Friday, February 21, 2020

Happy Lent!


Dear Parishioners,
 
While we are still in Ordinary time this Sunday, we will soon be in Lent. It is good to begin to think about what this means. Yes, we have Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday to help us. I would like to offer that this not be a somber season but a celebration. Certainly Lent is a time of fasting and sacrifice. It is a time of becoming aware of the long walk that Christ made carrying the weight of his cross, heading toward crucifixion. My call to celebration rests on the fact that Lent opens to the glory of Easter and Easter is the sign that we will be taken care of by God. Our fears of death and pain should resolve to the possibility of heaven and living (yes, living) forever in His friendship and presence. We should celebrate that we aren’t done when our bodies give out. This life of trial and difficulty with the struggles of money and work and relationships are not the end. Our time is not defined by the ups and downs of the economy, the winds of politics, or the vagaries of social expectations and criticism by others. We live in the hope of what we glimpse during Lent and Easter. 

The tragedies of the abuse we hear of, the unjust deaths we become aware of, the persecution and immoral actions we read about, all are mediated by the saving action of Christ on the cross. The raw imbalance of life with its haves vs. have nots, the privileged vs. the suffering, the hungry vs. those who are full and satisfied, is addressed by God in the saving actions of Lent and Easter. Let us open our eyes to what is offered to us in this most powerful season of the Church. Let us thank God for our salvation that lifts us from the sad morass that this life becomes for some. To be with God is our purpose, and Lent and Easter give us a taste of that possibility. The harder life is, the more sweet will be heaven.
 
Happy Lent and glorious Easter, 
Deacon Steve

Friday, February 14, 2020

Attitudes


Dear Parishioners,
 
Ordinarily on the 4th Sunday of the year when Matthew’s gospel is read, we hear the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This year we didn’t as the Feast of the Presentation was celebrated with it’s own gospel. So we missed out on the Beatitudes which begin with words “Blest are they… ” Basically Jesus is telling us the “attitudes” his followers should have, ie, poor in spirit, the sorrowing, the lowly, the merciful, the single-hearted, the peacemakers, etc.

In today’s gospel, Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount as he condemns bad attitudes as well as bad actions. Afterall, thoughts and attitudes always precede whatever actions we undertake. Before murder, usually there is anger. Before adultery there is lust. So Jesus urges us to take strong measures to eliminate these sinful thoughts. He knows that temptation left unchecked will grow stronger and stronger until the sinful thought is acted upon. To verify this all we have to do is look at the violence taking place on city streets in Baltimore and the rest of the country. Also the increased rates of infidelity are affecting more and more families leading to higher divorce rates and destruction of family life everywhere.

The antidote to these problems rests in our relationship with Jesus. The stronger that grows, the holier we become with the grace and power to overcome the capital sins of lust and anger, and enable us to enter the kingdom of God where true happiness awaits us.

Fr. Carl

Friday, February 7, 2020

Kobe, Rest In Peace.


Dear Parishioners,

I was saddened by the recent death of Kobe Bryant. He was a magnificent basketball player. He was a champion in the finest sense of the word. A leader and a charismatic star. I feel a certain degree of commonality with him as both of us grew up in Philly, although he was my son’s age—so a different generation. I played a lot of basketball growing up. There was a playground at Penn and Pratt in the neighborhood. I remember being proud of my Chuck Taylor All Stars basketball shoes, which were my staple foot wear for years. A basketball and a pump to keep air in it were necessities back then. The Lakers, the Boston Celtics, the Detroit Pistons, the Chicago Bulls were all teams that my beloved 76ers lost to more often than not. But Kobe transcended basketball. He was generous, a family man, and a Catholic. It is especially tragic that his daughter and several of her friends were on the fatal flight with him. Kobe was not one who got lost in the fame and fortune. He maintained his values and knew what really mattered. I don’t think that it is surprising to say, but we don’t know what to do with death. Certainly, he was a young man with a great future in front of him. But it was cut short by that thing which we will all face sooner or later. Let us do the most with the time we have. Let us fill our days with meaningful pursuits. Let us thank God for the generous life he has given us. This life is all gift, so let us appreciate it. And know that the author of life doesn’t guarantee any length of time. Whatever station or vocation one lives out, do so thankfully. Spend time in prayer, spend time in church, spend time loving those around you. And thank God for the gift of life! Kobe, rest in peace.
 


Blessings,
Deacon Steve

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Candlemas Day

Dear Parishioners,

Back in the old days, only wax candles were used in church to give light to the sacred space to assist the worship. Now we have electric lights and altar and tabernacle candles fueled by oil. However, we still use wax candles on major feasts (Christmas and Easter) in our candelabras, but not as much as before. When items are used at Mass, they need to be blessed such as chalices, patens, baptismal fonts, tabernacles, bells, organs, stations of the cross, etc. So, too, were the wax candles to be used during Mass. Each year, 40 days after the birth of the Lord, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, all the candles to be used throughout the year were brought into the church and blessed. Their light would be a symbol of Jesus (the Light of the World) about whom Simeon said in Luke’s gospel (Lk 2:22-40), “A light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.” For this reason this day was also known as Candlemas Day.

