Pastor’s Column

Pastor’s Column                      October 1 – 2, 2022
“The Apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.”

This weekend we celebrate Respect Life Sunday, and our readings are all about faith and love, which generate, nurture, and bring life to perfection. Our Old Testament reading from the Prophet Habakkuk speaks about how despite the misery, violence and discord that surrounds us, “the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” In our second reading, Paul exhorts Timothy to “stir into flame the gift of God” and to “take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” Finally, in our Gospel, the Apostles ask the Lord, “Increase our faith.”  And after saying that if they had faith the size of a tiny mustard seed they could work miracles, Jesus tells them they should be like the servant who must first wait on his Master before the servant can eat or drink. He says, “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

On this Respect Life Sunday, it almost sounds as if Jesus is disparaging and minimizing our worth as human beings rather than promoting the sanctity and dignity of all human life. But that would be a very mistaken impression to take away from this reading. Instead, our Lord is using this provocative language to extol the virtue of humility. To be humble literally means to be down to earth, to be grounded in reality. Humility is the antidote to pride, the most deadly of the seven deadly sins. Through pride we make ourselves into gods, saying my will be done rather than praying thy will be  done. Pride fills us with illusions, or should I say delusions of grandeur and self-importance. We forget that we owe everything to God, most particularly the gift of life itself. Humility helps us see ourselves as we really are, imperfect creatures wounded by sin, but nevertheless unconditionally loved by our Creator on whom we depend for our very existence and who continually showers upon us his mercy and forgiveness. Pride gets in the way of our experiencing and trusting in God’s love for us. It turns us in on ourselves, makes us insecure, and we fall prey to the lies of the world which tell us that our worth is measured by our wealth or good looks or what we do and accomplish. We are tricked into thinking that we must make judgments on the quality of a person’s life which opens us up to the grave sins of abortion
and euthanasia.

Faith is our response to the God who first loves us unconditionally. We live in a world that considers faith and belief in God to be a fairy tale. I am reminded of the lyrics of a Neil Diamond song popularized by the Monkeys and the movie Shrek, I’m a Believer. “I thought love was only true in fairy tales, meant for someone else but not for me. Love was out to get me, that’s the way it seemed. Disappointment haunted all my dreams. Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer; not a trace of doubt in my mind.”

In reality, it is God’s face we long to see. If we only had faith the size of a tiny mustard seed, if only we were truly believers in God’s never failing mercy and in His great love for us just as we are, we would recognize the lies of the world for what they are. We would know that our life is precious and that every human life is precious, from the moment of conception until natural death. We would know that there is nothing we must do or can do to earn God’s love. God loves us for who we are, not for what we do or may one day achieve. We would understand that Jesus wants us to have the disposition of that unprofitable servant in the parable, because having the grace to do what God has commanded us to do is its own reward. But we would also realize we are not unprofitable servants, but instead beloved sons and daughters, of infinite worth and value in God’s eyes, who do what we’re obliged to do, not out of guilt or fear, but out of love, trusting and believing that it will lead to our true and eternal happiness. As the song goes, “I’m a believer; not a trace of doubt in my mind.” How about you? — Fr. Bob

Clergy Column                                            September 24 – 25, 2022
Praise be Jesus Christ but now and forever!

Today’s Gospel is very obvious – one man was in need, the other man had more than enough. But for some reason, the man that had more than enough chose not to see or hear the poor man at his door. He created a wall between himself and this man. Have things really changed? More so than ever, there are so many people who are in need. And there are so many who refuse to see and hear them. And we create a wall between us and them. Exactly between us and them. Aren’t we all children of God? There is no such thing as us and them. If we stop and think for a moment, we’ve all been at some point in our life at a very low place where we really needed help. And whether the help came from the state, the government, the city, family or friends or the church, someone was there to help us.

