From Father's Desk

From Father's Desk

From Fathers Desk web

Dear Parish Family,

Over the course of these past three weeks, we have met people in various forms of darkness: the woman at the well in the darkness of sin; the man born blind in natural darkness; now we find Lazarus in the ultimate darkness of death. Last week we heard Jesus say, “I am the light of the world.” Today, Jesus announces, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And to prove this proclamation, He raises Lazarus from the dead..

Jesus and the disciples are friends of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. They dined together, and perhaps more than once the band of followers passed the night in their home. A deep sense of the Messiah and his mission touched the lives of these siblings. Today, we find Jesus and his disciples journeying to the sisters to accompany them at the passing of Lazarus. At the outset, Jesus says “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God” (Jn 11:4). Similarly, Jesus taught his disciples that the man was born blind not because of sin but,  “So that the works of God might be made visible through him” (Jn 9:3). While blindness and death are great tragedies, with the eyes of faith we can see how they can also be great opportunities for God to reveal himself in the Son of Man.

Dear Friends,

Recently I learned that Aaron Rodgers spent four days in a darkness retreat. Spending time in the dark, away from all stimuli can be a great way to expand our sight, maybe to give us fresh eyes? Apparently, he was doing some soul searching and wanted to pull away from the noise of the world. Today the light, noise and connectivity are almost inescapable. A wonderful Lenten challenge could include unplugging from technology for forty days, or even just one or two days a week. Challenging, but so good. My retreat this summer at the Trappist monastery in Gethsemani, KY proved such a powerful way to unplug.

But what of light and sound? It makes me recall a news story about the few places on earth that do not suffer from sound contamination, but where one would only hear natural sounds. Apparently planes can even be heard from the heart of the Amazon with some frequency. Rather than looking for completely natural places, we might also consider something like the sense deprivation tank used in the popular Stranger Things series. Did you know that one could immerse oneself in such a tank in downtown Washington, DC? We modern humans go through great lengths to separate ourselves from the light and noise we modern humans have created.

My Dear Family,

I have been praying for you this Lent. I do pray for our parish everyday, but… well, it was getting a little automatic. The feeling and freshness of my prayer had waned. For Lent with our Fresh Eyes homily series, I wanted to take a fresh approach to this prayer and really lift up our whole spiritual family into the arms of God. I pray you are having a wonderful and fruitful Lenten journey.

God is alive - the fullness of life! And He is active all the time. One philosophical definition for God is “pure act” (actus purus), meaning no potential energy but only actuated or kinetic energy. God is the opposite of the couch potato. His action is constant. In the Letter to the Hebrews we encounter a powerful biblical phrase that compliments that idea nicely: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) We hold that the very same Word of God took flesh and dwelt among us, the fullness of grace and truth - Jesus Christ (see Jn 1:14).

Dear Family in Christ,

I enjoy hiking, being outdoors, breathing the fresh air, enjoying God’s beauty, and especially sleeping under the stars. Very memorable has been my time hiking along sections of the Appalachian Trail. Hawk Mountain is one such place, not far from here. Less a mountain than part of the Blue Mountain Ridge, and really not very high (only 1500 feet), it has been so named because many raptors use the ridge to traverse migratory patterns, gliding effortlessly down or up the valley to better hunting grounds. The view from the ridge is special although the ascent is more a rocky staircase than a typical wooded trail. Contrast that vista with some more noteworthy peaks in Vermont, for example Glastenbury Mountain (3745 feet), where it is really beneficial to ascend the fire tower in order to behold the magical view, and we can recognize that not only the elevation contributes to the view but a host of factors including topography and flora. Traversing some peaks along the AT, one does not even know that the summit has been reached until the descent continues; the path is wooded the whole way.

Dear Parish Family,

This week we begin our Lenten journey together: forty days to walk with Jesus and his disciples on the road to Calvary, and on the other side, the empty tomb. Our theme for this Lent is “Fresh Eyes.” Oh Lord, give us eyes to see you; oh Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us; dear Jesus, may we see and love our neighbor as you do. Amen. We hope that these and similar prayers will be part of your Lent.

One of the best ways to pay closer attention, to gain fresh eyes for who God is and what God is doing in our lives, is to join a small group. United in prayer and fellowship, we learn to see how God is at work by paying attention to the movements of the Spirit in our lives, together. Noticing how God is at work in our neighbor and through the Scriptures really helps us to see what God is up to in our own lives. You may sign up here.

