Weekly Clergy Devotions

 

 

By now you’ve likely heard me say that within the Bible there are 365 verses, one for every day of the year, which tell us to, “be not afraid.”  This alone tells us how important it is for us not to be afraid, even though it seems there’s more to worry us than ever before!  The repetition of this message 365 times says just how deeply God cares for us, how keenly aware he is of the threats that fear can impose on us, how he wants to spare us from all fear, worry, and senseless anxiety which can rob us of both our happiness and our unique purpose in life, no matter what may happen around us.

Although not as clearly noticeable as the 365 verses directly telling us, “be not afraid,” God is once-again giving us the same message in this Sunday’s gospel, the parable of the seeds: “Be not afraid.”

The fate of the seeds which do not bear fruit represent the various fears which can become the excuses preventing us from fulfilling all our particular vocations, yet most especially our universal vocation to be Christ’s disciple: 

  The seed that, “the evil one comes and steals away:” Will we fear we going to forget that we have been enriched by Word and Sacrament each Sunday as the stresses of life tempt us to making the wrong decisions?

  “The seed sown on rocky ground:” Will we fear that we will be rejected by others (whether family, friends, or society) if we do not make compromises on our faith, our Catholic moral teachings which seek to spare us of unhappiness?

  “The seed sown among thorns:” Will we fear that if we don’t compartmentalize and hold people or things higher than God as the greatest good we will lose them?

Jesus loves us so much that he desires us to always live in freedom from all fear. Jesus wants us to savor the joy of the gospel in our daily lives. Jesus wants to entrust us with making others aware of the joy and fulfillment they are meant to have—so we can all produce 100- or 60- or 30-fold with our daily lives!  “Be not afraid!”

 Fr. Martin Dunne III

 

 

14th Sunday Ordinary Time

At the end of today’s gospel, Jesus states that his “yoke is easy, and my burden light.”In contemplating this analogy to be “yoked” with Jesus is to be beside him, to be facing the same direction in which he is facing and looking at what Jesus is looking at.Jesus speaks of God the Father at the beginning of this reading and that no one knows the Father except the son and anyone who the son wishes to reveal him to.So to be yoked with Jesus is to have our focus on the Father, which is what Jesus consistently would have us do.The reason for this is our attention should be on our Creator, the one who loves us into existence for the sole purpose of having us return that love back to him for eternity in the heavenly kingdom. This indeed, if we choose to believe it, is a very light burden, in fact it should be the joy of our lives if we take this seriously.Each and every one of us should, happily stand shoulder to shoulder with Jesus, bearing the burden of detachment from the things of this life and happily embracing the eternal gift offered to us for our eternal joy!

Deacon Bill Watzek

Welcome!

Welcome shown especially to God present in God’s representatives and also in one another. The Gospel reading for today, Jesus tells His apostles, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me”. In other words, those who show hospitality to the apostles are being hospitable to Jesus Himself. And, in welcoming Jesus, they welcome the heavenly Father who sent Him. But that’s not all. We’re also told that this hospitality shown to God attracts a reward, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.”

Indeed, the first reading gives us a beneficial illustration of what all this looks like. The Shunamite woman welcomes the prophet, Elisha, precisely because he is a prophet, a man of God. She quite literally makes room for him in her house. As a result, she receives a reward and a great blessing.

Dear brothers and sisters, I remember how important it is to be humble, so I want to acknowledge all of you for enriching me. For the last four years, you have made me feel at home here in this wonderful and vibrant parish, and you were so good to me. If I hurt anyone in any way, please forgive me. Thank you all for your many prayers, love, and support. Indeed, each of you will receive a great reward and abundant blessings from our Heavenly Father.

Please do not forget to pray for me, because your faith is precious and beautiful, and I will keep you in my prayers. Thank you very much for everything, and may God bless you and protect you.

Fr. Dominic Toan Tran

 

Although we are not yet halfway through 2020, all of the bad news may have made this year feel like it’s lasted forever!
Venerable Fulton Sheen acknowledged that when we are in difficult or painful times it feels like the pain is completely pervasive.Yet today’s readings remind us of the power of keeping our perspective!

