Friday, June 27, 2014

True Freedom is Never Really “Free”

Dear Parishioners,

The Fourth of July concludes the Fortnight for Freedom that was urged by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  I hope that you took the time to read and to educate yourselves through the materials that the bishops posted on their web site, some of which was also available in the vestibule of our Church these past two weeks.  More importantly, I hope that you made time to pray for this most urgent cause.

Recently, Standing Together for Religious Freedom:  An Open Letter to All Americans was released.  This letter was signed by a wide variety of over 100 prominent national religious leaders and scholars from various denominations.  The letter calls on the Administration and Congress to respect conscience rights and religious freedom.  I quote from the press release:

The open letter highlights the threat to conscience posed by the Administration's mandate that almost all employers cover contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs and devices in their health insurance plans.  As the signatories write, freedom of religion goes beyond mere freedom of worship and extends to believers' roles as citizen and employer.
"The doctrines of our respective faiths require something of us beyond the walls of our churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship," the signers said.  "Those faith convictions manifest themselves through our daily interactions among family, neighbors, strangers and institutions."
Many of us will celebrate this Independence Day weekend not really thinking about the price that was paid and is still being paid so that we may live, work, speak, write, worship, etc. in a free society.  Some of our finest men and woman have sacrificed their lives over the years for this country and its principles of freedom.  Whether it be in the military, through law enforcement or other means of public service, the dedication and commitment to keeping our country “free” is evidenced by those who continue to step up in service to this nation.  Thank you for all that you do to serve and protect us.

Also remember that it is God who has given us all the gift of free choice.  We are created with the ability to think, to reason and to choose.  The choices that we make should be in such a way that we respect our God-given dignity as children of God.  Our gift of free choice should lead us to love God because He has first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19) into existence.  Our free choice also enables us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mk. 12:31) as Jesus commands us.

It was Jesus who freely chose to suffer and to die for us.  He showed us that the right choice is not necessarily the easy choice or the popular choice.  His choice to free us from sin and death saw Him make the ultimate sacrifice of His life for us.

No, true freedom is never really “free.”  Is it?

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Moving On

Dear Parishioners,

Monday night we held the Baccalaureate Mass and graduation ceremonies for the eighth grade from our regional school.  While some of you might have been there, I realize that many of you were not.  I share with you some (abridged) thoughts from my homily that evening:

It struck me today that I have delivered over thirty graduation speeches/homilies as a priest to date.  It’s always quite an awesome opportunity for me.  Realizing that you will probably forget what I say to you fifteen minutes after this evening’s ceremonies are over, I hope and pray that you will actually remember something that I say to you tonight.

1.  You still have a lot of education ahead of you.  Eighth grade graduation is an accomplishment but, unfortunately, you might not even be half way through your formal education.  When I was where you are today, I still had twelve more years of school to go before I was ordained a priest.  Sorry for giving you the bad news but you most likely have many more years of education ahead of you.  Never stop learning, in and out of the classroom.

2.  Set realistic goals and expectations for yourselves.  When I was young we were encouraged to be anything that we wanted to be.  I was told that I could even be the President of the United States someday.  While this was encouraging, it was not realistic.  There have been not quite fifty presidents since the United States was founded, out of its many millions of citizens.  Aspire, rather, to be the mayor of your town, or a Member of Congress, or something that is more realistic.  Some of the students that I taught in high school played against and knew Mike Trout.  Unfortunately, not everyone had or will have his level of talent and the opportunities to be a professional baseball player like him.  Set a goal that you will be able to achieve.

3.  Don’t forget where you come from.  You are now a graduate of St. Joseph Regional School.  Don’t ever forget that.  Take that with you through life.  There may be a time in your life when you are able to give back to your school or community.  Sadly, I think of someone like Lewis Katz who recently died in a plane crash.  Mr. Katz, who was from Camden, was known to have given back to that city from his financial resources and tried to help others from what he had.  He didn’t forget where he came from.

4.  The world doesn’t owe you a living.  Neither does your country or your school or your church or even your own family owe you a living.  Rather you owe the world something.  Make something of yourselves.  God has given you life and breath.  Do something with your life—make a contribution to this world—that will give honor and glory to Almighty God.

5.  Finally and most importantly, try to love Jesus more each day.  Incorporated into attending a Catholic School is the opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ as part of your formal education.  There is nothing more important or more valuable than developing a relationship with Jesus through prayer.  All of the degrees or awards that you may receive in life mean absolutely nothing if we do not one day share eternity with God in heaven.  Try to love Jesus more and more each and every day of your life.  He will help you and guide you with the many decisions that you will have to make in the future.  More than that, He loves you with a tremendous, unconditional love.  There is no more valuable lesson to learn in life than that.

Fr. Ed Namiotka