Friday, February 3, 2023

The Light Of The World

Dear Parishioners,

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)

In today’s gospel Jesus said, “You [plural] are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be
hidden (Matthew 5:14).” But He also said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). So, who is the light of the world: are we, or is Jesus? Both. Jesus is the source of light itself, and we, when we cooperate with His grace, reflect Jesus’ light, like the moon does for the sun.

In a similar way, every created being (plants, animals, …) has an implanted “nature” that reflects or reveals in some small but real way an attribute of God’s goodness and majesty. What is so amazing is that not only did God design each species of creature—a seemingly limitless number—with distinctive and complex qualities and a beauty and grandeur all its own, but that all these creatures were designed to live in harmony and order in the whole that we call “creation.” This is no accident.

Seeing how God has magnificently designed His creation reveals how he intends “his city” to live. The
“city set on a mountain” (Matthew 5:14) is the Church, established by Jesus on Peter (Matt 16:18). You and I are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) in this city of God, the Catholic Church. When each of us cooperates with the grace of the Holy Spirit, our light shines “…through your good deeds that glorify your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16).” It is through the abundance of this light of Jesus that shines through us and gives light to the world.

Each of us is uniquely created… not only from our natural mother and father, but from God Himself.
When each of us was conceived, God created out of nothing our soul and infused it into our material being. Our personality traits, capabilities, and body come from a unique combination of genes from our parents, but our soul comes from God himself. When we’re baptized, our souls are forever changed; we are configured to Christ, and we are infused with the grace of the indwelling Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we live our lives cooperating with this baptismal grace, and the graces God sends us through the sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation and through other people, we become a reflection of Jesus’ light to the world.

Similar to each created species of creatures, each of us has been given a unique set of gifts and charisms that are intended to harmoniously balance with the other lights of the Holy Spirit (other Christians) such that we, the Church, collectively become “the light of the world.” God has a brilliant plan to accomplish His will with your light. And if you’re a parent or godparent, remember the responsibility with which you were charged at your child’s/godchild’s Baptism as you were given his/her baptismal candle: “Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly.”

Peace in Christ,
Father Jim

Friday, January 27, 2023

The Beatitudes

Dear Parishioners,

The word “beatitude” (which comes from the Latin beatitudo which means “blessedness” or true happiness or receiving God’s favor) is translated from the Greek word makarios used 50 times in the New Testament. In the eight beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount in today’s gospel (Matthew 5:1-12), Jesus announces that God’s blessings will be realized in the future, in heaven, after the hardships and sufferings of this life—except for the first and the last beatitudes which promise God’s favor here on earth now (present tense). Let’s look at #1: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven. Why do the poor in spirit experience blessedness now?

Before we consider an answer, let’s review fundamental human nature. Planted deep within the soul of every human person is a natural desire for happiness. This desire accounts for every human action you and I take (determining our future), and determines the course of human history. God creates each human soul with this longing for happiness to draw us to Himself, who is the only One who can completely satisfy this deep desire for happiness. In fact, all of creation is a physical analogy of this reality. Just as God created our bodies and the physical world so that you and I would recognize our complete dependence on receiving Creation’s gifts (oxygen to breath, water to drink, food to eat), so He created our souls for us to recognize that our true happiness is completely dependent on receiving the free gift of His love. God has clearly revealed Himself to his people, most fully in the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ, so that we may become “part of” God Himself, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), so that we may “know, love, and serve God in this world and be happy (“beatitude”) with him forever in the next.”

Here’s where the world (and you and I, when we follow the world) goes terribly wrong: when we pursue the false happiness of money, pleasure, and fame instead of receiving the free gift of God’s grace and his boundless love, all kinds of suffering follows. We can forget that we are dependent on God for true happiness. And this leads us back to why the first Beatitude can be realized NOW, in the present world: because it is a beatitude of dependence. Since “poor” people are especially dependent on others (actually, we all are dependent on others), another way of stating this beatitude is “blessed are those who are (dependent) in spirit”; in other words, dependent on God for true happiness. Basically, this summarizes the entire Bible and the relationship between God and man. “But to all who received him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God (John 1:12).”

Thank you to all who prayed for my pilgrimage to the Holy Land—your prayers were effective! Since many have been asking, I will be giving a pastorate presentation with photos in February on my trip to the Holy Land. Here’s one taken from the Mount of the Beatitudes, looking out over the Sea of Galilee.

Fr. Jim


 

Friday, January 20, 2023

Open Your Mind To The Scriptures

Dear Friends of OLC and St Jane Frances,

This weekend we celebrate the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. This Sunday is also now known as the Sunday of the Word of God, instituted by Pope Francis in 2019. This designation is meant to remind all of us of the importance of the Sacred Scriptures in our lives as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy (Mass). The document instituting the Sunday of the Word of God is called Aperuit Illis coming from Luke’s Gospel which says: “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:25). I would encourage all of us to take a few minutes each day to read the Sacred Scriptures, and allow the Lord to open your minds to the mystery of God’s love for us. Just be sure you are reading from a Catholic Bible. Non Catholic Bibles have deleted some of the books of the Old Testament (For example, if you don’t have 1st and 2nd Maccabees, then you don’t have a Catholic Bible.)

