Friday, June 14, 2019

Hope Does Not Disappoint!

Father's Day weekend!  For so many people this day means family barbecues, home-made gifts from school, a round of golf without feeling guilty and cards that say, "Happy Father's Day from your favorite kid!" 

It's supposed to be a day where we stop and take a moment to appreciate the men in our lives who have done so much for us and been a blessing to our families.  Yet for people who have lost fathers, had abusive fathers, absent fathers, or always wished to be a father, this day can be a time filled with loneliness, sadness or grief.   It can be hard to find gratitude when life's circumstances feel challenging.

In fact, in just a few weeks (on July 3rd)  it will be the second anniversary of the most challenging time in my life, when my father passed away.  As odd as it sounds, the only way that I COULD get through that difficult time was by focusing on the small blessings in those moments and by being grateful.  I was blessed when I talked with my parents on the phone and knew something was different and that I should schedule a flight to visit them.  I was blessed when my husband got a nudge that told him I should not put off the trip to the following week.  I was blessed that my parents picked me up from the airport, and when my father fell in the parking lot and was bleeding, some strangers helped us get him to the car.   I was blessed when my brother was able to join us for dinner the next night and we marveled that the four of us had not been alone, eating dinner together in that kitchen, in over 20 years.  I was blessed to be there with my mother when he passed out and stopped breathing.  I was blessed to be the one to take charge (so she did not have to) and perform CPR.  I was blessed to sit in the hospital room and grieve and cry but also witness the outpouring of love and support.  I was blessed with the caregivers who were sent from heaven and for my friends who drove hours to sit outside hospice "just if I wanted a break at some point."  I was blessed that my brother showed up 1 minute before my dad took his final breaths, with fireworks going off in the background, as he headed to be with our Lord.  Through this sadness and tremendous grief, those little moments, where I knew God was working through others or by giving me a nudge to guide me, gave me comfort and peace. 

As we read in the second reading this week from Romans, "knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."  The pain and affliction that I felt during my father's passing was overwhelming at times.  Like a wave rolling over me.  However, when I breathed through the pain and remembered the many blessings that surrounded us, I felt gratitude, hope and joy through the tears.  There was overwhelming proof that we were being carried through this difficult time by the Holy Spirit.   Since then, my eyes have been opened to the many "coincidences", "God nudges", "God Moments" or "God Winks" that are surrounding us every day, encouraging us to believe, hope, support each other and get closer to God.    I've actually helped a friend find her cat who had been lost for three days because I felt the "nudge" to call her and then shared an article with her that gave her hope; the cat was found 20 min after we spoke.  I was on a call with a vendor and felt the nudge to talk about a colleague, who is a Rwandan refugee and looking for another job with a Visa.  He put her in touch with the right people, which gave her hope to keep trying.  This led to her dream job and her ability to stay in this country.  I randomly chatted up a man at a coffee shop who had lost his wife and felt the nudge to talk with him about their life together.  The list goes on.  We all have this happening daily.  The moments do not have to be big moments of tragedy for us to find them.  The weird coincidences and "random run-ins" are opportunities for us to help, love, and support each other.

When we fall on hard times, or we have friends/loved ones that fall on hard times, we should remember that "the challenges we face in life are always lessons that serve our soul's growth."   Part of the growth of the soul stems from gratitude then growths with hope. And hope?  Well, hope does not disappoint. 

Reflection by Gretchen O'Donnell

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Uniquely Gifted for a Purpose

I have a fond recollection of the owner of a one-man service station near my hometown in South Quincy.  Our family would bring our car regularly to Joe Iacobucci to have it serviced as well as to get our gas.  He was a wonderful character who wore a handlebar style mustache, suspenders and sometimes a cowboy hat.  One couldn’t help but notice the fuselage of an airplane he was building in the left bay of his garage.  He was a rather quiet man, but always pleasant.  Joe was someone we could rely on to do an excellent job keeping our car safe and in good condition.  He was someone we liked, who was honest and we could depend on him.  He was our friend.  Joe has long since passed from this world.  The gifts God gave him were used very well.  He contributed to our family’s safety and trouble free journeys in the various cars we had over the years.  We depended upon Joe, his skill, his goodness, his fairness and his reliability.  He didn’t have a fancy job with a high-paying salary, but he made an important contribution to our lives.  

