PROCLAIM THE TRUTH IN LOVE MERCHANDISE

PROCLAIM THE TRUTH IN LOVE MERCHANDISE
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Seek what is ABOVE! Easter 2014


Easter Sunday 2014

 

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen! 

 

This simple prayer is an ancient form of greeting used primarily by Eastern Christians for centuries.  It is a call and response used in the Easter season among Christians passing one another on the street or welcoming one another into their homes.  Saying these words replaces saying “hello” or how are you?” at the time of Easter. 

 

It might seem foreign to us but the Paschal Greeting is an ancient form of integrating prayer and faith into everyday life.  So often today we are afraid to mention the name of the Lord in public but centuries ago the name of Christ was on the lips of His servants all the time.  His resurrection was professed in greeting others because of its singular significance in our faith experience. 

 

Why the resurrection as a greeting?  Why that aspect of our faith?  The resurrection proves the power of Christ’s saving work.  As Saint Paul teaches, “If Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain.”  Without the resurrection from the dead, Jesus would be just another prophet, another crucified criminal, another itinerant preacher.  Instead, He is our victorious Lord, who has triumphed over sin and death. 

 

His Paschal Mystery is all about Jesus giving His life away on the Cross for our salvation and then being raised to new life.  He reveals to us the good news that we who give our lives away for others are promised the joy of rising to new life with Him. 

 

Christ has raised His mortal body and promised the raising of our mortal bodies, if we believe in Him.  Believing means integrating what we profess into the routine of our daily experience – much like the ancient greeting – so that faith becomes a living and effective part of us.  So that the name of Jesus flows from our lips. 

 

Therefore, Paul exhorts us in today’s second reading to “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not what is on earth.”  This was a formative passage for me in seminary.  It comes up every year in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass all through the Easter Season.  But one year, the Lord put this passage in front of me over and over.  He wanted to tell me that He was calling me to something “more,” to a deeper experience of Himself, to a life-long vocation of service and not a mundane life at all.  I was to seek the things of God and share them with the people of the Church.  And, now here I am!  No one can say I am not passionate about my faith. 

 

Being a Christian means living like Christ and practicing the virtues that will form us into Christ-like men and women.  It is not for us to get bogged down in the allurements of this world, which promise happiness but end in dissatisfaction.  The world around us is all about serving our selfishness.  For the Christian, the great calling is to look upward to the glory of God and outward to the needs of others. 

 

Sometimes we look askance at people who quote Scripture, who have a repertoire of quaint spiritual sayings, who live life with joy in sorrow and the praise of God on their lips.  Deep down we yearn for some of their peace but it’s too “old fashioned” to be visibly religious.  Why are we so hardened of heart?  Why do we call passionate Christians “Jesus freaks?”

I had a similar experience in first year seminary.  I came from a good Catholic home but we were quiet people and weren’t used to talking openly about the spiritual life.  So, I was surprised when I first heard the older men praising and thanking God all the time for everything.  I didn’t understand.  Now of course, God has led me to a deeper spiritual life and I know that He is a part of everything I am and all I do.  I need to seek the presence of God in every detail of life.  But at first I was uncertain, afraid. 

 

Saint Augustine fled from religion at first as well.  As a young man, He wanted nothing to do with faith and everything to do with women, partying and his own designs.  He resisted the encouragement of his mother and the yearning of his heart until the Lord broke in and spoke to his heart and inspired him to take up the scriptures, where he found the passage where Saint Paul beckons the reader to leave behind the darkness and walk in the light.

 

Saint Hubert, the patron of hunters, was out one day in the 8th Century, Good Friday no less, while everyone was in church, on the chase with his famous hounds.  He turned around to see a deer with a crucifix in its antlers and heard Jesus speak to him: "Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, you shall quickly fall into the abyss of Hell!"

 

These were real men, learned men, men of stature.  They were not accustomed to prayer, rituals and the weakness of surrendering before God.  They did manly things – hunting animals and racking up concubines.  But when Jesus touched their hearts, everything that held them back crumbled like dust.  They surrendered to God and, though they weren’t perfect immediately, they remained seekers of His will for their entire life. 

