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from fathers desk

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From Fathers Desk web

My dear friends,

Ah, the question of suffering! We have been suffering as a community, nation and world during this pandemic. We have been suffering the loss of family and friends, job loss, lost vacations, but also the loss of time together. The human person is made for communion, for friendship and relation. Alone in our homes, we endure psychological suffering. We are made to be together, to commune with each other and to commune with God. Worship accomplishes both of those forms of communion, horizontal and vertical, outward to our neighbor and upward to our God. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could gather and share more of life with one another, instead of being on Facebook!

Why does suffering exist? Couldn’t God just fix it all? Let me assure you that God is in the process of “fixing it all,” but it is not a snap of the fingers! There is immeasurable woundedness and brokenness in our world, from broken homes to oil spills to gun violence. In his mysterious way, God has chosen to unfold the kingdom with our participation; yes, God is relying on us.

Dear Parish Family,

The number one movie on Netflix this week is called, Project Power. An action thriller of good guys versus bad guys, with a glowing pill at the center that enables those who take it to activate a mystery superpower in their own DNA, for five minutes. In the movie, the Major, played by Jamie Foxx, makes the assertion that all power runs to those who have power. In a sense, the powerful always accumulate more power. Those taking the pills - while experiencing a superpower - are ultimately ceding more power to those who are already in power. Today we consider power and its sources.

Also this week, the Democrats held a virtual convention to nominate Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris to be candidates for President and Vice-President, respectively. The presidency of the United States of America is often called the most powerful office in the world. Enshrined in the Constitution is a balance of powers: executive, legislative and judicial. Regardless of party, stalemates in congress have led the executive branch to accumulate power. Ultimately, the power resides with the people. We are a democracy, meaning government by the people, and a republic, meaning we choose others to represent us. When we want to effect change, we vote, we lobby, we write our congresspeople, we may even assemble and march in the streets, but we do not loot or riot or resort to violence. The people give the government its power.

Dear Parish Family,

Last week Jesus said to Peter “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Today, Jesus says to the Canaanite woman, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Peter did not get what he wished: to walk on the water. The woman did: the exorcism of the demon from her daughter. Examples of great faith and little faith, while also being demonstrations of perseverance and wavering, offered to us in successive weeks.

One would expect the reverse, that the foreign woman who shows no indication of having known Jesus ahead of time, would be far less resolved to insist on her request, than Peter, who has spent each day with the Lord since he began following as a disciple. These beautiful accounts show us disciples how to behave when at prayer, or even in pursuit of virtue: we must be persistent, persevering, even willing to endure insults for what we know to be right and good. There will be a cost even in the asking. No free lunch. The woman’s perseverance actually builds her faith as she uses it, like a muscle.

My Dear Family,

As I write this, rain and wind from Hurricane Isaías pound the roof and windows. Yes, it is Tuesday. A hurricane watch is in effect. While dry and comfortable at my desk, the new member of my family, a dog Lilli whom I am in the process of adopting, is less comfy. She whines and paces with the noise of driving rain. These moments help us to imagine what it might have been like in the storms at sea.

Today in the Gospel , a continuation from last week, Jesus sends his disciples off in a boat and then dismisses the crowds. Perhaps he wanted the crowds to see him send them off alone onto the Sea of Galilee? Then when alone, he goes up the mountain to pray.

My Dear Family:

In week 4 of our message series on discipleship and the kingdom, the parables are done (for now.) I hope you have taken one or two deeply to heart so that you can carry one with you and ponder it, deepening the sense of the Kingdom of Heaven in your own heart and life. Now it is time to put some of those lessons into practice.

We find the disciples and Jesus surrounded by the crowds. Despite Jesus’ desire to find some alone time and mourn the death of his cousin John the Baptist, he has healed and taught the crowds. It has been a long day. It reminds me of the times growing up when both of my parents worked. The kids were in school and then at sports. We were all coming home in the evening after a full day but it was my mother’s responsibility to make dinner. That was just the way it was.

Dear Parish Family,

This is week 3 of our message series: Discipleship and the Kingdom. We are meditating on the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew’s Gospel (chapters 13 & 14) and asking ourselves what it means to be a disciple. Today, three more parables about the kingdom, each of which shines like a facet of a diamond on one aspect of this beautiful and complex reality.