On this Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the outpouring of His many gifts upon the disciples.  The second reading of today’s Mass from 1 Cor. 12: 4 – 7 describes how each of us is uniquely blessed and gifted for some purpose. “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.  To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”  It makes me think of Joe Iacobucci.  How blessed we are to have people in our lives uniquely skilled, gifted, talented and inclined in so many different ways, who, at the same time, are committed to share what God has given them for the good of others.  What would we do without them!  Think about it.  I really don’t know much about cars, except to drive them.  But, I can celebrate Mass and other Sacraments, and provide pastoral care to the people of God in our community.  That’s how God has gifted me.  How has God gifted you?  

Fr. Bob

Friday, May 31, 2019

Our Bodies are like a Ketchup Bottle

Happy Ascension Sunday! No wait, Thursday? Wait a second…which state am I in again?

I find this weekend to be one of the most fascinating weekends of the entire year, because it’s the only weekend that is different depending on which part of the country you are in.  On every other Sunday, no matter what Catholic Church you walk into, you will hear the same exact readings, except for this weekend.  Here in New England (and the diocese of Omaha, NE) we still celebrate the Ascension of our Lord on its traditional day, 40 days after Easter, on Ascension Thursday.  So this Sunday, when you walk into Holy Family in Duxbury, MA, you will hear the readings for the 7th Sunday of Easter.  But in the rest of the United States, the bishops have moved the Ascension from Thursday to Sunday, so if you walk into a Catholic Church, say in Columbus Ohio this weekend, you would hear the readings for the Ascension and not the 7th Sunday of Easter. 

My mother is a saintly woman, (she has to be if she has been able to put up with me for the last 31 years; she tells me often that I have given her all of her grey hairs, which is probably true!) who goes to daily Mass and hasn’t missed a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation since All Saints Day in 2006 (the night before my dad passed away).  She is traveling this weekend from Ohio to spend the weekend with us and I was giving her a hard time on the phone today that she skipped the Ascension this year.  She was in Ohio on Thursday but will be in MA on Sunday, neither diocese celebrates the Ascension on either day.  So even though she will have gone to Mass both days, neither will have been for the Ascension.  That realization and conversation probably added a few more grey hairs to her head.  Sorry mom!
So what is this feast day about and why is it important?

On the Ascension, we celebrate that Jesus ascended (went up) to heaven, both body and soul.  His body does not remain here on earth, but was rather taken up to heaven with his soul.  This is very different then what happens when we die.  When we die, our bodies remain here on earth and it is only our souls that enter into heaven, hell or purgatory.  Christ was able to take His body with Him, because it was already perfect.  We cannot take our bodies with us, because they are imperfect.  We must wait till the end of times to be reunited with our resurrected bodies. 

At a staff meeting a few weeks ago, one of the staff members asked for help explaining a soul to a 5 year old child.  I must admit, that I am a little embarrassed, being a youth faith formation minister, that I didn’t have an answer to that question right away.  It is such a difficult concept for adults to grasp, let alone a small child.  I have been thinking about it for a few weeks now, especially yesterday as we celebrated the Ascension and the best analogy that I have been able to come up with is that of a ketchup bottle.   When someone dies and goes to heaven/hell/purgatory, it’s like when you have an empty ketchup bottle.  It is no longer ketchup because it is empty.  All that is left is the bottle.  In the same way, when a person dies, the body that remains is not the person because the soul is no longer in the body.  All that is left is the empty shell, just like the empty ketchup bottle.

