Weekly Clergy Devotions

 

The 2nd reading, as do all the Pauline letters, contains deep and powerful wisdom.For example, imagine how radically things would change if people truly accepted the reality he observes: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you[?]”In today’s reading Paul reminds us of this as a deterrent from sinning.While this is very true, and very powerful (I can’t imagine we could sin if we truly recognized the reality of God was with us each moment!), I see a far deeper meaning, a meaning echoed throughout Scripture, including directly from Jesus Himself![“…do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit.” (Mt 10:19-20)]

Please allow this simple message to sink-in more deeply.Because God is always with us, we can do far more amazing things than we could ever imagine.And the urgency to allow God to work amazing things through us has never been greater!People need to recognize God is the only source of the fulfillment they are longing to have.They need to realize the tremendous harm of seeking that fulfillment anywhere else.They need your joy, your courage, your conviction, and your faithfulness to make this happen!

Fr. Martin Dunne III

 

The Epiphany of the Lord B

Much like the magi we are also searchers of Christ.From our youth we are taught of this God come down to Earth as a man, being born to a virgin and raised by a carpenter.We would like to know everything we can about this person of a Trinitarian God who became one of his own creatures.In our searching for Christ we, just like the wise men are guided, not by a star but that third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.The Holy Spirit guides us, “in spirit and truth” to encounters with Jesus, through scripture, through our prayer life and especially through the sacraments.These encounters build one upon another enriching us in our lives bringing us closer and closer to the one that we seek, and then hopefully one day, will bring us to the final encounter with Christ in our heavenly home.

Deacon Bill Watzek

 

God Keeps His Promises

I once heard it said never to promise something without being certain of what you are going to deliver. Perhaps that statement from the human condition is true. Sometimes we promise people things that we never fulfill, because our wishes and aspirations are limited and conditioned. But with God, that does not happen since God always keeps his promises.

Today we are celebrating The Epiphany of the Lord, and I want to invite you to meditate in God’s promises as John indicates in his Gospel, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” John 3;16. Here our God overflows all his love to the universe, in this mystery of faith. He decides to come closer to us and become one of us revealing him to you and to me. The term Epiphany, comes from the Greek epiphaneia, meaning “manifestation” of God through Christ to the whole world it is symbolized by the Three Magi from the East. These three men represent ourselves, the people of God who have been waiting for the Kings of Kings, Jesus. So we as the Magi came to this sacred place, to give thanks to God for such a gift in the person of Christ, full God and full human.

Friends the message is an invitation to accept, to receive and to love our God in this new year more than ever.This is a universal call to the ultimate truth. A truth that does not have any expiration day, because by him all the nations will be blessed. Let’s ask and approach our God of love for his compassion and mercy that this 2021 comes full of faith and hope to overcome the uncertainties we lived during the year of 2020.

I invite you to believe and trust again. We cannot live in despair. Therefore, let’s offer the best of our hearts as people of God to the King of the Universe, for two reasons: the first because God always keeps his promises and the second because God never rejects a contrite heart. A better resolution for the New Year than this could not exist.

Your friend and priest in Christ.

Fr. Robinson Aza

 

The Gospel on January 1st has one of the most beautiful verses in all Scripture: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:16). She was the closest witness to the greatest events of all time, from the Annunciation that she would become the Mother of God to the Resurrection following the Passion of her Son—and everything in-between!

There are two main reasons why I believe Mary kept all these things in her heart. First she recognized there was always, “more than meets the eye.” Too often we do not recognize the deeper meaning of words and experiences. Seemingly bad or neutral events are dismissed even though they were are actually good occasions (A gesture of “tough love” which brings about a life-saving conversion or the hundreds of seemingly-unnoticed gestures of love parents give in raising their children right are just some examples). Sometimes even obviously-good events may not be as deeply appreciated as they can be—and appreciation is the key to the second reason Mary chose to reflect on everything in her heart!

The profound, and often joyful, memories are largely meant to sustain us through all the other moments of life. We have heard several gospels in recent days on the events surrounding the Nativity of Christ, and they likely helped Mary through all the challenges she would face over the rest of her life. Sometimes the meanings behind our memories aren’t realized for years—but recognizing their value for getting through the challenging moments can be of priceless value! Please don’t hesitate in going into your reservoir of good memories, they can add great consolation and even joy to even the worst or most routine days!

