Friday, February 18, 2011

7th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year – A - 2011

Reading 1
Responsorial Psalm
Reading 2

7c_3May the peace of Christ reign in our hearts.

Sometimes moments in our lives find a special place in our memory.

For example I still remember where I was when President Kennedy was shot.

I was in the third grade at Maryvale Elementary School.

When the PA System went on we could barely understand what was going on.

Some of the kids started to cry.

Then the Principal came on and told us we could pray like our families prayed at home.

As I looked around almost every kid made the sign of the cross.

Cheektowaga NY a suburb of Buffalo was a very Catholic town.

When 9/11 happened I was in the Campus Ministry Office in Washington DC.

The University Emergency Council was called to the President's office.

We tried to understand what was going on.

A campus Policeman kept poking his head in giving us updates,

like “the Pentagon has been hit, the Capital Building has been evacuated.”

I remember him saying “The State Department has been hit, Confirmed”

There was so much confusion no one really knew what was going on.

Finally the President of Catholic University cancelled all the classes and the whole university 5000 students and 1000 faculty and staff meet in the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for Mass.

As we walked up the steps to the Shrine I remember seeing the smoke from the Pentagon.

There a girl talking on her cell phone crying hysterically saying “but I don't know where Gettysburg is how can I find you in Gettysburg?”

Her mother on the other end was also hysterical was trying to set up a meeting spot 80 miles away if disaster struck Washington.

There was a young Muslim woman with her head covered crying on the steps of the Basilica as we went in, several students were comforting her...

I heard her say “now everyone will hate us even more.”

One of the kids responded ”We are not going to let hate win love is more powerful.”

“We are not going to let them change our hearts”

His words really struck me.

That's what Jesus is trying to tell us today.

In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s Gospel

Jesus is exhorting his followers to never let evil or hate win.

Hate, evil, anger, bitterness, are terrible things.

They are very powerful and very destructive.

When someone experiences hate or anger in their lives they are so much more likely to pass it on to others.

The only way to overcome anger and hate and rage and evil is to have the extraordinary courage not to respond in kind.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who who persecute you.”

Some might think that responding to hate or evil with love is the coward’s way out or the easy way out.

I assure you it isn’t

No, it is not easy to love someone who hurts you or hates you but that’s exactly what Jesus did and that’s what he wants us to do.

Surrounded by hate and rage he responded with love and forgiveness.

“Father forgive them they know not what they are doing.”

The “them” he is talking about is us.

What does this all have to do with us, normal everyday people who live in Berlin CT?

Unless you have been living on your very own planet you have experienced anger and rage, and evil and maybe even hate.

All of us have experienced resentments, all of us have been hurt, and all of have a choice.

We can hold on to these past hurts and let them fester and grow.

We can let them take root in us more and more or we can have the courage not to respond in kind.

It takes courage a lot of courage and character, a lot of character, to break the cycle of hate and bitterness.

Its so hard to break the cycle of evil which seems so interwoven into the fabric of our world.

Think about it when we allow bitterness to make us bitter,

ar anger to make us angry,

or hate to make us hateful then evil does really win

and all that is good looses.

This week the challenge of the Gospel is clear.

We know what God is asking… the question is can we or will we do it.

I know that there are some of us here who have a few telephone calls to make, a fewRelationships to mend.

I know that to some of us forgiveness to be given or received or both.

If you find it easy being a Catholic maybe your are living on your own planet.

Have a great week everyone.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A – 2011

lovebegetslove - gapingvoid_com - Hugh MacLeod (1)May the peace of Christ Reign in our hearts,

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks to us about the Law and the Prophets, and he calls us all to a more heartfelt observance of God’s Law.

Our observance of the Law has to be more than rote.

It has to be more than going through the motions.

Our observance of the Law has to be more than giving the bare minimum or simply following of letter of the law.

That’s what the scribes and the Pharisees did.

God wants more from us.

God want our lives and our moral conduct to be motivated by a love which goes way beyond the simple letter of the law.

When you love someone you want the best for them.

When you love someone you want to give them the best you have.

A mom who loves her children would never just put a bowl of cheerios on the table for her kids day in and day out and then make herself a warm meal.

Yes, she would be following the letter of the law by “feeding” her children but love would never permit her to do such a thing.