The gospel presents Jesus not only to his Father but also to Simeon and Anna, two very holy people, who longed to see the Lord. They waited many years and prepared themselves through prayer and fasting. Since we, too, want to see Jesus at the end of our lives, it might be a good idea to incorporate a bit more prayer and fasting into our lives. Although we are no longer obligated to abstain from meat every Friday, we are still to do some form of penance in remembrance of Good Friday.

Fr. Carl

Friday, January 24, 2020

Pray, Pray, Pray

Dear Parishioners,

We Catholic clergy, bishops, priests and deacons, are expected to do the Liturgy of the Hours at least in the morning and in the evening. It consists of the recitation of Psalms, a scripture passage (Old or New testament), Canticles from Luke, Intercessions, the Lord’s prayer, and closing prayers. It begins with a strong statement, “God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me,” requesting God’s help as our Master, guide, and Savior. I mention all of this, because this daily exercise leaves me praying a lot. I have a long list of people I know that I pray for. There are those who are facing significant medical issues or those who are going through grief and loss, and those of my family and friends. I pray daily for the Church and for St. Jane Frances parish. I would like to challenge all of you to take some time to pray for those you love and those you know who need prayers. I think that prayer is one important way we affect the world. I know we are busy. I know there is a lot on our plates. I know that money, responsibilities, and expectations—just to name a few—are some of the important factors that impact our lives. But I would like to urge you to pray. Develop a habit of speaking to God in your own words, from your heart, simply and often. As well, being silent in prayer is not a bad thing but opens us up to God speaking to us. Our world needs prayer. Our Church needs prayer. Our families need prayer. Let us pray for each other, and ask God to improve our faith, give us health, support those suffering, and bring us peace. And thank you to those who pray for me. I need all the help I can get!

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

Friday, January 17, 2020

Do you think much about the Holy Spirit?

Dear Parishioners,

At the baptism of Jesus, we hear about the Spirit of God coming upon him, resting on him as a dove. The Holy Spirit is one of those more mysterious aspects of God. The Spirit is the third person of God behind the Father and the Son. But it is not a lesser person of God. In our deacon formation, we were told that the Holy Spirit emanates from the love between God the Father and the Son. Their love is so powerful that from it comes the greatest force of the world, the Holy Spirit. There is gravity and magnetism, but the Spirit is the force of God that has powerful effects upon us. I do not think that I could be a deacon without the Holy Spirit. It is that passage in Matthew, where Jesus sends the disciples out and tells them that the Spirit will tell them what to say in times of trouble. The Spirit was given to us by God so that we may walk in the way of Christ.  

Do you think much about the Holy Spirit? It is an energizing power that opens us up and guides us. We receive it in the Sacraments. It is the echo of God reminding us in our hearts and minds to live in peace with love and mercy toward others. It gives us great gifts. It moves us in the way of God. It is a wise counsel. Maybe take a chance and pray to the Holy Spirit. There is a wonderful prayer to the Holy Spirit that goes like this,
“Come Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.”
We are certainly in need of renewal.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

Friday, January 10, 2020

Don’t Overlook Your Blessings

Dear Parishioners,

Sometimes we overlook the blessings we have received from God. We take them for granted. So I thought I would share a beautiful and powerful reflection from Pope Francis on January 7, 2018.

Fr. Carl

Today’s feast of the Baptism of our Lord ends the Christmas season and invites us to think of our Baptism. Jesus willed to receive the baptism preached and administered by John the Baptist in the river Jordan. It was a baptism of penance: all those who approached it expressed the desire to be purified from sin and, with God’s help, committed themselves to begin a new life. We understand then the great humility of Jesus. He who had not sinned put himself in line with the penitents, mixing among them, to be baptized in the waters of the river. What humility Jesus has! And by doing so, He showed what we celebrated at Christmas: Jesus’ willingness to immerse Himself in the river of humanity, to take upon Himself the failures and weaknesses of men, to share their desire for liberation and to overcome all that distances one from God and makes brothers strangers. As at Bethlehem, along the banks of the Jordan, God keeps His promise to take charge of the human beings’ fate, and Jesus is the tangible and definitive sign of it. He took charge of all of us then and now. Today’s gospel says that “when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the Heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.” The Holy Spirit is the engine that powers Jesus’ Baptism and our Baptism as well. It’s the Spirit that opens the eyes of our heart to the whole truth. He pushes our life on the path of charity. He is the gift the Father gave to each one of us on the day our Baptism. He, the Spirit, sends to us the tenderness of divine forgiveness. And it is He, the Holy Spirit, that makes the revealing Word of God declare, “Thou are my beloved Son.” — Pope Francis