Saturday, December 22, 2018

Baptism of the Lord


Dear Parishioners,


If the Lord Jesus was without sin, why would He ever need to be baptized by John the Baptist?

The most direct answer to this question is that Jesus did not need to be baptized.  So then, why did it happen?  Let’s first look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the topic:

Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to "fulfill all righteousness."  Jesus' gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying.  The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his "beloved Son."  #1224
One way to think of Jesus’ baptism was that it is an anticipation of what He would do for us later on the cross.  He would take upon Himself our sinfulness.  Just as He did not die on the cross for His own sin, He did not receive the baptism of John to repent for His own sinfulness.  We might rather say that Jesus made holy the waters of baptism by His own baptism.  In addition, His Baptism in the Jordan River, like His Epiphany as a child to the magi, was another divine manifestation of Jesus’ true identity:  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  (Mt. 3:17)

Jesus’ Baptism should make us think about our own baptism.  St. Paul’s words to the Romans are instructive:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (Rom. 6:3-4)
Baptism gives us new life—eternal life.  Baptism forgives our sinfulness—both original sin and any personal sin (once a person has reached the age of reason and is no longer an infant).  With baptism we are adopted by God through Christ as His children.  We become temples of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within us.  God’s own life now dwells in us—the life of sanctifying grace.  We become a member of the mystical Body of Christ, the Church, and the doorway is now open for us to receive the other sacraments of the Church.  All of these wonderful things and many other blessings (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1262ff.) occur with the simple pouring of water (or an immersion into it) combined with the baptismal formula:  I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Every time you bless yourself with holy water, remember that this sacramental is a reminder of your baptism into Christ Jesus who suffered and died for your salvation.  I remind you to keep some in your homes.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor     



Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh


Dear Parishioners,

To me they always seemed like strange gifts to bring a newborn baby:  gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Today we would think of things like diapers, toys, blankets, formula, socks, pajamas, etc. to bring to an infant.  Obviously, there is more to the gifts of the magi than meets the eye.

Gold is meant as a tribute to a king.  Gold as a precious, valuable metal was prized by many cultures and worn by kings, present in the worship of gods, and used as currency.  Jesus is indeed a king—the King of the Universe. 

Frankincense is offered to a deity.  When we occasionally burn incense in church (and the parishioners begin to cough automatically) it is meant to be a symbol of our prayers rising up to God.  Psalm 141: 2 states:  Let my prayer be incense before you . . . and the Book of Revelation (5:8) speaks of the elders who held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.  The Hebrews had an altar of incense where a pleasing fragrance burned before the Holy of Holies.  Some other cultures, like the ancient Romans, burned incense before their various statues as a sign of divinity.  Jesus is divine—the Son of God.  He is also the Great High Priest who is mediator between God and man. 

Myrrh has various uses in perfumes, incense and medicine.  The ancient Egyptians used it for embalming of mummies.  When it is presented to Jesus it can be symbolic of his healing ability or an anticipation of his death and burial.  Jesus was offered myrrh mixed with wine on the wood of the cross.  Nicodemus brought myrrh to the tomb for Jesus’ burial.

Gift-giving has become such a part of the Christmas season, often overshadowing the true spiritual meaning of the Incarnation.  What is so astounding is that God became man!  Our Creator became a creature.  God in all His power became a powerless, vulnerable infant who needed his mother and foster-father to feed, clothe and provide for Him.  Timelessness entered into time, the Immortal, Eternal One became subject to death, and the All-Knowing God had to grow in “wisdom, age and favor.” (Lk. 2:52)

When we celebrate the Epiphany (manifestation or showing) of the Lord to the magi (astrologers representative of non-Jews or gentiles) we realize that salvation is open to all peoples and we are directed to Christ as the one and only Messiah and Savior of the World.

Our fitting gift to Jesus should be a humble and contrite heart, as the psalm relates. (See Ps. 51:19) He does not need material “things” to make Him happy.  Instead He desires us and our willingness to do His will.  He desires obedience to His commands.
        
