Sunday, September 20, 2015

Amazed and Afraid

Hi Everyone!

I hope you got something from watching episode one.  Bishop Barron (He was just ordained a bishop last week!) is a very talented and knowledgeable theologian and has the ability to present the truths of the faith in a way that is easy to understand and stimulates the intellect as well. I have watched the series numerous times and I find that I discover something new each time.

What really struck me about this episode is the statement he makes right at the beginning that Jesus compels a choice.  Barron states that Jesus either is  who he says he is or he is a bad man.  There is no middle ground.  This challenges a very common view of Jesus, that of a wise man or great teacher. About 10 years ago a study was released by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Notre Dame University called the National Study of Youth and Religion. Researchers came up with the term "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism to describe the religion of most youth in America.  They defined this as


1. God created the world and keeps an eye on things from afar

2. We should be good to one another

3. the meaning of life: be happy

4. God isn't really involved in our lives unless we need him to help solve a problem

5. If we are good in life we will get to heaven.

( for more information go to http://youthandreligion.nd.edu)

Now, there is an element of truth in these statements, but they are incomplete from a Catholic perspective. One of the greatest challenges they pose is that the focus is on the self.  For the Catholic Christian, it is about Jesus Christ and giving him glory in our praise and worship and in our daily tasks.

In addition, the concept of God portrayed via moralistic therapeutic deism (MTD) fails to challenge the person at all.  Our Catholic faith challenges us to grow in faith and love and to live according to our nature and our gifts and abilities. MTD also fails to engage the intellect and can easily lead to faith being seen as myth or folklore, some important lessons taught, but largely a form of entertainment or irrelevant to the activity of daily life.

The Catholic Church understands that Jesus is the Son of God, the promised Messiah who came into the world to invite us to participate in the divine life, share in the divine mission and to accept His gift of eternal life. Catholicism isn't a brand of religion, it is a way of life, committed to living in relationship with Jesus Christ.

Barron mentions two important claims of Christianity that are central to our Catholic faith: 1. God became a human being and 2. Jesus was raised from the dead.  The most important of the two is the Resurrection. No resurrection, no Christianity.

I invite you to share your own thoughts in the comment section. What struck you about the episode, what stood out? What new understandings did you come away with? What new questions? Do you see moralistic therapeutic deism at work at all among your peers or in our society (or in your own life)?

I also invite you to comment on others' comments. I would be great if we can get a conversation going. The only rule at play here to be respectful of others.

Fr. David

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

1Kings 19:4-8
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
John 6:41-51

It is often helpful to read the verses prior and the verses following the selection used at Sunday Mass to come to a better understanding as to what is happening. This is particularly true in this week's first reading from First Kings.  Prior to this excerpt, Elijah had been engaged in a contest with the prophets of Baal to determine who had the true God.  Elijah won and the prophets of Baal were executed.  In the verses following this week, Elijah is on Mount Horeb and encounters God in the small quiet sound.  In the verses we hear on the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Elijah is running for his life.  The authorities weren't pleased with the victory of Yahweh over the prophets of Baal and were seeking to capture Elijah and execute him.  We hear of his weariness, to the point of wishing for death.  The angel of the Lord offers him food and drink for strength and encouragement to continue the journey.

There is an important lessen for us in these verses.  Faith involves work.  It is a commitment to a relationship with Jesus Christ.  It requires effort to engage in the work of conversion, of turning our hearts and minds more and more to God.  We can become weary and feel like taking a rest or even quitting, giving up on ourselves and on God.

That is why we have the Eucharist, food to strengthen us body and soul.  The Eucharist is received within a communal celebration that involves a liturgy of the Word.  Like the story in this week's first reading, the Lord nourishes us and encourages us to continue on.  That is what the Mass is all about.

We also are told that Elijah's eating and drinking allowed him to persevere for 40 days and 40 nights to his arrival at Horeb, where we will be told in the next group of verses he encounters God.  The angel's encouragement was to motivate Elijah to prepare himself for the encounter with Yahweh. The question this presents to us is, how do we prepare for our encounters with the Lord?

