Message From The Pastor

You know who you are. The holy One of God! Thus shouts the man with the unclean spirit at Jesus in the synagogue. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus does not want to be known. He is the Messiah, the Son of God, but in the Gospel of Mark he is the ‘Suffering Servant’ according to all Scripture Scholars. Mark employs the ‘messianic secret,’ not wanting Jesus to be identified until He suffers and dies on the cross. At that moment it is the Centurion, standing by his side, who makes the profession of faith,”Surely this man was the Son of God.” That should be very familiar to us because it is the story depicted in our triptych in the icons in the front of the sanctuary of St. Mark Church.

Why does Mark have Jesus keep his identity secret? There are many reasons but one main focus is that people will get the wrong idea about the Messiah. They will expect a revolutionary, a king, an emperor who will be powerful and famous and glorious. Mark wants us to see that Jesus’ real glory and power and fame is in giving of Himself as the Suffering Servant so that we might have life. The example for us, then, is not to strive after fame, fortune or power in the way the world prescribes, but to serve and to even use our suffering as a form of service for the world. If we live and work and love in this way, then we are really following in the footsteps of Christ.

Watch, during this year of St. Mark, for the Messianic Secret in the Gospel!

Last week I had the privilege of leading the First Year Theologians from St. Mary’s Seminary on Retreat. After spending five (5) days with them, I am pleased to tell you that I am so excited and confident about the future of our church. Here were young men who had worked, been involved in politics, earned higher degrees and have greatly discerned God’s call in their lives. They are faithful, realistic, pious and good people. In each of their prayers, they are concerned about the good of the ordinary people of the church, how to reach out to the non-practicing, how to spread the good news of the Gospel and how they can lead holy and devout lives.

This weekend’s readings describe the call of Samuel. He, nor Eli, knew that the Lord, Himself, was calling Samuel. As the Scriptures say, Samuel was not familiar with the Lord. But through God’s persistence, and the wisdom of Eli, Samuel was able to know it was the Lord, hear Him and respond! In the Gospel Jesus calls and two immediately follow but it is Andrew, who is so inspired by the Lord, that goes home and tells his brother Simon, soon to become Cephas or Peter, we have found the Lord! Help one another discover the Lord in their life this week. Some of our young people are not familiar with Lord but WE can be the one who helps him/her to listen. We can do that for one another as husband/wife or friend. Jesus is calling. Help your neighbor to hear!

I am away this weekend in Minnesota to be the godfather for Jacob and Maria Schwendinger’s new baby boy! They send their love and their prayers.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord this weekend we end the Christmas season and begin Jesus’ public ministry of healing, forgiveness and love. The invitation to us is clear: Just as Jesus healed and brought people together and extended God’s love to the world, so we are to do as well. This doesn’t have to be rocket science. We are called, by our baptism, to be holy. That means that each and every one of us has a mission. I spoke of this on Stewardship Sunday when I asked if we were really owners of our parish. Owners take responsibility, step forward, and are proactive. Non-owners or renters point out problems, complain and “use.” I invite you this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, once again, to be an owner of St. Mark. Claim your faith and your parish as your own. Find a way to exercise your baptismal dignity by extending Christ’s love, healing and forgiveness to the world and even to those who sit next to you at church and in your neighborhood!

Statistics show that a very small percentage of Catholics are really active in their faith. Matthew Kelly says, if we could get just 1% more of Catholics active, we could revolutionize the church and the world. Step up today and claim your dignity as a son or daughter of God. Help us extend the joy and love of the Gospel to all people!

Happy Epiphany! For many of our Eastern brothers and sisters, and for our Catholics of Spanish origin, this is the day gifts are exchanged. They do this in honor of the three kings, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. The kings are never named in the Gospel of Matthew, nor are we ever told there are three kings—we derive this from the three gifts. However, the information that Magi, or wise men, or seers from the East, visited the newborn King, is documented in Matthew’s Gospel. He wanted his audience to know — and us now — from the very beginning, this wonderful event, this Savior, is for everyone. Remember, the Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah for hundreds of years and believed, when He came, He would vindicate them, set them free from oppression, misery and injustice and rule forever. But they also believed he would come just for the Jewish people. Matthew blows this concept out of the water with the arrival of the three strangers from the East. They represent all lands and all cultures.

As we celebrate this beautiful Feast, still an essential part of the Christmas tradition, let us examine our minds and hearts to ask God to free us from any preconceived notions about who belongs and who does not, who is worthy and who is unworthy. It’s something Pope Francis has also urged us to consider. In fact, let us ask God to broaden all of our concepts, hopes and dreams beyond our wildest imaginings as He did on the night so very long ago when the wise men from the East recognized the Messiah.

A Blessed Christmas to all! I always love this time of year. I enjoy every bit of it– the silent, dark nights, the decorations on so many homes, the wonderful cookies and candy and family recipes that come out during Christmas, and the music. But I must admit– and this will not strike you as strange–that I love church more than all.

