Pastor's Column

 

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time                                January 24, 2021

Examining ‘America’s Real Crisis’

 

Having just observed the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, which coincides with the tragic passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 and the ensuing deaths of over 60 million pre-born children, our parish continues to participate in the USCCB’s Nine Days for Life Novena, and looks to the virtual March for Life on the novena’s final day, this Friday, January 29 ( please visit https://pro-life-activities.lpages.co/catholic-education-january-2021/ for information on the novena, the March, and educational resources for the tens of thousands of youth who would normally attend, and who can instead participate virtually this year).
 
I would like to share what was the basis of my homily last weekend -- excerpts from an article written by Judie Brown, president and co-founder of the American Life League ( www.all.org ), the nation's oldest grassroots pro-life educational and advocacy organization. Entitled, ‘America’s Real Crisis,’ key portions of the article read, in part:
“[We are reminded] of the wisdom of [the evangelist] John, who wrote, ‘We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment to know the one who is true. And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.’
In these words, we find the source of the real crisis in America.
 
Randy Engel, investigative reporter, wrote [that …] ‘there is only God and [there are] those who are for Him and those who are against Him.’ Indeed, it is there that we find the locus of America’s disease. For nearly 50 years, we the people have looked the other way as millions of our fellow Americans have gone silently to their graves. Each of these human beings was, and is, the victim of the vilest crime our nation has ever legally imposed—the act of abortion.
 
Presidents have come and gone, and still we kill. Americans may not call it killing people, and God forbid the nation admits that each act is intentional murder, but we kill nonetheless. And now we wonder what is wrong with our nation. […] This is about [its] moral bankruptcy that has finally come to a head.
 
St. John Paul II taught that genuine democracy ‘can come into being and develop only on the basis of the equality of all its members, who possess common rights and duties. When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the ‘poorest of the poor’ on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal.’
 
And there it is. Here in America, not every member of our American family is equal. An entire class of people has been summarily condemned to death … . And that is what is really wrong with our nation.
 
How much blood can we shed before the very idea of moral behavior—including civility and humane treatment of each other—is out the window? I think we know that time is upon us this very moment. You see, genuine democracy, as Pope Pius XII explained, must be based on the ‘immutable principles of the natural law and revealed truth.’
 
Otherwise, democracy is a fraud.
 
Our work is cut out for us, and the message is clear. We currently reside in a morally bankrupt nation, and after all these years of decriminalized murder, the result is the mayhem we have in our midst. So we have a plan for restoring moral sanity. Turn to Mary for her guidance and her protection. Pray the Rosary. Join the Marian Blue Wave and focus on the good that comes from our trust in the Lord and His Blessed Mother. Continue teaching that every preborn child is precious in the eyes of God and that, until each child is precious in the eyes of all of our fellow Americans, no election of any kind can heal our nation.
 
Trust in the goodness of God. He is our Father, and in Him resides all the courage, the will, and the inspiration we need to make a difference as individuals in restoring peace, one life at a time.
 
America’s real crisis is a lack of trust in God. We are called to be His messengers in this time of darkness. The devil will not win!” -- copyright 2021, American Life League.
 
The Marian Blue Wave (www.marianbluewave.com) is simply a call across America to pray a weekly Rosary with the specific intentions of ending all clinical, chemical, medical and surgical abortion and shutting down every Planned Parenthood facility in the United States.
 
Please join in this most significant spiritual endeavor for the cause of life, amidst the battle between good and evil that continues to rage in our country, and in our world.
 
* Rev. Michael W. Panicali
NB: American Life League is a 501(c)(3) organization committed to the protection of all innocent human beings from the moment of creation to death. ALL is rooted in pro-life integrity that stands up for every innocent human being whose life is threatened by what St. John Paul II called “the culture of death.” That ranges from the single cell human embryo to the elderly, the infirm, and others at risk of having their life terminated by acts of euthanasia. The pro-life position notes that neither abortion nor euthanasia can ever be medically necessary or morally permitted.

 

Pastor’s Column January 16 – 17, 2021

“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
 
As we settle into Ordinary Time this weekend, in our Gospel reading we hear St. John the Evangelist describe the beginnings of Jesus’ public ministry. In his account of the baptism of Jesus, John mentions that when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Our Gospel account takes place the very next day and begins: “John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.” What was in John the Baptist’s mind when he used that title for our Lord? What was it that captured the hearts of those two disciples who then left John the Baptist and began to follow Jesus?
 
It could have been that John the Baptist was thinking about the Passover lamb. The Passover feast was not very far away. If you recall, it was the blood of a slain lamb which protected the houses of the Israelites on their exodus from Egypt. On the night when the Angel of Death walked about and slew the first-born of the Egyptians, the Israelites were to smear their doorposts with the blood of the slain lamb, and the Angel, seeing it, would pass over that house. The blood of the lamb delivered them from destruction. Also, John the Baptist was the son of Zechariah, a priest. He would know all about the rituals of the Temple and its sacrifices. Every morning and every evening a lamb was sacrificed in the Temple for the sins of the people. Or perhaps he might have been thinking about the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, who compared the sufferings of the Servant of Yahweh, the Messiah, with the sacrifice of a lamb, or Jeremiah who said, “Yet I was like a trusting lamb led to the slaughter, not knowing that they were hatching plots against me.”  
 
