Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Waiting for the Lord

Dear Parishioners,

The season of Advent is a time of anticipation. We should be waiting for the Lord Jesus to return again.  Our Nicene Creed tells us: . . . He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead . . . .

When will the Lord return? I don’t know . . . and I refuse to speculate. It tends to get a person in big trouble.

The fact that our Lord will return should be sufficient for us.

Many years ago, my spiritual director in the seminary suggested and encouraged the practice of centering prayer.  He was basically trying to teach me how to wait for the Lord in prayer.

What happens with this type of prayer?

Instead of talking, reading or meditating on something, I simply enter into the presence of the Lord and wait. I personally like to do this before the Real Presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I sit quietly trying to empty my mind of thoughts and distractions. I wait and listen for the Lord to speak to me. He is in charge. I submit my will entirely to Him.

What do I hear? Sometimes nothing. Sometimes I get distracted and start thinking about or worrying about various matters.  At these times—when I find myself distracted—I simply repeat the name of Jesus slowly and quietly.  This practice helps me to return to a quiet, inner place of peace.

There have been times when unbelievable inspiration has come during this prayer.  Some powerful homilies and insightful writings have developed when simply waiting for the Lord.

More important than looking for any spectacular results, there needs to be a fidelity to the Lord—a finding quality time for Him—as part of my daily prayer routine. I need to go to prayer even when nothing at all seems to happen. I need to go to prayer especially at those times when I don’t feel like it or I tell myself that I am too busy to pray right now. I need to go to prayer simply because prayer is what I need. The Lord Jesus is who I need.

To many, this waiting for the Lord may seem foolish or even a waste of valuable time. Many actually waste more valuable time in front of the TV, surfing the web on the computer, playing video games, or by any number of unproductive or unrewarding activities. I never see spending my time waiting for the Lord as wasted time.  It is valuable time that I spend with the One whom I love and have chosen to serve as a priest. It is His time. He can do whatsoever He wills with my time. I give it to Him.

This Advent, why not try waiting for the Lord in prayer? You might be quite surprised at what happens.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Fr. Ed Namiotka



My Definition of an "Uphill Battle"

Dear Parishioners,

I have been ready to put up the white flag of surrender for decades now.  Christmas is upon us already—at least according to the American consumer mentality—and yet Advent has not even begun. Santa was doing his thing in the mall for some time now. In fact, Thanksgiving wasn’t even here yet. We just barely got through Halloween (not to mention the Summer).

Advent. Why bother even to have such a liturgical season? By the time the Christmas season actually begins—according to the Church anyway—people are ready to take down the tree and the decorations. Christmas is over psychologically. We will have been celebrating it for months now. Christmas parties were held. Gifts were purchased, then wrapped. Pollyannas (Secret Santa gifts) were exchanged. Christmas (holiday) shows and concerts were attended. Cards were sent and received. Cookies were baked. Stockings were stuffed. Traditional and not-so-traditional songs of the season have been playing on the radio. Etc., etc., etc. 

Then Christmas actually arrives, and it’s all over by the next day. Let’s get to the retail stores to see if there are any after-Christmas bargains. Maybe there are also some end-of-the-season deals online. And don’t forget we still have to return those unwanted gifts.  

It is obvious who has won this battle. It wasn’t the Church. Preparation for the Coming of Christ? Yes, we may spot a few of those Keep Christ in Christmas signs occasionally popping up on lawns or displayed on the back of cars. But they really don’t influence the vast majority of people. Perhaps, they may make some of us think a little, but they probably won’t change the behavior of the typical consumer. Christ might have gotten an ever-so-slight bit of attention in between Rudolph, Frosty, Santa, the Grinch, Charlie Brown, Scrooge, Ralphie Parker (from the all-day Christmas marathon “A Christmas Story”) and the host of countless others who are “popular” and “new and with whom I am currently too out-of-touch to even name.

The Christmas season begins with the first Mass of Christmas (Christmas eve) and extends to January 8, 2024—the Baptism of the LordAdvent originally had a penitential nature, with a  two-fold preparation for the celebration of Christ’s Birth and in anticipation of His Second Coming. There actually was fasting involved at an earlier point in time. The modern Advent wreath that many of us are familiar with in churches and in homes is a rather recent development, being attributed to a 19th century German Protestant pastor.
Christ’s Incarnation and Birth, next to His Death and Resurrection, is the most significant event in salvation history for all humanity. God became one of us. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became a man. The Creator humbles Himself, empties Himself (see Philippians 2: 6-11), to become a creature, a human. He allows Himself to suffer and die. All of this for us.

Jesus’ human beginnings sadly were met with little gratitude—no room in the inn. A stable was provided. There was a feeding trough for animals in which the Son of God could sleep.