Yet just as important as appreciating the memories is, please remember to appreciate the people behind the good memories! If these people are no longer with us in this life, we can show our appreciation by remembering them, thanking God for them, and honoring their inspiring legacy by living the best way we can. If they are still with us, we can show our appreciation for them by (still) thanking God for them and taking each and every opportunity to express our appreciation to them in both words and actions! Try to surprise them in sending unexpected note or extend some other gesture that they weren’t expecting. And as long as the appreciation is genuine, don’t worry about if you’re overdoing it—you can’t!

My favorite quote attributed to St. Therese of the Little Flower is, “memories are the roses in the winters of our lives.” Expressing our appreciation of those God placed in our lives is an expression of our appreciation to God for all their related memories. As you celebrate the New Year, what memories of the past will sustain you through the opportunities of the future?

Fr. Martin Dunne III

 

We Have a Special Guest.

My brothers and sisters perhaps many of us have had the opportunity to celebrate a special occasion. For example: the birth of a baby, an anniversary, a graduation ceremony, a marriage etc. Or perhaps we are waiting for the visit of someone we love very much or maybe we have not seen them for a long time. Then we are filled with joy and begin to make some preparations, to receive that special guest, that special visit. Some of those preparations are making a list of those things that we should buy to prepare a delicious dinner. Then we look for the best recipe to please the guests. After that, we organize and clean the house to insure that everything looks perfect. So, when the day comes and the expected person is in your home, there is only one word that could describe that moment and that word is joy. Yes, joy because we are glad to have our special guest in our home.

Friends, when there is joy in our being, all kinds of anguish disappear. Keep this in mind because in a week, very soon, someone who is super special will visit us. That person is God. He wants to visit your home, your life and bring to you that joy that only he can give and no one can take it away from you. The question is: are you ready that the God of life dwells in your life? Know my friends that he does not want to spend just a season in you. He wants to dwell in your life and transform your whole being.

Now, speaking of preparations, this weekend’s readings tell us how to be prepared for the arrival of the Savior of the world. For example, in the first reading of Isaiah, he presents to us how the people of Israel were visited by the Lord, after his captivity, bringing them healing, liberation and restoration, peace in the midst of all anguish, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a rope of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.” In the Psalm we can see how Mary’s joy invades her whole being, “My soul proclaim the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians invites us to always be in prayer, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks”. Finally in the Gospel we are called to be light and testimony for many. John knew that he was not the light; he knew that the light of the world is Jesus, the Lamb of God.

My friends, that all the preparations in this coming Christmas are not just decorations and beautiful lights. May it be the love of Christ and the joy of acknowledging that He is who wants to dwell eternally in you. Let’s sayour response to this special guest, Jesus our Lord, could be like Mary’s response,” The Almighty has done great things for me.”

Also, let us prepare ourselves to joyfully welcome into our homes, our special guest Jesus, who is the light of the world and may the joy he brings us last in our lives; giving thanks to God in all circumstances.

Your friend and priest.
Fr. Robinson Aza

Today’s first reading mandates, “Comfort, give comfort to my people” (Is 40:1).But with weeks until Christmas it can seem that even thinking of comfort is absurd!If our lives weren’t already extremely busy, this time of the year (& what a year!) can seem even more overwhelming than any other.So many pressures which seem to make comfort all but impossible!

But this Advent season beautifully attempts to remind us that we are to be at peace as we remember the big picture—not only that Jesus already came as a baby two millennia ago to forever free us from sin, but that he will return one day to make everything right, to restore us all completely, to take away anything that causes pain and to bring us to ultimate and eternal fulfillment with him and our loved ones!Advent is our season dedicated to reminding ourselves of this reality.It may sound counterintuitive with this being “the busiest time of the year,” but our greatest & most important priority this Advent season is setting time aside.For random acts of charity towards those in need (for example as many of you have most-generously done for the Angel Tree), for (dare I say it?) periods of rest, for prayer, for silent reflection, and for conversation with God (which will help us to remember that although we have many responsibilities and expectations, they can never ever outweigh the reality that God remains with us every step of the way, will continue to give us what we need, and will continue to offer his infinite love to us).This is not a false comfort that attempts to avoid our responsibilities, but a true comfort which allows us to fulfill our responsibilities.

