Thursday, February 28, 2019

“Do not be afraid to go to confession!” - Pope Francis

“Do not be afraid to go to confession!”  - Pope Francis

When was the last time you went to confession?  If it’s been a while, listen to what Pope Francis said in his instruction on the sacraments on February 19, 2014, “Be courageous and go to confession… If a long time has passed, don’t miss another day, go, the priest will be good.  Jesus is there, and Jesus is much better than the priests, Jesus receives you.  He receives you with so much love.  Do not be afraid of confession!  When one is in line to confess, they feel these things, even shame, but when confession is ended, they feel free, great, beautiful, forgiveness, clean, happy.  And this is the beauty of confession!”  

Some may say, I only confess to God by myself.  I don’t need to confess to a priest.  That is true for less serious (venial) sin, but for serious (mortal) sin, it is necessary to be formally reconciled with God and the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).  Pope Francis explains, “Yes, you can say to God “forgive me” and say your sins, but our sins are also against the brothers (and sisters), against the Church.  For this it is necessary to ask forgiveness from the Church, from the brothers (and sisters), in the person of the priest.”  Jesus said to his disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound they are held bound.” (John 20:23)  Implicit in this statement is the need for a person to confess his/her sins to the priest in order for the priest to either forgive or “hold bound.”  In fact, confession is a necessary first step before receiving Holy Communion when one has sinned seriously.  Think of it this way.  It’s only fitting to express sorrow to God and the Church first by going to confession if one has sinned seriously before celebrating friendship/union with Christ and His Church in the reception of Holy Communion.  As I sometimes tell children, you can’t punch your brother and then shake hands with him in friendship before you say you’re sorry.  That doesn’t make sense. 

In this season of Lent, we seek to grow in our relationship with God, with one another and with the Church.  We strive to be all that God has made us to be.  Take advantage of this important gift Jesus has provided to help in this effort.  He offers it as a source of divine healing, reconciliation, freedom and peace.  During Lent here at Holy Family we offer several opportunities for a person to receive God’s mercy in confession.  The season of Lent will begin on Ash Wednesday, March 6 with Day of Open Doors when our church will be open from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm for confession as well as the distribution of ashes throughout the day, three Masses (8:15 am, 4:15 & 7:00 pm) at which ashes will be offered, Eucharistic Adoration in our chapel all day and Stephen Ministers available to pray and offer support to individuals in need of a caring outreach.  Confessions are also available on Thursdays during Lent from 6:30 – 7:30 pm in our church Reconciliation Room as well as our regular Saturday confession times: 4:00 – 4:45 pm and First Friday, April 5 from 6:30 – 7:30 pm and First Saturday, April 6 from 7:30 – 8:00 am, and we’ll have confession available with visiting priests at the end of a Lenten Evening of Reflection with Fr. Bob Johnson, SVD on Tuesday, March 19 at 7:00 pm.  As always, one can contact Fr. Tom or me to go to confession by appointment.   

Confession is a wonderful opportunity to receive God’s grace and true peace… and it’s free!  There’s no better deal you can get out there than that.

Fr. Bob

Friday, February 22, 2019

Are we prepared for Lent?

In a few short weeks we will begin the season of Lent.  On Ash Wednesday we will have a cross of ashes put on our foreheads, and so begins our preparation for Holy Week and the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  During this time between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday, we are given a great opportunity to pray, examine our own personal walk with the Lord, repent, and to begin anew.  Questions you might ask are, how am I doing in this spiritual walk?  Do I pray every day?  Have I grown closer to the Lord this year?  Have I turned from sinful habits?     

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus is pretty clear about what he expects from each and every one of us.  Love your enemies, don’t judge people, and basically “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  Sounds good, but much easier said than done.  When someone slights us or harms us in some way, the first thought is not one with the word love in it.  So how do we love our enemies and forgive unconditionally? 

Love and forgiveness is not about feelings.  It’s about obedience to the will of God.  I know when I’ve had ill feelings towards someone who I feel has harmed me in some way, that feeling doesn’t just go away.  I have to pray and ask the Lord to show me where I may have been at fault, and even if I’m not, to show me how to forgive, to let it go, and to pray for the other person.   Ultimately, I must give it to God to deal with. I can’t do it, but He can and will!  Harboring bad feelings towards another person, for me at least, can be exhausting and it causes me to lose my peace of mind.  Every time I’ve surrendered, and trusted that God will take care of it, my peace returns.  Why do I fight it sometimes?  Because I’m human and Jesus knows all about my imperfections.  We will, and do fail on many occasions.   The good news is that we have confession.  There will be many opportunities during lent to go to confession.  Avail yourself to this beautiful sacrament and set yourself free!

