Tuesday, April 14, 2015

“Who Do People Say that I Am?”

Dear Parishioners,

Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mk. 8:27)

At a certain point during his ministry Jesus asked His disciples what people thought about Him.  I’m pretty sure He was not concerned about public opinion in a manner that a politician might question his or her current approval rating.  He, more than likely, wanted to know if people (including his disciples) understood that He was the Christ—the long awaited messiah.  Peter seemed to get it right—“You are the Messiah.” (Mk. 8:29)—but unfortunately was not able to keep to this conviction when the pressure of persecution surrounded him.  Others who may have perceived Jesus as messiah might have had a distorted concept of what the messiah was actually supposed to be.  Certainly, he was not to be a suffering messiah.
I am pretty sure Jesus knew who He was and understood His purpose in this life.
Unfortunately, people still question, comment on and speculate about Jesus’ identity.  Some see him as a prophet, a wise teacher, a holy man or a philosopher.  Others will proclaim His true divinity like the centurion at the foot of the cross, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk. 15:30) or the apostle Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28).

We all must question who Jesus is at some point or another.  Christians believe that He is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  Therefore, what He has to say matters more than any mere philosopher, teacher, or holy person.   Bold statements in Scripture affirm Jesus divine authority:

“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6) 

“Again the high priest asked him and said to him, “Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?”  Then Jesus answered, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.’” (Mk. 14: 61-62)

"They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him.  After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”  Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.  Who but God alone can forgive sins?”   Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?   But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”  He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone.  They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” (Mk. 2: 3-12)

Bluntly stated, we cannot remain simply indifferent about Jesus and His teaching.  Even worse, we are making serious, potentially deadly mistakes (grave sin) when we knowingly defy His ultimate authority and teaching as the Son of God.  

Jesus’ words and teaching are life-giving.  He came to save us from eternal death.  He died for our sins and our salvation.
Jesus is Lord, God and Savior.  

Other lesser designations or descriptions are woefully deficient.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Mercy of God

Dear Parishioners,

Have you ever taken the time to think about the many times we ask for or refer to the mercy of God in our liturgy?
  • May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to eternal life. (Penitential Rite)
  • Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.  (Kyrie)
  •  Lord Jesus Christ . . . you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; . . . you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.  (Gloria)
  • To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies . . .  (Eucharistic Prayer I)
  • Remember . . . all who have died in your mercy . . .   Have mercy on us all, we pray . . .  (Eucharistic Prayer II)
  • For you came in mercy to the aid of all . . . Grant, O merciful Father, that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance . . .  (Eucharistic Prayer IV)
  • Deliver us, Lord, we pray . . . that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin . . .  (Prayer following the Our Father)
  • Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.  (Agnus Dei)
  •  May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy. (Priest’s Prayer in Preparation for Receiving for Holy Communion)
While mercy in our contemporary thinking may be associated with an act of pardon from punishment, in Catholic theology there is much more to it.
“Divine Mercy is God’s Love reaching down to meet the needs and overcome the miseries of His creatures.  . . . Divine Mercy, therefore, is the form that God's eternal love takes when He reaches out to us in the midst of our need and our brokenness.  Whatever the nature of our need or our misery might be — sin, guilt, suffering, or death — He is always ready to pour out His merciful, compassionate love for us, to help in time of need. . . . (Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD)

The Sunday in the Octave of Easter is now called Divine Mercy Sunday.  On April 30, 2000 (Divine Mercy Sunday of that year), Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament and designated the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.  According to the notebooks of Saint Faustina, Jesus made the following statements about this day:

"On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open.  I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.  The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.  On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened.  Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.  My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity." (Diary of Saint Faustina, 699)

Devotion to Divine Mercy is also associated with an image painted as Jesus wished, based on descriptions by Saint Faustina.  The words that accompany the image are "Jesus, I trust in Thee" ("Jezu, Ufam Tobie" in the Polish).  The rays coming from Jesus' body represent the Blood and water that poured forth from the wound He suffered when pierced by the lance.  The devotion is practiced by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Novenas to the Divine Mercy -- both of which may be prayed at any time, but especially at "The Hour of Great Mercy" -- 3:00 PM, the hour our Lord died, and in conjunction with Divine Mercy Sunday.  

May the Lord Jesus have mercy on us all.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


St. Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Easter Joy

Dear Parishioners,

As I get older, I increasingly realize a certain void left in my life as a result of the death of relatives and friends.  I am no longer able to pick up the phone to say “hello” or to stop over to visit with them.  I tell myself that someday I hope to see them again, but I don’t have ultimate control over when, where, how—or if.  I have to wait, hope and trust.

Can you imagine what the apostles went through at the death of Jesus?  Did all of their hopes and expectations die with Him on the cross?  They saw their leader, their teacher, their rabbi, mocked cruelly, beaten mercilessly and then put to death.  I suspect they feared for their very lives.  Perhaps they recalled some of the things that he had told them to keep His memory alive.  The events of Good Friday did not present any apparent hope or future possibilities.  Death seemed so callous, cruel and final.  Death seemed triumphant.

Then came Easter.  Everything changed.  He is risen!  Somehow, despite the horrible things that were done to Him, He is still alive—miraculously!

For us as Christians nothing is really as important as Christ conquering sin and death and rising from the dead.  Easter is about Resurrection.  It is about eternal life.  It is about hope and joy.

Unfortunately, we all will face the Good Fridays of our lives.  Death will come to each of us and to the ones that we love.  It may seem cruel, unfair, and so permanent.  We may not know what we are going to do or where we should turn.  We may even be on the brink of despair.  However, in these darkest of hours, turn to Jesus.  Trust Jesus.