 
In any event, those two disciples (who we later find out are John the Evangelist and Simon Peter’s brother
Andrew), leave John the Baptist and begin to follow Jesus. When Jesus notices them following him he turns and asks them that fundamental question that he also asks to each one of us: “What are you looking for?” The two disciples call Jesus Rabbi, or Teacher, and ask him, “Where are you staying?” And Jesus responds, “Come, and you will see,” a tender gesture and an opening for them to enter into an intimate friendship with him. And then St. John tells us, “So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day.”    
 
At every Mass we, like John and Andrew, are invited: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away
the sins of the world.” What are you looking for? What is your aim and goal? What are you trying to get out of life?
Whatever you may think that might be, your desire will never be satisfied until you encounter and embrace the one who placed that desire within you. So come and see. Give Christianity a try by actually living it and see how much happier you are and how much better you feel. And after you get to know Christ well, be like Andrew. Do what he did and tell others about Jesus. Share what you have found with your family, friends, neighbors and the world. Introduce them to Jesus. Invite them to encounter Him, perhaps right here at our parish of St. Mark – St. Margaret Mary. And just as Jesus changed Andrew’s brother’s name from Simon to Cephas or Peter, the Rock, so will he strengthen you, and them, to withstand the challenges of this world. –
Fr. Bob
 
 
 

 

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord               January 10, 2021

Why is Jesus Baptized?

 

Today, Jan. 10, I have the great pleasure of baptizing the granddaughter of a faithful and devoted St. Mark parishioner. The reality that I’m doing so on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is not lost upon her family and I. One day when she is old enough to comprehend it, she’ll be told that she entered the Family of God and was baptized on the very day when the Church celebrates the Baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan River!
 
The events surrounding the baptism of Jesus are thought-provoking, to say the least. I would like to rely on a reflection of this feast day written by Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., of the nearby Diocese of Trenton, NJ, from one year ago today, found at https://dioceseoftrenton.org/news/a-reflection-on-the-feast-of-the-baptism-of-the-lord. (A very interesting side note, and unbeknownst to me as I began research for this column, is that I have a  eautiful photograph in my room of my New Jersey born and raised--nephew Lorenzo receiving Confirmation, with me as his
sponsor placing my right hand on his shoulder, as he is confirmed by none other than the same Bishop David M.
O’Connell, of Trenton, NJ, whose good preaching and spirit on that day, just over four years ago, were memorable.)
 
Bishop O’Connell writes, “You may wonder, ‘Why was Jesus baptized?’ He has already been ‘manifested’ as the Messiah, the Son of God at the Epiphany, and John tells us ‘in Him is no sin’ (1 John 3:5). He surely did not need John’s ‘baptism of repentance.’ What does this event mean?”
 
Bishop O’Connell goes on to explain what is so beautifully described in all four Gospels, writing: “On that occasion, ‘baptism’ meant something different. First of all, Jesus did not need Baptism. As God, He was sinless and, therefore, had no need to be forgiven or ‘freed from sin.’ Likewise, He did not have to be “made” a sharer in the Church’s mission. He was its author. So, what was John’s ‘baptism?’ The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains [that] Jesus ‘begins His public life after having Himself baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan. ... Our Lord voluntarily submitted Himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to ‘fulfill all righteousness.’ Jesus' gesture is a manifestation of His self-emptying. The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as His ‘beloved Son’ (CCC 1223-1224). John’s baptism was accompanied by his preaching ‘a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’ (Mark 1:4), [... thereby] offering his Jewish audience an opportunity to acknowledge their sins and to repent of them. He was preparing them for the coming of the Messiah: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ (Matthew 3:2).”
 
“Since Jesus had no need to repent, we look for another reason for His Baptism by John. When John encountered Jesus at the Jordan, he resisted baptizing him but Jesus responded in Matthew’s account, ‘Allow it now, for this it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15). Jesus’ Baptism had a symbolic motivation. When Jesus emerged from the Jordan, God’s voice was heard identifying Him as ‘My beloved Son with whom I am  well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). His Baptism would be the second “manifestation” of His identity as
Messiah in the Christmas story, a prelude to the mission and ministry that would follow. Jesus was baptized by John
who had come to ‘prepare His way’ so that Jesus could begin His divine mission to save from their sins those whose
humanity He now shared. The preaching of John and waters of the Jordan gave Jesus that public occasion.”
 
Bishop O’Connell quotes Pope Benedict XVI’s magnificent work Jesus of Nazareth, writing, “The Father’s voice
was heard, ‘This is My beloved Son’ .... [as Jesus is] stepping into the place of sinners.”
These steps, of course, would continue onto Calvary.

 

·Rev. Michael W. Panicali