Letters from a Pastor to His People

Letters from a Pastor to His People

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Father James with a recent SJS graduate

Dear Parishioners,

We celebrate Corpus Christi today.  The Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ our Savior, which means the Eucharist is powerful.  It has a real effect on us.  There are three things the Eucharist does, each corresponding with one of the readings. 

1) The Eucharist gives us strength to perform our duties and obligations in life.  Abram had just defeated several tribes in the Palestine region to establish his position.  Soon after, a priest named Melchizedek brings an offering of bread and wine (cf. Gen 14:18-20).  In turn, Abram gives the priest a tenth of his spoils.  The bread and wine offered by this priest Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.  It not only celebrated Abram's success, it gave Abram strength to be both King and father of the Israelite people.  When we go to Mass or pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we are given strength to be the best spouse, parent, sibling, student, worker, priest that we are called to be.

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Feast of the Holy Trinity

Father James attempts to explain the Holy Trinity to a group of kindergartners. The Trinity doesn't get any easier to comprehend with age, kids!

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 16, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

"I will give you what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16:15).  Growing up, my parents used to refer to possessions in the first person plural: our house, our backyard, our car.  It impressed me because my siblings and I did nothing to earn these things.  We were not entitled to them. But that is how generous my parents were.  They took what was rightfully theirs and declared it to us.  I'm sure many of you parents do the same.  What love, what generosity!

We celebrate the Holy Trinity today which affirms for us, among other things, God's generosity and love.  The fact that God is relational from all eternity tells us that God is not alone.  If God was one and not three, he would be alone, which means he would need to create the world for relationship.  This means he would need our love, our worship, our holiness; and if he needed it, he would be angry if he didn't receive it.  But the Trinity tells us God is perfect in himself.  He is totally dependent and not in need of us.  He created us to allow us to share in the beauty and love that God is.  What God has, he declared to us.  That is what the Trinity tells us. 

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Holy Spirit, Giver Of Life

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 9, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

In the Nicene Creed at Mass, we say the following:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,

who has spoken through the prophets.

 The giver of life.  What a great sobriquet of the Holy Spirit! 

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Take the High Ground with Prayer

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 2, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

There are many hills in the Holy Land, and when a figure from the Scriptures ascends one, we should pay attention.  Abraham goes up Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son Isaac.  The angel stays Abraham's slaughtering hand, Abraham is established as the father of Israel, and Moriah will become the site of the temple mount in Jerusalem.  About 1,000 years later King David will ascend that very same hill to recreate the nation of Israel.  His son, Solomon, will construct the temple on that mount. 

Noah's ark lands on Mount Ararat.  Moses ascends Mount Sinai, is literally wrapped in a cloud of divinity, and comes down with the Ten Commandments.  And Elijah defeats the pagan priests atop Mount Carmel. 

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Easter Hymns, My Favorite

 

Dear Parishioners,

Easter hymns are my favorite.  They are joyful and triumphant.  Here is one not all that common, "That Easter Day with Joy was Bright" (perhaps you can listen online to hear the tune):

That Easter day with joy was bright:

the sun shone out with fairer light

when to their longing eyes restored,

th'apostles saw their risen Lord.

 

His risen flesh with radiance glowed,

his wounded hands and feet he showed;

those scars their solemn witness gave

that Christ was risen from the grave.

 

O Jesus, King of gentleness,

do thou thyself our hearts possess,

that we may give thee all our days

the willing tribute of our praise.

 

O Lord of all, with us abide

in this, our joyful Easter-tide;

from ev'ry weapon death can wield

thine own redeemed forever shield.

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Simply, Love One Another

Dear Parishioners,

George Washington's Farewell Address is considered one of the greatest speeches in American history, second to Lincoln's address at Gettysburg.  It has been analyzed, referenced, and reenacted (the speech is read every year on the US Senate floor on February 22) countless times. 

Washington didn't actually deliver publicly the over-seven thousand word address.  It appeared in the newspapers on September 19, 1776.  The father of the nation indicated he would not seek a third term as President of the United States.  He would instead "retire" to his home in Mount Vernon.  This was truly his desire since the end of the Revolutionary War.  He simply wanted to tend his land.  He truly was a 'Cincinnatus'. 

Washington warns, in the address, against division: geographic, political, international. But he is also positive, attempting to guide the people and leave an American legacy. "The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity," he wrote, "must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local distinctions."

Washington wanted to form an American identity in the people.  They were no longer British colonists.  Nor were they citizens of a particular state, federalists, republicans, farmers, soldiers, whatever.  They were Americans.

We read from the Gospel of John this week part of Christ's 'farewell address.'  It's better than Washington's.  His 'command' to the people (just like Washington 'commanded' the people not to be divisive) was: "love one another" (John 13:34).

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We Survived!

Dear Parishioners,

When I first prayed over the second reading for this Sunday, in preparing for this letter, I had my own revelation.  Of course, this is John's revelation.  He sees a great multitude standing before the Lamb of God, wearing white robes with palms in their hands.  One of the saints leans over to John, during his vision, and explains to John that “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 7:14). 