I’ve known lots of Moms and Dad’s including my own who have taken food off their plates because their children were hungry.

They make this sacrifice because that what love demands.

The law, the Ten Commandments are from God they are given to us because God loves us and they show us the way home.

He didn’t give them to us to take away our fun or cramp our style.

He gave them to us because observing them with love is the best possible choice we can ever make.

Jesus uses three examples he reminds us that…

It’s not enough to avoid murdering someone, love calls us to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us.

It’s not enough to simple be physically faithful to our spouse, love calls us to treat everyone with respect and reverence.

One kid told me that he felt that looking at women and allowing his imagination to go into overdrive was like cheating in his head.

He felt this way because of his love for his girlfriend.
He understood that love called him to more and he understood what Jesus was talking about in the Gospel today.

Every human relationship is based on truthfulness

Telling the truth..

If you can’t trust someone to tell the truth then you can’t really be in a relationship with them.

Sometimes we are inclined to take the easy way out and tell a little lie or a little fib.

Both love and the law demand that we tell the truth… They also demand that we find charitable ways to do so.

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel
“Say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no.”

Sadly the scribes and the Pharisees believed that the blind dry observance of the law was enough to be justified.

Jesus wants more from his followers.

Love calls us to more.

When we choose to follow God’s law in a loving way we choose the path of righteousness and holiness.

Let’s return to the first reading for just a moment because it sums everything up beautifully.

“If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live”

Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.

We Chose


Saturday, February 05, 2011

My Thoughts in the Bulletin this Week

 I think Mother Nature is pushing us all to the limit. Last week there were several people upset about parking. One of our parishioners said to me, “Fr. Robert you have to do something. There is no room in the parking lot and I had to park so far away it was like I was walking from New Britain to get to Church. This has to change or I won't contribute anymore.” She was noticeably upset. Gratefully, I did not respond in kind. Who knows what was going on in her mind and in her heart. Maybe having to park a longer distance from the church was the straw that broke the camel's back in her life. I assure you we are doing the best we can with the parking lot. I am writing this on Monday before the next big storm comes our way, and I have to say I am writing with a kind of dread, worrying to myself, “Where will we put the new snow when we don't even have a place for the old snow?”
Here are some ideas... that might help us all..

·          Why not check with neighbors and car pool to Mass? A few less cars would go a long way to help alleviate our congestion.

·          Don't forget that we have Mass at 5:00 PM on Sunday. There is always plenty of room in the parking lot during that Mass.

·          The 4:00 PM on Saturday, the 9:00 and 10:30 AM Masses are the most attended. If you normally attend one of those Masses, you might consider switching to a Mass with a smaller attendance.

Finally, when things start pushing you to the edge, take a deep breath, blow it out slowly and remember that perfect is in heaven.

           In the same light, after the 9:00 PM Mass, a concerned parishioner told me that he had worked on the roof of our school gym and he was concerned about the weight of the snow. “Who isn't worried,” I thought to myself. Then he told me he had noticed some cracks in the gym wall on both corners near the Parish Center. I went right over and sure enough there were some cracks up there. I couldn't tell if they were new cracks in the wall or had been there for awhile. I immediately called Ed Janik, who is on our building committee, and we both looked at the cracks.

           To err on the side of safety, we decided that we would cancel any activities that were scheduled in the gym and call in some structural engineers to look at the gym and the cracks. Thankfully, both of the gentlemen who looked inside and outside of the gym came to the same conclusion. The cracks in the brick veneer of the gym wall were not affecting the structure at all. There was no indication of a structural problem according to both of the engineers. Only when we got the green light from the experts did we let people back in the gym. Right now Bill Diciccio and Jack Burns, our maintenance staff, are  shoveling off the gym roof to make room for the ice and snow which is forecast for tomorrow.

  As you can see from the insert, we have hired a new Director of Music and Liturgy. I am very excited to begin working with Jeff. Several people made positive comments after his audition. As you can see from the comments on the insert, he is held in high esteem by many. Welcome to St. Paul's Jeff.!
  Fr. Robert


Friday, February 04, 2011

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C - 2011

salt-light_designYou know I have been so very very blessed in my life.

Over and over I have found myself in circumstances and faced challenges which have called me to be more…

…more faithful,
…more generous,
…more committed,
…more the man that God wanted me to be.

