Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Facing Our Demons

Dear Parishioners,

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 4: 1-11) we see Jesus tempted by the devil.  I think the example of this series of temptations is a most valuable instruction for anyone desiring to take Lent seriously.  Obviously the Church does as well, since the first Sunday of each Lent begins by recalling these temptations.
First, we see that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert. Why would the Spirit lead Jesus into the desert?  The desert is an austere place where a person must confront many harsh realities: severe weather, lack of comfortable amenities, silence and danger, as a start.  When we are deprived of creature comforts,  remove noisy distractions, and must face harsh realities, we can and should begin to realize the complete dependence that we have on Almighty God.  We are put in a situation where the desert and its silence can become the place where we hear the voice of God more clearly and powerfully.  And that is where Satan often begins to interfere as well.

Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights.  Not only was he in the desert, but he also took on bodily penance.  He was hungry.  Why deprive ourselves of anything? If we live only for this world, then self-sacrifice, mortification, and penance seem ridiculous.  However, denying oneself (and picking up the cross) was given as a condition for discipleship by Jesus  (See Mt. 16:24).  Discipline and self-sacrifice strengthen a person both physically and spiritually.  A person becomes more prepared to live out the sacrificial love Jesus most perfectly demonstrated by His death on the cross.

Why, then, when we are trying to do something spiritually beneficial, do temptations arise?  Let’s face this harsh reality head on:  Satan and his followers hate anyone trying to serve the Lord and grow closer to Him.  They will put any possible obstacle in our way to prevent this from happening.  We may be tempted to physical, earthly pleasure (food, drink, sex, drugs, and anything that makes us feel good or gives us a temporary “high”) instead of the eternal, spiritual satisfaction that comes from the love of Almighty God.  Basically, it is hedonism to one degree or another.  Command that these stones become loaves of bread.

We can be tempted by our ego.  Whenever we are proud (in the sense of hubris), boastful, unwilling to seek help (when needed), arrogant, or overconfident in our own ability or skills, we can ascend that parapet where we think that we do not need God.  Or worse yet, we think that we are god.  No one can tell me what to do.  I know best.  I will not serve.  This type of thinking (egoism) is represented in Jesus’ second temptation.

Finally, temptation can take the form of wealth or earthly goods.  Material possessions become the reason for my existence.  My home, my car, my vacation(s), my boat, my bank account, my jewelry, etc. become my god.  I think more things will make me happy.  All the kingdoms of the world . . . I shall give you.  At what price?  This was the third temptation in the desert (materialism).

Remember, temptation is not sin.  In his humanity, Jesus resisted these temptations and did not sin.  He faced Satan head on and rejected his false allurements.   Jesus showed us that when we focus and direct our actions completely on the love of God, then we have the ability to do the same.  The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.

Go into the desert this Lent.  Face your demons.  It is there where they can be confronted and conquered.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Getting Ready for Lent

Dear Parishioners,

Consider me strange, but I am actually looking forward to the beginning of Lent.  I see it as a special time to be introspective, to think about where I am right now in my relationship with Jesus, and to attempt to make some positive changes that I hope will result in a growth in holiness.

Traditionally, the practices recommended during this season are prayer, fasting and almsgiving (charity).

How can I pray better?  I can begin by finding and keeping a set time each day to pray.  (My own preference is praying in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.)  I also should be reading and reflecting daily on the Sacred Scriptures, praying the Rosary, making the Stations of the Cross and reading an inspiring Catholic book regularly.  When I am driving in the car, I also like to put on an informative or uplifting Catholic talk or discussion to listen to while driving. It certainly beats the garbage that we often find on the radio.

Fasting includes food but should go beyond simply not eating.  The only two fast days (one simple meal) required by the Church during Lent are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent are also days of abstinence (no meat).  However, we can also fast from things like the TV, the computer/internet, video games, the radio, from smoking or drinking, from superfluous shopping, etc.  In essence, we can do without--make an act of self-denial--and try to incorporate into our lives something more spiritually beneficial.

How charitable am I?  Do I regularly contribute to and support my church?  Do I have some other favorite charity to which I give?  Do I volunteer my time or my skills to help others without seeking compensation or recognition?  Do I visit and help the sick or the elderly?  Do I volunteer at the hospital?  Do I think of others more than myself?

The practices that I observe for Lent can really become an opportunity to change my way of living.  I can incorporate more permanently various ways of behaving that open my heart and my life more completely to God.  I can turn my life over to Jesus and take up my cross daily and follow Him(See Luke 9:23)

I realize that I am a sinner continually in need of the mercy of God.  Like all humans (except Jesus and Mary, of course!), my life has not been without sin.  I am not proud of this.  Therefore, I should seriously consider some acts of penance during Lent in reparation for my sins.  Making a thorough, heartfelt sacramental confession is a good way to start.