This powerful perspective is evident today in at least a few levels.The first reading reminds us that when God is with us it doesn’t matter that everyone else seems to be against us!We realize that we have someone better than everyone combined, someone who loves each of us more than anyone else ever could, someone who loved us into existence for some very special purposes, and so much more!And Jesus reminds us that, sooner or later, everyone will realize that God is the best and truest friend anyone could ever have, such that any attacks for our faith will become meaningless by comparison.

The 2nd perspective is available through the 2nd reading.When we realize that God already did the greatest gesture of love by reconciling us to himself, we can keep the perspective that God can clean-up this mess we find the world in right now.As many terrible things have, or are, happening, we believe that things can turn around instantly if all recognized the damage of any sin and accepted the love and mercy of God.

As if this wasn’t great enough, the gospel offers the perspective of eternity.Some years, like 2020, may be more filled with challenges than others, but even one hundred years will be less than a speck when compared to eternity!This life also has it’s blessings, but those blessings are always meant to be in the perspective of our invitation to spend all eternity with God and our loved ones forever and ever!

We may have entered “Ordinary Time” but these are just some reminders of the reality that each day contains extraordinary opportunities when we keep our perspective of God’s love.When we do, we’ll help others realize the same perspective!

Fr. Martin Dunne III

God Loves All of Us, and That Will Never Change

A Greek philosopher, Heraclitus once said, “No one ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.” Indeed, he meant everything is continuously changing. Life is always changing and everything, whether good or bad, will eventually come to an end. I believe nothing in this life remains the same; only God is unchanging. As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the gospel tells us that God loves us so much that He gave us His only Son, and He promised to be with us at all times.

The same is true in the parish; from time to time, a new parochial vicar is appointed, and the parishioners adapt to the new spiritual leader of the community. In July of 2016, I was fortunate enough to be appointed as a new parochial vicar of this great parish, St. Joan of Arc. I fell in love with this parish immediately because of your love, prayers, and support. I could see from the start that you are all strong in faith and in your desire to serve God and one another.

As I end my tenure here at St. Joan of Arc, I ask that you please pray for me and embark on a new assignment at St. John the Evangelist, and I promise that I will keep you close to heart in prayer. Let’s also pray that the Most Holy Trinity touch the heart of many young men and women and respond to the call to priesthood and religious life.

Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to thank you all for your prayers, love, and support over the years and your understanding. It is hard to leave you, but change is inevitable, and all of us have to adjust to it. Just remember what I said again and again, “God loves all of us, and that will never change.”

Fr. Dominic Toan Tran

On May 30th, at our very first “public” Sunday liturgy since the lock-down began, we will be welcoming our newest members of the Church in the Sacraments of Initiation (which they would have received at the Easter Vigil).Their patience and very hard work have been the latest reminder for me of this general trend:Catholics initiated as adults are more dedicated than “Cradle Catholics” baptized as infants!

I cannot emphasize enough that some of the very best people I will ever know were baptized as infants. However, it seems that, at least percentage-wise, far more adult-initiated Catholics are more active, knowledgeable, dedicated, zealous, hard-working, and enthusiastic than many of their “cradle” counterparts.I can only speak for myself, but I simply let this reality remind me to become more active, knowledgeable, dedicated, zealous, hard-working, and enthusiastic in our precious faith!

I cannot thank them enough for providing that reminder and motivation.However, I hope that all of us, regardless of when we became Catholic Christians, always recognize there’s more to learn and more to be done (especially as things reopen).Yet, as if that was not good enough motivation, there is my awareness that the more knowledgeable and engaged we become with the infinite riches and knowledge of our faith and sacraments, the more joy-filled we will all become!

Fr. Martin Dunne III

 

We Have a Reason for Hope.

On this sixth Sunday of Easter, in the second reading, St. Peter tells each of us that, “Be-loved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” St. Peter was a buffoon who tried to walk on water but he nearly drowned because he lost faith. He denied the Lord three times but he wanted to be better. He wanted to follow and serve the Lord. Indeed, through God’s grace, he conquered his fears; he controlled his emotions, and become the first Vicar
of Christ.