Parables are drawn from common life. The examples should not seem far-fetched. Our three parables involve a farmer, a merchant and a fisherman: three common trades of the day. And while buried treasure discovered in a field may seem the fanciful tale of pirates, during Jesus’ day many fields were rented, and many people buried their valuables before times of war and uncertainty. The earth was the original safety deposit box! So the treasure, the pearl and the dragnet really speak from the reality of common life. I hope these images can resonate with us so many centuries later. These familiar situations help us to see that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, close, in our midst. The gift of faith, seeing reality with the eyes of Jesus, helps us to recognize the beauty of the Kingdom right here in Maple Shade. Jesus, help us to see your beauty in our common life.

My Parish Family,

Last week we began a Message Series focused on Discipleship and the Kingdom. And although we pray “Thy Kingdom Come!” it seems we do not often think about our Christian reality as the advancing of a kingdom. Likewise, we are less likely to think of ourselves as disciples. Sure, we are Christians; we are Catholics...but disciples? It sounds so intense.

A new era unfolds in our parish life together, characterized by the question of discipleship. Our central question over the course of the next few years will be: how are we growing as disciples? Our whole community will be encouraged to answer that question. The follow up question is: how can I help others to grow as disciples?

A disciple is one who follows. The pharisees, John the Baptist and Jesus all had disciples - those who strove to follow their teachings and to imitate their way of life. Paul challenges boldly, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ!” (1 Cor 11:1). Discipleship is a whole way of life rather than a casual thing. During the COVID19 pandemic we may be able to “see” this more lucidly.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last month, Corpus Christi - the Feast of the Body and the Blood of our Lord - marked the beginning of public Masses and of our Message Series on the Sacraments. Having been without the Sacraments for a long stretch, it was fitting to dwell on the beauty and power of the Sacraments as we began to journey together again. Reception not only of the holy Eucharist, but reconciliation, baptisms, confirmation and anointings had almost completely ceased. Knowing how powerful the Sacraments are in the life of the Church, for a spiritual father it was torture to deprive our people of these divine aids.

For the next five weeks, our readings center around the  Gospel of Matthew chapters 13 & 14, as well as Paul to the  Romans 8 & 9. It would be valuable to make those texts part of our spiritual reading and meditation. This section of Matthew unfolds 8 parables about the Kingdom. So for the next five weeks, our Message Series will focus on the Kingdom and our role as disciples in it. We might ask the question: how are we making fruitful use of the beauty and graces of the Sacraments?

Dear OLPH,

Last week, we celebrated our patroness, Mother Mary, 101 years under her title as Our Lady of Perpetual Help. This weekend we celebrate our Independence Day, 244 years ago, liberated from foreign rule and then committed to rule ourselves… which has not proven an easy task. Just across the river in Philadelphia, delegates from the thirteen original colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I have always loved the sound of that trifecta; it just rolls off the tongue.

And these first representatives agreed, or at least acquiesced, that as far as allocating representation by population in this new republic, a black man would be counted as ⅗ of a white man. Black men could only vote when the 15th amendment finally passed in 1870, although in practice some regions discouraged it. Worse still, the cause for women’s suffrage arced along a much longer trajectory and would not arrive nation-wide until the 19th amendment in 1920. It has been a long road fighting for that liberty Jefferson penned so eloquently. These past months offer clear evidence that we’ve got room for improvement when it comes to race, but also when it comes to freedoms.

Dear Parish Family,

Happy Feast Day! There are many titles for our Lady. 101 years ago the Catholics of this parish chose to place themselves under Mary’s loving protection with her title as: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also sometimes called Mother of Perpetual Help. The image depicts Mary cradling baby Jesus while one sandal falls from his foot. On either side of the pair, a pair of angels show the young Lord the instruments of torture and crucifixion by which He shall make his end, and for all of us, a new beginning in grace. The original can be found in Rome in the Church of Saint Alphonsus Liguori.

I have shared with you about my first encounter with the image. As a deacon in 2008, Fr. Sig and I travelled to Rome. He had been there more than 15 times and took me around. We visited church after church absorbing a bit of the magic and the mystery that makes Rome such a special place. I didn't know she was going to be there before going in. After praying before the sacred image, I bought a poster and had it framed. Presently, she hangs in my dining room, inspiring and comforting me. Over these past two years, I have been happy and privileged to be your pastor.