The readings of the Masses during Advent are so rich. Whether it’s the prophecies of Isaiah or Zechariah or the Gospel of St. Luke with the angel appearing to Mary, they stir emotion and longing in me. Don’t we all want a world of peace? Wouldn’t it be great if all sickness and distress and anxiety were gone? This is the promise of those words of Scripture. They are also the promise of Jesus, the Messiah.

I think many have given up, however. Maybe the world has gotten the best of us. We are too busy. We can’t tangibly see or feel Jesus. Christians do not really live the Gospel the way we should so why bother with church– any church? We just try to make it through each day the best we can.

This was the exact situation into which Jesus came. Oppression, cruelty, terrorism, hypocritical political and religious leaders reigned, and the world was weary. But He did not wait for things to get better nor did He look for the perfect home, the greatest town, or the wealthiest family. He entered right into the mess–into poverty, into sickness, into an imperfect and very flawed world. The ones who needed Him most found Him.

If you are sad this Christmas — If you’re wondering about our world, our country, your family, your faith, you are in the right place. We don’t claim to have all of the answers. Our faith can’t explain why some wonderful people get sick while others prosper. We can’t solve the whole world’s problems nor fix the economic situation that cause so many to struggle. But we do have the answer and it is Jesus. No matter who we are, where we’ve been, what we’ve done, He comes to us. He simply waits for us to accept Him. And He walks with us in sickness, in suffering, in pain, and joins us in gladness and joy.

Find Him today in this community. We’re not perfect but we try to find Jesus and his life and message every day in the Scriptures, in the Eucharist, in service to those around us and in each other. One message of Jesus is very clear — this world is too complex and cruel and difficult to go it alone. We need each other. Every person is important. So whether you are a weekly worshipper here or a visitor, someone who stops in now and then or someone looking for God, you will find welcome here. Don’t go it alone. Find support and love in the Body of Christ here as you walk this great adventure.

Well, it’s here again. Here we are at the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas is right around the corner. We hear in the Gospel the beautiful story of the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary and it probably stirs warm feelings within us. I wonder, however, how warm Mary felt when she encountered this unexpected celestial being! Asked to have a baby when she was not yet even married, and to be the Mother
of God?! She must have been afraid and disconcerted. Yet Mary, the great model, says “Yes.”

As we draw so near to Christmas have we done all that we wanted to do to make this Advent special? I’m not talking about presents and decorations and Christmas cards and Christmas cookies, I’m talking about our spiritual selves. Are we truly ready for Christ to come in our hearts? If not, fear not – we still have time. But take the time today to do something – go to confession, do a good deed for a lonely person, take a moment to contemplate the decorations or pray for someone who has sent you a Christmas card. Be ready to say the Yes to Jesus that Mary says.

Its Advent but this weekend is all about Repentance. That should not surprise us. Advent has always been a bit of a Penitential season-thus the color, purple, for our altar and our vestments (yeah, it’s not for the Ravens!). John the Baptist appears in the Gospel calling for a baptism of repentance to make a way for the Lord who will surely follow. We, too, during this season of preparation, have to clean out our houses. It’s time to get rid of resentment, bitterness, grudges, anger, all of the garbage that clogs up our hearts and our souls. If we do this, we can truly celebrate Christmas. If we don’t, then the coming of Christ will be just like any other day—or worse! Paul says it will happen like a thief in the night and he calls us to conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion. We have two opportunities next week to clean up for Christmas—Penance Services on Monday, December 15 and Tuesday, December 16 starting at 7 PM. In the midst of all of your preparations for Christmas, take time for the best preparation—that of our souls for the coming of the Lord.

Advent is here! Based on our secular culture you would think Christmas is already here! Many people told me that BJ’s and Department Stores had all of their decorations up in August. We know that’s all because they season Christmas as their “cash crop.” It should be different for us. Advent is four weeks—four weeks of waiting for the coming of the Lord, not celebrating Christmas!

In the First two weeks, the Scripture focuses on the Second Coming of Christ and we pray fervently that He will return to bring the Kingdom of Peace, Justice and Love. If He does not return this year, and that IS our prayer, the next two weeks focus on remembering His coming 2,000 years ago with a Gospel that is so contradictory to how we normally act and how our world operates.

Take time to celebrate Advent! Don’t be like Macy’s or Walmart with so many decorations and music that we’re sick of it by December 26th! Take time in quiet, in prayer, lighting the candles of our Advent wreaths, one by one, praying for peace. A gentleman was very angry with me last year because, by the Third Sunday of Advent, the Church was not decorated for Christmas! He had bought into the culture. Don’t do the same. Celebrate friends, family, love, children, and that special magic of the season. Christmas will last from the eve of December 24 until January 11th, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Be countercultural-keep your lights and your tree and your music going then! But for now, enter into the peace of Advent.

This weekend marks the end of the Church Year with the Feast of Christ the King. Often when we think of royalty, we conjure images of fame, fortune and power. However, Jesus presents a very different idea of being in charge today—that of service. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Just think what our world would be like if all of our leaders believed, deep in their hearts, this principle!