God gives us such a blessed opportunity to seek and discover the greater realities of His plan for us through the life of the Church.

 

Why do we humans keep eating fast food, when God is offering us a banquet of rich delights through our Christian life?  Why settle for idle pursuits when God is inviting us to study His Word and live by it?  Seek the things that are above: the joy of heaven, the love of God, the life of the angels who are forever praising God.  This is how we are to live: in faith, hope and love, with prudence, moderation, justice and courage.  These are the greater realities that signify the Christian soul. 

 

Today we celebrate the confirmation of Dr. Karen Holen and welcome her into our parish…

However, because we are afraid and uncertain and even worldly at times, we had no one for Baptism last night at the Easter Vigil. 

 

I gave a challenge at the beginning of the year for each family to bring one person to Church this year to experience our parish.  We prayed all through Lent for those names we put in the baskets at the Altar, for those who are away from the Lord.  So, I hope to see at least five Baptisms next year at the Easter Vigil.  Andover is fertile ground, waiting for us to plant the seeds of faith that the Lord will nurture into fruitful conversions. 

 

We’re afraid – afraid to speak boldly in the name of Jesus, afraid to listen to His voice amid the noise of the world, afraid to trust in what is from above and leave all else behind.  But the Good News is that fear, sin, death and evil are trampled by the Risen Christ.  When we live for the greater things of God, only goodness awaits us!

 

Once we prioritize God and the needs of those around us, our human existence will be drawn upward and we will be blessed with the fruits of life lived in communion with the Spirit of God: joy, peace, patience, gentleness and goodness.  Seek the things of God and not the follies of the world, for God is our maker and the source of our salvation.  He is risen!  Seek to live with Him forever! 

 

Praise and glory, honor and adoration be to Jesus Christ now and forever!  Alleluia! 

 

Friday, April 18, 2014

When no one cares for your life, you are united to the Heart of Jesus: Homily Good Friday 2014


As we gather on this sacred day, we contemplate the sorrowful and tragic scene

on the hill of Calvary.

 

Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, has been delivered into the hands

          of hateful, violent, lawless men.

They have ridiculed Him by dressing Him in a crown made from thorns

a purple cloak and a scepter made from a reed

and then blindfolding Him and demanding He display His alleged divinity

by prophesying who struck Him.

 

They treated our Lord with the worst kind of cruel violence:

          beating Him to the point his face is no longer recognizable

          lashing Him and tearing off His skin with whips of cords

with sharp pieces of bone and metal fastened to the end

kicking Him and making His sacred body a mass of blood and bruises.

 

The body of Jesus is like a rag doll, tossed about as a sport for the soldiers

          and so exhausted and limp He can barely move another step. 

 

Finally, the miserable cohort arrives at the place of the skull

          and Jesus is fastened with nails to the Cross and left hanging to die in agony.

The great High Priest mounts the gibbet of the Cross

          to make of it by His sacrifice the supreme Altar

          and to present Himself as the spotless Victim,

whose death brings new life to all humanity!

Thus He embraces His Cross with tenderness,

          knowing its pain will be our deliverance.

This instrument of torture and death becomes the instrument of our salvation. 

 

For those three long hours, while He writhes and whimpers in pain

and is further mocked by the soldiers who await His last breath

so they can complete their duty and be on their way…

 

Jesus is utterly alone. 

 

When circumstances turned against them and fear of arrest came over them,

          the Apostles ran away from the garden.

 

The crowds who days before has celebrated Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city

          with cries of “Hosanna!”

          now have been cajoled into turning against Him

          and demanded His crucifixion.

 

Mary, His sorrowful Mother, and John, His closest disciple and friend

          stand unwavering in their devotion at the foot of the Cross

          but His happiness at seeing them is tempered.

 

He longs for an embrace, a touch, the warmth of another’s love

          but His hands are fastened and He cannot reach out to them.