“The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Reflection by Cheryl Provost

Thursday, February 14, 2019

“Will you be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?”

Luke’s Sermon on the Plain and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount closely correspond. Both start with a series of Beatitudes. There are differences in the two … but there is no question they both are a series of bombshells. It may well be that we have read and/or listened to them so often that we have forgotten how revolutionary they are.

And it would appear that they are even more contrary to our American lifestyle than ever before. Outside of Church or when reading Scripture, when in your lifetime have you ever heard anyone say, in effect: “Happy are the poor and woe to the rich?” It is so antithesis to our capitalistic style of government in the United States.

What Jesus basically saying is this, according to theologian William, Barclay: “If you set your heart and bend your whole energies to obtain the things which the world values, you will get them --- but that is all you will ever get.”

Since we all need to eat, feed our families, keep a roof over our heads and pay our bills, it is a balance that we need to strive for. Keeping us constantly aware of Jesus’ presence in and with us through prayer and receiving Him in the Eucharist, we perform whatever roles our lives have led us to … and go on one day at a time.

There was a time back in the ‘80s that I lost a great deal of focus in “Jesus’ Way” vs. the “Way of the World.” I morphed my site finding efforts for national retailers from the “brokerage” end into “developmental.” The latter has much higher rewards … but also huge financial risks. After co-developing Cranberry Crossing in Kingston at the intersection of Routes 53 & 3A, I bought out my partner and purchased a large home on the water in Duxbury’s Standish Shore.

Then the bottom fell out of the economy around 1990, and my many “mom and pop” tenants started vacating this 60,000 s.f. shopping center. And I could no longer pay my bills. I had over-extended myself on another center in Carver, and it was all over; my wife Mary and I had to file for bankruptcy, and endured having to practically give away our waterfront palace and find a rental home.

It was within a year of that when the Lord called me to apply to become a deacon … and the 5-year process of becoming one and upon receiving the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders at ordination turned out re-focusing me.

As weird as it may sound, my loving wife & I have each said more than once that going bankrupt was one of the best things that ever happened to us. The challenge of the Beatitudes is: “Will you be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?”

Reflection by Deacon Art

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Are we worthy of holiness?

As I went through the readings for the fifth Sunday in Ordinary time, a few things were resonating with me.  I felt throughout all the readings there was this common theme of unworthiness.  I felt it when Isaiah cried out “woe is me, I am doomed, for I am an unclean man of unclean lips, living among people of unclean lips”.  I felt it from Paul in his letter to the Corinthians when he says “I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God”.  Lastly I noticed it in Luke’s gospel when Simon Peter falls at the knees of Jesus and says “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man”.  

I’m not sure if anyone has had the opportunity to read our parish Christmas gift “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity” by Matthew Kelly.  It’s a very good read and I highly recommend it.  In it Kelly explores that same theme about how unworthy or rather unholy we all might feel and how that feeling paralyzes us in our daily lives.  Kelly says, “The great majority of modern Christians don’t actually believe holiness is possible.” “This lie is diabolical in its subtlety. There is evil genius in its effectiveness.”  Why is Kelly saying this?  He is saying this because this thinking makes us feel unworthy, imperfect and therefore unable to achieve happiness in ourselves, assist our neighbors and give glory to God.  So what do we do?  Do we just throw up our hands and give up?  Do we fall at the feet of Jesus and push him away wallowing in our own imperfections?  This is not how God wants us to be.  He wants us to be happy and He wants us to love Him and love one another.  So yes we are imperfect and flawed and we sin.  But as we see in this week’s readings God has offered a kind of “exit strategy” out of this false catastrophic thinking.  In Isaiah God sends an angel with an ember from the altar that purifies Isaiah’s unclean spirit…ah salvation and relief.  Saint Paul in his infinite wisdom recognizes that yes indeed he has sinned and as he puts it “by the Grace of God I am what I am” and then he further goes on to say that God’s grace has been very effective.   Wow what a great and easy solution, grace from God and it’s so easy to get.  We receive grace in our sacraments, when we receive communion, when we go to confession it’s truly God’s gift to us.  Celebrate it! Enjoy it!  It’s there for you!