Our soul is what makes us who we are, it’s our core, our being.  Our bodies keep our soul protected and safe, but are bodies aren’t who we are, it’s what’s inside our bodies that make us who we are, a son or daughter of God.  So too is the ketchup bottle.  What is inside the bottle is what matters, not the bottle.  The bottle and our bodies are the vessels used to help us achieve our true purpose in life.  In terms of ketchup, it’s to make our hamburgers and French fries taste extra yummy.  In terms of our bodies, it to help our souls to know, love and serve God in this life in order to be happy with Him forever in heaven.

I pray that no matter when you celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, whether it was on Thursday or will be on Sunday, that you are reminded of God’s great gift to us in an immortal soul that, hopefully, one day will be able to spend forever with God in Heaven. 

Reflection by Matthew Bensman

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Freedom is Not Free

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Let us take a moment this weekend to remember, honor and pray for all of the brave men and women who have died defending our freedom, and our rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Memorial Day Prayer

God of power and mercy,
you destroy war and put down earthly pride.         
Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears,
that we may all deserve to be called your sons and daughters.
Keep in your mercy those men and women
who have died in the cause of freedom
and bring them safely
into your kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this though Jesus Christ our Lord.
R/. Amen

—from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers

This weekend is a great time to reflect on the fact that freedom is not free.  In our country brave men and women gave up their lives to provide and protect that freedom.  That fact is true in our faith and our Church as well.  Our freedom comes at the ultimate cost, Jesus’ death on the cross.  Through His death and resurrection we were given true freedom; freedom to live a life that will enable us to spend an eternity with the Father in Heaven.  

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Embrace the Holy Moments

This week at Mass you will hear a message you’ve likely heard many times before.  Jesus says in the gospel, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.  Sounds easy enough right?  Since we are still in the Easter season, I’ll flash back to my favorite Mass of the year; Holy Thursday.  This is such a powerful Mass and message, I’ve never understood why this is not a Holy day of obligation.  This is the Mass where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples with a similar message usually sung by our choir and always makes me tear up.  The lyrics go something like this “do you know what I have done for you… if I have washed your feet, so you must do as I have done for you”.  It’s such a message of humility and love.  I’ve been fortunate to watch my children have their feet washed over the past couple years and it was one of the best teaching moments (sadly, I can’t take credit for that one).

I try to be attentive to my faith but the Advent and Lent seasons always give me an opportunity to hit the reset button and reorder my priorities.  This usually comes in the form of an email from Dynamic Catholic or a self-paced online retreat with 30 minute videos of speakers on different topics.  This year I gave up radio on my drive to work in exchange for Relevant Radio.  I learned so much and actually didn’t miss the daily bickering that went on with my usual sports talk show.  One of the takeaways for me this Lent was from Matthew Kelly.  I believe the idea comes from his book “The greatest lie in the history of Christianity”.  It’s the notion of “Holy moments” and that sainthood can be achieved by creating holy moments each day, some days maybe more than just one.  I believe creating holy moments more often than not requires us to love one another; this can come in many forms.  Praying for someone is us loving one another.  I recently had a friend and coworker pass away from cancer.  I prayed not just for her healing but also prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort her and her family.  One day near the end of her battle, I text a mutual friend and declared, “what a great day to pray for Trish!  Today is the feast day of St. Joseph, patron saint of departing souls”.  Little did I know this mutual friend has just received the call that Trish had passed.  Praying for Trish and her family is something I continue to do daily and my form of loving one another. 

Not too long ago, I was walking into South shore medical for an appointment and there was a man walking in at the same time.  We were both looking at this car that was parked so crookedly it was comical so we had a good laugh.  After my appointment, I was walking out to the parking lot and this elderly man was just starting to cross the cross walk and was clearly struggling and uneasy on his feet.  I thought “here is my holy moment”!  I walked right up next to him and looped my arm in his.  As we walked to his car, it turned out his car was the one that was parked sideways.  He was such a delight to talk to, he kept stopping in the middle of the cross walk to tell his stories, holding up traffic and not caring.  We laughed all the way to his car where I assisted him in getting in and shutting his door.   