Sometimes we forget when we were in trouble, but we should be reminded every day when we see the poor but for the grace of God go I. Stop and think how much we waste in food, clothing, money… If we took just a fraction of each one of these things there would be no poor, there would be no needy. I would like to tell you a story which happened to me when I was the Pastor of a parish in New Jersey. The very first thing I noticed in the first two months I was there was the many homeless people walking the streets. And I was told by the secretary and the parish staff, “Father, don’t open the door. Don’t give them food. Don’t give them money. You’ll never get rid of them”.

For about a month I listen to this advice. But when one day a woman and a child came to the rectory door they were in shambles. I brought them into the rectory, sat them down, and I cooked something for them to eat. I packed a bag of food and gave them some money. I even asked if they needed a lift to the local shelter. The mother said to me, “Yes, we would appreciate it! We’ve been walking all day without eating. We would appreciate whatever you can do for us.”

Before they left, I let the mother give the baby a bath. I went across the street to a CVS and bought diapers and a little onesie outfit for the child who was of an infant. I took them to the shelter. When I left the shelter, I made a promise to myself that this parish from now on will welcome the poor. The first thing I started was a clothing drive – men, women, children, and infants clothing We had people sort them, and always had bags ready for when the homeless came to the door. Every Monday we begin cooking meals. The meals began with 10, then went to 100 people. The people of the parish became very much involved. They didn’t realize that there were so many homeless people right in their own neighborhood. Some of them told me that they ignored them for a long time, but now that we brought them into the light his conscience forced him to do something. It wasn’t just simply the parish, it was the store owners, it was businesses. Everyone became more aware of their presence, except for the Mayors of the towns to the right of the parish and to the left of the parish. They did not want to see a lineup of homeless people for clothing and food. They wanted them away from City Hall. They called the police. They threatened me, and eventually they went to the Cardinal Archbishop complaining that this priest was bringing a terrible element into our Downtown City. What’s wrong with him? Why doesn’t he conduct bingo or something religious? Why is he dealing with these people? They threatened the Cardinal Archbishop that if he didn’t do something with me, that when voting time came, what he wanted them to vote for they would reject. It came down to power and politics against me, but more so against the poor. Thank God the Cardinal remained strong and in my corner.

When I used to go to the meetings where they would call me in week after week reprimanding me, telling me to stop feeding the poor, stop bringing them to downtown, stop giving them clothing, stop giving them dignity and respect. I said to them it is not that I bring them, it is that they’re here already, and you don’t see or hear them. That’s your choice. It became more and more difficult every time we had to apply for permission for something in the parish. We would never get an answer. They were constantly haranguing and threatening us, police coming over, telling us we had violations of garbage on the curb, or maybe too many people standing in a corner of the building. Building inspectors and all types of different agencies would come just so that we would stop servicing our brothers and sisters who were less fortunate than us. But I said to them, the politicians, and the city officials, aren’t you elected to serve all people not just the rich and wealthy? They never answered my question. And so my dear friends, you don’t have to go very far. Look around you, there are many homeless, there are many people who are in desperate need of a kind word, shoes and stockings, a jacket, a bag of food. And so, I pray that we become more and more aware of their presence, and I pray that the  pantry here at St Mark – St. Margaret Mary would overflow from one room to another with the generosity of us parishioners. We are not simply brothers and sisters to the wealthy and the well to do, we are brothers and sisters of every person that has ever been created, and it’s not for us to judge why they are in the condition they’re in but it is for us to be present to them. Because like I said earlier, but for the grace of God go I. In Jesus, Mary, and St Joseph, God bless you!
Father Dominick

Pastor’s Column –                       September 17 – 18, 2022
“For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.”

 

This weekend we celebrate Catechetical Sunday, when we commission our teachers and catechists who have the important task of handing on the faith to the children in our school and Religious Education program. We also welcome a new Director of Religious Education, Mrs. Mariange Daniel-Davis, who along with her husband and Youth Ministry Coordinator Mr. Michael Davis, will oversee the program. This year’s theme for Catechetical Sunday is “This is my bodygiven for you” (Luke 22:19). This coincides nicely with the three-year National Eucharistic Revival recently launched by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. It must also be the source and summit of our parish life as well. The term “Eucharist” originates from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving. In the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest. The whole Christ is truly present — body, blood, soul, and divinity — under the appearances of bread and wine, the glorified Christ who rose from the dead. This is what the Church means when she speaks of the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist.

