Tuesday, April 24, 2018

“God Will Still Be God Tomorrow”

Dear Parishioners,

The ancient Hebrews often saw God as the stable force in their lives.  They referred to Him as my rock, my fortress, my deliverer (Psalm 18:2) and my rock of refuge, my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold (Psalm 18:3).

I wonder how much we realize our true dependence on God for everything?

In our American society we might think of ourselves as rugged individuals.  We speak of the self-made man or woman.  We might save and plan financially for retirement so that we can be comfortable later in life, free of all worries.  With this mindset, perhaps there is an affinity to songs like My Way (Paul Anka or Frank Sinatra) or My Life (Billy Joel) because they speak of our independence and freedom to do what we want, when we want to do it. 

If it were not for God willing it, however, we would not be in existence at all.  Every breath we take, every thought we think, every action we attempt are all within God’s permissive will.  He allows them to happen.  All good things that we have, things that we might often take for granted, are pure gift from God—His Grace.

Yes, it is also true that God has given us intelligence and free-will.  We are made in His image and likeness and He gives us tools that we are expected to use responsibly.  We might sometimes think that we act independent of Him, especially when we choose to do something on our own, even against His will.  However, it is because He has given us free-will in the first place that we are capable of various diverse acts such as loving, forgiving, hating or sinning at all.

Jesus reminds us not to worry about material things.  He speaks of the importance of relying on God for everything, and not on ourselves:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. (Mt. 6: 25-29)

Jesus continues:

But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. (Mt. 6: 33-34)

Personally, I use an expression with those I know, reminding them in the midst of worry, or during some trial and tribulation that God will still be God tomorrow.”  God is always here—with us—in some mysterious, unseen way.  He remains constant, a rock, a source of refuge for us.  He is here now and will continue to be here for us tomorrow and beyond.

As we continue to rejoice during this Easter season, perhaps we can reflect on God’s ever-abiding, Divine Providence.  Once we realize that He is with us always, even the greatest of obstacles no longer seems so insurmountable.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Preparing for the Holy Spirit

Dear Parishioners,

After His Resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and told them:  “. . . You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

As Christians, we first received the Holy Spirit when we were baptized.  In Jerusalem, St. Peter declared to the crowd: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)  St. Paul also reminds us:  “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”  (1 Cor. 6:19) 

In Confirmation, the same Holy Spirit is once again given to us.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:  “It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.”  (#1302)

In Jerusalem after Jesus’ Ascension, the apostles were assembled in the upper room as a community.  They remained there in prayer together with Mary, the mother of Jesus, in preparation for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost. (See Acts 1:13-14)
Each year we should prepare similarly as we approach Pentecost SundayThe idea of a novena—nine consecutive days of prayer—took place in the early Church between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday.  We should pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon ourselves, our families, our parish, the Church, our nation, and our entire world.  We need the Holy Spirit to guide us, to strengthen us, to protect us and to fill us with His love.

Pray for the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to fill your lives.  The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (See Isaiah 11:2) are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.  The fruits of the Holy Spirit, according to the Catechism (#1832), are “perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory.  The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: ‘charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.’" (Gal. 5:22-23)

Remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person—the third Person of the Blessed Trinity.  Sometimes the limited images (tongues of fire, a dove, etc.) used to describe this mysterious Person may restrict our thinking and understanding.  We should strive to know and truly love this mysterious Person.  There should be a certain intimate relationship that we establish with the Holy Spirit through prayer.

Begin praying that the Holy Spirit fills the hearts of all believers and enkindles in them the fire of His love more fully!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Jesus Christ "Superstar"

Dear Parishioners,

On Easter Sunday eve, a live performance of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar was aired on national TV.  Before I watched it, I wondered if I should put on some bell bottom pants and a tie dye t-shirt to get in the mood.  What’s the buzz? . . . Tell me what’s a-happening . . . .   Perhaps a bit dated.

The fact that two musicals about Jesus (Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar) came to the big stage at about the same time (c. 1971) tells us of the continual curiosity and fascination with the identity of Jesus Christ and his Gospel message.  Every generation must ask itself what it makes of the person of Jesus and his claim to be the Son of God.

Jesus Christ Superstar may contain some catchy, vintage tunes, but it misses the mark as a statement of faith for Christians.  It is simply too shallow in its understanding of many mysteries of our Christian faith and its core beliefs.

First, depending on the visual interpretation, the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalen has regularly been questioned as inappropriate.  I Don’t Know How to Love Him can certainly imply something more than simply a platonic relationship between the two.  Granted, secular societies cannot grasp the value of celibacy and chastity and wonder if it is even possible. Does everyone have someone on the side? Was Mary Magdalen romantically in love with Jesus?  I am sure that Jesus loved Mary Magdalen in the way that God loves us all.  But to imply something further—even sexual—seems to cross the line.

The portrayal of Jesus’ apostles and disciples might be categorized as ignorant buffoons.  Judas, however, seems to be the one carefully calculating, deliberately questioning and generally pragmatic in his approach to Jesus.  The request by Peter and Mary Magdalen near the end (Could We Start Again Please?) seems reminiscent of a child’s do-over, once they realized the error of their ways.

Where there is an obvious lack of understanding by the creators of this musical is in the portrayal of the institution of Holy Eucharist.  For all you care, this wine could be my blood . . . For all you care, this bread could be my body.  While the next few lyrics become more definitive, the initial use of the word could leaves a person questioning and with some uncertainty about what just transpired.  The treatment of the Holy Eucharist, in my opinion, is horribly deficient and lacking mystery.

Finally, the premise of the entire show questions whether Jesus was indeed some Superstar.  Tragically, there is avoidance of any definitive statement concerning his Resurrection from the dead, and any definitive identification as the Son of God.

I realize that the creators of the musical were probably more concerned with its entertainment value and overall popularity more than any statement of faith. Jesus was portrayed like any important, influential, historical figure.  However, for a believer, the musical leaves one hungering for more substance, more understanding, more faith.  

To achieve this, I suggest reading and meditating on the Sacred Scriptures instead.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Divine Mercy Sunday

Dear Parishioners,
The Sunday after Easter has been designated as Divine Mercy Sunday.
On April 30, 2000 (Divine Mercy Sunday of that year), Pope 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 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 Novena 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.
I find it particularly interesting that after working to promote devotion to the Divine Mercy and even writing an encyclical about God’s Mercy--Dives in Misericordia or Rich in Mercy (1980)--Pope John Paul II died during the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.
Is this just mere coincidence or another indication of the hand of God continually at work in our world?
Jesus I trust in Thee!
Fr. Ed Namiotka

Sr. Faustina