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Mercy and Gratitude

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Leprosy was a terrible condition in the ancient world. Not only because it meant a slow and agonizing end, but also because of social norms. Having one of several associated conditions required the afflicted to leave the town. At the time of Jesus, these small villages consisted of close-knit communities, many extended families. It was not uncommon for someone to live her whole life not more than 25 miles from where she was born. So leprosy was not merely an illness but a sentence of isolation! Hence the reason, in part, why leper colonies formed: places where lepers could gather together and help each other to live and survive.

Today (Lk 17:11-19) at the outskirts of the village, at the margins of society, 10 lepers meet our dear Jesus and cry out, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” Pity is the same word as mercy in Greek. (I really prefer “mercy” as some other translations render it.) In fact, in the Mass we make the same cry as we ask our Lord to forgive our sins: Lord, have mercy! Or, Kyrie eleison!  These are the only words in our liturgy that carry through from the Greek. Significant… this ancient cry. And the word “Master” here is Kyrios or Lord. So we are very close to the cry of these lepers, and to many others who seek the mercy of our dear Jesus in the Gospels (eg: Lk 18:38 or Mt 17:15).

Jesus cleanses these people from their physical illness, but also consequently, they can be reunited with their family and friends. No longer will they be sentenced a life on the margins, at the outskirts of town. But only one leper returns to give glory to God.

In our first reading, we hear of the most famous leper in all of Scripture, Namaan the Syrian. A foreigner who came all the way to Israel because he heard there was a real prophet there, the mighty Elisha, spiritual son of Elijah. At first Namaan visits the King, who is flabbergasted at his outlandish request. Elisha intercedes, asking Namaan to wash seven times in the Jordan River. Namaan at first resists the simple but belittling request to wash in the measly Jordan, as compared to the noble Damascus, but finally relents at the behest of the slave girl. And Namaan the foreigner is cleansed.

So grateful is Namaan that he vows only to offer sacrifice to the true God of Israel and therefore wants to take two mule-loads of dirt back to Syria with him. Why? This earth will serve as a small “island” of Israel in the foreign land on which Namaan can offer his gratitude and thanksgiving to the one true God of Israel.

Hence, in the readings today we witness the fundamental cry of the creature towards his Creator: Lord have mercy! And we also witness, in two examples, the beautiful exercise of gratitude that is true worship.

Lord, fill our hearts with your mercy that we may live to give you thanks!

Fr. Wilson 

Steward Report 2018-2019

Dear OLPH,
We are in week 4 of our message series, Mercy and Our Response - one of the themes woven through these weeks with the Gospel of Luke. If you ever miss a letter, or want to revisit something, head to our website: www.olphparish.com. Look for “From Father’s Desk” or “Pastor’s Page”. All my letters are there. I would love your feedback. Sometimes as I labor, I wonder if anyone is reading. Each one takes hours!

One of the refrains within this series, is the question of the Psalmist: “How can I make a return to the Lord for all of his goodness to me?” (Ps 116). We have all been invited to wrestle with that question in prayer with Jesus. We admit that our goal is to place our whole lives at the service of the Gospel, which includes financial resources, but crucially offering our talents and time for the greater glory of God as well!

Dear OLPH,

As the sun sinks lower on the horizon each evening, treating us with luminous clouds and iridescent contrasts in a full palette of hues from golden amber to indigo, we witness each day the glory of the Lord. Each day God seeks to show us something new, to reveal his love and mercy to us in a new, usually hidden - yet in a flash brilliant - way. I love the transition of September: from the swelter of summer to the crispness of fall. What a difference a day makes!

In the Gospel (Lk 16:19-31) we experience great differences as well. In a few lines, the situation of two men change radically. Both the rich man and Lazarus end up in the afterworld in the wake of stark contrasts. The 80’s movie Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd is outdone by these men as their reversal of fortune perdures through eternity. And eternity is a long time... strike that! It is no time and so outside of time.

Dear OLPH,

Greetings in Christ, dear brothers and sisters! Last week we began a new message series: Mercy and Our Response. If you ever miss an article, head to our website: www.olphparish.com. Look for “From Father’s Desk” or “Pastor’s Page”.

Last week we meditated on the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 15 - the epicenter of mercy in the Gospel of Mercy. We recognized the way God seeks us out to extend his merciful hand. In this process, our task is to admit our need, recognizing how much we need the Lord. To repeat the eloquence of Bishop Sheen, “Sin is not the worst thing in the world, the denial of sin is. If I deny that I am a sinner, how can I ever be forgiven?” Only the denial of our need prevents the Lord from acting, since He respects our freedom in love.

Dear OLPH,

Today we begin our second message series. To review, a message series seeks to link the homilies each week into a narrative arc, so that they form a larger whole. Think of it like a mini-series rather than a sitcom. We are trying to unpack the readings in a continuous unfolding of God’s message to us. Over the next several weeks we will be exploring the theme: Mercy and Our Response.

Dear OLPH Family,

In September of 2015, the Diocese of Trenton embarked on a long journey of self-discovery and exploration called Faith in Our Future. The multi-year diocesan-wide initiative seeks to serve our communities better in the 21st century, amid changing needs and demographics. This long-term study recommended that OLPH engage in a COLLABORATIVE model with neighboring parishes. When parishes collaborate effectively, they can accomplish what they could not on their own. Now in 2019, OLPH has hired its first collaborative staff member in our new Director of Faith Formation, Mr. Rich Scanlon. Today, he introduces himself to our parish. Please extend him a hearty and warm OLPH welcome!

