Pastor’s Column

Pastor’s Column February 4 – 5, 2023
Salt and Light

As we continue to listen to Jesus preach his Sermon on the Mount in our Gospel this weekend, he follows up on the Beatitudes by using two particular images to describe his followers, salt and light. Both are things that primarily exist, not for their own sake, but rather for the enhancement or value they bring to other things. In so doing, Jesus reveals that our life in him is not for our sake alone. Instead, it’s about what we bring to others and how we make them better. He begins by saying, “You are the salt of the earth.” Perhaps that’s the basis for the expression that has come down to us in our language today. When we wish to pay a compliment to express someone’s solid worth and usefulness, we say he or she is the salt of the earth. While salt may have a somewhat negative connotation in our health-conscious society because its excessive consumption can increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, salt is still essential for life. In the ancient world, salt was highly valued. In fact, our word salary comes from the Latin word for salt which is sale, because the Roman Legions were sometimes paid in salt. Salt was also connected with purity. Glistening with whiteness, the Romans said salt was the purest of all things because it came from the purest of all things, the sun and the sea. Salt was the most primitive offering to the gods, and Jewish sacrifices were always offered with salt. Salt was also the commonest of all preservatives. It was used to prevent corruption and to keep things from going bad. But the greatest and most obvious quality of salt is that it lends flavor to things. Food without salt is insipid and bland. Salt makes the things with
which it is mixed better.

Pope Benedict XVI once said, “Disciples of the Lord are called to give a new taste to the world and to keep it from corruption with the wisdom of God.” Like salt, the follower of Christ must strive for personal purity and sanctification, but also must seek the sanctification of others. Christianity is to life what salt is for food. Christianity lends flavor to life. Just as salt mingles with food to make it better, we Christians must do the same among the people around us. We need to discover and project the radiance of the Christian faith. In an anxious and fearful world, we Christians should remain full of the joy of life rooted in God, and we must be diffusers of that joy. The second simile Jesus uses in our Gospel involves light. He tells his followers, “You are the light of the world.” A light is first and foremost something which is meant to be seen. The houses in Palestine were very dark, usually having only one small circular window. Thus it was necessary for a lamp to be placed on a lampstand to give light to the house. Our Christianity is also something which must be seen. As someone once said, “There can be no such thing as secret discipleship, for either the secrecy destroys the discipleship, or the discipleship destroys the secrecy.” Despite the voices in our secular society which say faith should be a private matter, our Christianity should be visible to everyone, and not just within the confines of the church. A Christianity whose effects stop at the church door is not much use to anyone. It should be even more visible in our ordinary activities in our neighborhood and in our world.

The Romans had a phrase which in Latin is a kind of jingle: “Nil utilius sole et sale.” Translated, it means: “Nothing is more useful than the sun and salt.” You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Put your faith to work. Be useful. Be salt. Be light. “Your light must shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” As we leave our churches this weekend, let’s go out and enhance the flavor of life and shine our light throughout Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach and beyond. — Fr. Bob

 

Praised be Jesus Christ both now and forever!

My dear friends, this weekend we have the Beatitudes. But I want to bring to your attention this particular weekend a very disturbing situation and a trend, a pattern that’s taking place in many of our parishes. And that is many people are not offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the greatest prayer Our Lord gave us, for themselves, their family, friends, and, in particular, their deceased family members.

We can see the beginning of this trend when people don’t come to Mass. Not realizing that they are doing irreparable harm to themselves, people forget that just as we need to eat to nourish our mind our body, we need to eat to nourish the soul. You know as well as I, if one does not take nourishment academically, they will not expand their mind, their world. If one does not take nourishment physically, eventually they will die. How often when you visit someone, and someone tells you they’re not feeling well, the first thing you may say to them is: “Did you eat today? Have you eaten?” Or, “Let me bring you something to eat.” If it’s a cold, perhaps some chicken soup. We understand the remedy and the connection to good health with that of nourishment. And yet we find people who have made a decision not to come to Mass, and not to be fed with the Bread of Life, to avoid coming and receiving nourishment for the soul. Or continuously staying home and watching the live stream which I believe is a total detriment to the spiritual life. If you are at home and are able to go shopping and do other activities outside the house, then you are not exempt from coming to church and receiving the Lord. If you are a person who is homebound, then Holy Mass on TV and then a minister bringing communion is sufficient, but remember what I said, watching the TV, listening to the Mass, but also making sure that eventually the minister brings communion.

The key word is the Body of Christ, Holy Communion. Sorry to say, another sign that people do not understand the importance of the Eucharist is that every day, Monday through Friday, we have a Holy Hour from 12:00 noon to 1:00 PM, exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament. God is on our altar, and it’s shameful that at times only two to five people show up, again not realizing that not only by receiving him, but also by being in that presence, one is nourished.

