Pastor’s Blog

Worship –

We are created for God’s pleasure. We are created for His purposes. Often, in our culture, we tend to think first of ourselves. We think: “what are my goals for life?” “What will make me happy?” “What is important to me?” The Bible tells us that we are first created for God’s purposes. The other questions are fine as long as they fit into the framework of first asking: “What does God want for my life?” The difference in the question is significant. It assumes that God has a plan and a purpose for my life. It always assumes that only in relationship to Him am I fulfilled. Worship then, as least from the Catholic view, is centered on the Eucharist. In other words, it is centered on Jesus. Worship is more than singing songs. It is more than saying prayers. Worship is living a lifestyle pleasing to the Lord. To live a balanced, spiritually healthy life is to worship the Lord not only in prayer and song but in the choices of how I live.


Living a Balanced Life

 


Mary – a Gift of the Father

As we are in the midst of the Advent season, we are called by the Church and the Scriptures to grow in prayer and the Word of God in our faith. December 8th is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Mary appears as a significant person in the Advent season. In the Sunday readings of the Advent season she appears in the 4th Sunday of Advent with the expectation of Jesus’ birth. She responds to the word of God from the angel as one who yields to the Lord’s purposes.
Mary is such a model of trust in the word of the Lord. She is truly a gift of the Father. Her “yes” to the Father’s plan brought forth the Savior of the world. His birth, sets us free from the slavery to sin. She yielded her life to the Lord’s purposes as expressed in the word of God revealed to her by the angel. The disposition of her heart was one of faith.

How do we walk in the path set forth by Mary? It is quite simple, but not easy. We trust the word of the Lord. This is revealed to us through the Sacred Scriptures. Daily prayer of the word of God with the Bible will form in us the disposition that was in Mary’s heart: a heart of trust and obedience and expectant faith.

Let us ask Our Lady to intercede for us in this Advent season that we will grow in the heart she had: a heart of obedience and trust.



What is the Church? part V

Another way to think of the parish is that it is a “school”. Naturally, we think of schools as places of learning, education, growth and change. In schools we are equipped with skills and information to be effective in the world. In the best sense of “school”, we are trained to be successful. The parish is a kind of school whereby we learn the ways of the Lord so we may grow in the likeness of Jesus Christ. Our goal is to become like Jesus. Our textbook is the Bible. We learn the Bible not as simply an accumulation of facts, but we learn the Bible to be changed and transformed by it. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).The Father’s number one priority is to make us like the Son. As Catholics, we understand the Bible in the context of the Church’s teaching tradition handed down over 2000 years. So we teach and understand the Bible in this context. What we learn and reflect on in the Scriptures is to lead us to personal encounter with the risen Christ. The parish is a “school” whereby we are trained and equipped to serve in His name and be conformed to His likeness. For example, we “learn” to pray by learning about prayer but also by praying. We pray privately, with others in groups and at liturgical gatherings such at Mass. In all this, we learn by doing. The parish is a school, a training ground of holiness and spiritual maturity.



What is the Church? part IV

One way to think of the Church is that it is an army. When we think of armies, in the best sense of the word, one may think of an army that goes to rescue people who are in difficult and even dangerous situations. The Church exists for such a mission. Jesus, in his last words to his disciples told them in Mt. 28:18-20 to “Go into the world and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I told you.” The world we live in is full of people who are hurting, broken, suffering, sick and in despair. The Church is called to “GO” to them and bring them into the family of God for healing and spiritual maturity.
In the Catholic faith, one way to do this is called the works of mercy. These “works of mercy” are just that: Spirit-anointed works of mercy to bring healing and restoration to peoples’ lives. When a parish community is reflecting on the word of God in Sacred Scripture, faith is born in hearts. It is faith that leads people to establish Bible studies in workplaces and neighborhoods. It is faith that feeds homeless people in shelters; teaches orphans in learning centers; tutors people in job skills; ministers to aids patients in clinics; serves elderly people in hospice care centers and rocks sick babies in hospitals. Faith, birthed in hearts through the word of God, causes a parish community to radically obey the commands of Jesus to take the Gospel to the world.


What is the Church? part III

Another way to think of the parish is a hospital. Normally, we think of hospitals as places people go to who are sick and they want to become healed. Medicine is designed to bring healing to people’s lives. The parish is to be a place of healing and restoration of lives. Here, grace and mercy are at work to restore people’s lives. The parish is a kind of hospital. This flows from the ministry of Jesus who on earth brought healing to people’s lives. He expected his Church to continue to do what he did. The parish is that place where the broken and wounded, the sick and weary come for healing, restoration and renewal. Grace and mercy are the two wings of the Father’s love for those who are broken.