Sadly, I do not think the level of gratitude for all He has done has changed much over time. It seems to be greatly overshadowed by the materialism and consumerism that our modern Christmas has become.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Advent is Near!

Dear Parishioners,

It’s hard to believe that another liturgical year begins next weekendthe First Sunday of Advent!

Advent is a time of commemoration, anticipation and preparation. We recall the Birth of Jesus Christ while the Church reminds us that Christ will come againWhen? This has been an unanswered question for the last two thousand years.

Hopefully, we as Christians have not become too complacent or even indifferent towards this teaching of our faith. What if Jesus did return in glory to judge the living and the dead tomorrow, next week or next month?

I guess some people would panic: “When was the last time I was in Church?” “I haven’t been to confession in years!”  “My life is not really in order right now!” “I never did forgive my dad!” “I haven’t spoken to my sister for decades!” “I’ve been preoccupied with so many things and never take the time to pray!” “I really do not know Jesus Christ.”

Jesus warns us: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:33) We are told by St. Paul that the day of the Lord “will come like a thief at night. “ (1 Thessalonians 5:2)

I do not want people to become fanatical like those who run around with signs claiming that the end of the world is near. However, as Christians we need to live continually in the presence of the Lord. Christ is always aware of us and is, in fact, there for us at all times, whether we realize it or not. Unfortunately, as humans we do not consciously focus on His presence in our lives at every moment, nor do we always live appropriately, even if we believe He is there.

Advent is here. Don’t waste the time by getting caught up in all of the materialism that the world is concerned about and sells relentlessly. Take time for your spiritual life. As humans, comprised of body and soul, we require both physical and spiritual nourishment. It seems almost rediculous to remind Christins to make time for Jesus ChristKeep Christ in Christmas?

Personally, I find that when my spiritual priorities are in order and Christ is forefront in my life, everything else mysteriously seems to fall into place. I may have to learn this lesson over and over again, but someday I may finally get it right. One can only hope!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King "A" - Fr. Edward Namiotka


Christ the King

Dear Parishioners,

Here in the United States we are not used to having royalty as part of our system of governance, as are the United Kingdom and various European nations. We, as Americans, declared our independence from a nation ruled by a king.

In addition, we as an American people go through a seemingly endless and (sometimes brutal) democratic election process in which we "elect" our president and other civic officials. Democracy appears to be part of the fabric of our nation.

So how do we in our society understand and react to this concept of Christ the King?

First of all, I have continually reminded people that truth is not subject to a democratic vote or to a popularity poll.  For example, if we were to take a vote and popular opinion decided there are now four persons in God and God is not a Trinity, would it make it so?  Absolutely not. Our opinion of this matter is really insignificant because it can never supplant Divine Revelation. This is also true with morality and the law. Just because various laws are enacted by our government, it does not mean that these laws are necessarily morally correct or in conformity with God's will. Laws permitting the unjust taking of innocent human life illustrate this fact clearly.

When we call Christ our King, we acknowledge that He has absolute sovereignty over us as His people and we are subject to what He commands of us.  While we always retain our free-will and can choose to be obedient or not, God is still ultimately in charge.  Jesus the Christ announced to us that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mk. 1:15)

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "The kingdom of Christ (is) already present in mystery", "on earth, the seed and the beginning of the kingdom."(#669) The Catechism continues: Though already present in his Church, Christ's reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled "with power and great glory" by the King's return to earth. (#671)

Humanity, as the most integral part of all God's creation, must ultimately conform to the will of God and acknowledge the absolute sovereignty of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, from the very beginning, we as creatures seemed to think that we knew better and can do better than God, the Creator. This is the essence of the original sin. Various ongoing effects of this sin continue to manifest itself over and over again throughout history, right up to this very time: “Nobody is going to tell me what to do!”—for some, not even God Himself!

Moreover, when various Church leaders today advise that we need to listen to and dialogue with the various peoples of the "world," there must also be an ultimate realization that in the end the entire "world" needs to conform to the sovereignty of Christ the King. Christ is the standard of all truth. He is the Son of GodListening to and dialogue with others can never be seen as caving into various worldly demands and succumbing to anything that would be contrary to Divine or natural law. It is the world that needs conversion to Christ and His teaching.

May this Solemnity of the Church—Christ the King—remind us of the need to be humble, respectful and obedient to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the King.  

It is utter foolishness to do otherwise.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Giving Thanks

Dear Parishioners,

With Thanksgiving approaching, I think it is always a good practice to take the time to say “thanks” to God for the many gifts and blessings that we have in life.

