Pastor's Page

Pastor's Page

Dear OLPH Family,

A Palm Sunday like no other! We ordered our palms weeks ago. They are in the basement now since we cannot distribute them, to avoid congregating and to honor the wisdom of social distancing.

Each day as I offer holy Mass in an empty church, or nearly empty (for the recorded Masses I need a few key helpers). It strikes me that while I am in the church I am not among the church. Or, rather the church is not with me. As I tend to stress: you are the church! While the building is the church, without you there praying and singing and laughing… and even crying, the building feels like a ghost of its former self. The Most Blessed Sacrament is present, and I have been making holy hours and offering Mass each day, but it is just not the same. And it is more than just being alone… I miss the beautiful roles you play in the worship of our Lord and God. 

I long for the day to be with you again, gathered around our lovely marble altar, to offer the sacred mysteries once again. I hunger for the occasion when together we can receive the holy Eucharist from the Mass and be nourished by the bread of life. I miss not being able to feed you with that super-substantial food that nourishes the soul not the body. And I hope you feel that hunger and longing too! Often when we are without something essential in our lives do we realize how much we miss it. And I miss you. I miss how you worship with me and how together we lift up a pleasing and fragrant offering to our Father. I miss how you help me to be me: your pastor. Pastors need flocks.

Over the past two weeks, we have joined Flocknote: a service that helps us connect with you via email and text. Text OLPHMS (all caps) to 84576 to sign up. I began a YouTube channel: “Father Joel Wilson.” And I am trying to light up FaceBook - even though I don’t care for it too much. But all that is not the same. The virtual world will never supplant the real world… well not for me.

When God Doesn’t Make Sense - Week V

Three Things: Eternal Life - Timing - Faith

We find ourselves in the last week of our Message Series “When God Does Not Make Sense” and I cannot but smile at the perfect timing of these themes chosen before the Corona Virus Pandemic.

During these days, we have so many doubts, concerns, fears & questions. It is easy and natural to ask: God what are you doing?

But first we must admit that we cannot see all ends as God sees them. Instead, we are encouraged to trust and to grow and to mature in our faith with the Lord.

This week is a lot like two weeks ago: obstacles and growth - when we recognized in the Flight from slavery to Egypt that God placed obstacles in the way of his people in order to raise them in a mature faith. God stretches us so that we can be better and stronger servants for him.

When God Doesn’t Make Sense - Week IV

Light in the Darkness

Dear OLPH Family,

“May you live in interesting times!” an ironic turn of phrase from England (purportedly a Chinese curse). Boy are these interesting times?! From toilet paper shortages to school lessons at home, and even the suspension of public Masses: life is full of the unexpected!

One of our umbrella principles during this message series, When God Doesn’t Make Sense, is that our heavenly Father has everything in mind, while we cannot. No surprises for God. Given our limitations, however, it makes sense that God does not always make sense. We have also seen that our Lord expects us to use our freedom for good. And during these days it is especially important to abide by all the public prescriptions to slow the spread of the virus. 

At the same time, as Catholics, we admit our deep need for spiritual nourishment. We do not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God! I encourage everyone to set aside two 20-30 minute prayer sessions at home. First to read the daily scripture readings and to discuss them as a family. Second to entrust the world to the care of our Mother of Perpetual Help through the recitation of the Holy Rosary as a family, or at least offering the prayer Bishop O’Connell has provided (see elsewhere in bulletin.) Taking advantage of spiritual communion once or twice a day is a great assistance as well.

These days of limited travel and duties are a LOUD invitation to slow down! Granted, I am sure that these first days have been quite hectic and troublesome, as they have been for me. This period in our journey together will take some adjustment. Please be sure to add daily prayer to the new rhythm of your life - no matter the rhythm. God has pushed the “pause” button and so we pause with Him. Try to avoid filling the whole day with the noise of life.

I commend to you a beautiful prayer by Blessed Charles de Foucauld  Memorize it, pray it often, and share it with others!