THIS IS MY BODY. THIS IS MY BLOOD.

Dear OLPH,

This week we hear from Bishop David O’Connell on the power and importance of the Most Holy Eucharist:

One of the most troubling things I read all summer was the finding of a Pew Research Study released August 5 that only 31% or one-third of current, self-identifying Catholics believe that the bread and wine consecrated at Mass BECOME AND ARE the Body and Blood of Christ. This belief, described and known since the Middle Ages as “transubstantiation” in Catholic doctrine, has been and remains a core conviction of the Catholic faith since the Lord Jesus first spoke the words “This is my Body ... this is my Blood” at the Last Supper (Mark 14:22- 25; Luke 22:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23- 25). “Do this in memory of me.” 69% of Catholics surveyed, by contrast, believe the consecrated bread and wine only to be “symbols” of the Lord Jesus’ Body and Blood.

Where did this error regarding such a fundamental tenet of our Catholic faith come from?

The Pew Survey reveals that the Church’s teaching and belief in the Eucharist is stronger among those who attend Mass weekly, especially older Catholics, but even within these groups confusion and error exist to a troubling degree.

There is abundant evidence derived from the scriptures, the writings of the earliest Fathers of the Church, the pronouncements of Church Councils and leaders throughout the Church’s long history as well as the firm and constant belief of the Church’s faithful, to support this most important and central conviction of our Catholic faith. The Eucharist is the “Real Presence” of the Lord Jesus Christ, whether on the altar at Mass, in Holy Communion or reserved as the Blessed Sacrament In the tabernacle. For the Catholic, this “mystery of faith” is unambiguous and not subject to doubt. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, citing the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church “Lumen Gentium, 11,” states with the deepest and most profound conviction, “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life ... For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch (CCC, 1324).”

How bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Christ at the priest’s words of consecration at Mass is a mystery of faith to be sure but a mystery that responds to the Lord Jesus’ own command, “Do this in memory of Me.” Mysteries defy scientific explanations —- that is why they are called “mysteries” —- requiring either the belief of faith or disbelief. In his magnificent Eucharistic hymn, “Tantum Ergo,” one of the Catholic Church’s greatest teachers, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), reflected “what our senses fail to fathom, let us grasp through faith’s consent.” And, so, the Catholic Church has “grasped” from its very beginning and continues to do so to the present moment and beyond.

“May the Heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time. Amen (Divine Praises).”

If the faithful of the Catholic Church get this core belief wrong, what else could they hope to get right?

Here at OLPH, we offer Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament from 7:30 to 9am on Tuesdays and Fridays. Please join is. Come let us adore Him!

Yours in Christ High Priest and Victim,

Fr. Wilson

Dear Families of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church and School,

After a relatively quiet summer on campus, we are gearing up for a terrific year at OLPH! Many improvements await our students. Our library is now nestled right in the middle of our young readers on the first floor. Our new website not only strikes great visual appeal but also offers practical improvements like interactive electronic forms. Dedicated technology carts on each of our three floors facilitate instruction that integrates technology. Lastly, Jim Berg has been working diligently to complete his repainting and beautification of the rooms in our buildings. Many improvements have been in the works since last year to welcome our eager students for another year of nurturing our students' God-given talents and helping them to grow into lifelong learners.

Another aspect of our behind-the-scenes planning and preparation for excellence in Catholic education has included conversations with the Diocese of Trenton, which has taken a special interest in the schools of Burlington County, many of which have been struggling to offer the same quality education in the face of decreasing enrollment and increasing financial burdens. Together, we have entered into dialogue in order to ensure that Catholic education continues to thrive in our parishes and county.

A summary from our first conversation, and a similar one held at Saint Charles Borromeo, can be found in the link below. Nothing has been decided about what lies ahead of us. Surely more conversations, meetings and dialogue will transpire. What is certain from our vantage point is that we are at a crossroads. Merely staying the course is insufficient to ensure a truly vibrant educational experience. Here at OLPH, we seek your active support, participation and engagement! We are not only educating children but more importantly building up our church and school community, the body of Christ. This work of raising our children in the Faith must truly be the goal and focus of our whole community.

As our community seeks to discern the best way forward, we ask for your prayers. As your pastor, I request your prayers. Pray for our wisdom, counsel, and fortitude – all gifts of the Holy Spirit. Pray for joy, peace and patience – all fruits of the Holy Spirit. We will need the Spirit guidance to show what God has in store.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Joel Wilson

Please Read Notes from Meeting Here

Dear OLPH,

At the end of July, we began our first message series, called Prayer and Priorities. Today is the final Sunday dedicated to that theme. We will begin another message series on September 15th. A message series attempts to link the homilies each week into a narrative arc, so that they do not stand alone but build on and refer to one another. Think of it like a mini-series rather than a sitcom. We are trying to unpack the readings in a continuous unfolding of God’s message to us.

Dear OLPH,

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! Today, Jesus alarms his listeners: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” The division about which Jesus speaks is the chasm between those who belong to him and those who do not, between those who are on fire for the Lord and those who are...soggy logs. Today, as part of our “What OLPH means to me” series, we hear from Anne-Mari Wojcik, who kindles the flame of faith, both her own and that of our parish family, through the gift of music. God bless, FJW

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