Pastor’s Column

Pastor’s Column                                 November 27 – 28, 2021
“But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

Today we begin a new liturgical year as we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. The violet vestments of Advent are not meant to be symbols of penitence as they are in Lent, but rather to be signs of devout and expectant delight and joyful hope as we wait for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We wait for his coming at Christmas, when He first came into our world to gather the nations into the peace of God’s kingdom. We wait for his coming into our lives each day, as He comes in Word and Sacrament to strengthen us in holiness. And we wait for his coming at the end of time, when He will come again in glory with salvation for his people, as we pray in one of our penitential rites at the beginning of Mass.

Our Gospel reading for this start of this new year is pretty much the same as the one which brought our old year to a close. In fact, it is Luke’s version of Jesus’ foretelling of the signs, trials and tribulations which will accompany his second coming at the end of time, the same story we heard from Mark’s Gospel two weeks ago. But this time, the focus is not so much on the signs as it is the reaction of the people. Luke says, “People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world.” And at the same time Luke tells us that, “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads for your redemption is at hand.” Evidently, this coming of the Lord will be, then, a day of terror for evildoers and a day of joy for all those who have remained faithful to Him.

What about you? If you knew that the end of the world was imminent and that Jesus was coming soon in glory to be our Judge and King, what would your reaction be? Would you dread that day and be like those whom Jesus said will die of fright because you are unprepared for his coming? Or would you be among those who are exhilarated and excited, standing erect with your head raised high “as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ,” as the Priest prays in the prayer at the end of the Our Father?

Our Old Testament reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah gives us the reason for our hope. Jeremiah hints at the birth of Our Savior which we are preparing to celebrate at Christmas by proclaiming the prophecy: “The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.”

This month’s Magnificat contains a beautiful meditation from Servant of God Luis Maria Martinez, the first official Primate of Mexico, who once wrote: “We can intone only the word of hope and desire: ‘Come! Come!’ This is the word of exile. Let us not tire of repeating it. If we lie in darkness and in the shadows of death, let us cry out to him: ‘Come!’ And he will come with his grace to purify us and lift us up. If we sit in sadness and dejection, let us continue pleading: ‘Come! Come!’ And he will come with his presence to scatter our sadness and with his help to strengthen our weakness. May the constant cry of hope and of desire never fail to rise from our heart, then each coming of Jesus will purify us, give us life, and make us happy by inflaming us with love.”

Advent is a time of expectation and waiting. We also wait for our new Bishop, Robert Brennan, who will be installed as the eighth Bishop of Brooklyn on Tuesday. Let’s put the time of Advent to good use by making it a time of prayerful preparation and joyful hope. Come to Mass. Come to Confession. Watch and pray; most especially, pray the rosary. As Christians we must never think that we are living in a settled situation. We need to be on the watch to guard against indifference and sin. We must live our lives in a permanent state of expectation, so that when our Lord does come for us, we can stand erect and raise our heads knowing that our redemption is at hand. Have a Blessed Advent! — Fr. Bob

 

Solemnity of Christ the King                       November 21, 2021

Let Christ Reign as our King and Lord, Now and Forever!

 

Their rallying cry asserted the Sovereignty of Jesus Christ.

The martyrs of the Cristero War throughout Mexico took the proclamation of the Kingship of Jesus Christ to their graves, and onto eternity. From 1926 to 1929 the faithful, many of whom giving their lives, battled against the secularist powers of a Mexican government determined to rout the practice of Catholicism and the power of the Church from the country. Perhaps most famous of these martyrs is Blessed Miguel Pro, beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in Mexico on September 25, 1988. Killed by a firing squad on November 23, 1927, the image of this Jesuit priest’s assassination spurred the people of Mexico to fight even harder for their right to practice their faith.

Peacefully defying the virtual outlawing of Catholicism in Mexico, Blessed Miguel’s last request before his execution was to kneel and pray. As he walked from his cell to the courtyard where the firing squad awaited him, he blessed the soldiers, knelt, and briefly prayed quietly. Refusing a blindfold, he stood before the firing squad holding a Crucifix in one hand and Rosary beads in the other, with his arms outstretched, as Christ’s on the Cross. He cried out, “May God have mercy on you! … With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” Before the fatal shots were fired, he raised his arms in imitation of Christ and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!”

Under orders from the government, his execution was photographed and widely shown in newspapers across the country, with the hope of frightening the populace and deterring further rebellion. In fact, the opposite took place. 40,000 people lined Blessed Miguel’s funeral procession, while another 20,000 waited at the cemetery where he was buried. The Cristero fighters fought with renewed vigor, the image of Blessed Miguel’s execution emboldening them. Many of them carried the newspaper photo as they fought on with renewed determination.

Pope St. John Paul II said at Blessed Miguel’s beautification Mass, “Neither suffering nor serious illness, nor the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away. Indeed, the deepest root of self-sacrificing surrender for the lowly was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to be conformed to Him, even unto death.”

The beautiful feast of Christ the King was established two years prior to Blessed Miguel’s death, in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, to combat the rise of secularism in the society of the day – a way of life that excludes the recognition and acknowledgment of God and His principles in one’s everyday existence. Today we continue to face an insidious secularism that threatens our acknowledgement of God and His plan for our salvation, that looks to eliminate God from the public square, and that constructs a moral compass based on what is popular and self-gratifying, but not what is true and Godly.

