From Father's Desk

From Father's Desk

From Fathers Desk web

Dear Children of Mary,

This weekend we celebrate Our Lady of Perpetual Help, sometimes called Mother of Perpetual  Help. When we think of perpetual, words like constant, ceaseless, nonstop, and even timeless come to mind. Antonyms include spotty, erratic, periodic, or occasional. The sun shines constantly while clouds pass periodically. Similarly, the word help calls to mind aid, guidance, support, assistance, in opposition to hinder, block, prevent and even hurt. Over one hundred years ago, the people of Maple Shade and surrounding areas placed themselves under the patronage of Mary with this title. So designated, the constant aid of our Mother Mary is highlighted. We place ourselves under the care and aid of our patroness this weekend, seeking her constant solicitude.

In my first year here, I wrote about the significance and presence of Our Lady under this title in my own life. As a deacon in 2008, I traveled to Rome for the first time with my pastor, mentor and friend, Fr. Sig. He had been there more than fifteen times and took me around. We found the original 15th century icon in the Church of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, around the corner from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. She is under the custody of the Redemptorists. A lot like our parish church, the church was warm and welcoming, a prayerful place, with friendly people present. After praying before the sacred image, I bought a poster and eventually had it framed.

Dear Parish Family,

We are approaching our parish feast day and I cannot wait to celebrate with you! Preparations are well underway. Here are the details in case you missed them. Saturday June 25th at 5pm, we worship God with an outdoor Mass in the gardens. And then all are invited to share fellowship together.

First, we break the eucharistic bread together. We worship God. We nourish ourselves spiritually. (Also, this is a special year of eucharistic revival; more on that later!) And then we break the common bread together. First the eucharistic bread which feeds the spirit, then the common bread which feeds the body. And our spirits are nourished too by sharing fellowship, by passing the time, by smiles and stories and just being together.

Dear Parish Family,

Last week, we began to share about our “Summer Schedule” or “Summer Mode” and I asked that you “stay tuned.” As a parish staff, we feel like we have been going full speed since last fall and now it is time to make some breathing space, to pare down our weekly duties, to recuperate from the fullness of the year, but also to plan for the year ahead. Summer is a wonderful time to recharge, to take stock, and to look forward. We already look forward to new programs and efforts as people return from their holidays, and the children return to school.

This rhythm has always been part of our reality as people go on vacations and kids are out of school. But adopting this intentional rhythm of life comes to us through the group coaching effort we began last fall. As a team we have learned a great deal and continue to adopt proven strategies for the development and rejuvenation of our parish life (like the message series and small groups.) In fact, last week we took an entire day as a team to pray, to dream, to share and to listen. Our first time doing something that many organizations do at least once a year, but often quarterly. We really enjoyed the time to step away from the daily grind in order to think bigger, to listen to each other’s hopes, and to cast vision for our future together. The day was wonderfully full of growth as a parish team. And we still have some homework to accomplish as a result of our team development day.

Dear Friends,

Since the empty tomb and the remarkable question, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?” (Lk 24:5) we have been set firmly on the path of newness. Over the course of this Easter season, God has promised a new mind, a new spirit, a new heart, and finally a new creation. This is the last week of our series Brand New, and our reading from Revelation provides a fitting culmination! Jesus will wipe away the tears from our eyes. The Lord will destroy death forever. “Behold, I make all things new!” says the Son of God (Rev 21:5). Not just minds or hearts, but the whole of creation will be refashioned. The old order having passed away, behold the new has come. Can’t get much newer than that!

The Apostle John received a vision of heaven that he shared with us in the Book of Revelation. Not all of his vision is plain. Some is quite challenging to understand. Typically, we can think of heaven as the place of eternal happiness with God. After the judgment, if God’s love is found in us, we are moved there not by our own powers but by the strength and grip of God’s love. And once we or our loved ones “arrive”... end of story.

Dear Parish Family,

During the Easter Season, we are focused on the new, the Brand New. Namely, the new work that God seeks to do in and through us, as new creations in Christ. Easter is the season of newness, so it is very fitting to focus on this deeply Christian theme. Many passages from Scripture could be employed to highlight this new work. Not all of them appear in lectionary for the Sundays in church.