At the celebration of Mass we encounter the Lord in one another, in the proclamation of the Word and most especially in the Eucharist.  How do we prepare for that encounter?  Easter and Christmas are major celebrations in the life of the Church.  We take weeks to prepare for these celebrations.  While a Sunday in Ordinary Time is not as "big" as Christmas or Easter, it is a celebration of the Resurrection and (repeating myself here) we do encounter the risen Lord.  A pretty big deal.

For this encounter to be most effective, we ought to prepare for it.  Certainly an important part of this preparation is the time leading up to the celebration.  Do we give ourselves time to collect our thoughts and quiet ourselves down before Mass begins?  Do we take anytime in the hours leading up to Sunday Mass to prepare?  Perhaps we can read the readings that morning, or have a conversation with  a family member on some aspect of the readings.  Sunday is the sabbath and should be different from the other days of the week. What spiritual practice can we incorporate in the time before Mass to help us prepare?

This is a pretty big moment if you think about it.  We are encountering God.  There is not one greater or more powerful or more loving in the world.  Perhaps our preparation should begin a day or two before hand.  Fr. Robert Barron (soon to be bishop) releases an audio of a reflection of the Sunday readings about midweek.  I hope to have a similar reflection like this one also posted each week.  You can purchase a Sunday Missal and read over the readings and read the commentary that is included with many missals.  There are websites that also provide exegesis and commentary on the readings, for example the Sunday Website at St. Louis University (http://liturgy.slu.edu).

Perhaps taking time to read some of the collects and other prayers from the Missal for that particular Sunday could be helpful.  Each week there is a psalm used as a response.  The great thing about psalms is that they were written as prayers.  A great way to help prepare for the upcoming Sunday is to use the psalm being used as part of your daily prayer.

The more we prepare for Sunday Mass, the more we get from the celebration.  I realize many have a lot going on.  Parents find it very difficult to focus at Mass or arrive early to pray because of the energy and demands of children.  However, preparing in the days leading up to Mass may help them get a bit more from Sunday Mass than before.  Anytime we can dedicate to God and open even a sliver of our mind and heart to Him is not wasted time and very beneficial.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pope at Audience: We are our brother's keeper

The link below goes to the text of the Holy Father's Wednesday Audience catechesis.  It is part of a series he has speaking on about the family.  The link will take you to a Vatican Radio translation.



Pope at Audience: We are our brother's keeper

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Off to Pray: February 8, 2015


  5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
 
Deborah Boucher



Ever listen to a familiar reading from the Bible and all of a sudden a particular passage jumps out at you?   That’s what happened to me this week.  Listening to today’s Gospel (Mk 1:29-39) I heard as if for the first time… “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”  The entire reading focuses on the fantastic healings Jesus accomplished.  I never paid much attention to anything else.

 Jesus went off to pray.   How often did he go off to a quiet place to pray?   I wonder what he prayed for; was it to thank God, was it to discern the will of the Father, was it for all the people he’d just healed, or was it to touch the minds and hearts of the people he would preach to the next day?  Unfortunately we will never know, the Bible doesn’t tell us.

 I started to reflect on my own prayer life, and how often I pray.  Oh, don’t get me wrong I’m a “good catholic”.  I pray, but probably not as often as I should.  Most of my prayers are for special intentions.  I pray for all the people that have asked me for prayer, I pray to the intentions of the Holy Father, for the world, and especially for all those who have no one to pray for them.  I continued to think about prayer and realized I don’t praise and thank God nearly enough for the blessings in my life.  And if prayer is talking and listening to God, I don’t do enough listening, that is something I will be working on. 