Holy moments are sometimes a bit more subtle.  When I wake up a little irritable, it’s easy to take that out on others around me.  When I choose to love despite my grumpiness, it starts my kids and husbands day off on a better note and ultimately turns me around too.  This may not appear to be a holy moment but trust me, my husband and kids would beg to differ.  A more recent holy moment was when my Mother in law was cleaning out her fish pond.  It was the end of the day and finishing up 8 hours of weeding and mulching.  My back was aching.  I saw my Mother in law still back struggling with this project and had to go help her finish it up, despite how much I wanted to get off my feet.  Holy?  Maybe not… loving one another?  Most certainly. 

Holy moments usually take time and they sometimes take effort or sacrifice but 9/10 times I end up benefiting from the holy moments as much as the person I’m attempting to assist or pray for.  Loving one another is contagious.  Being on the lookout for holy moments will inevitably fulfill Jesus’s wish for us to love one another.  I continue to seek out holy moments and am hopeful if I can string enough of them together over my lifetime, canonization may be a long shot but I am hoping for heaven! 

Reflection by Joanna BIshop

Thursday, May 9, 2019

How Can You Evangelize?

Do you ever get a post on social media that has to do with something religious or about Jesus and wonder if you pass it on will people judge you or feel it will not be well received?  Or you might think people will think you’re preachy or a holy roller whatever that is.  Then when you finally decide to post it, you get two “likes”, one from your Aunt and one from your grandmother.  Sometimes when I tell people that I work for the church, they have an awkward reaction then move on to the next subject.  The comedian Jim Gaffigan once opened one of his comedy routines by telling the audience… “I want to make you all feel as comfortable as possible so I’m going to start talking about Jesus”.   Of course this was met with much laughter but what is it about faith and talking about Jesus that makes people feel so uncomfortable?  Is it the time lapse?   People might say; this guy died over 2000 years ago and you’re still going on about him?  Well, yes quite frankly, because what we know from Jesus’ death and resurrection means everything.   It certainly meant everything to the apostles as we see in this weekends and last weekend’s readings. The apostles were going out and preaching and teaching and many times they were met with much resistance.  They weren’t just getting awkward stares or indifference.   They were sometimes under the threat of death and yet they still carried on.

“The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit” so ends the first reading from Acts where Paul and Barnabas are in Antioch in Pisidia.  Yes, nothing more than the Holy Spirit could inspire these guys to forge on with their difficult mission.  If you think about it, these men were tough.  They had to be.  They had to be confident about what they were teaching, they had to be compelling, they had to venture into territories and lands they had never been.  They had to speak in synagogues under the sometimes jealous eye of Jewish leaders who were not ready to hear or except Jesus’ words.  They were always being watched and under threat of death.  And yet each week we hear the same words about the apostles…that they had great “joy”.  They “rejoiced” the fact that they were “found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name” that being Jesus.  Wow! I’m not so sure I would have this solid conviction.  Granted they had just witnessed great things that helped bolster their resolve.  They saw the risen Lord.  They knew the truth of what was to come.  Well for that matter so do I.  So I have to ask myself, do I have their determination when it comes to spreading the good word?  Do I have the courage and conviction to admit that I am a follower of Jesus?  Do you?  

What does it mean to evangelize today?  How do we avoid that awkwardness of being open about our faith?  Father Mike Schmitz of Ascension press says that “evangelizing doesn’t mean going door to door with religious flyers. It means being aware and looking for opportunities in everyday life to be witnesses of Christ’s love: listening to people’s concerns, offering tangible help, praying for others, and being open to conversations about spiritual matters.”  That sounds doable Fr. Mike!  Another simple thing to do is daily prayer. Fr. Mike also points out that “a lot of people easily slip into self-centered individualism (“just me and Jesus”), or they mindlessly go to Mass because it’s what is expected of them”  He further points out that  as “St. Paul says you’re a member of Christ’s body—you’re a member of the Church. Which doesn’t mean that you have a card and you’re a member [to a club]. No, you’re a physical member, like an arm or a leg. So the arm has to be healthy individually but connected to the head, Jesus. But it also realizes that it’s not the only member.” It’s important to have a dialogue with Jesus and ask for His guidance.  We ask God for so much and in we return we should ask Him where we are most needed.  What can we do today for our neighbors or for others?  Where can we be of most help today?  If we keep this prayerful dialogue going maybe the awkwardness of admitting to and showing our faith will fade. Maybe the messages will become clear, and maybe with the help of the Holy Spirit we can be joyful like the apostles in sharing our faith and our love of Jesus.