The scriptures this weekend remind us of God’s power to save us, which fulfilled the promises made to the prophets of old. The great light of Jesus Christ has shown on the people walking in darkness, as we hear from the Prophet Isaiah. Matthew’s Gospel begins with the fulfillment of this prophecy by Jesus Christ among us. Jesus begins his ministry by calling the first apostles, Peter, Andrew, James, and John to come and follow him. What Jesus does in those early days of his ministry is what the Church continues doing to this very day: teaching, proclaiming, and curing/healing. This is salvation—the healing power of Christ at work in the Church, and in each one of us.

Excitement is building for the return of the St. Patrick’s Day Bazaar at St. Jane Frances. It has been four years since the last big event as Covid shut things down in 2020. I am hoping that our pastorate parishes will work together to make the bazaar as successful as it has been in the past. Volunteers and donations are needed in order to do this. If you would like to volunteer, please call the parish office at St. Jane Frances (410-255-4646).

I would also like to thank everyone who assisted with Shelter Week at Our Lady of the Chesapeake earlier this month. We hosted about 25 gentlemen and the week went well. Thanks to Mary Cooley, Lisa Wolfe, and all of the numerous volunteers from both parishes who volunteered so much of their time to make this event run smoothly. Thank you all very much! 

The start of Lent is only one month away. Ash Wednesday is February 22nd, exactly one month from this Sunday! For your planning purposes, our Mass schedule for Ash Wednesday will be as follows: 

  • St Jane – 8:30am, 12:00pm, 7:00pm
  • OLC – 8:30am and 7:00pm.

Thank you for keeping St. Jane Frances and Our Lady of the Chesapeake in your daily prayers!

God Bless,
Father Steve

Friday, January 13, 2023

The Testimony Of John The Baptist

Brothers and Sisters,

Whenever I read the Gospel passage for his Sunday (Jn 1:29-34), I am amazed at the insight and knowledge that John the Baptist has been given concerning the identity of Jesus. How would John have known all of this about Jesus? What was the source of such profound statements about Jesus? Most likely John would have studied the Scriptures of the time and would have known the many statements about the coming Messiah spoken by the prophets of old. He would have known the scriptures of the Old Testament. But, first and foremost, John would have gained his knowledge by the gift of faith. He would have had true spiritual insight granted by God. This insight reveals not only the greatness of John and the depth of his faith, but it also reveals what we must strive for in life. We must strive to daily walk by faith and spiritual insight granted by God. John was clearly “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Lk 1:15, CCC 717). These spiritual gifts gave him the ability to live a life sustained by the grace of God. John knew things and understood things that only God could reveal. He loved Jesus with reverence and submission of his will that could only be inspired by God. Most evidently, John’s holiness came as a result of his relationship with God. John’s knowledge was insightful because the Holy Spirit was alive in his life, leading him and revealing these truths.

May we commit ourselves, this day, to an imitation of John’s deep faith and develop the spiritual gifts each of us has been given. This will lead us to a deeper relationship with Jesus and to be open to all that God wants to speak and reveal to each of us.

God Bless,
Deacon Howard

Friday, January 6, 2023

Epiphany: The 12th Day of Christmas

Dear Friends of OLC and St Jane Frances,

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany. Today’s feast celebrates the arrival of the magi, bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Although we refer to the Magi as “wise men,” the scriptures never refer to them in that way. Instead, Magi is used in the scriptures to signify that these travelers were actually part of a class of scholars who engaged in dream interpretation, astrology, and predictions for the future. They acknowledged Jesus as the new born King, born in Bethlehem as foretold by the prophet Micah. The star they follow is an “epiphany” or a manifestation of the divine presence, now born among us in the baby Jesus. May the divine presence dwelling within each one of us help us to become a sign to the world of the living God, drawing all to come and see the new born king.

I would like to thank everyone who helped make our Christmas Masses at both parishes so beautiful and prayerful. Both Churches were decorated beautifully for Christmas, so thank you to everyone who helped in preparing the liturgical spaces. Thanks also to our music directors Rob (SJF) and Kevin (OLC), our choirs, and all who support our music ministry at both parishes. The music was uplifting and set the tone for the season. Thanks also to all who served at multiple Masses helping with organizing and ushering and making sure each Mass was set up and ready to go. Fr. Jim and I could not have done it without all of your assistance, so THANK YOU!!!

I would also like to thank everyone who sent Christmas cards, gifts, and baked goods. Your thoughtfulness is very much appreciated. I am always amazed at how generous the people of God are.

There are several activities that will be occurring in the coming weeks, including our Pastorate Middle School Snow Tubing trip on January 28th, the launch of the second half of Into the Breach (for Men) and Walking with Purpose (for Women). Other items of interest to our Pastorate (such as the St. Patrick’s Day Bazaar and our Lenten Mission) can be found in the bulletin and on our parish websites.