So dear brothers and sisters, today’s readings speak about hope and joy. We have a reason for hope and that reason is Jesus Christ. There is the joy that new Christians in Samaria had after St. Philip baptized them. There is the joy that St. Peter tells us is the reason for our hope. There is the joy that Jesus says comes from the Love of the Father. Indeed, there is the reason for joy that our church will reopen on this Monday for prayer, and we will gather together again as a family and community of faith to pray and thank God on the following Monday. God loves us more than we can possibly imagine and he is overjoyed seeing each one of us trying to be the best people we can be. He will always be the source of our joy and hope.

Fr. Dominic Toan Tran

 

In today’s gospel Jesus directly tells us once again, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”(John 14:1).I truly believe we need these words to sink-in more than ever before!Something that’s troubled my heart lately, far more than the virus, has been the responses of many to the virus (at virtually every level; don’t get me wrong, I truly believe many are acting with the best intentions and the greatest efforts, but others, honestly, have left me questioning if their true motivation is the welfare of others!)

Yes, things are scary.Things are uncertain.Seemingly how our lives may be changed in the long-term is yet to be determined.Yetsomethings will never, ever change, and we need to rest in these, and every truth of God’s love, so that we will always respond the way we were meant to respond.Just SOME examples:

•God created absolutely everything with every person in mind, but, somehow, he created it all as if you were the only person that would ever be!((Gen 1:1-2:25)

•God chose you for some very special plans meant for nobody else in all time! (Gen 12:1-2, & 21:1-6)

•God always had absolute knowledge of everything in-part because He is everywhere.He is with you now, and at every moment!He loves you now and at every moment!His love is the greatest power of all (Exo 14:21-22)!

•Even when the times were bad, and even when His people were bad, God continued to offer them chance after chance to accept His love. He always hopes you accept His love at every moment.(Isa 6:1-8)

Nothing else matters by comparison.We are most ourselves when we best love the way we are meant to love.

Fr. Martin Dunne III

 

In the Gospel today we hear something a bit different from Jesus, who describes himself not as the shepherd as we usually hear him described but rather as the gate through which the sheep has to enter. The concept of Jesus as the portal through which the sheep have to enter to be saved is directly related to the saving work that he did through his death and resurrection. Through this saving act Jesus opened the gates of Heaven for us so that we, even though we are not worthy, have been given the gift of eternal life with our Creator and Redeemer. Jesus is not only the Good Shepherd who guides us to eternal life, he is also the very portal that is our only way to our salvation.

Deacon Bill Watzek

          Something that’s come up more-frequently in my ministry, which the recent unprecedented circumstances have certainly exasperated, is we only have so much time.  I was reflecting on this even before I was notified today of the passing of a close family member to the ravages COVID which has, directly and indirectly, made all of our lives so miserable in virtually every conceivable way—and likely will for a while to come.  [I had not seen this family member since very early February, so I’m confident I haven’t caught or spread it]. If you have lost loved ones recently I offer my prayers and sympathy.  Yet Jesus Himself warned us multiple times before in multiple ways; we simply don’t know if we will have tomorrow (Luke 12:16, Luke 16:31, for just a couple of the sobering examples which quickly came to mind).

            But as painful as this realization is, I believe it could be the biggest-ever, “blessing in disguise!”  Now and for the rest of your life, please live today as if today is all you have.  This relates to perhaps the single-biggest pivot of my life around 2005: when I finally realized with my heart and head not to “put off to tomorrow what I can
do today.”

            Our world will return to normal (it must) … and hopefully soon!   But starting today, with the likelihood you have more, “down time” than you have ever had before, please reflect, and plan, on pursuing, and achieving, your greatest purpose for you—God’s ultimate vocation for your life!  Reconcile—Pray—Research—Converse (with God and others)—Discern—Act—Don’t look back!  If you’re meant to pursue a career or a particular job or ministry, pursue it as much as you can now!  If you’re meant to become a priest or religious, begin the application process for the seminary or monastery now!  If you are meant to be married and create a family, do everything possible to get that ball rolling now!  Please! 

            In the meantime, at every moment strive to live your discipleship as much as you can now in as many ways you can towards the people you are meant to love—today!

Fr. Martin Dunne III 

 

No Pandemic Can Destroy Easter Joy!