Our response on this day, and every day, to misguided secularism and the oppression of the exercise of religion, should be the same as that of the Cristero martyrs: “Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!”

* Rev. Michael W. Panicali

 

 

Pastor’s Column                                          November 13 – 14, 2021 

“When you see these things happening, know that he is near!”

This weekend we celebrate the Thirty-Third and next to last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next weekend the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, will begin to bring our liturgical year to a close, and the following weekend we will start a new church year with the First Sunday of Advent. And so our readings this weekend draw our attention to the end times. In our Old Testament reading, the Prophet Daniel says, “I, Daniel, heard this word of the Lord: ‘At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.’” Then, in our Gospel,
Jesus warns us to pay attention to the signs that the end is near. Jesus tells his disciples, “They will see the ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory… Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that the summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.”

Just prior to the beginning of our Gospel passage, Jesus mentions some of those tribulations he predicts will happen: wars, earthquakes, famines… They are things that were happening in his time and they are things that are still happening today. And if you throw into the mix the pandemic we have been enduring for almost two years now, it’s hard not to see this as “a time unsurpassed in distress.” How can you not help but think that the end is drawing ever closer?

When we hear Jesus’ words about the end times, we must remember that he is giving us neither a map of eternity nor a timetable to the future. Jesus is telling us that we are already living in the end times. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it: “Since the Ascension God’s plan has entered into fulfillment. We are already at ‘the last hour.’ Already the final age of the world is with us, and the renewal of the world is irrevocably underway… According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by distress and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.” How prophetic these words still sound today!

Jesus’ Second Coming at the end of time is one of the articles of our faith. We profess it every Sunday when we recite the creed and say, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” And in the third Eucharistic prayer the priest prays on behalf of all the people to the Father that, “as we celebrate the memorial of the saving Passion of your Son, his wondrous Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, and as we look forward to his second coming, we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.”

Jesus is giving us some practical advice, since, as he said, “Of that day or hour, no one knows … only the Father.” We live in the shadow of eternity. That is no reason for fearful or hysterical expectation. But it does mean that day by day we should be prepared, using the tools the Church gives like prayer and the sacraments, most especially Mass, Confession, and Holy Communion. It also means that we must so live that it does not matter when He comes. All life becomes a preparation to meet the King, whose feast we will celebrate next weekend as our liturgical year comes to a close. So let’s recognize the signs and be prepared!

And speaking of recognizing the signs, hopefully by this weekend if you look closely at our grounds, you will see the metal rebar stakes to which our Christmas trees that will Light the Bay for Christmas will be attached. Next Saturday morning we need volunteers to help us set up the trees and put lights on them. We will supply the coffee, bagels and buns if you supply the manpower.  After we are finished, my brother Knights of Columbus have offered to feed you again at the Baron DeKalb. And the save the date of Sunday afternoon, December 12 when we will unveil our Angel Tree in St. Mark Church and then go outside to Light the Bay!
— Fr. Bob

 

November 7, 2021                      Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lessons of God’s Poor

Often when I think I have maxed out my charitable giving, I think of the poor widow in today’s Gospel, who contributes two small coins – pretty much everything she has – into the Temple collection. I realize that when I can give more, I should.

The widow – and Jesus’ praise of her – not only reminds me to be materially generous when it comes to God’s poor, but also to be generous in what I can do for others. I believe St. Francis of Assisi is attributed with saying, “First start doing what is necessary. Then do what is possible. Soon ou will find yourself doing the impossible.”

Charity assuredly lies at the heart of authentic Christian living. Greg Carey, professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary, writes in his blog, “Mark 12:38-44: The Value of Chump Change” (www.huffpost.com/entry/mark-12-38-44-the-value-of-chump-change_b_2083237/amp) that “Jesus didn’t allow his listeners to forget about the poor. At one level, it was impossible to do so. Nearly everyone in the ancient world lived in poverty, often dire poverty. Jesus’ world included a very few wildly wealthy people, a few people finding ways to make money and accumulate wealth, lots of people scratching a living off the land, and lots of people living on the margins of the economy. Jesus, the Gospels tell us, moved among the poor. He told stories [about] rich landowners and their poor and enslaved laborers. He warned the rich that they faced God’s judgment, while he demonstrated compassion by feeding the masses who followed him out into the wilderness.”

Jesus’ highlighting the widow’s actions are insightful and imperative for several reasons. Carey writes that the widow “contributes two copper coins to the temple treasury, ‘her whole livelihood’ according to the Greek, and Jesus judges her contribution as greater than the large sums contributed by the rich.” Carey asks, “Does Jesus seem like the kind of teacher who wants poor people, especially vulnerable widows, to give away their very last resources? Do we seriously imagine Jesus as rejoicing when a widow’s generosity deprives her of ‘her whole livelihood?’”

Carey does not think so. Rather, he writes that “the widow’s generosity places the reality of poverty before our eyes. It reminds us that the poor do not represent parasites who drain society of its resources. This story reminds us that we live in an economy that siphons its resources upward and leaves the vulnerable to face destitution on their own.”

Thus, in Carey’s thinking, the widow is both a model for personal giving, as well as someone who points to the value of the poor and speaks to societal conditions and socioeconomic realities that still need to be alleviated today. Carey concludes, wisely, that “we have lots to learn from the poor and the vulnerable …. if we would just look.”

Indeed, much like the saints we revere, the poor among us can teach, and model for us, volumes.
Rev. Michael W. Panicali