Thank you for keeping St. Jane Frances and Our Lady of the Chesapeake in your daily prayers!

God Bless,
Father Steve

Friday, December 30, 2022

Blessed New Year!

Dear Parishioners,

Blessed New Year! On December 30th, I’m flying to Israel for a 2-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land (delayed a year due to COVID) with fellow seminary alumni classmates and this year’s Deacon class from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Please pray for me, as I keep you in my prayers.

My first 6 months. I cannot begin to count the many blessings and graces and inspirations I’ve received
from you while serving as your Associate Pastor here at St. Jane Frances and Our Lady of the Chesapeake these past 6 months, witnessing and experiencing your desire to know, love, and serve God and neighbor, expressed through countless acts of love and service.

Since I’m often asked, “Why did you became a priest?” and “What can I pray for you?” I thought I’d share an answer to both questions (and also for anyone who may be considering the priesthood). It’s an excerpt from an essay I wrote almost 8 years ago for application to become a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Baltimore in response to “Why do I want to be a priest?” which still rings soundly in my soul. My New Year’s resolution is to live up to these words, through the grace of God and your prayers.

“I would like to become a priest so that I can bring Christ to others and bring others to Christ through the sacraments, to be an instrument of God’s grace through the most profound and sacred moments in their lives: being born again through baptism, becoming free from the slavery of sin through the absolution of it, offering sacrifice and thanksgiving on behalf of God’s people and giving them Jesus in the Eucharist to sustain them, witnessing and blessing the life-long unity of a man and a woman in matrimony, strengthening and sealing the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation, and healing the body and soul through the anointing of the sick. I would like to become a priest to offer masses for my wife Shirley, and to pray for my sons.”

“I would like to become a priest to preach the Word of God: to make it come alive and relevant and challenging and attractive for singles, husbands, wives, and children as family members, workers, students, neighbors and friends… to have God’s Word make a difference in their lives so that they can change the culture for Christ and bring about His kingdom right here and right now.”

“I would like to become a priest to teach parishioners the richness and fullness of the Church’s teachings from the Scriptures, the Catechism, the Doctors of the Church, Councils, our popes, and saints to allow the Holy Spirit to convict them and naturally draw them to their truth and beauty and goodness, and the incredible benefits of embracing them and following them. Doing this as a priest would make me feel like the man in the parable who found the treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44)—the treasure which is the fullness of God’s revelation through Jesus Christ—who in his joy gives up everything he has to spend the rest of his life sharing these treasures with my parishioners so that they too ‘may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).’”

Your servant in Christ,
Father Jim

Friday, December 23, 2022

Love, Joy, Peace And Hope

Dear Friends of St. Jane Frances and Our Lady of the Chesapeake,

On behalf of Fr. Jim and all of us at the Pastorate of St. Jane Frances and Our Lady of the Chesapeake, I would like to wish you all a very Blessed and Merry Christmas! The Christmas Season is such a wonderful time of the year, as it reminds us that our God dwelt among us through the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. His birth was foretold by the prophets, acknowledged by the host of angels, and was witnessed to by the rising of the star in the east. Together, we continue to remember his birth as we wait in joyful hope for his coming again. May this Christmas season fill your hearts and your homes with the love, joy, peace and hope that Jesus Christ offers to each and every one of us.

We have reached the six month mark since the launching of our Pastorate relationship between our two beloved parishes. This has been a new experience for all of us, but especially for St. Jane Frances, with the retirement of Msgr. Carl in July and the arrival of Fr. Jim and myself at the parish. But there also have been transitions at OLC as well. We are still in the early days of getting to know one another. As we all know, transitions can be stressful, but hopefully this transition has not been too stressful for you. Fr. Jim and I have been deliberate in trying to make it as smooth as possible, and we desire to continue doing so.

As we prepare to enter into the New Year, I wanted to give you a sense of where our Pastorate will be going. As you know, the Archbishop’s pastoral plan called A Light Brightly Visible 2.0 is a pastoral letter outlining our need to renew the mission of the Church and re-energize our Pastorate for the mission of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to our parish communities. In order for us to prepare for this task, our Pastorate will be using next year to begin a process of listening, gathering, discerning, and planning for our future: asking ourselves to reflect on our strengths, opportunities, and challenges so that we may have the necessary organizational structures in place to support our Pastorate’s mission.

I know each and every one of us loves our Church and loves our parish. I hope we will also grow to
love our Pastorate and unite ourselves in our common mission. What we sometimes say at Christmastime is also true when it comes to our Pastorate mission: Jesus is the reason for the Season! Jesus is the reason for our existence, and his mission is our mission as well. There is much work to be done, but for now, please enjoy this time with family and friends as we celebrate our Savior’s birth! Merry Christmas!

Thank you for keeping St. Jane Frances and Our Lady of the Chesapeake in your daily prayers!

God Bless,
Father Steve