My vision was that this multitude in the white robes was you all, you faithful Catholics.  No, it wasn't an idea of throwing a toga party.  It was me seeing you all who have survived 'the time of great distress.'

Okay, what's the time of great distress?  Two things.  First, in the Catholic Church. It's been a rough year for the Church, with the scandals and so forth.  You are still coming to Church.  (If anyone thinks Catholicism has been weakened, I hope you saw the Church on Easter Sunday—it was an absolutely packed house.  And, talking with pastors elsewhere, they had similarly full congregations.)  You have persevered in your faith throughout the scandals.  Your robe has been washed white.

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We Must Obey God Rather Than Men

Dear Parishioners,

Saint Peter's transformation is astounding.  He goes from denying Christ during the Passion in the courtyard of the Sanhedrin to proclaiming Christ without fear in that same locale after Pentecost.  That boldness is seen in our first reading from Acts of the Apostles.

Peter and the apostles had been warned not to preach in Jerusalem.  They saw what the Jewish leaders did to Jesus when Jesus did the same thing--they had him crucified.  But Peter is a different man now.  He does not back down, even when threatened.  "We must obey God rather than men," he says.

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St Thomas, Didymus - The Twin

Dear Parishioners,

Saint Thomas was called Didymus, which means 'the twin.'  Someone asked me about this recently.  Thomas did not have actually have a twin sibling.  He was called 'the twin' because of his split personalities, if you will.  He is a faithful apostle, yet he doubts. 

When Jesus decides to see Lazarus, though it will mean traveling into the lion's den, Thomas says, "let us go that we may die with him" (John 11:16).  When Jesus says at the Last Supper that he is going to the Father, Thomas asks what the way is, to which our Lord responds: "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:15).  When Jesus comes back to life, Thomas resists: "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).

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The Bunny Hops, Does It Not?

Dear Parishioners,

I came across a quote from Saint Gregory the Great, the Pope from the 6th Century.  It made me think of Easter.  But before unveiling the quote, a word or two about Gregory.

Gregory, born in 540 to a wealthy patrician family, was elected prefect of Rome in his late 20s, an incredible feat.  Dissatisfied with this life, he resigned and became a Benedictine monk.  Renowned for his holiness and his discipline, the clergy and people of Rome elected him Pope at age 50.  As Pope, he removed unworthy priests from office, lived in monastic simplicity, used funds from the papal treasury to care for victims of the plague, famine, and war, dealt with the Lombard king who was attacking Rome, converted Great Britain to Catholicism, introduced 'Gregorian chant' and other prayers into the Mass, and wrote a book, "On Pastoral Care," which is still read today. There is much more Gregory did. Paul the Deacon, who served with him in Rome and later wrote about his life, quipped, "He never rested."  There is a reason he is dubbed the Great. All popes, bishops, and priests should model themselves after this saint. 

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Ah, Holy Jesus

Dear Parishioners,

One of the highlights of my year as a priest is reading the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.  It is a privilege to play the role of Christ in the narrative.  The part that always sends a chill down my spine is when the crowd (you all in the congregation) yells out: "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"  It's amazing to hear the church roar.

I know you personally are not directing that at me personally. You don't want to crucify me. (Okay, well, maybe, some of you do.) And I know you don't want Christ to be crucified.  You're just playing the part assigned to you.

But why would the Church arrange it so?  Because there's some truth in our crucifixion of Jesus.  We do send Christ to the cross. 

I don't say this to make you feel bad.  I put myself in the same boat.  When we sin and when we do not live fulfilled lives, we crucify Jesus.  Our forsakenness harms Jesus.  Not because he can't handle himself, but because he loves us so much that he is pained when we struggle. 

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Grounded in Prayer on the Mount of Olives

Dear Parishioners,

There are many lessons we can take from Christ in this well-known scene of the woman caught in adultery from the Gospel of John.

First, leading up to this encounter, Jesus had spent the whole previous day teaching in the temple.  The day ends and our Lord's enemies "went each to his own house" (Jn 7:53).  Jesus, on the other hand, "went to the Mount of Olives" (Jn 8:1).  Jesus received his rest and his 'fuel', as it were, by praying.  Who knows how he would have reacted to this adversary had he not grounded himself the night before in prayer?

Second, Jesus does not respond immediately to the Scribes' and Pharisees' puzzle.  He writes on the ground.  This was a way of indicating, in the ancient world, one's disinterest in the topic.  It was Jesus' way of not engaging and saying, "just go away."  Our Lord is patient.  He does not act compulsively or judge hastily.

Third, our Lord does not objectify the woman.  The Pharisees don't truly care about the woman and her sin and the system of justice.  They are out to trap Jesus.  The woman is merely the opportunity; an object to use in their mission.  Our Lord respects the woman.  He merely offers a wise adage: "Let he who is without sin be the first to cast a stone." Like Jesus, we should never degrade people to satisfy ourselves.

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