The more we can remember this the more we can keep our perspective.The more we keep our perspective the more we will stay calm in spite of the many demands on our time and external threats to our peace.The more we can calm down, the more we’ll feel an internal comfort that neither anything, nor anyone, can remove, a calm which will help us through all the extra (and “regular”) activities we have on our undeniably packed schedules.We will find a deeper comfort in many other places too: the embrace of a loved one, the beauty of our church, the excitement on a child’s face.And the greater comfort we feel, the more we will be able to (in spite of whatever little shopping time there is) enjoy the greatest blessings of Christmas—Our Savior, our loved ones, our calling to do what we can to remind others of the ultimate meaning of our existence—doing all we can in gratitude for all God’s given us—most especially the salvation won by Jesus Christ from his love for us!

Fr. Martin Dunne III

1st Sunday of Advent

As we enter the season of Advent we have a Gospel that tells us to “Be watchful! Be alert!”Be ready because “you do not know when the lord of the house is coming.”This passage has been often interpreted as referring to “the end times” the end of creation when Christ returns as he has promised.The question is did Jesus mean to have every generation that followed in fear that the fire will rain down from heaven to destroy them at any moment?It would make more sense that Jesus meant to give us an instruction, not to live in fear of the end of the world but that we should be personally, spiritually prepared for our own end time.

We all know that we will die, the problem is that we do not know when.If we neglect the state of our souls and do not have ourselves prepared for our eternal life we are not being watchful or alert.This life that God has so generously given us is meant to prepare us for the rest of our lives, after our death.We have a choice, we can use this time for fleeting earthly pleasures or we can mold our lives to the will of our Creator and enjoy eternity with Him as He desires.A great time to work on this conformation is the season of Advent.We can make this time, these 4 short weeks, a time of preparation.We can make time for prayer, regularly scheduled throughout the day, for time of reflection on our lives and what we can work at to bring ourselves closer to God’s plan for us and a time to avail ourselves to the Sacrament of Penance in order to set ourselves right with our generous and forgiving God.

So as we light the candles on our Advent wreaths let us be mindful to take God with us when we leave Church each week and stay prepared by walking with the Lord “all the days of our lives.”

Deacon Bill Watzek

 

ADVENT:Time of Preparation

My friends receive a cordial greeting from Jesus Christ our Lord. Today, I want to invite you to meditate about Advent. This is a time of preparation, a time where soon very soon, we are going to start a new liturgical year. During the Advent season, our God is still sending us his message of hope, love, joy and peace through his beloved Son. Let’s think and pray on this: Are we ready of receive Jesus in our home and heart? We must be aware that Jesus, will bring lots of gifts and blessings to you, to me and to us. Are you ready to offer something to him?

Probably, someone is thinking what to offer Jesus right now in the middle of this pandemic, where our unwanted friend Covid-19, has brought, hopelessness, sadness, uncertainties, death, sorrow, separation, and so on. As people of God, the invitation today is to not walk in sadness. We are invited to walk to Bethlehem; where the light of the world will come. Let’s open our hearts to him. Baby Jesus, our Lord and God, wants to dwell in you, in spite of our poverties. I truly believe that everybody has something to offer Jesus. Here are some examples: How about offering yourself, in the role that you are as parents, sons and daughters, students, workers, believers, etc. Offer the best of who you are to the Lord, because everyone has something to give and to receive. In this coming Advent season, the Church is extending the invitation to be ready to welcome our God of love, with faith, with joy and hope. There is no reason to falter.