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us the ones to be saved are those who have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited those in prison and given drink to the thirsty. Each week our St. Vincent DePaul Society pays to keep people warm in their homes and in their bodies, our Food Pantry feeds hundreds of our neighbors regardless of faith, and our Gabriel Network cares for those with children in complex situations. As I see our Narthex fill every weekend and, certainly overflow during Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, I give thanks for you who take the Gospel to heart! Thank you for all that you do to feed and clothe people and to extend the love of Christ to our world.

One commentary said the Gospel this weekend tells us Jesus will “judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats, between those who live their lives for others, and those who have lived for themselves.” This is a sober and accurate account of the demand of the Christian life.

11/16 /2014
From the time I was a little child I was taught to save money. I remember going with my Mom and Dad to the bank to open my own account and I would deposit birthday gifts, money from cutting neighbors’ lawns and shoveling their snow into this account. I loved to watch it grow with interest!

So you can imagine how this weekend’s parable seems strange. I would be the person who would take the talents and bury them so as to preserve them for the Master. Yet, learning more about the stock market, mutual funds, CD’s and financial planning and management for myself and for organizations for which I’ve been responsible, I see that simply burying talents or investments is never a wise thing. We must take a step out in trust and daring so that we grow. That is Jesus’ invitation for each of us this weekend. Each of us is gifted. Each of us has talent. Don’t bury those gifts but step out in real risk so the talent will grow and benefit the Kingdom of God!

THE DEDICATION OF THE BASILICA OF THE LATERAN — “The Basilica of the Lateran is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome; the pope is its bishop. It gets its name from the domain of the Laterani family… The Edict of Milan (313) put an end to the period of persecutions and made Christianity a kind of state religion… Emperor Constantine gave the palace of the Lateran to the Church and … built a Basilica, dedicated to the Holy Savior on November 9, 324. Even before the construction of the Basilica, a baptistry had been built… its patron was St John the Baptist… Afterward, St. John the Evangelist was also associated with the Basilica, which is the reason it is often called “St John Lateran”…

In every diocese the cathedral is the symbol…of the unity of the local Church gathered around its bishop, its defender, and through him their unity with other Churches that form the Catholica. This is why the anniversary of the feast of the dedication of the cathedral of a diocese is celebrated as a solemn feast throughout the diocese. But the bishop who has his seat in Rome has the ministry of the charity and unity of the entire Church… His cathedral is therefore a symbol of much more than the Church of Rome. Celebrating the anniversary of the cathedral that is the mother of all others…is to celebrate the Lord, who founded his Church in order to gather together in unity, under the crozier of Peter and his successors, all the children of God, wherever they may be.” (extracted from “Days of the Lord”, Vol 7, Liturgical Press, 1994)

This weekend we celebrate the great Feasts of All Saints and All Souls. On All Saints Day we give thanks to God for the thousands of men and women who have heard the call of the Gospel and responded in profound ways and, because of this, are now in God’s presence as His Saints. They are parents and married couples, priests and sisters, single people and children. The list goes on and on. They are patrons of all kinds of activities and people depending on their way of life or their way of death. We ask them, as we would ask good friends, go pray for us so that we do the will of the Father.

All Souls brings us to remember all of those who have died who are not Saints with a capital “S”. These people are the millions through the centuries, whom, we trust, will one day enter the presence of God in all of its fullness. But it behooves us to pray for them. Why? Because none of us is perfect and in order to enter into the presence of the All Good, All Loving, All Perfect, there can be no hint of stain or sin—impossible for most of us when we die! In the past, the fear was that many people went to hell when they died. Now, so often, at funerals, we hear people assume that the deceased is already in heaven. All Souls Day reminds us that those who have died need our prayers. It recalls our teaching on purgatory—the place and/or process we must go through to be perfect so that we can enter the presence of God. Do not fail to pray for the dead! They count on us.

We may not realize it but in Jesus’ time there were not just 10 Commandments, but 617 commandments that good, orthodox Jews had to fulfill every single day. The Pharisee in today’s Gospel is asking a good question. Which of all these Commandments is the most important?

Jesus combines two commandments and makes what we have come to call the golden rule. Love God with everything within you, and love your neighbor as yourself.

In the first reading we hear that our neighbor includes, especially, all of those who are on the margins of society. These readings today are quite a challenge for all of us. Who is our neighbor? Those who really feel like they don’t belong. We need to reach out to all.

This weekend we hear both in the Old Testament and in the second reading from the New Testament about how the gifts of God are given to us even though we may be unaware. The first reading describes God unbarring gates and opening doors so that our faith life is easier. In other words God gives us what we need to become deeper in our faith and closer to His Son spiritually.

However, the challenge is that we have to take our part as well. Some people have told me recently that they participated much in the past in the parish but feel it’s now time for some young people to take over. While that may be true in many respects, because of energy levels, we are never too old to do God’s will and to develop ourselves faithfully and spiritually.

It is my hope that all of us, at whatever stage of life we are in, strive to grow more deeply spiritually and as disciples of Jesus. There are plenty of ways to be involved in our parish and I invite each and everyone to be a disciple.