We should be spiritually mature enough to realize that the more we keep trying and letting God control our lives, the more we open ourselves to His grace of conversionConversion is a lifelong process of turning away from sin and turning towards the Gospel message.

On Ash Wednesday, when the ashes are placed on our foreheads, do we actually intend to change, or is this just an act of empty show?  Only God knows what’s in our hearts and how much we really do love Him.

Please make this Lent a time of deep, spiritual conversion.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Monday, February 10, 2020

Upcoming Pilgrimage

Deposits are now due!

A Trip to Oberammergau

Dear Parishioners,

Where is Oberammergau and why am I leading a pilgrimage there?

According to the website for the Passion Play, which is held in an open-air theater in the Alps of Bavaria, Germany (about one hour from Munich):

It all began with the pledge by the people of Oberammergau to act out the Passion Play once every ten years.

Pastor Daisenberger writes in his village chronicles: “The first decades of the 17th century went by in peaceful calm for the people of Oberammergau. . . . As early as 1631, infectious diseases spread in Swabia as well as in Bavaria. This village was spared by dutiful vigilance until the church festival in 1632, when a man named Kaspar Schisler brought the plague into the village. Faced with the great distress that the terrible illness inflicted upon the population, the leaders of the community came together and pledged to hold a passion tragedy once every ten years. From this day forward, not a single person perished, even though a great number of them still showed signs of the plague”

This year (2020) will be the 42nd play year for performances. This Passion Play has become world-renowned as the entire village takes a part in the production.

When I was a seminarian, I was made aware of this Passion Play after one of my priest-friends had attended a performance there and brought me back a small statue of Our Lady. This statue currently sits on my nightstand and I prayed and trusted that if I was meant to go to see this Passion Play, it would somehow happen.

Well, things are progressing and the trip is scheduled for September 4 to 14, 2020. The eleven day pilgrimage will also include visits to Prague (Czech Republic), Budapest (Hungary), Vienna (Austria) and Munich (Germany). We have the convenience of departing from the Philadelphia airport (PHL).

Since I have no idea what will happen in 2030, the next regularly scheduled performances of this Passion Play, I plan to go this year while I am still young enough and healthy enough to travel. Lord, please just keep my heart ticking!

If anyone is interested in joining us for this special pilgrimage, there are still some spaces available. While some may procrastinate thinking that September is still far away, the time will fly and the opportunity may be lost.

A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey. We will pray, offer daily Mass and attempt to highlight various religious sights (famous churches and cathedrals, etc.). Currently there are two priests travelling and I am encouraging some of my other priest-friends to join us.

For more information on this trip, contact Holy Angels Rectory and our staff will assist you or direct your questions and concerns to me.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Passion Play Open-Air Theater

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Super Bowl Sunday

Dear Parishioners,
Super Bowl Sunday 
In an ever more secular society, the events of this Sunday seem to surpass in importance other really more important Sundays like Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.
In much earlier times, in our Christian cultures the cathedrals (and other churches) of the city were typically the largest and most magnificent buildings in tribute to Almighty God.  What are usually the largest buildings in our cities today?  They are our sports stadiums.  Unfortunately, in our day for many people they have become the new cathedrals.  What are they a tribute to other than ourselves?
Sports figures are often held up as people to emulate and honor.  It seems to me that the martyrs and saints (and I don’t mean those guys from New Orleans!) held this position of esteem at one time.
People will pay insane prices for a ticket to view the Super Bowl live.  Thousands of dollars are spent in Super Bowl weekend packages.  Advertisers are willing to pay millions of dollars for 15 seconds of commercial notoriety.  And that poor old George Washington or Abraham Lincoln bill in our collection baskets is perhaps seen as adequate to support the local church and its activities—if the people go to church and give at all.
We gather together with family and friends to share pizza, wings, sandwiches, sodas and different types and strengths of “joy juice.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see the same enthusiasm and participation when it comes to gathering around the table of the Lord to share the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation?
I would hate to be seen as a kill-joy, party pooper or spoilsport (no pun intended), but does it not seem that our priorities are out of whack?  We live for today, for the moment.  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.  Did the Epicureans have it right? They propounded an ethic of individual pleasure as the sole or chief good in life.
Whether you rooted for those guys from Kansas City (kudos to Andy Reid!) or the ones from San Francisco (or couldn’t care less since your team was out of it), people throughout the world  are fixated for a few hours on a game
I think that if Christ were to decide to return to earth during this game, some people would ask him to wait at least until the halftime entertainment is over.
What a world we live in!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

(updated for 2020)