During Advent let’s prepare our homes, our neighborhood, a disposition in our jobs and in our daily routine to and set place for Jesus. That is the meaning of Advent or “adventus” which means welcoming, coming and preparation. Yes, family of St. Joan of Arc, we are preparing and waiting for Christmas, to welcome Immanuel “God with us”.A God who was be born in poverty in a manger, who in his childhood was suffered persecution and who did not enjoy the comforts of a home. Maybe many of us are wishing for a lot gifts. But how about our Lord? What kind of gifts can we offer to please him? Friends, we could offer the commitment of listening more to his word and making it real in our lives. Also, we could offer a sincere conversion, offering to our beloved ones and outsiders a gesture of courtesy and compassion. Advent is the perfect time to come back to the family’s love, respecting each other’s in building bonds of brotherhood in our community of faith.

Finally, in this coming season of Advent let’s ask Mary, the blessed mother of God and our mother to take us away from the shadow of darkness and uncertainties. That through her interception, we could be close to the light of salvation Jesus Christ, who will come to dwell in us. Therefore let’s be agents and disciples of love, happiness, peace and hope for those who are close to us. We should love them as Jesus loved us. We have to believe and work so that the good times, will come back again. Not more sadness because of our past time.

My friends during the coming Advent season made hope reign in our homes. Remember that Jesus is with us; for those who fights and who wait in the Lord is not defeated. We are called to not let hope die in our homes, Church and hearts. Why? Because is the God of love who strengthens us.

Let us Pray: We thank you, heavenly father because you always hear our needs, send us your Holy Spirit and model our being to welcome your beloved Son. One day we could meet you face to face and be able to count on the Saints, Jesus, Joseph and Mary. Amen.

Your friend and priest in Christ.

Fr. Robinson Aza

Today’s first reading, from the Book of Proverbs written in the poetic language from an era around 3,000 years ago, exclaims the priceless treasure of a “worthy wife.”Although we may use different words today, it acknowledges the beautiful, timeless, and often-taken-for-granted, truth that certain individuals are placed into our lives by God to play a key role in our journey into heaven, that they are a treasure (Sirach 6:14).For those called to marriage, this role is most primarily fulfilled as spouse to the person God intended them to journey through life with, but from the beginning God intended that no person go through the journey of life alone, in isolation, as even Jesus had several close companions (such as Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Peter, James, and the Beloved Disciple John just to name a few).These are good reminders to counter a world that seems to encourage growing isolation behind the very limited sanctuary of various devices.

I never forgot what both parents frequently told me as a child: “choosing good friends helps you to become a good person.”Some of my most profound life experiences, through the day before writing this, show that their words, along with the words of today’s 1st Reading, are accurate in noting that the ideal friend, among other traits, brings good into one’s life, works with loving hands, and extends their arms to the needy.These individuals have repeatedly amazed me and filled me with unimaginable joy through the examples of their own lives, with their unconditional love, their thoughtfulness, their patience, their generosity, their perseverance through their own challenges, their courage to tell me what I need (not necessarily always want) to hear because of their love for me and their desire for me to be my very best, their companionship, their joy, their ability to heal me in ways no one else could, and their enthusiastic encouragement for me to be myself—the be the unique person God created me to be by striving to be my best.For example, they are my proof that we can participate in the love of God because the more they love, the more they are able to love, and the richer that experience of true Christian love.All of this and more has inspired me daily to strive to become more worthy of them by becoming a better person—out of both my love of God and my love of them!

Having those special people in your life is one of the greatest gifts God offers to each of us on this side of heaven. They offer glimpses of heaven, and they lead us to heaven as we strive to do all we can to help them towards heaven!I want to take the opportunity this Thanksgiving Week to express my indescribable gratitude to them (you know who you are!).I also express my thanks to God several times a day for these individuals who have helped me to become more the person God created me to be—and I look forward to expressing my gratitude to them for them and many others through the daily example of my life!

Fr. Martin Dunne III

We Are Called to Holiness – Be A Saint… Why Not?

Probably many have wondered: What does a saint look like? What have they done? Or how did they reach their holiness? Can every person be a saint?

Let me tell you that a Saint is not a being from another planet. No! A Saint (canonized) was first a human being of flesh and blood, like you, like me. A human being who laughed, who cried, who had good and difficult moments; challenges and dreams, friends and enemies, etc. But above all, he or she was a being who dedicated his or her life, to serving his brothers and sisters doing God’s will,
and pleasing God.