Dear brothers and sisters, the restrictions on social distance prevent us from celebrating Easter in the Church as one family. However, we still proclaim with our lives, our joy in the renewal of the world, THE LORD IS RISEN, THE LORD IS TRULY RISEN! ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA. Many are suffering from the novel coronavirus, and we keep them all in our prayers. Indeed, no one is suffering from the loss of our Easter Joy and no pandemic can destroy Easter Joy from us.

We as Christian people have as our happiness the hope of eternal life. Easter is the celebration of HOPE. Our HOPE is that we will share in the fullness of the New Life Jesus won for each one of us through His suffering, death on the Cross and Resurrection. It is our HOPE in Christ that helps us endure challenges like the novel coronavirus pandemic. Christ was raised so we can share His New Life. We need to grasp on to our Faith with both hands. Only our Faith brings sanity, meaning, and purpose to our lives. The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought us sickness, distress, fear, anguish and death, turmoil, unemployment, and all sorts of other crisis into our lives. However, our faith gets us through because despite the suffering we have happiness in HOPE. Indeed, no one and no situation, anguish, distress, or pandemic, or no matter how terrible can separate us from the love of Christ or take His Presence from us.

So dear brothers and sisters, may the life of the Risen Lord flow throughout our veins and our entire bodies, so we can shout out with Faith, Hope, and Love: The Lord is Risen, He is truly Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia and Alleluia.

Fr. Dominic Toan Tran

 

WISHING YOU AND YOUR FAMILY A BLESSED EASTER

It seems the news on the Coronavirus gets worse by the day.  It seems to have negatively impacted virtually every aspect of our lives.  Yet the 1st Reading (EZ 37:12-14) beautifully reminds us that no matter how bad or scary things may get, we need to keep our perspective.

  In the first reading we are not only told about our future resurrection, we are promised it!  We even say that, “we look forward to” the resurrection every single Sunday.  Things may have gotten worse in many ways since this new decade began, but we need to keep our perspective that this life is virtually nothing compared to our eternal destiny.

We are reminded of this destiny not only to keep our hopes up through the hard times and, often, unpredictable challenges, we are also reminded so that we can begin living our destiny today—to show that we recognize that, with all its joys and sorrows, life does not end here; to free ourselves of anything that is keeping us from that realization in any slight way.

  First and foremost, to make sure anxiety does not make things unnecessarily worse.  We are called to be concerned, not anxious—to do all we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  During this unexpected and unprecedented circumstance we have gone from struggling to get everything done in an nearly-overwhelming frenzy of activity to being mostly confined to our homes with most (if not all) of our schedules cleared.  While it’s not our choosing, it is our opportunity to look at our closet relationships and to reconcile, to restore them, to get to know each other better, to enhance our relationships. 

 While I’m absolutely referring to immediate family, I am also referring to our relationship with God.  Please take this opportunity to spend more time in prayer, spiritual reflection, and reading the Bible and other spiritual books—individually and as a family.  I promise that, ultimately, great things will come of it!

Although it may not feel like it at all right now, the many woes surrounding Coronavirus will pass.  By striving, in the meantime and always, to give that same love which Jesus has already given us, we show that we are keeping the perspective of our eternal destiny today!

Fr. Martin Dunne III

 

4th Sunday of Lent

In our reading from the first Book of Samuel we have the story of the Lord choosing David to be the next King of Israel and the sending of Samuel to anoint him as such.  Samuel, not knowing which of the sons of Jesse God had chosen and looking on the first son, Eliab, he thought that he had his man due to his “appearance” and being “lofty in stature.”  The Lord, however,
informed Samuel that the outward appearance is not to be trusted and that “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”  The truth of this is very apparent to us in that we often judge people, either rightly or wrongly, by outside appearances, while God, who knows us more intimately than we know ourselves, sees our whole being including our thoughts and motivations.  This can be a very frightening revelation if we do not take into account the overflowing mercy of God and the fact that our salvation comes directly from Him through the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  Thus, even though God sees us as we truly are, creatures who fall into sin, He still loves us with the love of a Father and is always there for us to turn to even in our worst of times.  So as we proceed with our Lenten practices there is still time to turn to our Lord and seek His forgiveness for the times that we have failed to do His will in the knowledge of His generous and certain love.                               

