Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Breaking News: Jesus Encourages Hatred of Family Members

Dear Parishioners,

There are some very strong, radical words spoken by Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel:

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Lk. 14: 26-27)

For those who may like to sugarcoat the Gospel message, avoid the tough sayings of Jesus and sometimes paint Jesus as some type of pushover, think again.  Jesus was often bold in word and deed.  Did he not ridicule the Scribes and Pharisees as being hypocrites (Mt. 23: 13, 23, 25, 27, 29), blind guides (Mt. 23:16), a brood of vipers (Mt. 23: 33) or whitewashed tombs (Mt. 23:27)?  Did He not refer to Peter as Satan (Mt. 16:23)?  Did he not overturn the tables of the money-changers in the Jerusalem temple (Jn. 2: 13-16)?  While, at other times, he could be most gentle and merciful in the Scriptures, he definitely could call people to task and raise great challenges. 

How, then, are we to understand the above statement when placed up against other times in the Gospel where Jesus teaches us to love one another?  (See Jn. 13:34, 15:12)  Jesus could use types of hyperbole in his speech to jolt people.  By this technique, He made a most definitive point:  nothing can get in the way of our Christian discipleship.  I suggest we should think and act in terms of making an absolute, radical commitment to Jesus.   No, not even family members, or, most especially, our own particular wants and desires can get in the way.  Absolutely nothing!

Is this a tough challenge?  Most certainly it is!  But do we really think that if we put the love of Jesus Christ first and foremost in our lives, that we will neglect and show no love for our family and others?  On the contrary, loving Jesus completely, while imitating His self-sacrificing love, helps us to experience what true love is all about!  Christian love will flow most naturally to those in our family and, as it is perfected, will extend mysteriously even to our enemies.

Self-sacrifice (carrying the cross) has become a foreign concept to many in our society who regularly seek self-gratification and personal gain.  Jesus teaches us that it can never be all about me, myself and I.  The universe does not revolve around what I have planned, no matter what I may think. 

We are instructed to pray in the Our Father:  Thy kingdom come, (the Kingdom of God), Thy will be done (God’s Will).  Isn’t it abundantly clear?  It’s not about me.  It is about putting God first in our lives, above and beyond everyone and everything else.  Our first love must be God.  Love of family and neighbor should naturally flow from this.

I do not think Jesus would fare too well in this society where people are continually offended by what others say.  The news media will often take a statement, sometimes obviously out of context, and run with it for days.  Imagine the headlines:  Jesus Encourages Hatred of Family Members. 

Is that what He really meant?

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dealing with Sickness and Death

Dear Parishioners,

A question about ministry to the sick and the homebound came up at the last staff meeting.  Consequently, I thought that some clarification for the entire parish would be helpful based on our recent discussion.

We have a number of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (commonly referred to as Eucharistic Ministers) in our parish.  Besides helping to distribute Holy Communion at the Masses, they also serve regularly in two other capacities:  bringing Holy Communion to those in the hospital and bringing Holy Communion to the homebound

First of all, I note that they are intended as extraordinary ministers.  The priests and deacons are the ordinary ministers.  While we have become very accustomed to seeing the extraordinary ministers at Mass, whenever a priest or deacon is present, distributing Holy Communion is their ordinary ministry and the extraordinary ministers should properly defer to them.

If there is someone in your family who is homebound and is unable to come to Mass, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion can be assigned to visit the home weekly to bring Holy Communion.  Please contact the parish office to arrange for this.  The minister is then asked to be the eyes of the priest in this situation.  If the person requests the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) or should receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick because of advanced age or illness, the minister is asked to notify the priest and he will visit the home as soon as possible.

Priests are specifically ordained for ministry of the sacraments and should be called especially for confession or anointing.  The forgiveness of sin is tied to these two sacraments and a priest—rather than an extraordinary minister or even a deacon—is required.

At the time prior to a person’s death, a priest has special authority to do what is necessary for the salvation of the person’s soul.  A priest should be called whenever a person becomes seriously ill because the sacraments are intended for the living.  While a priest can always pray with the family after a person has died, he should be called to be present—if at all possible—before death.

In one of my former assignments, a religious sister told me about how her father prayed every day for the grace of a happy death and that a priest would be present when he died.  On the day of his death, mysteriously there were so many priests who happened to visit the home, to be in the area, that she knew God answered his prayer with His super-abundant mercy.

Yesterday, a scheduled parish appointment was cancelled and I then had the opportunity to go to the home of a long-time friend who had been seriously ill with pancreatic cancer.  When I arrived at the home I could see that he was gravely ill.  He had been given the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and received Holy Communion on almost a daily basis when he was still able to do so.  With the family and the hospice nurse present, I began to pray with him as I held his hand.  I whispered in his ear that it was “okay to go to Jesus.”  Peacefully, he passed.

I believe Jesus was present in that home at that moment working mysterious through my priestly ministry.  Why was my parish appointment cancelled?  Why was I at the home at that particular moment in time?  Was it simply an accident or coincidence, or rather a remarkable act of God’s Providential Grace?

Pray for the grace of a happy death.  Pray and request a priest for family members or yourself when there is any serious illness. 