In our New Testament reading this weekend, Saint Paul emphasizes that we are all in this together. First, he asks that “supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be offered for everyone, for kings and all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” We live in a society in which truth has become relativistic. What is true for you is not necessarily true for me. But for us, the truth is not just some thing, the truth is a person, Jesus Christ, who assures us that he is the way, and the truth, and the life. That is why coming to Mass each weekend is so important, so we can be nourished by listening to God’s word in Sacred Scripture, and by consuming God’s Word, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of His Son Jesus contained in the Eucharist when we receive Holy
Communion.

Next, in our Gospel reading we hear the curious parable of the dishonest servant. Commentators have called it one of the most difficult of Jesus’ parables to interpret. It’s full of dishonest people doing underhanded things to assure for themselves the riches of this world. Jesus says, “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are children of the light. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” But Jesus is not suggesting that we should be dishonest. Rather, he is making the point that if only we Christians were as eager and ingenious in our attempt to attain goodness as those with more worldly concerns are in their attempt to attain money and comfort, we would be much better people. If only we would give as much attention to the things which concern the salvation of our souls and attaining heaven as they do for those things which concern their material wealth, we would be that much closer to the Kingdom of God.

Our Gospel concludes with Jesus telling us “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” The word mammon comes from the Greek word mammonas, and similar root words exist in Hebrew, Latin, and Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. They all translate to money, wealth, and material possessions. As we celebrate Catechetical Sunday and begin this new parish year, may we find our treasure in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and choose to serve God by loving and serving one another. – Fr. Bob

Clergy Column                    September 10 – 11, 2022

Praised be Jesus Christ both now and forever!

 

In the gospel this weekend we are definitely shown the difference between what is valuable to God and what is valuable to men. There are two parables. The one about the sheep represents all the material things of
the world. And the second represents money. The two things that we as humans have tremendous concern over. If we lose something of value, how upset we become! We will search high and low, we will think about it over and over again. Sometimes, it even ruins not only our day, but our week and a month in the future. Whether it be something material or whether it be money, we become totally obsessed trying to find what we lost. And worse yet if someone takes what belongs to us. How enraged we become!

But in this weekend’s gospel, we see that Jesus values neither the material things nor the monetary things of the world. What he does value is each and every one of us. The soul that is within each one of us is
more valuable than all the things that have ever been created, then all the money and gold that ever could be accumulated.

We see that they criticize our Lord for gathering sinners around him. They gathered riches and the things of the world to themselves. Christ gathers souls to himself. Realizing the price of one soul was the death
of the Creator. So while the value of a soul really has no value in this world, their value in heaven is off the charts! There are no words to express the value, but only actions. And the action that God expressed for every
soul he created was Jesus himself dying upon a cross.

So, every soul may come to him, every soul may seek forgiveness and mercy, and every soul may have a place with him in heaven. So my dear friends, if you want to give a gift to Jesus, there is nothing material or
monetary that he would accept or even want. But the greatest gift is first of all giving of yourself and your soul; and second, to try to gather souls that are lost, that are hurting, that are steeped in sin. Try to bring those souls to Jesus. The greatest gift we can give the Lord is to bring a soul back to him. We must convey to our brothers and sisters that are lost that God’s love and mercy goes beyond any sin and any length of time one has been away. In his sight, it is a moment. What is important and what matters to him is that the soul returns back to him, so that he can minister and bind and heal the broken soul.

And so the people at the table were ridiculing our Lord for your sins. Around him they could only see people, they could only see sinners, they could only see sin. What did Jesus see? He saw precious souls, such
precious souls that he yearned for them, past, present, and future. The greatest gift we could ever give is to bring a soul to Jesus.

God bless you in Jesus and Mary in St Joseph! — Father Dominick