I can only imagine the inexplicable joy that the apostles had when they saw Jesus alive again.  I am sure that it surpassed their greatest expectations and gave them a faith in Christ that they would subsequently take to the ends of the earth.  They would live and die for Christ, trying to spread His message of Good News—the Gospel.  They would speak about resurrection and eternal life.  They had their hope restored and they attempted to give others this hope in Jesus.

This Easter I pray that you experience the joy of the Risen Christ.  May your faith in Him and love for Him increase and radiate from your entire being.
He is not dead but very much alive!

I thank all who work so hard and who are so generous in helping to strengthen our Christian faith community here at St. Joseph’s.  Be assured of my daily prayers and Masses for all of you.

May I ask a continued remembrance in your prayers and Masses as well? 

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Guess Who’s Coming for (Holy Thursday) Supper?

Dear Parishioners,

I received a call recently from Bishop Dennis Sullivan’s priest-secretary, Fr. Michael Romano, informing me that our bishop desires to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass in our parish.  Naturally, I welcomed the opportunity and invited the bishop (and his entourage) to dinner at the rectory beforehand.

A priest or deacon necessarily works in conjunction with his bishop.  The bishop is the chief shepherd—chief teacher, preacher, administrator—of the diocese.  We pray for him (and the pope) by name at every Mass celebrated in his diocese.  We look to him for guidance and direction as the chief spiritual leader of our local (diocesan) church.  We know all too well that bishops are imperfect sinners like the rest of us, and they need our continual prayers to assist them in the difficult task of shepherding God’s flock.

F. Y. I., Bishop Sullivan is also scheduled to be with us to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation on Saturday, April 18th at 10 AM and 1 PM.  (Just a reminder: there will be no 8:30 AM Mass that Saturday morning.)

Holy Thursday is a most important day for priests.  We commemorate it as the day the Holy Eucharist was instituted—the first Mass, so to speak.  Also, we realize the intimate connection between the ministerial (ordained) priesthood and the Holy Eucharist:

The intrinsic relationship between the Eucharist and the sacrament of Holy Orders clearly emerges from Jesus' own words in the Upper Room: "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19).   On the night before he died, Jesus instituted the Eucharist and at the same time established the priesthood of the New Covenant . . . .   The Church teaches that priestly ordination is the indispensable condition for the valid celebration of the Eucharist.  Indeed, "in the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, High Priest of the redemptive sacrifice." Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI
Additionally, we are reminded of our call to Christian charity and service as Jesus’ disciples by the foot-washing ceremony (mandatum).  As Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper (John 13: 1-20)—something only a Jewish slave would do—we are given a command or mandate to Christian charity and service, in imitation of him.

Finally, we are given time at the conclusion of Mass to keep watch with Christ (see Mt. 26: 36-46), truly present in the Holy Eucharist at a side altar-shrine in the repository.

Please try to join us for this Mass (Thursday, April 2 at 7 PM), as well as the liturgy on Good Friday (April 3 at 3 PM) and for the Easter Vigil (Saturday, April 4 at 8 PM).

Holy Week and its ceremonies are especially beautiful and grace-filled.  Please come!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Bishop Dennis Sullivan

Thursday, March 5, 2015

40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration

Dear Parishioners,

As we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary (March 19), our parish will observe 40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration from Tuesday, March 17 to Thursday, March 19.  Beginning with an evening Mass at 7 PM on March 17, the Blessed Sacrament will remain continually present on the altar for private prayer and adoration, except when a Mass is scheduled.  We will have an evening Mass at 7 PM on March 17, 18 and 19 (in addition to our regular morning Mass at 8:30 AM). 

On Thursday, March 19 there will be three Masses:  8:30 AM (regular morning Mass), 10 AM (school Mass with the Sisters of St. Joseph renewing their vows) and 7:00 PM (closing of the 40 Hours with a procession of the Most Blessed Sacrament).

I truly believe that when we take the time to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it is a time of tremendous blessing not only for us as individuals but also for our families and for our entire parish family.  I do not ever want us to take for granted the great gift of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  Time spent with Him is a grace-filled time.  We can express our love and adoration for Jesus, thankfulness for our blessings, and contrition for sin (our own and the sins of others).  We can also intercede for one another and petition the Lord for our various needs.  It is an invaluable time to spend with Jesus, truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

When we come into the Lord’s presence, Jesus can do something to us.  We may think that we go to pray, to petition and to worship, or even that we are doing God a favor by spending some of our precious time with Him.  Our Lord Jesus, however, can transform us while we spend time with Him.  We do not need to worry about what prayers we should say, what spiritual readings we should be reading or what we should be doing in His Presence.  Just being with the Lord can be transforming.  He can soften our hearts, heal our wounds, inspire us and guide us.  He can give us an inner peace that nothing in this world can match.  Making the commitment to spend time with Him can truly transform us.

What I am once again requesting from you, my parishioners, is that you dedicate one hour sometime during these three days with the Lord in adoration.  (This should be in addition to any time attending Mass, when possible.)  This devotion will continue for two nights—around the clock—and I need your help and cooperation in order to do this.  Could you please think about dedicating an hour in prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament?  Why not encourage members of your family to pray as a family for an hour?  Perhaps a group or organization within the parish can make a holy hour together (choir, Knights of Columbus, Rosary Altar Society, Nursing Ministry, lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Holy Eucharist, etc.).  I especially need a few insomniacs or night owls to cover the late hours!

Sign-up sheets are available at the doors of the church so that we can be sure that there is always someone keeping watch with our Lord.  Please assist me in making this a special time for our parish as we adore our Eucharistic Lord.

Fr. Ed Namiotka