Today I would like to dig into one such passage. Paul writes to the Colossians 3:1-17:

(The translation I am using is slightly different from what we hear on Sundays.)

Dear Members of Christ,

During this Easter Season, as the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing, we are focused on the new, the Brand New. Easter is the season of newness, so it is very fitting to focus on this deeply Christian theme. With Christ, we are “turning over a new leaf.” Yet much more profoundly, we remind ourselves of the entirely new work God began in us at Baptism and how he continues to renew, refresh and even to transform us with his grace, above all through our living a Sacramental Life. Truly, a life deeply rooted in the Sacraments of the Church, knit us together into one Body, and join us to Christ, the one who makes all things new! (See: Rev 21:5).

This weekend we celebrate First Eucharist for our second graders. We are inviting these children for the first time to receive our Lord and God in the holy Eucharist, to be joined to Him. All the families are invited to attend the 10am Mass, to sit up front, to celebrate and worship. Indeed everyone is invited to share in the beautiful wedding feast of the Lamb we hear described in our second reading (Rev 5:11-14).

My Dear Parish Family,

The Easter Season has broken upon us and a sea of newness rushes in. We are in the season of Spring naturally, and the season of newness supernaturally. What new work does God want to do in you? This past weekend at the Easter Vigil, five of our parish members received newness of life in Christ through Baptism, Confirmation, and the holy Eucharist. The work of becoming transformed has begun in them just as it began in us at our own baptisms.

But we acknowledge that conversion is not one-and-done. Conversion (literally meaning turning around) is the process of a lifetime, what we could also call the process of sanctification. If you like, initial conversion serves as the first moment of our life-long calling to be made holy as our heavenly Father is holy. The “new” that God wants to do in us, requires our participation, our effort, but the work is first divine. God is recreating us in the image and likeness of the Son. Saint Bonaventure painted a striking image. He observed that as the Father was creating Adam, sculpting his face from the mud of the earth, He was gazing upon the face of the Son. The Son, the refulgence of the Father’s glory (Heb 1:3), served as the muse for created humanity. Spectacular!

Dear Parish Family,

A Happy and Blessed Season of Resurrection to you and yours! Easter and the whole Easter season are such a delightful time of year, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, where the empty tomb coincides with Spring. New life is everywhere! The grass is growing; the daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips are blooming; the trees are budding; many of their own blossoms are emerging: magnolia, cherry, dogwood, redbud, apple. The days grow longer and the nights warmer. The whole earth seems to be awakening from a slumber, even from a death - we might say - awakening unto new life.

During this season we can perceive the beautiful harmony between the natural rhythms and our supernatural existence. The natural order reflects the higher supernatural order. Creation imitates her Creator. Just as the grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die, so our Lord Jesus is the ultimate seed which blossoms unto eternal life. This order reflects an even deeper thing than “life imitating art,” as the saying goes. Indeed, the humble tulip points toward the empty tomb.

Dear Parish Family,

Some aspects of life are hard to grasp and some prayers in life are hard to utter. It can be easier, simpler, less demanding to walk on by rather than enter int0 the muck of the situation, but often the latter leads to greater lessons and deeper wisdom.

During these weeks of Lent, we have been confronting some of those demanding life moments, leaning in and reaching out for the hand of God in the darkness to lead us and guide along the narrow paths that lead to the more abundant life we crave. We were made to live in communion with God and as Augustine prays, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, O God” That rich reality does not make the road any easier.

Dear Parish Family,

This Lent we are journeying together on two parallel roads. First, we make the traditional walk through the desert with Jesus, renouncing self and spending more time in prayer, fasting and generosity. Second, we are walking as searchers of the one true God, seeking to know who He is and how God acts.

We are challenged in life by mysteries or puzzles that present themselves and lead us to question or even to doubt. These realities can make us feel cold or jaded towards God; to come to grips with that truth, and to admit our questions and frustration is important in the faith-life journey. God never promised that the answers to life’s deepest questions would be readily apparent. Rather, He did offer wisdom to those who press on to the heart. What is it Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living?” Something like that. The opposite would be the foolhardy dictum: ignorance is bliss. These puzzles, doubts, questions - call them what you will - are moments for deeper understanding, of self, of God, of the universe. The unknown can become a bridge to deeper understanding.