The parish as a hospital can come in a variety of ways and forms. Some ways are comfort for the grieving through one on one care and bereavement groups; visitation to the sick in hospitals and homes.

Another way is for Christians meeting with other Christians who are sick or inwardly hurting and praying with them for healing, peace and restoration. Prayer is a powerful force for good when “prayed” with someone becomes ministering to their needs. God can do more through prayer when exercised in love and faith. This is not simply praying for someone (important as this is) but praying with someone at a given moment. It is a moment of grace and mercy, healing and peace for that person in need of prayer. While any Christian can do this, developing prayer teams who learn to minister the Lord’s grace and mercy and healing to another is a wonderful gift to a parish community.

Another way is through a ministry called Stephen’s ministry. This is the training of Christians who will then come alongside another person when that person is in a life crisis to help them with friendship, prayer and sharing of God’s word with that person through the time of struggle. Another way is the ministry of Unbound. This is another type of prayer ministry that walks a person through situations in their life where they are “stuck” in their spiritual growth because of negative habit patterns. The ministry of prayer through Unbound is to help the person become “unstuck” or “unbound.” In other words, to help a person become free in that area of their life.

“And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.” Mt. 10:1

 



What is the Church? part II

One way to think of the parish is that it is a family. In the best sense of the family, relationships are everything. A family is made up of relationships with different roles and functions and gifts. Not all are the same in a family. The roles are different. The function of authority is different. For example, the parent’s function of authority is different and even greater than that of the child. Yet, a thirteen year old girl taking care of her two year old sister has an authority over her two year old sister. The teen age girl derives her authority from the parents. Yet, her authority is lesser than that of the parents. I used the example of authority because it is often misunderstood in the church world. Authority in the church world derives from calling and gifting. All authority is to be exercised in love and a spirit of service. Yet, the purpose of the authority is to promote the Gospel.

In a family, the members come to know one another. Through the thick and thin, the good, the bad and the ugly, relationships share life. Joys and sorrows, triumphs and successes, dreams and hopes are all shared.

A parish community is to be about relationships as well. Yet, how often members of the faith community go through the “stuff” of life alone. Struggles and even joys are often time gone through alone. This is not the body of Christ, the people that Jesus died and rose from the dead for.

One concrete expression of a parish community “sharing life” is through small groups. I will call them for our purpose “life-groups.” Life groups are the frequent coming together of Christians to share prayer, faith, life situations and common mission together. It is frequent enough where Christians over a period of time get to know each other. They help each other through life’s struggles; share prayer together and grow in their faith together. They reflect on the word of God in Sacred Scripture together and see how the Lord is speaking to them. They even decide on what kind of outreach or mission they engage in because faith grows best when it is shared. These life groups are under the leadership of the pastor and he is responsible for training of leadership, communication of teaching of the Word of God to reflect on and apply to people’s lives. Life groups come in different sizes and kinds and are different from one parish to another.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Phil. 2:12-13.



What is the Church part I

In some ways, the early Church as seen in the Book of Acts saw themselves as a “movement.” As the Body of Christ on earth, they saw themselves engaged in communicating the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world dwelling in darkness and lost. They saw this as the sole reason that Jesus came to earth. They understood themselves as continuing and representing what he began.

So, a parish community is just that: a movement of disciples of Jesus, the Body of Christ on earth in a given locality for the express purpose of communicating the Good News to lost people. We continue to do what Jesus did and represent Him.

So, then, the command of Jesus, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

As a movement, the early Church “moved”. They were not static. As a body of people, they dynamically engaged their regions, their neighbors, friends and family with the Gospel. This is important to understand what a parish is to be: a body of people on mission. As Pope Francis has recently stated we are called to be “missionary disciples.”

Fr. Dale



Fellowship

The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. I have often said: there are no “lone ranger” Christians!!! We were made for fellowship, sharing life and faith with brothers and sisters in Christ. Sharing our life and faith with others enables us to be accountable for our growth in Christ, be encouraged and supported. We in turn are able to provide this for others. The Trinity of Love, Father, Son and Spirit have fellowship with each other for all eternity. This fellowship, though imperfect, is meant to be realized in our relationships with others.