I want to bring you one step further. When I was a child, before you ate something, if there was someone else around you, you always said, “Would you like some?” Or, you would break it in half or cut it into as many little pieces as was needed for the people around you. You never ate without considering the people around you. First, it was to be charitable, second, respectful and third, maybe they didn’t eat and maybe whatever I have will be the first thing they eat, or maybe they haven’t eaten at all that day, and how sad it would be if I didn’t take that into consideration and just fed myself.

My dear friends, for those who cannot receive, first and foremost our friends, our loved ones, our relatives who no longer here on Earth, the only prayer, the greatest prayer that can help them and allow them to advance in the other world, is the holy sacrifice of the Mass. How many people are  sick? It’s nice to give flowers and cards, but how beautiful it would be if you can say, “I had the Mass offered for your good health.” Or my dear friends, how often we mark an anniversary, a wedding anniversary, or we mark a birthday. How beautiful would it be to tell that person if they’re still with us, “I marked your special day with the holy sacrifice of the Mass.” What a beautiful gift you are giving, a gift that continuously gives, a gift that can give more than anything physically or materially this world can offer, the value of one Mass.

There are no words to express, no mind can comprehend its value, and yet in the Mass book for St. Mark and St. Margaret Mary Churches there are many, many openings. It’s because we don’t recognize the importance of the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the value of offering the Mass for another. It’s feeding that soul, it’s blessing that soul, it’s calling down the light of Christ on that soul, it’s immersing that soul in the blood of Christ, it’s fortifying that soul, strengthening that soul, when the Mass is offered for one who is alive, and more so for the one who is no longer among us. We as Catholics have a tremendous gift, a treasure. As I said earlier, sometimes we do not comprehend. We simply take it for granted. We overlook it, but do we really believe what’s in our Tabernacle and what comes down on our altar at every holy sacrifice of the Mass is the Body and Blood and Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ? It is the Christ that was in the womb of the Blessed Mother. It is the Christ that lived upon the Earth for 33  years. It is the Christ that hung upon the Cross. It is the Christ that was laid in the tomb and rose on the third day. It is the Christ that ascended into heaven. It is the same Christ that you will receive and place in your body and in your heart and soul.

And so I turn to you this day and I beg you, please reconsider. Reconsider having Masses said for your family, for your friends, for your acquaintances, all those you knew in this life and are no longer with us. Stop and think for a moment, the offering for the holy sacrifice of the Mass is $15. Stop and think what you buy for $15 today. Stop and think how much more you spend on food and drink and clothing and electric bills and gas bills, going to Atlantic City, going to a show, going to dinner. Just think how many things you spend your money on, and sometimes only you can enjoy it. How beautiful would be to do something that would bring tremendous blessings and graces for that soul for whom you offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass, and please let me also tell you that every time you offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass, all the grace and all the blessings of the sacrifice of Jesus’s presence is not simply for the intention for which you offer the holy sacrifice, but also those who offer it receive immense graces and blessings.

So please reconsider offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass for someone in your life, past, present, and maybe even for the future. Please, if you know someone who’s not coming to Mass, tell them how important it is for them to eat of the Bread of Heaven, the Bread of Angels. If someone is homebound and is watching the Holy Mass on TV, see to it that they can receive Holy Communion. And please, if you can, make some time and come and visit our Lord from 12:00 noon to 1:00 PM Monday to Friday. Bring a friend. Bring maybe two friends. I promise you that what you will receive I cannot describe. You have to experience it. God bless you in Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph. Father Dominick

 

Pastor’s Column                              January 21 – 22, 2023

“When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.”

 

This weekend we celebrate the fourth Sunday of the Word of God. This celebration was instituted by Pope Francis with his Apostolic Letter Apertuit Illis which begins, “‘He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’” (Luke 24:45). Our Holy Father later went on to say, “A profound bond links Sacred Scripture and the faith of believers. Since faith comes from hearing, and what is heard is based on the word of Christ, believers are bound to listen attentively to the word of the Lord, both in the celebration of the liturgy and in their personal prayer and reflection.” And the power of Christ’s word comes through loud and clear in this weekend’s readings, particularly the Gospel.

Our Gospel tells the story of the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry as he bursts upon the scene. After hearing about the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus left his home in Nazareth to live in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee. He preached a message that was amazingly simple but at the same time incredibly challenging: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The message of Jesus consisted of a command which was the consequence of a new situation. Repent! To repent means literally to turn your life around, to turn from your own selfish and sinful ways and turn to God. It is as if Jesus were saying, “Lift your eyes from earth and look to heaven. Reverse your direction, and stop walking away from God and begin walking towards God.” That command had become urgently necessary because the reign of God was beginning. Eternity had invaded
time; God had invaded the earth in the person of Jesus Christ, and therefore it was of paramount importance that each man and each woman should choose the right side and the right direction.