First of all, I thank God for what He has done in my life. I thank Him for the gift of life itself, for health, for family, and for the gift of the ministerial priesthood. I also give special thanks for you, my parishioners, whom I have the privilege of serving in St. Thomas More Parish

For almost 20 years, my family has joined me for Thanksgiving dinner at whatever rectory where I have resided as pastor. This year, however, there will be an exception. We will be celebrating both Thanksgiving and my mom’s 90th birthday at my brother's home. My brother asked that the annual dinner be moved to his house and I was glad to accommodate his request. This year someone else will have the job of cooking for 25-30 people!   

I think that there is no better way to give “thanks” to God than by joining together for the Eucharist—the most perfect offering, the most perfect prayer of thanksgiving to God. What a privilege to receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus our Savior! We remember Him at every Mass when He took ordinary bread and wine and changed these elements into the inestimable gift of Himself for us! Please make it a priority to join our parish family each week around the altar to give thanks. Please join us for Mass on Thanksgiving Day (9 AM) as well!

The 1st Sunday of Advent begins on December 3rd and the new liturgical year commences. While the Christmas season does not actually begin until Christmas eve, we are unfortunately driven by the consumer mentality that starts selling Christmas items as early as late summer. By the time Christmas arrives, people are ready to take down decorations when the actual Christmas season is really just beginning. Incidentally, the Christmas season ends on January 8th with the Baptism of the Lord.

In conclusion, it is a good practice to take an inventory of the things in our lives that we might take for granted or fail to fully appreciate each day. A statement that I heard quite some time ago seems to put things into proper perspective: “I used to complain about the shoes I wore until I met the man with no feet.”
  • Am I thankful for that fact that I am alive?
Aborted babies never had that opportunity.
  •  Do I thank God every day for my health?
The hospitalized and homebound might long for days without pain and the ability to get out of bed.
  • Do I take my faith for granted?
There are places in the world where people suffer and die for being a Christian.
  • Do I go to bed each night with a roof over my head and a full stomach?
The homeless and those in line at the soup kitchen are probably envious.
  • Do I have a family with whom to spend the holidays?
The orphan, widow / widower, soldier in a foreign land, or prisoner might not have such good fortune.
  • If I can read and understand what this reflection is all about, am I truly grateful?
The blind, the mentally ill, a person with Alzheimer’s, or simply an illiterate person might not be able to do what you are doing right now.

Need I say any more? Please give thanks. 

On behalf of the priests, sisters and staff, have a happy, blessed Thanksgiving with your families!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Eucharist Means "Thanksgiving"

Dear Parishioners,

At this time of Eucharistic Revival in the Catholic Church in America, we certainly should do some reflecting on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. First, I bring to your attention the meaning of the word Eucharist (eukharistia) from the Greek, meaning thanksgiving.

In the Novus Ordo Mass, the second major part (after the Liturgy of the Word) is referred to as the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It includes the Eucharistic Prayer when the unleavened wheat bread and grape wine are consecrated and truly become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This mystery has been explained using the term transubstantiation, meaning the substance of bread and wine is changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus while the accidents (the appearance of bread and wine) remain the same. The Catholic Church teaches that this change is not merely symbolic but actual or real. Hence, we speak of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament or Holy Eucharist.

As Catholics, we should reflect on the Mass / Holy Eucharist from various viewpoints including: as a Sacred Meal (from Jesus' actions at the Last Supper), as an Unblemished Sacrifice (from Christ's death on the altar of the cross) and as a Sacrament (an outward sign which gives us God's Grace).  

We hear words beginning the preface of the Eucharistic prayer urging us:“Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.” We also hear about Jesus taking bread, saying the blessing / giving thanks, breaking the bread and giving it to His disciples. We believe what Jesus declares (“This is My Body / My Blood”) literally happens. It is what occurs at every Mass when the priest stands in for Christ (in persona Christi) so that it is actually Christ who performs the action through the instrument of the priest. That is why the constant teaching of the Catholic Church has been that the priest must be male because the priest stands in place of Christ who was male. We believe this Ministerial Priesthood is Divinely established and is therefore not open to change. Pope St. John Paul II made this clear in his Apostolic Letter ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS:

“Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. 

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.”

Making a proper thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion is something that also needs continual emphasis and reinforcement. We see people leaving Mass early (sometimes directly after receiving Holy Communion) and it is natural to wonder if there was adequate time given to praise / adore, to thank, to petition, and to ask for forgiveness from (reparation) Our Lord. After all, we have just received God Himself (Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity) and we have been united with Him in Holy Communion. Doesn’t this deserve a few moments of quiet, intimate reflection and prayer? Sometimes bad habits—like leaving Mass early—are hard to break! 

I also realize that not everyone is able to receive Holy Communion. Those in this situation should make a Spiritual Communion instead.

Remember to give thanks to the Lord, especially at this time when our nation celebrates Thanksgiving, and please attend Mass weekly with your family!

Fr. Ed Namiotka