Consider this… A Gospel of Convenience

Consider this… A Gospel of Convenience

One of the many challenges a Pastor faces in today’s day and age is tempering the radicalness of the Gospel with the desire for a ‘feel good’ message. The past several weeks our readings have severely challenged us, and if we have been listening and paying attention then we should feel uncomfortable at times about what Jesus and the scriptures are telling us. Examples include: Stop trying to please yourself. Don’t forget to take up your cross and follow. Deny yourself. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…. Should I go on??

At times I hear the complaint that; ‘Father, I want to feel good when I come to church.’ I have to admit that homilies that are more ‘feel good’ are easier to preach, and often times result in compliments and accolades. Homilies that challenge are often times met with complaints and harsh reactions. As disciples we need be honest with ourselves and ask; ‘Am I perfect? Do I have any room in my life for improvement? Am I ok with Jesus challenging me to be better?’ Speaking for myself, I know that in preparing for a homily, the scriptures often challenge my own life and way of thinking. I too feel uncomfortable by what scripture says I need to do, but I also realize, that’s ok. Jesus isn’t done with me yet!

So, what should we do?

When something challenging is presented and strikes a nerve, it’s always best not to react immediately. Ask, why is this message upsetting or challenging? Is the Holy Spirit trying to make us aware of an area of our life that needs to grow? Does the challenge make us aware that our lives are not perfect? Pray about what has struck a nerve in us, ask the Holy Spirit to give insight, and be ready to grow. Being ready to grow means that I may have to change my ways, or even intentionally make an effort to improve an action or vice in my life.

Last week, our parish began reflecting on the knots that the Road to Renewal is focusing upon during the Penitential Rite. This is an opportunity for all of us to be challenged to change how we as church respond to the mired past of our Diocese and pray that the Holy Spirit, through the mercy of God, helps us to grow and change to be more Christlike. The challenges of the Gospel aren’t just uncomfortable for those who attend church, but they are also quite the challenge for the church leadership herself. Our scriptures are radical and our Gospels are clear, we have to recognize our imperfection, allow ourselves to be open to change, and begin to embrace the hope that comes with making the Gospel a part of our lives.

Remember, Jesus isn’t done with us yet. If we plan on going to heaven, we certainly better be ready to accept the challenge of the Gospel and work at changing our lives each and every day.

Keep Smilingsmile

 
Fr. Bryan

September 19, 2021 – Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 19, 2021 – Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.”  Words from our 2nd reading today from the 3rd chapter of James – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.

Consider for a moment, the simple question: “what do you want?”  We hear that question asked of us over and over and seemingly in every context.  What do you want to study in college?  What do you want to be when you grow up?   What do you want to do in retirement?  What do you want for your birthday?  What do you want for Christmas?  What do you want for dinner?  What options do you want in your new car, your new computer?  How do you want to decorate your office desk, your backyard, or your living room?  What do you want to wear today or what do you want to wear to this upcoming occasion?  … or even, if you know that scene from the Jungle Book with the Vultures that very much resemble the Beatles: “What do you want to do? I don’t know, what do you want to do?  Look flaps, I ask you what you want to do, you ask me what you want to do, then I say what do you want to do, what are we going to do, let’s just do something… OK, so … what do you want to do?”  [Face-palm] Our culture and society is pretty good at reinforcing this sentiment: it’s all about you, the individual, and what each person wants for himself or herself.  “Have it your way,” Burger King declares.  I think the band, Neovaii, gives a pretty accurate depiction of society in their song Chase Pop, when they say we are busy “chasing our own reflection.”

But in a busy world, some of us don’t need to be doing yet more things.  Some of us don’t know what we want to be when we grow up and are confused with the immense pressure put on us.  Some of the things that we want aren’t good for us – I’m sorry but I can’t eat 3 pounds of chocolate every night for dinner.  Some of us can’t afford to just renovate the house so that it’s just the way we want it.  It’s almost as if we are setting ourselves up for failure when we ask ourselves what we want all the time, only to discover that we can’t get it or it’s not for us.  And that’s when jealousy and envy set in.  We tell ourselves, “I’ll be OK when I become successful like him.  I’ll be OK when I look as good as she does.  I’ll be OK when I have what they do.”  And every time we make a comparison to a life we think we’d like to have, we put a condition on our own self-worth: I’ll be OK when… 