Today the Church celebrates the feast of All Saints in honor of those men and women who (whether they have been
canonized or not) have lived with heroic virtue that set an example for all Christians. They have truly witnessed their faith. Saints believe what is written in the Gospel: give all, turn the other cheek, love God above all, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, sin no more, and follow Jesus. Why? Because they try to see Christ in every person and every situation, “For I, the Lord, am your God; and you shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy” Lv 11, 44. Remember, God gives us holiness because He is holy.Therefore, do not be afraid to seek your sanctification, since the grace of God was given to us in our baptism. Baptism cleansed us from all sins and brought us closer to the love of God, “But now that you are freed from sin and have become slaves of God, your benefit is sanctification as you tend toward eternal life.” Rom 6, 22.

Now, have you asked yourself, what is the purpose of your life in this world? Or why do you have the name of a saint (if you got one?). Well, today on the feast of the saints; their lives tell us that what matters most in life is not what we earn or own, not the job we have or the people we know. What really matters is to show how much we love God, others, and ourselves, and how well we show that love in all we do.

My friends, perhaps you are one of those special people who want to make this world a better place. Perhaps you are someone racing toward heaven with joy. Why not! Know that all these actions begin with little things: a smile (even if you are wearing a mask), a helping hand, a prayer and so on. That is the road to sainthood. My invitation for you is: Don’t just think about it, but pray about it.

All holy men and women, pray for us. Your friend and priest in Christ.

Fr. Robinson Aza

 

Today’s gospel is one of my favorites because it beautifully yet simply summarizes everything which guides us towards heaven and towards the happiest life possible: love of God and love of neighbor as ourselves. I remember the thrill I felt when this first set-in as a child, and I still love keeping everything simple!

To paraphrase Edith Hamilton, love in any relationship cannot exist where there is no trust. Love of God is our deepest and truest relationship in part because it depends on our deepest, total expression of trust. Even when the world doesn’t say “there’s no God” it’s telling us we cannot count on God. Yet God infinitely loved us into being, he gave us everything we have, he sacrificed everything he had to save us from the Cross, and he will always repeatedly offer his mercy and help. Yet as this was not great enough, he offers the invitation to express our gratitude by loving him the same way—totally, unconditionally—and arguably the best way we can express our love of God with all our hearts souls and minds is by loving our neighbor, totally, unconditionally…

1 John 4:20 observes: “for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” By loving each neighbor—by loving each person—as much as we can (even when they try to terrify, destroy, or exhaust us!) we both express our gratitude and acknowledge their dignity as beloved children of God who received the same invitation to fullness of life that we have. Yes it’s especially hard to love someone who has traits or behavior we don’t like, but thank God that God still loves us in spite of the less-than-likeable things we are still working on!

But this is precisely why it is so critical to please remember the last two words of this great commandment: to love your neighbor, as yourself! Virtually nothing has saddened me more than people who chose to not love themselves, whether because of their own shortcomings or whatever other reason. While we may not yet be ready for canonization, each remains called to accept God’s love. Each remains called by God to participate in God’s love by loving God and loving neighbor as ourselves.

Fr. Martin Dunne III

Over the past few Sundays we have been listening to Jesus preach in parables to the chief priests, Pharisees and elders of the people, telling them, in essence, that they will be replaced as the leaders of God’s chosen people and that the leadership will be handed over to others.In the second reading from Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul tells the people of the church that they were chosen by God.I believe that this point of being “chosen people” is not something that we think about as much as we should.Christ came into the world in order to bring about the Kingdom of God, to establish that kingdom Jesus chose His followers, the apostles, to be the ones who will begin to build His kingdom, the church, here on earth.Saint Paul, also chosen by Christ Himself, tells his followers that they did not come into the Church merely by hearing the word of God preached to them but that they were also chosen by God to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.Yesterday over one hundred of our children and some adults received that same gift of the Holy Spirit at the sacrament of Confirmation, these were also chosen by God to become fully initiated Catholics into the Kingdom of God.The very fact that God not only chooses us but calls us to mission as well, should make us keenly aware of our need to discern what the will of God is in our lives, and act on that to ensure that we respond to
that call.

Deacon Bill Watzek