Time and time again, God is mysteriously present in the sacraments and working through the ministry of His priests.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

God, Are You There?

Dear Parishioners,

Does God ever stop thinking about us? 

I realize that from a human perspective we can sometimes wonder if God actually hears our prayers or if God knows and cares about us individually.  Let’s stop and think about this for a moment.  If God is truly God (as Christians understand God to be) then we are—without a doubt—constantly known and unconditionally loved.  God sees and hears everything that we think, say and do.  God never takes His focus off of us—not even for a nanosecond.  It’s impossible.  “Even all the hairs of your head are counted.”  (Mt. 10:30)

Knowing this, does it mean that we no longer have problems and difficulties? Might we not have even more questions, for that matter?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why does it sometimes seem that God does not answer our prayers?

Truly, we do not see as God sees.  We are limited, finite beings.  We are situated in time.  We are not God.

What I have come to realize over many years is that I am called to trust in God, to have faith in Godcompletely.  I do not have all the answers.  I do not know the course of world events.  I cannot see into the future.  In fact, I am totally dependent on the Providence of God.  It is the Grace of God that sustains me in all my endeavors.

Is this a cop-out?  Am I naive or overly simplistic? I don’t think so.  In humility, I must realize all that we have been given (revelation) through the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  God became one of us.  In Jesus, God became finite and tangible.  Humans could see, touch and hear Him.  The Almighty also became subject to suffering and death. 

In fact, God the Father revealed essential, life-giving truth to us through His Son.  He also sent His Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us.  From all this we can begin to see and appreciate how much God truly loves us.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)  Jesus’ entire life and ultimate death on the cross was no accident but a divine statement of God’s self-giving love.

As humans, we are called to be mindful of God.  Our limited intellectual capacity unfortunately does not think of God all the time.  We forget quickly.  We get easily distracted.  We struggle with doubt.  Nevertheless, remembering to pray and worship God on a regular basis—to have a routine, structured prayer life—benefits us tremendously in our quest to be faithful to God as God is ever-faithful to us.  Stick with it, even when we do not perceive any tangible results.

I wish that I could give people all the answers that they desire concerning faith and trust in God.  I too get frustrated when God seems to delay in responding to a prayer request.  I do not understand why good people have to suffer. 

Yet, I know that God sees and hears.  I trust that God wants what is best for me, for all of us. "Trust God at all times, my people! Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!" (Ps. 82:9)  

I simply must continue to trust—completely.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Praying for Our Nation

Dear Parishioners,

I recalled the story of the patriarch Abraham’s pleading and bargaining with God on behalf of the city of Sodom this morning in prayer.  Maybe you remember the passage from Scripture:

Then Abraham drew near [to the LORD] and said: “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous people in the city; would you really sweep away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?” The LORD replied: If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am only dust and ashes! What if there are five less than fifty righteous people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?” I will not destroy it, he answered, if I find forty-five there. But Abraham persisted, saying, “What if only forty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it for the sake of the forty. Then he said, “Do not let my Lord be angry if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it if I can find thirty there. Abraham went on, “Since I have thus presumed to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?” I will not destroy it, he answered, for the sake of the twenty. But he persisted: “Please, do not let my Lord be angry if I speak up this last time. What if ten are found there?” For the sake of the ten, he replied, I will not destroy it.  (Genesis 18: 23-32)
I worry about our nation and our world very much.  Honestly, I am very disheartened with the direction that our presidential race has taken over the past years—in particular with the two proposed candidates for 2016—and I fear that it is only going to get much worse in the future.  I especially think about our young people and the type of world that they are going to inherit.  Yet, I believe that we have many good people who love the Lord and want to do what is right.  I have been requesting that we the people pray fervently and not take a lackadaisical attitude towards what is happening in our nation and in the world around us.  

Will you not join in this effort to pray?

A 54-day Rosary Novena has been proposed prior to our Presidential Election in November beginning on the Solemnity of the Assumption (August 15th) and ending on October 7th (the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary).  No matter what your position is on the upcoming election, we all need to pray that the will of the Lord be done on behalf of our nation and our world.  Prayer is absolutely essential and the rosary has been a powerful means of intercession in the history of our Church.                                    

The holy rosary is prayed every morning (7:50 AM) prior to daily Mass (8:30 AM) in our parish.  Why not make an effort to come and pray and then stay for daily Mass?  People make similar resolutions and sacrifices, especially during Lent.  I am asking our parishioners and all who read this to consider joining in the effort by saying a rosary every day (regardless of whether you can come to Church to do it) prior to the presidential election.

Too often people seem to react to tragic situations like war, terrorism, natural disasters, and the like.  A cry may go up to God saying: How could you let this happen?  Can intercessory prayer prevent these things from happening in the first place?  Can prayer move hearts and help in the conversion of the world to Christ?  I certainly hope so.  A petition in the Our Fatherdeliver us from evil—is worth contemplating.

On our parish web site (www.stjosephsomerspoint.com) and facebook page I will put some links to help people get more information about the Novena for Our Nation, how to pray the rosary and other useful information.

Please take the time to pray fervently.  I believe prayer can work wonders in ways seen and unseen.

Fr. Ed Namiotka