In the Gospel today, Jesus sets these personal ambitions and comparisons aside, and he embraces that little child that resides in each and every human being.  With this gesture, he does more than just give us his attention.  God demonstrates to us that we’re all accepted and loved, now, for who we are: beloved sons and daughters, precious in his eyes, and that we shouldn’t therefore diminish our self-worth.  God opens our eyes to the absurdity of our disagreements, ambitions, and the torments that unsettle our communities and families.  As St. James writes, where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.  Indeed, our unhealthy attachment to ourselves and our individualism is a cancer that takes away our peace.  It is what caused those wicked people in our first reading to despise and persecute the righteous.  It is that excessive individualism that caused turmoil and conflict within the Christian community that St. James was writing to in our second reading.  It was that unhealthy attachment to self, that led the disciples in the Gospel to argue over who was the greatest among them.  And it is the same with us today, when we obsess about ourselves, even in the innocent question of what each of us wants. 

Our readings today tell us that it needs to be less about us and more about each other.  Our readings generate a reversal of values and redirect our desires to the good of others.  That is what love, true love, Christian love is all about.  Even selfish and unloving persons recognize in the book of Wisdom that God will uphold those who act uprightly in this way.  If we are to have peace, we would act justly and wisely, being pure, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity in our relations with each other as St. James tells us.  If one is to be great, truly great, Jesus tells us that they would become the servant of others, looking out for them and putting their needs first.  Think about this: Name for yourself the five wealthiest people in the world; Name the last five Heisman trophy winners; Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant; Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize; Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress; Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.  These are good trivia questions that get you thinking a little bit… Indeed, these are no second-rate achievers.  They are the best in their fields.  But the applause dies.  Awards tarnish.  Achievements are forgotten.  Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.  By the same token: Now list for yourself a few teachers who aided your journey through school; Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time; Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile; Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special; Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.  A little easier, I imagine.  The lesson: The people who are great and make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.  They simply are the ones who care the most about others.  Do you want to be great – then put others first.  I find it ironic that I hear the question, ‘what do you want?’ almost every day, but it’s been some time since I heard anyone mention that anything was worth doing because they wanted to serve the common good, or that I only want what’s best for you.  It’s a struggle to be sure, but Jesus is trying to make us realize that just as he gave himself up in love for the salvation of the world, so also by losing our selves in service to others do we gain all things in Christ who alone indeed fulfills every desire and the deepest longing of our hearts.

Lectionary: 134

Reading I

Wis 2:12, 17-20

The wicked say:
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him.

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 54:3-4, 5, 6 and 8

  1. (6b)    The Lord upholds my life.
    O God, by your name save me,
    and by your might defend my cause.
    O God, hear my prayer;
    hearken to the words of my mouth.
    R. The Lord upholds my life.
    For the haughty have risen up against me,
    the ruthless  seek my life;
    they set not God before their eyes.
    R. The Lord upholds my life.
    Behold, God is my helper;
    the Lord sustains my life.
    Freely will I offer you sacrifice;
    I will praise your name, O LORD, for its goodness.
    R. The Lord upholds my life.

Reading II

Jas 3:16—4:3

Beloved:
Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice. 
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity. 
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

Where do the wars
and where do the conflicts among you come from? 
Is it not from your passions
that make war within your members? 
You covet but do not possess. 
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war. 
You do not possess because you do not ask. 
You ask but do not receive,
because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Alleluia

Cf. 2 Thes 2:14

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    God has called us through the Gospel
    to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    R.Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

Mk 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it. 
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” 
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?” 
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest. 
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 
Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

 

Introducing St. Mary’s New Youth Minister and Confirmation Coordinator

Introducing St. Mary’s New Youth Minister and Confirmation Coordinator

St. Mary’s Catholic Education Office is please to introduce our new Youth Minister and Confirmation Coordinator, Michael Slish. Mike, as he likes to be called, is a lifelong parishioner of St. John de LaSalle parish in Niagara Falls. Prior to St. Mary’s, Mike worked in youth ministry for the Diocese of Buffalo.

Mike shared that he considers youth ministry a form of teaching, where he is able to “help people grow to become the person God wants them to be.” He understands that this journey is different for all and that as Youth Minister it is important to be creative, flexible, able to meet people “where they are.” He believes that learning in general as well as understanding our Catholic faith is more than classroom and book work. As for Confirmation, Mike explained, “being ready for a sacrament is so much more than completing a checklist.”