Reflection by Mary Juliano Hayes

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Feed my Sheep

“When a maid saw him (Peter) seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, ‘This man too was with him.’  But he denied it saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ A short while later someone else saw him and said ‘ You too are one of them.’ but Peter answered, ‘My friend, I am not.’   About an hour later, still another insisted, ‘Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he is also a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.’” (Excerpt from Luke Chapter 22)

These are the last words we hear from Peter before Jesus’ crucifixion.  The man who was chosen by Christ to be the head of the Apostles and the first pope, in the hour Jesus needed him most, repeatedly denied knowing him.  This is the man whom Jesus said He would build His Church upon and he just lied and ran away when things got too hard.  How many times have we denied Christ when it became challenging or too inconvenient? 

But do not despair, there is hope!  This weekend we hear this exchange between Jesus and Peter:

“’Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’  He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’  Jesus said to him a third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything: you know that I love you.’  Jesus said to him ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21)

Christ, in his infinite love and mercy, gave Peter a chance at forgiveness and redemption.  Each time Peter denied Jesus before his crucifixion, and each time we deny Christ with our words and actions, we are saying, “Jesus I don’t love you.”  

Jesus, by asking Peter, “Do you love me?” three times gives Peter a 2nd chance, a chance to change his answers from, “No Jesus I don’t love you,” to “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”  And through that second chance, Peter’s denials were wiped away and replaced with love and forgiveness. 

God gives us that same chance everyday to undo our denials of Him.  He is the loving God that is standing there waiting for you to turn back towards him and say, “Yes Lord, I love you.”  Come meet our loving God in the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.

Please pray in a special way for the young people of our Parish who are receiving that love of Christ in a special way this weekend (and over the next few weekends) as they make their First Communions. 

If you love me, feed my sheep. 

Reflection by Matthew Bensman

Friday, April 26, 2019

What is Faith?

My second oldest daughter loves riddles. She recently asked me this one…

“You can’t see me,
You can’t hear me,
You can’t feel me,
But you know I’m here around you.
What am I?”

The answer is air. It made me stop and think “hmmm” Yes you can’t see, hear or touch air yet we breathe without thinking about proving that it is real. We have faith that air is always there to sustain us and keep us alive. We just trust it is there, and don’t ask for the scientific explanation of how air works. You just have faith that the air will fill your lungs and continue about your day.

Faith. What is faith? The dictionary says it is the complete trust and confidence in someone or something. What does the bible say faith is? Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So to say you have faith that air will fill your lungs is true in both the secular and biblical definitions. In this upcoming week’s gospel, Thomas does not have faith. When Jesus visits the other disciples, Thomas says he will not believe until he can touch the nail marks in Jesus’s hands. When Jesus visits the disciples a second time, he tells Thomas to touch his wounds. Jesus then says, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." Which brings me back to air. Do you not believe in air because you cannot see it? Or do you faithfully inhale and exhale all the days of your life?

Why would believing in Jesus be any different? We cannot see God, touch God, but we can feel God. I feel him all the time. During Easter Mass Father Bob spoke about God moments. I bet you have had one, they happen all the time. My most profound God moment is a true miracle. After fighting off a very rare, aggressive and fast moving cancer, I was told that I would need IVF to successfully have another child. To understand what this diagnosis meant to me is to understand that the cancer I had was formed from a miscarriage. We hoped to have our sixth child. Having four daughters, and the youngest was a son, I yearned for a brother for my son. Accepting that another child was not in the cards for us, I was so surprised when I discovered I was pregnant… and with a boy! But really should I have been surprised? I prayed devoutly for the chance to have a son. When we told our children the news, one of my daughters leaped up and announced she had been praying for a brother. I was told it wouldn’t happen and it did. And it was the son I prayed over and over for daily. But God wasn’t done yet letting me know my prayers were heard. When I went to the doctor’s office, I was told my due date was Easter. If that wasn’t a clear sign then I’m not sure what else could be.