Our God is a happy God and he wants us to be happy.  We never hear God say, “I’ll be happy when…”  He never says I’ll be happy when my people worship me or I’ll be happy when my people reject evil in the world and so on.  By that same philosophy, we shouldn’t be caught up in the “I’ll be happy when” game either.  I’ll be happy when I pay off my debt, I’ll be happy when I lose weight, I’ll be happy when I pass that test or complete that project etc.  No, God wants you to be happy now and he wants you to live and love one another joyfully.  You are worthy of his grace, you can be holy, and you can live out the gospel joyfully.

Now I don’t know about you but I don’t think I’m as bad as Saint Paul was during his persecuting days.  He certainly abused and persecuted Christians and yet today he is called a Saint.  Paul didn’t even think he was worthy of the title apostle imagine what he’d think of himself being known as saint today.  If that’s not grace in action, I don’t know what is.  We may not go through such a transformation as Paul and people in the future may not call us “saint” but we can certainly do our small part to create holy moments that show our love for one another, our love of our “happy” God and our worthiness of his gift of grace.

Reflection by Mary Juliano Hayes

Friday, February 1, 2019

A prophet is not welcome in his hometown

As the Mom of three children, I have often said that I have enjoyed my children at each age and stage of their lives.  Every stage has challenges and blessings and I continue to see that in our family’s current stage.  My children are 9, 12, and 13 and I call it a sweet spot.  They are independent, free from nap time and diapers, but still not driving and spending large amounts of time away from my husband and I.   I know the clock is ticking and although I am sure that I will enjoy the next stage as well, I worry about launching these three into the world out of the cocoon of our home and where they will need to make decisions on their own.  Will they live as we have taught them?  Will love conquer all?  Have I loved them well enough and given them the tools to prosper in the world? While I worry about these things, each day I feel a little more like Jesus in today’s Gospel.  “ prophet is accepted in his native place.”  Just a few years ago my kids turned to me with every questions concern and decision and my word was uncontestable.  But little by little the uncontestability of my word is waning.  Jesus' statement that no prophet is accepted in his home town reminds us that it is often difficult to hear a challenging message from those who know us best, even if it is true. Perhaps we remember and even regret this aspect of our own adolescence. It’s my job to teach my children values and right from wrong and how to make decisions but I know I did exactly the opposite of my parents’ advice on more than one occasion and of course I regretted it.  I try to convince myself that this developmental stage is a natural part of life!  Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier and often drives me to frustration where I try to force my kids to hear me and hear my perspective the way they did in earlier stages of life.    But I know as time goes on my voice is only one among many and it may not be the coolest or the most current way of thinking in their opinion.    I will continue to offer a perspective that is often in contrast to the culture.  Despite my frustration, I know I will never give up trying. I will continue to try to be a prophet in my native land. Not surprisingly, unlike me, Jesus responds with calm and grace and the folks “rose up, drove him out of town…”  Jesus wasn’t the Messiah they expected.  They were not going to accept teaching on a new way of life from the son of a carpenter. They were challenging him.  They wanted to expel him from town and potentially kill him if necessary.  I like to think of myself as above this.  I assure myself that obviously I would recognize Jesus as the Messiah if I were there and soaked in his teachings… But would I? Have I changed that much from my adolescent ways of assuming my parents didn’t know best? How different am I from my children?  Do I soak in Jesus’ teachings in all areas of life?  How many times have I considered the way of life Jesus has presented in the Gospels to me and done it my way instead?  How many times have I pushed Jesus away so I don’t have to struggle to follow His way?  I know better! I expel him from my heart and mind at times because it is easier! We call it sin… we expel Jesus from the town of our hearts and minds… luckily like a loving parent our Messiah never gives up.  He “calmly passes through” and continues to offer us chance after chance to accept his invitation and take his words into our hearts!  Luckily Jesus’ love is like the love of a parent.  It is patient and kind.  The second reading is all about Love and how true love wants the best for the other above ourselves.  It is that love that keeps me from giving up on my children despite their rejection and keeps Jesus from giving up on me (or us) when I reject him and true Gospel Living!

Reflection by Jeanne Cregan

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 ...