothers and sisters. If we are children of God, then we must act like children of God. Last Sunday we were asked to be God’s witnesses. Now we are to take that one step further. We are to courageously and generously care for our needy brothers and sisters. We are to speak up in love and against injustice.