Deacon Bill Watzek

 

Called Out of Our Comfort Zone!

Do you like interruptions? Let’s say you’re relaxing on the couch in your home. Maybe you’re watching the game on TV. Then you hear a voice, a very insistent voice, calling to you from the kitchen. It’s dinnertime, your mother, or your spouse, wants you to help set the table. In any case, your peace is disturbed, and your relaxation is interrupted. How do you feel? What will it take to get you off your couch? 

I imagine that the people in our readings today had to struggle with similar questions. Of course, it’s unlikely that Abram and Jesus and his disciples ever relaxed in couches exactly like the ones we find in our homes. Nevertheless, it’s quite clear that each of them was called to leave a place of comfort, and to embark on an uncertain, even dangerous journey. 

In the first reading we meet Abram, he is living in a place called Haran. This is where Abram’s father, Terah, had settled with his family many years ago. And now, Abram is already seventy-five years old. He has gathered many possessions and a large household. Haran is like a pleasant couch into which he and his family have settled, and they are comfortable here. Then, suddenly, a voice disturbs their peace. Indeed, this is no ordinary voice. It is God, calling Abram to uproot his family, to leave the comfort of Haran, and to go on a journey, where? God will not say. We can imagine what it must have been like for Abram to receive this call. 

In the Gospel reading, we find Jesus and the three disciples resting in a comfortable place. Their couch is not Haran, but the mountain of transfiguration. Indeed, below the mountain, there are lots of people waiting to disturb them, begging to be healed of diseases, and things are messy and noisy. But up here, on the mountaintop, there is peace, and there’s even an intense experience of the glory of God. Is it any wonder then that Peter wishes to remain on the mountain? “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 

My dear brothers and sisters, we too are called to leave our comfy couches and to follow in the footsteps of Christ. And our couches are as many as they are addictive. But the least we can do, especially in this season of Lent, is to allow God to teach us the same lesson that Abram learned: That if we choose to cling to our comfort, not only will we cause others to suffer, but our lives will remain self-centered and barren. So what will it take to get us off our comfort zone today?

Fr. Dominic Toan Tran

 

The 1st Reading reminds us that the call to follow God has always, and often called for radical steps to be taken, as Abram left his family, his homeland, everything he had ever known to follow God’s will! 

God’s will is truly the very best path anyone can take for their lives, as God’s will is the very purpose of our existence. However, it does not take much to imagine people close to us being disapproving, or even rejecting, of us for our decision. They may think we’re wasting our lives, making a horrible mistake, depriving ourselves, causing scandal, creating bad perceptions, even hurting others. Yet if it is God’s will (and we believe it to be such) how can it be anything but the very best path? We can do our best to explain why we believe God’s will is the best path (and God’s will is the path the results in the greatest internal peace). Even if no one else understands we still have to pursue God’s will. Otherwise we are shortchanging many who would have benefit from our decision, especially ourselves. 

This Lent is the perfect season to take stock of whether we are totally, un-hesitantly, embracing God’s plans in every way, especially insuring that we are not allowing anything, or anyone to be an excuse for us not to pursue them. Part of the trust in taking God’s will as our own is believing that, even if there is short- and/or long-term rejection, we are the ones who will benefit the most for the radical display of trust. 

Yet it is so critically important to remember that taking the radical steps to fulfill God’s will is, ultimately, the most rewarding path. Just as Abram began a great people, a great source of blessing (ultimately leading to Jesus), our, “yes” to God’s plans will yield great fruits for our lives. We only need to respond as Abram did, in trust that God will not only bring us such fruits, but will also guide us every step of the way.

Fr. Martin Dunne III

 

1st Sunday of Lent 

In our gospel reading at the outset of Lent Jesus goes out into the desert and is tempted by the Devil.  Lent itself has also been
described as a desert experience.  We enter Lent with a day of fasting and abstinence, we are called to be people of charity, prayer and repentance during our Lenten experience.  Just as Jesus was tempted by the Devil we will be tempted during our Lent to not be as rigorous in our prayer life as we should be, to be lax in our generosity to others and to break our Lenten promises to God.