Last Thursday I was on a familiar route from the Chick-fil-a drive thru to my parents house. It was a drive I have made too many times to count. Everything seemed so familiar. No GPS necessary here. After making familiar turns over and over again I arrived at my parents' neighborhood. The place where I lived practically my entire life. I was about to walk into my parents house and I noticed something different. Noticing it I exclaimed to Ariel (my wife) “Woah! That’s new!” After 29 years living in Burlington Township they have official trash cans given to them by the township. It was a little thing, but it took me by surprise. Ariel quickly remarked “they’ve had them for a little while now”. Which apparently they had, but I had not noticed. I didn’t notice because it had been a while since I was at my parents house and when I did visit it wasn’t out on the curb so it wasn’t right in front of my face.

The thing is sometimes we can have that same experience at Church and in our own spiritual lives. Things seem so familiar that we don’t recognize what the words we pray at each Mass really mean. We listen to the readings and the Gospel and maybe they sound familiar. We aren’t expecting God to do something new. We get comfortable with our perception of Jesus and how he works. Well this Lent we want to invite you to participate in our Lenten message series “Fresh Eyes”.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last week, we began to share some updates about our parish team, the dedicated staff that works with you to build up the Body of Christ in our corner of the world. This week we continue to introduce you to the team and share how together we work to serve you in our common mission of building up the Body of Christ.

Joanne, Theresa, Shanon, and John round out the team. How best to share their roles?

Dear Parish,

As you read this note, I will be enjoying two weeks of summer in Chile with friends I met two decades ago as a college student. Please pray for a restful visit and safe return. I mention the timing because these letters often require a lot of forethought and planning. As your pastor, I try to serve from the front, but sometimes we end up in the thick of things. Let’s take this opportunity to share a status update on our team.

Marianne LinkaaSince December we have been looking for a Business Manager, someone who serves at my hand in finance, operations and management. I am happy to announce that last week, Marianne Linka began her first week in that role. A longtime member, she brings valuable experience from serving in the Diocese of Camden as Director of Cemeteries. Spouse of Deacon Fred, Marianne has participated in many areas of parish life since her kids attended our school. You will be hearing more from her in the weeks ahead, but please reach out and welcome our newest team member.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last week we concluded our brief “new year” series on Baggage with the invitation to concretely name a person and an offense that you would like to forgive and to actively cancel that person’s debt. Not to pretend the debt is not owed or the offense did not hurt, but to choose the higher road, the road to freedom. Not to be weighed down by past hurts or grudges, but to move to a new place of peace, “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead” (Phil 3:13) to borrow some beautiful words of Saint Paul.

In this part of his Letter to the Philippians, Paul recounted what it means to follow Christ Jesus, and the associated growth required for mature faith. The language he used depicts life as a journey, even a race. Do we think of our life of faith as a true “amazing race?” Just a bit further, Paul emphasized his unfinished business: “I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus,” (Phil 3:14). The finish line is our eternal beatitude, won in the blood of Jesus our Lord. God calls us and then continues to invite us to grow in faith and friendship with Him on the life-long journey of faith. Saint Augustine encourages, “Always grow, always walk on, always advance; do not stop on the way, do not turn back, do not go off course. One who does not advance is standing still…” (Sermones, 169, 18.) And surely it is challenging to advance when we are weighed down with baggage.

Dear Friends in Christ,

If the Giants beat the Eagles, can we still be friends in Christ? I can forgive you if the Eagles win. Would you be able to forgive me and the Giants? Perhaps my forgiveness overflows from the awareness that this is a child’s game. Our society pours so much money into stadiums and tv-coverage. Annually billions of dollars for about 20 weeks of entertainment. With these modern day gladiators we revisit the bread and circuses of Roman times. It’s all just a game.

People have asked me if God cares about sports. I don’t think so, not really in the way the question is posed. God loves the whole of creation with the fullness of his being. God doesn’t have love. God is love! God reveals himself through creation, the scriptures, the sacraments and the Church to be the fullness of love. But I don’t think he “cares” about who wins in the Superbowl. He cares about holiness, choosing virtue in challenging situations and love for our enemies. Enough natural and supernatural enemies exist in this world that we don’t have to pretend to be fake enemies on opposing sides of the pigskin.