The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.
The command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The statutes of the LORD are true, all of them just;
More desirable than gold, than a hoard of purest gold,
Sweeter also than honey or drippings from the comb.
By them your servant is warned; obeying them brings much reward.
(Ps. 19: 8-12)


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


A New Year Resolution: Live Like You Were Dying




Dear Parishioners,

There is a tradition in America to make some personal resolutions as we begin the New Year.  From a Christian perspective, this attempt seems to be a  bit misguided as the new “church” year actually began for believers with Advent.  This season—Adventwould have been a more appropriate time for us to make changes to prepare for the Coming of Christ.  I remind all of us of Advent’s two-fold preparation:  celebrating Christ’s First Coming (the Nativity) and awaiting His Second Coming in glory to judge the living and the dead.

While listening to an online presentation recently, one of the speakers mentioned a rather intense and unique spiritual exercise.  Set a pretend date for your own death in a month and then do everything necessary to prepare for that day.  In other words, what would you do if you only had a month to live and you knew you were about to meet God and face judgment—an eternal reward or punishment— in only a month?  What would you do if you knew exactly the date of your own death?

This brought to mind a song released by country singer Tim McGraw in 2004:  Live Like You Were Dying.  The song tries to inspire a person to live life to the fullest in the time remaining on earth.  Activities suggested included skydiving, mountain climbing, bull riding and other bucket-list activities.  I think the song finally reached much more spiritual depth when it spoke about loving deeper and giving forgiveness that long had been denied.  The dying person spoke about becoming the husband that most of the time he wasn’t and becoming a friend that a friend would like to have.  The song goes on to mention reading the good book (presumably the Bible) and ultimately facing eternity.

Well then, let me bring this to a more Catholic perspective.  All of us have limited time.  We have a shelf-life whose expiration date is known only to God.  Even if we are given 100 years or more on earth, what is that brief time compared to e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y?  Eternity is forever.  Remember that.  Church teaching is that we all will inevitably face death, judgment, heaven or hell at the end of our lives (the four last things).

What would you do if that step from eternity were only a month away?  Go ahead.  Set the date.  Pretend that it was only a month away.  What would you do to get your life completely in order?  Would you pray and go to Mass more frequently?  Begin now.  Would you make a good, sacramental confession like never before?  Start preparing now.  Would you forgive that person who has hurt you or ask forgiveness from someone you have hurt?  Make the phone call or write the letter today.  Would you find more time for your children or grandchildren?  Start now.  Would you visit that neglected parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend?  Just do it.  What in your life needs to be done so that when you meet God face to face and have to account for your life here on earth you will be ready—completely ready?

Then [the king] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.  (Mt. 25:  41-46)
Why not give it a try?  Just think of how much more spiritually mature and prepared you would be after such a month of intense preparation!  Kinda like spiritual boot camp.  

Happy New Year!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tim McGraw

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Christmas Message


Dear Parishioners,

"Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.”  (Luke 2:  10-11)

I wish you and your families a happy and holy Christmas season.  Although the commercial celebration of Christmas started even before Thanksgiving, the Christmas season for the Church extends until January 13th with the Baptism of the Lord.  Don’t be in a hurry to take down the Christmas decorations too soon!

There have been so many blessings that I thank God for this past year—but most especially I thank God for the prayers, support, genuine love and concern of so many faithful parishioners.  May God bless you for your goodness!

I try to live by a philosophy (and truly believe) that God is ultimately in charge of every situation.  I pray constantly that His will be done.  I do not claim that I know each and every detail of His plan and what lies ahead.  But, in imitation of the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I attempt imperfectly to echo her profound trust and consent to the will of God:  “May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

I thank all who work so hard in the parish and continue to strengthen our Christian community.  Christianity is never a “spectator sport” in which we simply sit back, watch and cheer.  Rather, it involves active participation and a life-commitment:  daily prayer, attendance at Mass weekly, a sacramental life including regular confession of sins, Christian service, love (even of enemies), forgiveness, Christian charity, conversion, repentance, etc.

As we adore the Christ Child in the manger at Christmas, may we be moved by the great love and humility that God showed to us in the birth of His Son!  God emptied Himself and became one of us.  Our faith also professes that He will come again.

O come let us adore Him! 

Be assured of my daily prayers and a remembrance in my Masses for all of you.  May I ask a small remembrance in your prayers and Masses as well? 