 

In His humanity, He even questions the providence of the Father:

          “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

The words of the prophetic psalms become the agonizing thoughts of the Lord:

 

Insult has broken my heart and I empty

I looked for consolers but there were none

I searched for comfort but there was none to be found

 

They put gall in my food and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink

 

Look to the right and see; for there is no one who regards me

There is no escape for me; there is no one who cares for my life.

 

Consider the stark emptiness and desolate yearning of the Lord Jesus.

He is regarded as a worm and no man.

He is hated and despised by the people He came to save.

By all accounts of the world, His life is a failure and is about to end in darkness.

 

And yet, it was for this agony that He was born

and in this suffering that His true glory is revealed.

For THIS…Christ came into the world!

 

Call to mind your own experiences of being alone.

The times when you did your best and worked hard and your efforts were ignored.

The times when people misunderstood and rejected you.

The times when insult has broken your heart.

The times when your closest friends have betrayed you.

The times when it seemed like enemies were trying to undermine you,

          putting vinegar in your drink…souring your joy.

The times when you were mocked and ridiculed for just being yourself.

The times when you were surrounded by people

and it still felt that no one cares for you.

The times when there was no means of escape from the oppression of life

          and no comfort could be found.

 

You were utterly alone.

There was no one who cared for your life. 
We have all been there. 

In the moments of your loneliness,

you were united to Christ in His suffering, from Gethsemane to Calvary.

 

The loneliness of Jesus confirms our faith in His eternal love –

          He is the High Priest knows our weaknesses and endured them without sin.

          He is close to us in our needs is our supreme comfort.

          His love will never abandon us even in our most painful emptiness.

 

There is no better place to be than close to Jesus and united to His life.

Just as His emptiness was our salvation,

          so our emptiness is an encounter with Christ’s suffering

          that leads us from darkness into life

          as we feel the loving embrace of Jesus.

 

Feel the weight of Jesus’ loneliness as you walk this way of the Cross tonight.

Then feel the relief of His loving embrace in your own emptiness

          as you walk the journey of your life arm in arm with the Lord.

See…how He loves you!

Observe what is set before you and imitate it: Holy Thursday Homily 2014


The great 4th Century bishop and father of the Church, Saint Augustine,

in one of his commentaries on the Sacred Scriptures,

directs our attention to the Proverbs of Solomon

where there is a verse that aids us in opening up

the meaning of this evening’s sacred liturgy…

 

If you sit down to eat at the table of a ruler,

observe carefully what is set before you;

then stretch out your hand,

knowing that you must provide the same kind of meal yourself.

 

Our commemoration of the Lord’s Supper is an annual reminder

          of the kind of Eucharistic life we are called to live as disciples of Jesus.

 

Jesus is the ruler of all creation, the eternal priest and universal king.

As He did long ago in the upper room,

He prepares a table before us

and invites us to join with Him in a banquet of intimate communion.

 

This is no ordinary table and no ordinary ruler who extends to us the invitation.

It is the Altar of the Lord. 

Augustine continues, saying,

What is this ruler’s table

if not the one at which we receive the body and blood

of Him who laid down His life for us?

This sacred banquet of the Holy Mass

is also the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary.

As the Last Supper anticipated the passion of the following day,

          so now our Eucharistic memorial takes us back to the foot of the Cross.

The Cross stands forever as the great sign of the love of God

poured out upon our world.

 

In the Mass, we commune with the Lord.

We receive the same broken body and poured out blood

that was immolated for love of us on the Cross.

In the Eucharist worthily received,

our hearts and souls are fused together with the Heart of Jesus.

 

The Holy Mass is the source of grace to sustain the life of the Church

          and the summit of all her teaching, pastoral and sacramental activity. 

To taste a glimpse of the love and splendor we will experience in Heaven,

          we need only to come to Mass.

This Eucharist is the pinnacle of all we do on earth. 

 

And so, as we come to the table of our ruler

and the Altar of Sacrifice of our great High Priest

let us follow the Proverb and carefully observe what He has set before us.

 

 

 

 

 

Scriptures…

 

First Reading

Mass is the fulfillment of the Lord’s command

for the Passover to be celebrated as a perpetual institution,

Where the Passover of old celebrated the deliverance of Israel

from slavery in Egypt

now the Mass commemorates the freedom of God’s people

from slavery to sin through the blood of Jesus.

Christ is true Lamb of God, whose blood can truly and completely take away sins.

 

Second Reading

Paul teaches that our celebration of the Mass

is a sharing in the tradition of the Apostles

who heard the words of the Lord at the Last Supper

and handed on the mysteries of the Lord in obedience to His command.

 

Gospel

Hear the familiar story of Jesus stooping to wash the feet of the disciples,

          which we will commemorate in ritual form here tonight.

 

Thus we can see clearly the two commands of the Lord on this night:

          “As I have washed your feet, so you must do for one another.”

          And, having given them His Body and Blood,

          “Do this in memory of me.”

 

         

Having observed carefully what this night is about

and what the Lord has set before us, again following Augustine’s words,

we stretch out our hands to prepare such a meal ourselves.

 

At the end of tonight’s Mass, we will solemnly carry

Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose

where we will spend time in adoration until midnight.

We will obey His pleading to stay awake and keep watch with Him.

 

Honoring Jesus Christ in the Eucharist by preparing ourselves well

with observance of the Communion fast and regular confession

for a worthy reception of His Body and Blood

and by spending time in prayer with our Lord

is the core of learning to prepare the same kind of meal

the Lord prepared for us.

 

Our hearts having communed with the Lord in the Eucharist, then,

          we stretch out our hands and lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters,

          just as Jesus laid down His life for us.

 

Christ left us an example, an example of self-sacrificing love,

          so that we night follow in His footsteps.

 

That example includes the washing of the Apostles’ feet –

          the Christian must be always ready to stoop low, to get his hands dirty,

          to serve without counting the cost to oneself,

          in order to follow Christ’s example of loving service. 

Recently, on the news, there was a story of a young man

who was touched by the sight of a schoolmate who had no lunch.

He began to collect money from his friends in order to buy lunch for him.

This got the boy thinking…his thinking blossomed into action…

          by this month he has raised $10,000 through different projects

          to make sure every child in his school always has a lunch. 

 

That is the kind of spontaneous and dedicated service,

resulting from our being moved with compassion for others,

that is the hallmark of a godly, Christian life.

 

How often we pretend not to see, or see and ignore, the needs of the marginalized.

To do so is to neglect the real meaning of the Eucharist –

          a sacramental encounter with Jesus that He gave us

          to change us from within into imitators of His love. 

 

The Holy Eucharist is a communion with the Lord’s own life and sacrifice

          that prepares and enlivens us to turn to those in need,

stretch out our hand and lay down our life for them.

 

This is the Eucharistic life: honoring Christ

by reverently receiving Him in Communion

and by serving Him in lifting up the lowly and binding their wounds. 

 

As Christians, we carefully observe all that is before us tonight

and we commit ourselves to living what we celebrate.

These are the Lord’s commands.  This is the way to eternal life. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

And so it begins once again...

...my favorite of year.  Prayer, sacred celebrations with soul-stirring chants and rituals, the dawn of Spring and the excitement of preparing the churches for the festivities make Holy Week the best time of year!  Do not let these days go by lightly but celebrate them passionately with your loved ones.  Live not for yourselves but for Christ who died to set you free. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Seven Last Words

In case you can't listen on the radio  :-)


Reflections on the Seven Last Words of Christ
Father Matthew J. Albright

1. “Father, forgive them, for they not know what they do.”