So as we proceed through our journey this Lenten season let us remember to be conscience of our duty to our God.  As members of the body of Christ we are called to do our part, to turn away from sin and truly believe in the Gospel, that Good News which binds us together and gives us mission.  So let our mission be to remain faithful to our Lenten practices and come to Holy Week ready to share in the suffering death and glorious resurrection of our saving lord and God.

Deacon Bill Watzek

 

Let us Allow God to Touch us and Make us Holy 

Dear brothers and sisters, I am going to ask you a few questions. How many of you think that you are perfect? How many of you think you are holy? And this question is for couples: How many of you think that your spouse or partner is holy? This question is for children: How many of you think that your parents are holy? Are they perfect? And here is the last question. What makes somebody holy and what do I expect to see in a holy person?

In the first reading, God says to Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” In other words, holiness is an invitation from God. In the second reading, the call to holiness comes in a more convincing question, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” In the gospel reading, Jesus, continuing with the Sermon on the Mount, says to His disciples: “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In all these passages, holiness is not presented as an option. It is proposed as the very goal of each one of us as a Christian discipleship.

As we grow further in our spiritual life we need to recognize that holiness is more than just about morning and evening prayer and avoiding wrongdoing. The way scripture talks about holiness, it also means actively pursuing that which is true, just, and good. Holiness and perfection are about the character we develop and the kind of persons we become.

As we are approaching Lenten reason in a couple days, let us allow God to touch us and make us holy. As we do so, let us be aware of the presence of God within us. And may our own sanctity lead us to share our holiness with others. May this Eucharist give us the grace to strive for holiness and perfection by breaking the cycle of hatred, revenge and whining. 

Fr. Dominic Toan Tran

 

The 2nd Reading seems insignificant, maybe even irrelevant: it is Paul’s greeting to the Church community of Corinth in his first letter to them (and all biblical scholars agree that this was one of the letters Paul definitively authored!).  Yet there is more significance than even that!  There are many similarities between Corinth and our country today.  

Ancient Corinth was considered one of the most advanced, diverse populations in the ancient world, but there were, understandably, great divisions as a result of the sharp differences such that some thought themselves superior to others.  Compounding everything was a cultural immorality which was comparable to Las Vegas’ main street.  Yet Paul saw their potential because of the things the Church community got right, and he believed this potential could be their springboard to fine-tuning, and thus enriching, our faith.  

Paul’s messages in this letter are more relevant than ever:  the reminder of initiation into God’s elect by baptism, the power of the Eucharist to keep the participation in Christ alive, the pre-eminence of love, the gift of the spirit offered to all (which reminds us that we are equally God’s children called to the same salvation), and the reality that true love destroys hierarchies of status are just some of the many timeless lessons contained—lessons we must remember so we do not get swept away from the darker influences of society (such as from much of the media) which frequently seek to tear us down.

Now, as then, the purpose of Paul’s letter is to encourage all to focus on the good and our God-given potential to be better!  No matter how far-off someone may seem, I believe that there is at least (& often more than) a grain of good in everyone—a good that is meant to develop into a greatness such that there is simply no more room for the bad!

Fr. Martin Dunne III

 

5th Sunday Ordinary Time

The salt of the earth and the light of the world, these are what Jesus compares his followers with.  Salt was used as a preservative as well as flavoring in the time of Jesus. So Jesus is telling us to preserve the human condition and to flavor it with the graces that he sends us.  We are also to be the light to the world, reflecting the Holy Light of God that shines on His loved ones to share with the world the path out of the darkness of sin into the brilliance of the love of God.  So let us all do our jobs and be that salt and that light so we may share the love of God with all we meet!

Deacon Bill Watzek

 

We adore and worship Christ our light and our salvation!

We are making a retreat back to the Christmas season. February 2nd is the Feast of the Presentation of Lord in the Temple, and this year February 2nd happens to fall on a Sunday. So here we are once again back to the childhood of Jesus, when just last week we heard about the call of the disciples.