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul;

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord,

and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands,

without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

 

And now let’s turn to focus on Sunday. It is Laetare Sunday: the day the priest would wear rose to signal a Sunday of rejoicing within the great violet expanse of Lent. Do you feel like rejoicing today? Might that be one small illustration of life not making sense (and a reminder of our second overarching principle in the series.) Yet at every moment, myriad causes to rejoice exist. We need only recognize them. It might be helpful to ask: what is God giving me in this moment?

For me personally, He is stripping my life to the essential and inviting me to go deeper in prayer. He is also challenging me to trust and to find innovative ways to share the Gospel with our parish family.

The readings chosen by the Holy Spirit through the Church for this Sunday serve as a wondrous reminder of the power of light, and the ability of light to conquer the darkness. Light wins! And life will win! Fear not. God is near.

Saint Paul admonishes the church of Ephesus, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light... Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness.” He is very frank about the powers of darkness trained upon us. Paul reminds us that we were once all in darkness, in the grasp of the enemy before we were rescued by Christ on the Cross and made to belong to him through Baptism. We might feel like these days of curfew are days of darkness. We know well that there is an enemy prowling and we must be protective and defensive in our struggle. This reality is true for the Wuhan virus and it is also true of the enemy who seeks to contaminate our souls with foulness and darkness.

We find encouragement in Paul’s words: live in the light. Christ’s own words ring in our ears and resonate in our hearts: “I am the light of the world,” (Jn 8:12).

In our Gospel, our divine Lord claims this unusual title. The Gospel of John contains several unusual statements of this sort: I am the resurrection and the life. I am the good shepherd. I am the vine; you are the branches. I am the way, the truth and the life. With each of these the Son of Man is identifying himself with a fundamental aspect of his mission. Each of these titles are rich for meditation.

In John 9, Jesus not only declares these words but also shows himself to be that light by healing the eyes of a man born blind. With his own spittle and some of the earth from which man was formed on his creation in the Garden (Gn 2:7) Jesus restores his sight. Go and wash is all the man must do, reminiscent of Elisha’s healing of Naaman the Syrian (see 2 Kings 5). Never before had a cure like this been experienced. Returning sight to one whose sight had faded or become impaired, yes, but curing someone born blind exhibited a new power and authority over creation. Jesus is the Lord who brings a new wholeness to humanity.

Yet the leaders, the Pharisees, were more alarmed that this healing had transpired on the sabbath than they were impressed by the wonder of the act. For them, the law - and more precisely its violation - outshined the brilliance of a complete restoration of sight. Their hearts are hardened. They refuse to admit that God could speak and act through his servant Jesus.

It is ironic: those who are supposed to see are blind, while the blind man sees! The blind man shows himself to be deeply open, open to the possibility of sight, and faith and even discipleship. By contrast, the Pharisees are closed to the new and the possible. What is unfolding before their eyes does not make sense to them. It does not compute! Their minds need a new algorithm, new categories to deal with all “the new” that Jesus is accomplishing in the world. 

During these days of social isolation, restricted movement, and absence of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in the lives of the faithful, we are searching for what the Lord is doing. May our eyes - and the eyes of our hearts - be peeled to see how our God and Messiah is at work in the world.

Our world has been asleep. Can we admit to some blindness? Might we also recognize when our own priorities are not perfectly aligned with those of the Lord? These are the days of sifting and turmoil. My fervent prayer remains: Lord strengthen our trust. We abandon ourselves into your hands.

Jesus is the light of the world! And He continues to shine as a light in our darkness. Oh Lord, give us faith to see how you are working in the middle of the present moment.

Yours in Christ!

Fr. Joel Wilson

When God Doesn’t Make Sense - Week III

Bumps in the Road of Life

Dear OLPH Family,

Week three of our Lenten Message Series: When God Does Not Make Sense. Today, we are focused on obstacles and growth. We are seeking to make sense of why God seems to place obstacles in our path at times. 

Anything worth doing is not easy. When we witness greatness: excellence on the ballfield, in the concert hall, or even in the kitchen, we can forget all the sweat equity built up over years of dedication and toil to arrive at a moment which appears effortless, but in fact requires - and has required - the greatest of care, effort and attention.