The compassion of our God is a treasury that knows no limits, an ocean of mercy that cannot be exhausted.  With beautiful analogies, psalm 113 says “…as the heavens tower over the earth, so His mercy towers over those who fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” 


The final and most profound sermon of Jesus, delivered from the pulpit of the Cross in seven last words, begins with a proclamation of the riches of His mercy.  He looks upon His accusers and executioners, not with anger for their harshness but with compassion for their deep spiritual blindness.  These lawless men have murdered the incarnate Christ.  They know not what they do. 


The merciful gaze of Jesus from the Cross, moved with pity for the wandering souls of His people, falls upon us.  We see Him face to face and He encourages us by the knowledge that He loves us passionately to acknowledge and repent of our sins, and then to turn toward those who have most hurt us to share that same compassion we have received from the Lord.  Consider your sins.  Consider those who have sinned against you.  May the mercy of Jesus descend from the Cross to wash over you. 


2. “Amen, I say to you: today you will be with me in paradise.”


It is the will of God that we surrender ourselves to Him in this life and be united with Him forever in Heaven.  Jesus sees the sincere contrition of the “good thief” who is hanging beside Him on the hill of Calvary.  The man perceives the wickedness of his past sins and the gravity of his impending death and surrenders his life to Jesus, trusting that His kingdom is the place where he will find true peace and joy.  This was a leap of faith at a moment when the man had no other options.  Jesus was his only hope.  Seeing his sincerity, Jesus welcomes the man into paradise.  Because the thief handed everything over to the Lord, he was able to experience the saving power of the Lord’s forgiveness and reconciliation. 


The word “paradise” carries images of the Garden of Eden and returning to the original innocence, unity and love of God’s plan for the first human persons.  However, with the Incarnation of Jesus and the new dimension he brings to our relationship with God, the Heaven for which we long is so much more.  To the restoration of the original harmony of the first humans in “paradise” Jesus adds the blessed opportunity for becoming God’s adopted children.  We will see God face-to-face, as He is, and become like Him.  Jesus came to share in our human nature so that we might come to share in His divine nature.  This is the blessedness to which Jesus invites the thief, and all of us, if we surrender our lives to Him.


3. “Woman, behold your son.  Behold your mother.”


The pain of losing a child to an unjust and horrible death is a feeling we cannot imagine if we have not lived through it ourselves.  On Calvary, Mary sees Jesus, her little boy, torn apart and rejected by the very people He came to save.  As Simeon had foretold, a sword of sorrow pierced Mary’s heart.  Even before Jesus had died, she was in sorrow seeing Him brutally tortured.  Then, Jesus asks her to accept a replacement, her son’s best friend, John, as her caregiver until the end of her earthly life.  There is no replacement for her only child, her first-born son, the pride and joy of her youth, the fruit of her obedience to God.  Mary’s gracious acceptance of the direction Jesus gave to her and to John is a sign of God’s plan still at work.  She accepts John as her son because she always trusts the will of God, even when no human mother could accept another as a replacement for her child.  She says “yes” because this is part of the divine plan.  John took her into his home. 


In John we see ourselves.  Mary is entrusted as “mother” to every one of Jesus’ disciples, who are all beloved in His sight.  As Mary was the vessel through which God took on flesh and entered our world, the surest path for us back to Jesus is through Mary.  Mary, mother of the Lord and mother of the Church, continually intercedes, inspires and guides her loyal subjects here on earth.  Her goal is for all who turn to her to in turn experience union with Jesus.  Invite Mary into your home, into the recesses of your heart and the daily grind of your human experience.  Invite her to walk with you in your journey of faith.  Devote yourself to following her lead.  Ask her to help you say “yes” to God. 


4. “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”



As a faithful son of a Jewish family, Jesus would have known by heart and prayed the Psalms as a regular part of His upbringing and young adulthood.  These words of doubt and abandonment open psalm 22, which Jesus is praying from His heart, from His memory, as He hangs on the Cross.  The psalms does not remain in the depths of despair but beings the one praying through a journey of self-exploration to end with words of hope and promise.  I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you…For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one…Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.  They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!”