I would like to approach the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple as an extension of the feast of the Epiphany. The difference between the two feasts is that whereas at the Epiphany Jesus is manifested to the whole world, at his presentation in the temple, he is manifested to his own people. Simeon’s prophecy in today’s gospel foretells what Christ will accomplish for Israel as a nation. Simeon’s prophecies suggest that Jesus will be glory to the people Israel, and that he will be responsible for the rise and fall of many in Israel. Simeon also has a very different prophecy for Mary as opposed to what the angel has told her at the annunciation. He says to her, “and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Anna, the prophetess also focuses on the internal ministry of Jesus. She “spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” 

So dear brothers and sisters, in today’s gospel reading Simeon and Anna prophesy that Jesus would be light and salvation for Israel. It is in this context that I also would like to talk about evangelization. Evangelization means that believers today can bring the light and the good news of salvation to those around us. The most important thing to understand about evangelization is that not something we do. Evangelization calls for our life, our families, and our parishes to have Christ at the center. When Christ is truly at the center of our life then evangelization becomes a byproduct of who we are rather than something we do. May this Eucharist, in which we adore and worship Christ our light and our salvation, help us individually and as a family, to become light and bearers of the good news of salvation. 

Fr. Dominic Toan Tran

 

In the 2nd Reading Paul humorously, but genuinely, pleads that there be no divisions among us. It’s not the only time he does this in his letter (not counting the untold number of letters that are, “lost”). I’m convinced more than ever that this is the biggest challenge we face in discipleship. Yet with God’s help we can even overcome this!

The most poignant reminder I received about this need for no divisions among us was at college seminary. Aside from being Catholic males discerning the call the priesthood, we were literally as different as could be—and that would constantly be a source of frustration when you live under the same small roof for months on-end 7 days each week! But our rector reminded us we are never meant to even say anything harmful about the other—because each of us, through our baptism, are not only equals but one through our baptism into the Body of Christ! We still got under each other’s skin all the time but remembering that did make things easier!

I feel that is the key to overcoming our divisions (however small or insignificant they may seem)…there can’t be any divisions, because even if the other isn’t yet baptized they still have that calling to be one through Baptism. In a very real sense, if we cause divisions between ourselves and anyone else, however small, we are harming ourselves; we are harming the Body of Christ. Now why would we want to do that? 

Fr. Martin Dunne III

 

2nd Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A

How does one get to know someone else? Often it begins with an introduction.  In our Gospel today John the Baptist is introducing Jesus to some of his own disciples.  He introduces him not as one is usually introduced but in a very interesting way.  He says “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  This is surely some introduction!  The disciples must have been somewhat impressed and also somewhat confused about what this meant.  We on the other hand know the rest of the story so we are not as confounded as the students of John must have been.  The question now remains, now that we have been introduced to Jesus and pretty much know who he was and what he did for us, how are we responding to him?  Is he a force in our lives and the way that we live or is he just an hour out of our week because we were taught to go to church on Sunday.  At the beginning of this new liturgical year is a good time to come to know who Jesus is and allow him to have some affect in our lives.  Listen to the Gospels throughout the year, study the Bible a bit and allow Christ to come into your heart.  This is a great opportunity to get to know your savior.

Deacon Bill Watzek

 

Our Baptism Is An Act of Submission!

Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to approach the baptism of Jesus from the perspective of submission. The idea that Jesus should be baptized is a rather awkward thought. The question will arise in our mind: If Jesus was without sin, if Jesus was the Redeemer rather than standing in need of redemption, why should he submit himself to the Baptist? As in the Gospel reading today, John the Baptist even protested saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” And also the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that at Jesus Baptism, “he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins” (CCC#536). Indeed, at Christmas, Jesus chose to dwell among us by becoming one of us, and today at his baptism, Jesus chose to take his stand beside us. He was baptized not because he needed to be baptized but rather by his submission he was bringing all of humanity to God. That is why Jesus says, “Allow it for now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill righteousness.”

So we must reflect on our own baptism as an act of submission. As baptized Christians and as disciples we must understand the power of sub-mission not so that we might be misused but rather, that our submission may unite us with Christ. Our baptism must be lived out in our submission to God in the same way Jesus did. Our submission to God must lead us to be empowered and affirmed in our identity as children of God, and in our mission as disciples. Every time we gather at the table of the Lord, we see the power of submission at every Eucharist. Jesus submits himself to us in the bread and wine. And we are invited to submit ourselves to the power of Christ. 

Fr. Dominic Toan Tran