Some God moments are not always so big as the birth of a long awaited child. Many are little moments we may not even recognize. While speaking with a group of teens on their confirmation retreat, we spoke about God moments. Something as little as the right song just happened to come on the radio exactly when you needed those lyrics to speak to you… God moment. When I told the teens that, they perked up. Sometimes you just need to have faith and believe in what you cannot see. You need to trust fall into God’s arms. And sometimes, you need to be reminded that you can feel God around you. There is scientific proof of God, just as there is for air, but we need to believe and have completely trust in God just as we do in air. Rest assured that every time you breathe that God is with you.

God Bless and Be Faithful,
Kate Federico 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Fear does not define us!

As I sit in my office on a rainy marathon Monday reflecting on the readings of Holy Week and Easter, my mind keeps wandering to the last time I was in Boston for the Marathon, April 15, 2013 and all the similarities between how many people felt that day and how the Apostles must have felt when Jesus was killed. 

I was there with a group of friends when tragedy struck.  We were overcome with emotions – fear, sadness, anger.  We ran to the closest apartment and locked ourselves inside, afraid for what might happen next.  We cried, we comforted each other, we reached out to love ones to see if they were ok or to let them know that we were ok.  We were glued to the television as reporters and authorities tried to make sense of what had happened.  We didn’t move for hours.  Time felt like it was both racing and standing still at the same time.  In some ways those hours felt like days as we waited to hear back from loved ones, but it also felt like minutes as we prayed for those who died and were fearful of what was next. 

Today I realized how similar those feelings and reactions were to how the Apostles felt.  Their Lord, the man they had been following for the last 3 years was just arrested, flogged and killed.  The Apostles were afraid and ran to the upper room and locked themselves inside, fearful of what might happen next.  Were they in danger too?  Were they about to suffer and die? I can only imagine the conversations in the room had to be similar to the conversations my friends and I had that day.  How could this happen?  Who would do such a thing?  Why would God let this happen?  Are we safe?  The time the Apostles spent in the upper room had to feel like an eternity. 

The amazing thing about both stories is that neither one ends with people being locked away in a room, paralyzed by fear, defeated by evil, conquered by death.  Both stories have a triumphant ending.  Christ conquered sin and death through his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Good had conquered evil.  Sin and death could not defeat God.  We are stronger because of it.  The Apostles are stronger because of it.  The Church is stronger because of it.  Through the Resurrection, the Apostles had the strength to go out and face evil and sin head on and spread the message of Jesus Christ and build His Church.

The people of Boston also grew stronger in the face of the evil and tragedy that happened 6 years ago.  Boston came together as a town and as a people and said we will not give into fear and death.  We will carry on.  We will be better.  We will be stronger.  In the face of fear and evil, the following year, the marathon grew in number of runners and fans.  Many athletes who were injured in the bombing came back and competed, some even in wheelchairs or with prosthetic limbs.  Sin and death could not defeat Christ and it could not defeat the city of Boston.

I am a Midwestern boy, through and through, but in the aftermath of that tragic day, I was proud to consider myself (even if only temporarily) a Bostonian.   Tragedy has a way of bringing people together.  It brought the Apostles and the early Church together and it brought the people of Boston together.

No matter what you are going through in life right now, no matter how dark or low it may be, take strength in knowing that through the Cross, Jesus conquered sin and death forever.  There is light at the end of the tunnel and you will be stronger in the end.

I pray that you and your families have a very Blessed Holy Week and a Happy Easter!

Christ is Risen! Christ is Truly Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!

Reflection by Matthew Bensman

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Who are you in the Passion Story?