With the season of Lent approaching, Fr. David is giving us “Pray Fridays”, every Friday during lent we will have several opportunities to meet God in prayer.  Watch for more news about Pray Fridays in upcoming newsletters!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

January's Convocation Notes: February 1, 2015


If you recall in last week’s newsletter, Fr. David presented his opening presentation at the first convocation session.  He stated, “To be Catholic is to be in love with Jesus Christ and to commit ourselves to a relationship with Him, a relationship involving the whole person. Forming Intentional Disciples tells us that there are 3 concurrent journeys that the disciple (or Catholic) takes:

“The personal interior journey of a lived relationship with Christ resulting in intentional             discipleship”

The “ecclesial journey into the Church through the reception of the Sacraments of             initiation.”

The “journey of active practice (as evidenced by receiving the sacraments, attending             Mass, and participating in the life and mission of the Christian community”.



Over 40 people attended the first session.  Gathering and working in small groups, participants kept the three journeys in mind as they analyzed the survey results.  Groups were asked to review the survey responses, divide them into three categories: 1.) Positives of the Parishes; 2.) Challenges; and 3.) Needs – then the groups were asked to list what they believed to be the most important responses in each category.  Here are their findings:

Positives of Parish

1.     Parish is friendly, warm & welcoming

2.     Parish fosters individuals & their desire to deepen relationship with Jesus Christ

3.     Fr. David and Parish Staff

4.     Use of technology as an outreach tool

5.     Opportunities for Personal Faith formation

6.     Homilies inspire and connect scripture to everyday life

7.     Improved music ministry provides inspiring prayer & worship and meets most people’s spiritual needs

8.     Parish is aware and responds to the needs of ill, homebound and poor

9.     Variety of ministries that serve others

10.   Fr. David’s blessing of children

Challenges

1.     Use of wing house property

2.     Making Church/Mass relevant to

a.      Families

b.     Young Adults

3.     Increase Mass attendance

4.     Cursillo/Other Adult Retreats

5.     Determining what makes people drift away

6.     Finding ways to evangelize ALL people

7.     Communicate welcome from Fr. David at Mass

8.     Getting more people involved in parish life to meet the challenges and needs

9.     Increasing number of volunteers to assist with ministries/activities

10.   Focus on the mission of the church and educating what SJE is really about

11.   Increase awareness and conversations on world challenges

12.   Establish a men’s group/guild

13.   Post-confirmation activities/opportunities for teens

14.   Electing a parish council

15.   Obtaining a Deacon

16.   Improve communication

17.   Identifying the needs of each group

18.   Fundraising and balancing budgets

19.    “Hooking” children at young age (service, altar server, passer, singer, donut helper)

20.   Collaboration among ministries where “young and old” work together

21.   More family events

22.   Church community involved in sponsored activities/sports

23.   Informing about importance of working on a relationship with Christ and church

Needs

1.     Personally invite parishioners to join/volunteer for various activities

2.     Discovering/uncovering talents and gifts of parishioners

3.     Deepen knowledge of faith across all ages

4.     Increase parish involvement/activity in the wider community

5.     Establish youth and family ministry

6.     Group for younger children outside of faith formation classes

7.     Deacon

8.     Include an evening weekday Mass

9.     Increase youth involvement at Mass i.e. Lifeteen Mass

10.   A “welcome wagon” for new parishioners

11.   Scripture sharing/bible study sessions for adults4

12.   Classes/workshops on the Mass and its meaning

13.   Better communication using various methods

14.   Discover and address needs of young families

15.   Discover and address needs of young adults

16.   Provide service and mission opportunities

17.   Establish groups for

a.      Youth

b.     Men

c.      Women

d.     Young Adults

18.   Create social events that are age-group specific

Have we missed anything? If so, please be sure to share with us!

Our next session will be held on Saturday, February 28. If you can make this session (even if you did not attend the first) we would welcome your feedback and input.  During Session Two we will break down the aforementioned needs and challenges and we will brainstorm ideas, programs and strategies to address them.  ALL ARE WELCOME AND ENCOURAGED to attend whether you are 14 or 114 years old!   