The first order of business was for Jesus to call certain people to himself to become his Apostles, people like Peter and Andrew and James and John, so that they could get to know Him and learn from Him in order that they would one day be able to carry on his mission when he was gone. Talk about the power of Christ’s word! The Gospel says that when Jesus walked by, Peter and Andrew were casting a net into the sea because they were fishermen. Jesus simply said, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men,” and at once they left their nets and followed him. Then he walked a little further and spotted James and John who were in a boat with their father mending their nets. St. Matthew writes, “He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.”

What was it about this person Jesus that would all of a sudden cause these men to leave their jobs, their property, and their families behind in order to follow him? Most likely, this was not their first encounter with Jesus. According to John’s Gospel which we heard from last weekend, some of these men were originally disciples of John the Baptist, and they heard him call Jesus the Son of God and the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. No doubt they had already talked with Jesus and listened to him, but in this particular moment there came to them this call, which once and for all challenged them to leave everything behind and follow him. They heard his call and were ready to respond positively, and their lives were forever changed.

Jesus calls each of us to follow him in a unique way. He challenges us to leave behind our sinful ways, to reject the lies and attachments of this world that leave us feeling empty and broken and unfulfilled. He offers each of us the chance of a new beginning by receiving his grace and forgiveness and by living in his love, if we are able to hear and heed his call. Are you ready for a new beginning? How will you respond? Dust off your Bible, open it, read it, and let the power of God’s word transform you. — Fr. Bob

 

January 14 – 15, 2023
You cannot offer what you do not have.

Praised be Jesus Christ both now and forever! I would like to take this moment to personally thank everyone here at St Marks for such a beautiful Christmas season. Thank you for all your gifts, your cards, well wishes, … Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! God bless you for your kindness and generosity.

In this weekend’s Gospel we see that St. John the Baptizer is pointing to Jesus. He is like a living, talking commercial for Jesus. Everything about John, his words, his life, what he ate, what he drank, where he lived, everything, every moment, was totally consumed in pointing to Jesus. And John did a very good job at it!

Many people were expecting Jesus. They were somewhat confused, but John set them straight from the very beginning. He was simply preparing them for the one who was to come. And that he was not that person. When Jesus finally came on the scene, they were eager, they were ready. They wanted to search him out. They wanted to hear him. They wanted to get to know him. John prepared them well.

My dear friends, really nothing has changed. We rely on parents and godparents and grandparents to prepare our children well, to prepare them for the world, to prepare them to be young men and women in this world. The preoccupation of every parent is, “How will my child survive in this world without me?” That’s the greatest fear of every parent, and so we try our very best to prepare them in every single way so they can take care of themselves and stand in a very confusing and crazy world. But one question has to be asked: Do we prepare them spiritually? Are we prepared spiritually, every day, every week? Do we prepare our children and grandchildren spiritually so that the difficulties of life, when no one can answer their question, and there is no solace in the world, they are anchored? Is their spirituality anchored in Jesus? Are we preparing our children? Are we prepared ourselves, every week, every day. Do we have a  spiritual life? Do we pray morning, noon, and night? Do we go to Mass on Sunday? Are we receiving the Eucharist? Are we going to confession? Are we reading the Bible? Are we preparing ourselves spiritually? And by preparing ourselves spiritually, we then can lead others to Christ. We can only lead if we ourselves have something for them to follow. So, we have to follow someone who is prepared, who has something to offer, or else it will be the blind leading the blind. Just think of how many things in your life you point to. The clothes you wear sometimes has not your name, but the name of another person, or sometimes the car, or the perfume, or the cologne, as well as the makeup, or the shoes, or the pocketbook. Just think about how many things you use, and people see what you use, and see the names of the persons you are advertising, how you are a living advertisement for so many people on Main Street. And so today the question must be asked, “Do I advertise sufficiently for Jesus Christ? Does everything about me point to Jesus and lead others to Christ? Am I pointing to myself, am I pointing to another creation, or do I point with all my power, with all my life like John? Do I point to Jesus, and do they see and hear Jesus, and do I lead them to Jesus? This question must be asked of ourselves each and every day. And as John prepared the people of his time, are we preparing our children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews, our friends and benefactors and strangers? Are we preparing people to meet Jesus every day, throughout the day? Two crucial questions must be asked of ourselves every day: Do I lead others to Jesus, and do I prepare people to meet Jesus? Do I make people eager to want to know him and to love him? Can you offer them to Jesus? You only can offer what you have, and if you do not have, you cannot offer!

God bless, Father Dominick