Where do we begin to reflect on the Passion that is proclaimed this Sunday at Mass?  I love Holy week and one of the reasons is that each year I am drawn into the drama of the story of Jesus, Passion, Death and Resurrection.  When we read the Passion, I can imagine myself there and observing all that occurred.  I find that different years I identify with different people in the story!   This year Barabbas caught my imagination.  Imagine what it was like to be him.  He was set free and Jesus died instead!  What would that feel like to be Barabbas?  Did he have any idea what was going on or what was happening to him?

How did he feel when he heard the crowd shout “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” Luke 23:18.    We know now that Easter brings New Life to each of us.  What did Barabbas do with his New Life?  What do we do with ours?

I read several reflections throughout Lent as a way to be immerse myself in the story, and I was caught by this reflection about Barabbas by Alice Camille and thought that I would share it!

“Of all the sideline characters inhabiting the Passion story, Barabbas is among the most obscure.  History fills in details beyond the Bible accounts about powerful men like King Herod and Pontius Pilate…. Barabbas is a bit player, a common criminal in an age of oppression that fostered lots of violent men just like him.  We know his given name is a nickname: Barabbas: Bar Abbas means “son of the father.”  Like Jesus, then, Barabbas was his father’s son, possibly born to the criminal class, this death sentence no surprise to anyone who knew him.

And then, the unexpected happens: on a technicality involving another case entirely, Barabbas is released into the sunlight and goes free.

What happens to a man like that?  Sweedish Author Par Lagerkvist, a Nobel Prize winner, wrote a novel about Barabbas’ fate.  In it, the freed man faces a choice: to return to his old ways or to redeem himself.  There is of course, a third option: Barabbas might allow himself to be redeemed by the man put to death in his place.  What makes this story so gripping is that it’s not just Barabbas who must make the decision.  We are all Barabbas, purchased by an innocent man’s blood.”

This week, I am left to consider that Jesus died for me.  I am Barabbas.  What decision will I make?  How will I live for Jesus because he died for me? 

Reflection by Jeanne Cregan

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Fingers of God

Last night when my two year old granddaughter was getting ready for bed after a long day of playing and running around outside, I asked her if she had a kiss for me before going to bed.  She replied in a grouchy voice “go away Nana!  I realized that she was worn out from her busy day and that she didn’t really mean what she had said to me, but I looked back at her with an extra sad face.  Right away she looked at me and on the verge of tears she said “I’m sorry Nana” she touched my face with her delicate little finger and gave me a great big kiss, and all was forgiven.

A week or so ago I began reading through the three readings for this Sunday, 4/7 the Fifth Sunday of Lent.  Each time as I reflected on the readings certain words and phrases kept surfacing. In all three of the readings we hear of God’s power of forgiveness and reconciliation. “Thus says the LORD, remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” (Reading 1  IS 43:16-21), “Just one thing:  forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Jesus Christ.” (PHIL 3: 14), and from the Gospel reading (JN 8:1-11) John tells the story of the woman caught in adultery.

I’ve noticed that throughout the Bible God’s fingers are referenced many times.  It appears in Exodus 8:15 during the plaques in Egypt “this is the finger of God” and in Exodus 31:18 where the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments are “inscribed by the finger of God” and in today’s Gospel reading (JN 8:1-11) where John tells us that “Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger”.  The finger of God being used as a symbol of God’s power, his infinite power to forgive and to heal.  He extends His finger, His hand, His mercy and His forgiveness to each of us as we go to him sinful, with a sincere heart seeking to repair our damaged friendship with him through repentance and reconciliation. 

Today in Mass we recited both the Verse before the Gospel (JL 2:12-13) “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart; for I am gracious and merciful.” Each time we pray The Lord’s Prayer we ask God to forgive us our trespasses and lead us not in to temptation but deliver us from evil.  We desire God’s mercy and he desires for us to have it despite our concupiscence.

So as we journey through the final few weeks of Lent seeking to grow in our relationship with God and striving to become a reflection of Christ in the world, we continue to try or best, forgiving others who have hurt us and creating one holy moment at a time bringing encouragement and joy to those who God places in our path each day. 

Reflection by Colleen Larose

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