To RSVP, please contact the parish office by email office@sjeparish.com or phone 508-563-5887 so that lunch can be ordered.  You can also visit the parish center during “Coffee and Donuts” after each Sunday Mass to sign up!

Preach the Gospel Always: February 1, 2015

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deborah Boucher

In this week’s reading (Deuteronomy 18: 15-20) we hear Moses tell the people God will send them a prophet.  As Christians we recognize Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, in this passage.  While we have never actually seen Jesus face to face we have seen God in others.

Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words; is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, who lived a simple life reforming his religious order, and by doing so, brought people closer to God.  Who have the prophets been in your personal life?  Who preached the Gospel to you daily by their actions?  Was it your father, who woke early to pray before going off to his job?  Was it your mother, who made sure your lessons were done for school and religion class?  Was it a grandparent, who prayed the rosary, and who taught you to love prayer?  Was it a teacher or perhaps a coach who helped you realize your potential, by recognizing the gifts you possess?   Was it a brother or sister who spent time with you and helped you grow closer to God?  We all have people in our lives that have lead us, and continue to lead us to God, we only need to look to recognize them.  They are all around us, some here with us, while others are in heaven praying for us.

How many times have you read something by or about Pope Francis, or seen photos of him reaching out to the people around him?   Hasn’t that touched your heart, and helped you better understand our loving God?   We can follow these wonderful examples and become a person who by our actions and words leads others to God. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What does Jesus look like to you? January 25, 2015


What does Jesus look like to you?John Brennan
Hollywood has a fascination with our Lord and Savior, (for very different reasons, that much we have in common!) and every few years they release what I’m sure they believe is the most accurate depiction of Jesus.  But Jesus was born of Jewish descent in the Middle East, and no I wasn’t there, but I’m pretty sure He didn’t have dazzling white skin and just the hint (or sometimes a heavy dose!) of a British accent.  So why does Hollywood need to turn the Bible on its ear?  In the book of Genesis, we’re told we were made in the image and likeness of God, so why does Hollywood need to make Jesus in the image and likeness of Pierce Brosnan, a white man with a British accent?   Box office, that’s why.   Would you go to see a movie with an actor looking like the image that National Geographic Magazine spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and several years researching?
But would we know Jesus if we met him today?   Would we welcome him, or would we judge him?  Put yourself back in His time:  would you be a disciple (very few were) or would you stand amid his persecutors, yelling “Crucify him!”  I ask myself that same question every year, and I pray that I would have been a disciple, but I’m just not sure.  The popular notion at that time was that Jesus was a false prophet, which is why the Jews wanted Pilate to execute Him.  Where would you stand?   Where do you stand now?  Do you seek the face of God in everyone you meet?   Whether rich or poor, straight or gay, successful or down-trodden, or a member of another religion, or atheist?  In his Gospel (15: 9), our Patron Saint John writes the words of our Lord: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  There is no asterisk * next to Jesus’ words.  No exceptions or conditions like “as long as they are Catholic!”  “One another”, inclusive, it means everyone, even Seahawks fans!   
This Lent try seeing Jesus in everyone, including the person across the aisle at church, the angry DMV clerk, the drug addict, the proud and boastful neighbor that seems to live their life to “one up” you, your spouse, your children, everywhere you look.  Seek Jesus, and you will find Him; or should I say, He will find you!
Back to the movies, I’d pay my hard earned money to see the talented Naveen Andrews play Jesus.  It’s just my opinion, but I think this is closer to what Jesus looked like back in His day, and Naveen possesses the sensitivity in his acting to pull it off.  Hollywood better hurry up though!  Naveen just turned 45!

In the end, Jesus looks just like that person you see in the mirror; and the kid at school that is suffering the (temporary) ravages of acne; and the co-worker who has turned to anger to deal with the death of a loved one.  It is our job to seek him, in all our fellow humans.  Open your mind, your eyes and your heart, and you will find him in everyone!

Share with us what Jesus looks like to you. What acts kindness, forgiveness, or compassion have you seen?