Jesus takes our place, accepts our sins, along with the guilt and punishment we incur, and receives the chastisement that we deserve.  He even experiences the feeling of abandonment we sometimes feel when God seems far away, as if He is not answering our prayers and is not interested in us.  In His humanity, He cries out, as we so often do, “why is this happening, why has God abandoned me to this suffering?” 


Still, in His divinity, Jesus hangs on to the end of the psalm, the end of the story of God’s plan for Him, consummating the loving union between God and His people out of His great love for us.  In Christ is our hope, for He agonized in His death so that He might soon again rise to glory.  When you begin to feel abandoned and to doubt and question even God’s love, hang on strong with the power of Jesus and remember that He is always with you, He never despises you and future generations will continue to praise His goodness. 


5. “I am thirsty.”


Psalm 69 is one of the Old Testament texts in which we can see a prefiguring of Christ.  It reads “Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.  They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.”  As Jesus cries out, expresses His thirsting, He is given sour wine, or vinegar, to drink. 


In fulfilling the words of the Old Testament, Jesus reveals two dimensions of “thirsting” that He is experiencing.  In His humanity, the pain of scourging and crucifixion, of falling while being drug through the streets under the weight of the Cross, of the nails and the labored breathing – all this has made His throat dry and parched.  He longs for a drink of cold water. 


Underneath the human thirst of Jesus is His supernatural thirst for the faith and love of His beloved people.  He cries out for companions on the journey and finds none.  When Jesus encounters the woman at the well, He asks for a drink but has no bucket.  He is thirsting for the woman’s soul – for her to open herself up to Him so He can give her the living water of His love that will cleanse her, free her and make her a fountain of grace for others.  


That thirsting of the Lord for the holiness of His people reaches its climax on Calvary.  As the High Priest ascends the Altar of the Cross to offer the perfect sacrifice of Himself, the Victim provided by the Father, He thirsts with agony for the souls of mankind to be united to Him in total trust and unending love.  Nearly everyone has abandoned Him.  The thirst of Jesus is unquenched until we surrender ourselves to Him.  Jesus wants you, your love, your total gift of self.

6. “It is finished.”

It is a cry of relief and a cry of victory.  The Lord has conquered sin and death.  Jesus told Pilate “For this I was born and for this I came into the world: to testify to the truth.”  Jesus emptied Himself of equality with God in order to take on the likeness of human flesh, as Saint Paul says in Philippians.  He further humbles Himself in accepting death on the Cross.  Jesus is the suffering servant whose life and death testify to the truth of God’s passionate love for His people and to the truth of what it means to be a disciple of Christ: loving others as Christ loved us. 

This mission of the Lord, which bought the power of God’s love into our world and took mankind’s relationship with God to a profoundly deeper level, reaches its fulfillment on the Cross.  As priest and victim, Jesus offers Himself on the Altar of the Cross.  He pours out His blood, mingled with water, giving birth to the sacramental life of the Church from His pierced Sacred Heart.  God’s power is perfected in suffering.  The mission of uniting Himself to humanity in order to open the path for our union with God is fulfilled in this epic act of self-emptying.

Gazing upon Christ hung on the Cross, we see what Jesus means by loving others as He loves us.  We are destined by Baptism to lay down our lives for others in acts of self-sacrifice until our life of discipleship is consummated in union with God in eternal life. 

7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

At the final moment of His passion, Jesus hands everything over to the Father who sent Him into the world to accomplish the work of our salvation.  This is the culmination of the mysteries of the Lord’s life – a return of all His love and His whole self to the Father of all creation.

In the end, this is the fundamental attitude of the Christian discipleship – surrender to the Father’s will.  In the morning offering, we offer all the joys, works and sufferings of the day to God.  In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “Thy will be done.”  In the Magnificat at evening prayer, we pray “My soul magnifies the Lord” and recall the words of Mary “Let is be done to me according to your word.”  In night prayer, the Church prays “In to your hands, I commend my spirit.” 