Today in our readings, the Church places before us two examples of obstacles and the stories of resulting growth: The woman at the well and the Israelites in the desert. Let’s focus on Israel here.

When God Doesn’t Make Sense

Making Sense of Suffering and Death

Dear OLPH Family,

Some news we post on FaceBook, when we want the whole world to know! Well, at least all of our “friends.” Other news, we might share only with family. Still other matters may only be confided to a confidant. Today, we gain a real window into Jesus’ identity through a moment shared privately with Peter, James and John - his closest friends.

When we read the Gospels, it is valuable to attend to the audience. Who is Jesus addressing? Who is in the room? Some popular options: the scribes and Pharisees, the crowds, the disciples, the apostles. Sometimes Jesus is out in public; other times he is teaching in a private home; our Lord also purposefully takes people aside for a one-on-one encounter, to speak with them or heal them alone, away from others. (See Jn 4, next week’s Gospel!)

When God Doesn’t Make Sense

My dear brothers and sisters,

On this First Sunday of Lent, we begin a new message series: “When God Does Not Make Sense.” We have all lived through at least one experience when what was happening did not seem in accord with what we understood to be God’s will or ways. We have all struggled to understand the mind of God… and perhaps even cried, “Oh God what were you thinking?” Sometimes, when we say that we mean, “What was I thinking?!” but we will leave that case aside for now.

God's ways are not our ways, as He teaches in the Scriptures: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8) Yet this is hardly the only occasion in the Bible where people ponder quizzically the mind of God. Paul lays out the idea starkly, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid?” (Romans 11: 33-35)

 Lenten Frame of Mind 

Dear Parish Family,

This weekend we are holding a Fat Sunday Supper to express our heartfelt appreciation for all of our volunteers. “It takes a village to raise a child,” and it takes hundreds of dedicated and trained volunteers to make parish life happen. Moreover, these myriad opportunities for service are beautiful ways to live the faith, in our little corner of the world, as I like to say. Some have remarked that they cannot remember the last appreciation dinner. With your help, I would like to make the dinner an annual affair.

The designation “Fat Sunday” means that Lent is quickly approaching. This Wednesday Lent begins with the tradition of ashes (see Jonah 3:6). Ashes are a sign of repentance, an admission of guilt, and the need for mercy. Ashes are the status symbol only of sinners, those who admit they have fallen short of walking in the ways of the Lord. The best way to acknowledge our status as sinners… come to Confession. Seek out Reconciliation and the beautiful Sacrament of God’s Mercy. Lent affords our people an opportunity to be healed sacramentally, which ashes do not. Wednesday evenings from 6pm to 8pm, all throughout the month of March, Confessions will be heard in church!

“God gives where he finds empty hands”

Dear Friends in Christ,

A quote from Saint Augustine guides our 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal, “God gives where he finds empty hands.” This beautiful insight helps us to see that our good Lord responds where He sees a need, where he finds receptivity. If our hands are full or if our doors are closed, the Lord passes by. Consider the beautiful invitation found in Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20) In knocking, the Lord invites contact and intimacy but he awaits a warm welcome from within. God never forces; he invites.

National Marriage Day

Dear Parish Family,

As we approach Valentine’s Day, the church in America kicks off National Marriage Week. Valentine’s Day can tend to be “romantic” and some may think “we are too _____ for that kind of stuff!” But I hope all married couples will celebrate the gift of their married love next weekend. Our dear Columbiettes and dedicated Knights are hosting a wonderful evening at the Maple Room. So far, there has been a strong response. What a great way to celebrate not only married love, but to gather as a greater community and celebrate the gift of love together. I plan to join in, but don’t ask me to dance.

Presentation Parish Family Series

My Dear Parish Family,

It is 40 days since Christmas! Today, the Feast of the Presentation, Joseph and Mary - after her time of purification - present baby Jesus in the Temple. And those Christmas-loving diehards finally put their decorations away. Rather than a spiritual message, this week I communicate some “nuts and bolts” of parish life.

Last week in the bulletin, we discussed the strength and future of our parish family, and in part, how it can be undermined with rumors. Building on that reality, I want to share with you some of the “new” that you may not be aware of.

Parish Calendar