Mike is impressed by Christina Egleston and her team for having set up such a vibrant youth ministry program; giving him plenty of opportunity to interact with our parish youth and their families. He looks forward to meeting everyone, adapting to meet the needs of our youth and growing the program.

When asked about his initial message to the families of St. Mary’s Church, he responded, “All are welcome! Come and see! Even if you haven’t been to one of our programs before, this is a great time to try something new. If there is anything we can do, do not be afraid to ask.”

Please say hello and introduce yourself when you see Mike on campus.

Consider this… A Gospel of Convenience

Consider this… Catechetical Sunday

Consider this… Catechetical Sunday

This weekend we recognize all who teach the next generation. The vocation of teaching is one that is a true gift and needs to be recognized. Having taught prior to seminary I can certainly attest to the dedication and passion that every good teacher brings to their profession. The hours, dedication, determination and passion a teacher brings to their profession can influence a child their entire life. It is important that we bless, recognize and support those who teach the next generation.

At St. Mary’s on this Catechetical Sunday, we appreciate and recognize all those who teach our children and families here at St. Mary’s. Our Family Faith Formation program educates over 500 children and their families as they learn what it means to be a Disciple and follower of Jesus. I have to say that the program offered here at St. Mary’s is one of the best programs I have ever been a part of. The dedication of our Family Faith Formation staff and the catechists is unbelievable. The family is the core focus of our Faith Formation program, and the needs of every family are taken into consideration when it comes to forming families in the faith. The gift of a family faith formation program is that we at St. Mary’s recognize that parents are the primary teachers of faith. How a family learns the faith and practices the faith will influence our young people more than any other effort our parish can make. Therefore, it is essentially important that our parents feel supported and can learn about their faith, while at the same time teach their own children why their faith is important.

When I was studying to become a priest, I had a teacher that spoke about faith formation often. One of the things he always said was that when it comes to teaching families, it is of the utmost importance that we realize mothers are the core teachers in the family, but fathers are the examples needed in the family. If mom teaches and dad practices the faith, the children will know what it means to be a disciple. Now this is a generality, but the point he was making was that it takes a family to raise a disciple of Jesus. All of our families have to strive to help each other grow in their relationship with Jesus.  

At St. Mary’s, we are blessed to have great staff, great catechists, a great Family Faith Formation program, a great school, great families, and great individuals who demonstrate their faith each and every day. If there is ever anything that we as a parish can do to assist anyone growing in their love of Jesus, never hesitate to ask.

Keep smiling, 


Fr. Bryan

Update: St. Mary’s Mission Outreach – Appalachia

Update: St. Mary’s Mission Outreach – Appalachia

Information for the Father Beiting Appalachian Mission Center can be found by watching the video below.

We are hoping to organize a mission trip to Kentucky in the near future.  The next organizational meeting is October 13, 2021, at 7:00pm in the Parish Center.

Parishioner, Art Lauer, will be coordinating our Mission Outreach here at St. Mary’s. Please contact Art to indicate interest and with questions at: artlauer@msn.com

Letter of Thanks and an Invitation from Father Andy
Saint Mary Parish,

Peace and greetings to all of you from the Appalachian Mountains of the Diocese of Lexington!  It was such a JOY to be with you July 31 and August 1 for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  I so much appreciate the warm welcome from Fr. Bryan, Fr. Luke, and Fr. Ryan and all of you receiving me so graciously.  It was very energizing to be with you, and you made me feel right at home.

Many, many THANKS for your big-hearted support of the mission appeal for the Diocese of Lexington and our missionary endeavors in Appalachia.  Your generous assistance is already helping to elevate the dignity of people and alleviate some of their challenges and hardships so that we can evangelize Gospel values.  May God reward you with an abundance of His grace!

I invite you to come and be with us.  We welcome the gifts of sweat equity.  Our Father Beiting Appalachian Mission Center offers mission immersion experiences for a long weekend or for a week or even a summer internship … for one person or for groups of up to 30 volunteers.  Come and experience the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky and let the beauty of the people touch your heart.  Explore the Mission Center’s website at https://www.fbamc-ky.org/ for opportunities that await and see what God can do with the generosity of one person’s heart.   God bless y’all! And remember… YOU are Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored, and Deeply Loved!

Father Andy Garner