Each day is a new opportunity for us to abandon our own wills and seek to do the will of God, whose plan for our lives is the true path to happiness and salvation.  Each morning we have a fresh beginning in which commend our wills into the Father’s hands.  Each night, we go to sleep commending our souls to Him.  As disciples of Jesus, our whole lives are a gift from God, a gift we return to Him with thanksgiving and praise.  In these final words of the human life of Jesus, he abandons Himself to the Father.  The rest of Holy Saturday leads to the triumph of Easter Sunday.  Trust in the Lord, live for Him, and see what victories tomorrow brings! 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Seven Last Words of Christ - Reflections by Father Albright



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Come out from sin to mercy, from death to life in Christ! Homily Fifth Sunday of Lent 2014 Year A



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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Charity - personal and "institutional" / Bulletin Column April 6, 2014


Dear Brethren in Christ,

 

Recently, a question was raised about the work of Catholic Charities in the Church and our support of it through the Bishop’s Appeal.  The specific objection was to the “institutionalization of charity.”  It was argued that we Christians are called to personally volunteer ourselves to directly help those in need, seeing in them the face of Christ, and not to give money to an agency to do the works of charity for us.  Scripture calls us to love like Christ.  To give to an agency like Catholic Charities, in this line of thought, is an abdication of our Christian responsibility which will not merit us anything from God.  I hope and expect that all of us do our best to meet the needs of people who cross our path.  But there is more to the work of charity in the Church. 

 

The parable of the Good Samaritan is the story of a traveler coming personally to the aid of a bleeding, beaten and abandoned man on the side of the road.  His first instinct is to love as Jesus loves, without counting the cost.  Yet, when his time, talent and treasure are exhausted and the man still needs more help, the Samaritan entrusts him to the care of an innkeeper.  At the inn, the man is nursed back to health by others, whom the Samaritan pays to care for him.  He even promises to give more in his return trip. He is called “good” both for his charity and for his creative insight in recognizing who could better help the man in the long term. 

 

So it is with the charitable work of the Church.  There is no doubt that there are many people whose needs outweigh our individual ability to help – sometimes financial, medical and psychological needs that we ourselves cannot meet.  In January alone, over 600 people came to Ashtabula County Catholic Charities for emergency assistance.  As the Church established by Christ and as His family of disciples, we are obliged to help those in need.  Sometimes, this means giving our coins to those with the skills and resources that can help improve another’s life.  You entrust me as your pastor with the donations given to the Vincentian Fund and I help people who come to the rectory with food, gas, utilities, clothes and occasionally rent.  When I encounter a person whose needs outweigh the ability of the parish to support them, I refer them to Catholic Charities.  As a pastor and board member, I trust that they will find the help they truly need there. 

 

Similarly, we trust the bishop to use wisely the funds given to the Bishop’s Appeal and we trust the good people who work at Catholic Charities, “the Bishop’s administrative arm for charity,” as it is described in diocesan policy.  Catholic Charities is a ministry of the bishop and not a government agency.  When a person receives assistance from Catholic Charities, they also meet with a case worker, who helps them plan a strategy for making better life choices.  It’s about more than a hand out.  The Church helps people to be strong and healthy men and women.  Without the “institutionalized” charitable works of the Church – orphanages, hospitals, clinics, shelters, agencies, etc. – the poor would be left without someone to help them in a way that recognizes their dignity along with offering assistance. 

 

Thank you for your support of the Bishop’s Appeal, the primary finding source of Catholic Charities in our diocese.  Love is the core of our discipleship – both in heartfelt sharing of our blessings and in obedience to the precept of the Church to financially support the work of the Church – she who is the hands and feet of Jesus to those most in need. 

 

God bless you!

 

Fr. Matthew

Saturday, March 29, 2014

To Jesus through Mary

Just finished renewal of consecration to Mary with Fr Michael Gaitley s 33 DAYS TO MORNING GLORY. Highly recommend it for deepening your intimate relationship with Mary and Jesus. Pray for success of consecration for priests. Pray the Lord guides my writing and editing.