As I look back over my life one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced was taking kids from Catholic University to live and work in the third world.

I have made 10 of those trips to countries like,
Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, and Tanzania.

They were never easy trips.
I can honestly say that sometimes I faced them with dread.

I was always afraid that something would happen to one of the kids and I was very protective.

Once I got so sick with amebic dysentery that the kids literally had to carry me to the truck in a thunderstorm.

Then we rode for 50 minutes to the nearest doctor as they covered me with their ponchos. It was very dramatic.

But I’ve always come back from those trips or challenges,
a better person,
or at least I’ve come back knowing that I needed to be a better person.

One evening in Guatemala when I was walking over to church for Night Prayer
I noticed there were two young men standing on the corner down the street and one was waving a machete.

It concerned me and I was going to take the long way to Church when all of the lights went out.

The whole town went dark.

It was so dark in fact, that when you put your hand in front of your face you could not see it.

I was afraid to take another step.

I became disoriented.
I didn’t know which way I was facing.
I didn’t know where those men were.
It was scary.

It was probably the first time in my life when I  had experienced complete darkness,
and it was even more disconcerting because it came completely unexpected.

I stood there frozen and then someone down the street to the Church turned on a little flashlight I was finally able to orient myself a little.

And then I felt a hand on my shoulder and it was the young man with the machete.
I jumped..
Then he said “ven conmigo padre ven conmigo.”

He was gently telling me to follow him.

With the help of a tiny pen light which he had in his pocket he led me back to church.

The people in Jesus’ time knew what darkness was.
They understood how drastically it could change their lives.

They knew that with darkness came danger and confusion,
and they understood how powerful even a little light could be.

As Jesus spoke they knew how much they needed  light, or rather His light, the light of faith.

When Jesus called them the light of the world,

It was very meaningful for them because every last one of them had experienced darkness.

Holy Ones
Without Light of Christ our world is scary and disoriented and even dangerous.

When we were baptized our godfather was given a candle and he lit it from the paschal candle or Christ Candle.

When he did this it reminded us that we were being given the light of Christ.

Like that young man who I had most certainly misjudged we are called to hold on to the light of faith given to us at baptism, to nurture it in our own lives, and to share the light of our baptism candle with others.

We are called to help people orient themselves in a world so filled with confusion, and fear, and darkness.

We are called to bring others to the light of faith.

You know we are the biggest Church in this town and if Berlin isn’t a better place because of our presence here at Peck and Alling then we failed.

If we only come to church so that we will feel better,
or because we are afraid not to,
or If we only come to church because we are simply in the habit of doing so,
then we really can’t really say we understand what being the light of the world really means.

There are so many people in our families,
at our places of work, in our church and in the community that need the light faith we have so generously been given.

Without it the world is a dark and scary and dangerous place indeed.

There is so much to think about in those few simple words,

“You are the light of the world.”

The second metaphor that Jesus uses is salt.
The only thing that comes to mind when we hear the word salt these days is the stuff they put on the road or the parking lot.

Let me tell you salt is not cheap.

A couple of months ago my Doctor looked me in the eye and said
Fr. Robert, lay of the salt shaker.

Your blood pressure is too high.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him the name of the real source of my high blood pressure that day.

During Jesus’ time salt was an essential part of life.
There was no refrigeration so meats and fish were dried and preserved in salt.

Without salt you couldn’t eat.
Salt was also used to enhance flavor.

When Jesus said to his disciples “you are the salt of the earth”,

He didn’t mean go out and raise people’s blood pressure.

Rather He  was probably asking them to preserve the truth. like people used salt to preserve the food for another day.

It is not our task,
it is not the task of the Church,
it is not the task of the Pope even to create the faith,

Our only task is to be true to it to be true to the profound truths that God has given us.

I know I am not supposed to say this but we all know that food tastes better with salt.

There is nothing better than a pile of mashed potatoes, covered in butter and finished off with a good dose of salt.

May our faith flavor the world
may our faith enhance our lives day in and day out like salt makes things taste better.

By saying you are the salt of the earth
Your are the light of the world

Jesus is calling us,
challenging us,
begging us to  preserve the truths,
that he has shared with us
to share it with others.

You are the salt of the earth
You are the light of the world.