On behalf of all our priests, deacons and entire parish staff, have a blessed and peace-filled Christmas and a holy New Year!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Gaudete Sunday


Dear Parishioners,
The liturgical season of Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas.  The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday—from the Latin word “rejoice.”  We rejoice because the Lord is near.  Advent is halfway completed.  Priests have the option of wearing a rose colored vestment and we light the rose candle of the advent wreath.
To me, the season of Advent is often treated like a neglected step-child.  Society seems to overlook this season and move right into Christmas.  Unfortunately, when the actual Christmas season begins with the Mass of Christmas Eve, many people will soon thereafter take down the decorations and the tree.  Christmas seems to end all too abruptly within the actual Christmas season.
We are often driven by the consumer mentality as the stores will begin preparing for Valentines Day and Presidents Day, immediately following those after-Christmas sales.  Does everything have to be about buying and owning many things?  I once read this thought provoking saying on a t-shirt:  He who dies with the most possessions still dies.
I believe in the the importance of person and relationship over things and possessions.  Christmas-time can have some wonderful effects when families come together and people socialize with both families and friends.  People can be extraordinarily generous and kind as well.
But the essential meaning of Christmas should never be lost:  God became a man.  He revealed His life to us and spent time with us.  He lived with us and died for us.  Many messages distract from this one.  But the coming of Jesus Christ is truly the focal point of all human history.  Why do even Christians sometimes miss or forget this truth?
What will it take to bring more people to realize the importance of Jesus Christ?  Dynamic preaching?  Vibrant parishes?  A plethora of activities?  Better evangelization and outreach?  A natural disaster?  War?  An act of terrorism like 9-11?  Sickness and death? 
I think that first and foremost there has to be more of a focus on prayer and conversion—a change of heart—within our parishes and families.  The glamour of sin and the illusory happiness that it may temporarily bring has a choke hold on the world today.  While many may not directly deny the existence of God, far too many live in such a way that His effect on our lives is negligible or non-existent.
Use the last two weeks of Advent in the way it was intended.  Prepare spiritually for the coming of Christ.  Come visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
When Christmas actually comes, we will be much better off spiritually.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Some Suggested Advent Preparations


Dear Parishioners,

I make three simple suggestions that I think will help you have a better experience of Advent, in preparation for the celebration of Christmas.

First, I suggest that we find some time each day to be quiet and pray.  Typically, we tend to be noisy and busy at work, at school or with various sports and activities throughout the course of the day.  We run around doing things continually—perhaps multi-tasking.  Can’t we find just 10 minutes to turn off the TV, computer, iPod, radio or other electronic devices?  Can’t we find a secluded spot where we can just sit, think, meditate and pray for a few minutes?  I am amazed that when I take a few moments to be quiet, to settle down and to allow God’s peace to fill the emptiness in my heart, I often become more refreshed and energized.  I am frequently more focused as I become aware of the presence of God at work in my life.

Second, I suggest making an integral, sacramental confessionFr. John A. Hardon, S.J. listed some of the spiritual and psychological benefits of confession as articulated by some of our recent popes:  self knowledge is increased, bad habits are corrected, conscience is purified, the will is strengthened, salutary self-control is attained, we become more sinless, we become more conformed to Jesus Christ, and we become more submissive to the Holy Spirit.  In addition, he points out a psychological value of confession:   “. . . The frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance contributes to the well-being of our mind.  In one declarative sentence, it is a divinely instituted means of giving us peace of soul.”  Many people, I think, could benefit immensely from going to confession frequently.  Even the best of secular therapists cannot forgive in the name of Christ nor impart grace (God’s life) which we find present regularly in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

Finally, I suggest that we do something for someone without expecting any return whatsoever.  Christmas is seen by many as a season of giving.  We exchange presents.  We buy things for family, friends and co-workers who will often do the same for us.  Why not do something for someone anonymously?  Why not help someone whom we know is unable to reciprocate?  It is really necessary to expect something in return?  Do we really have to be seen or noticed when we do something good?  I remind everyone that God sees what we do.

Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Mt. 6: 1-4)


Try to make the best of the remaining time that we have this Advent season!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor