Being Open to Encounter and New Relationships
To work at ending racism, we need to engage the world and encounter others – to see maybe for the first time, those who are on the peripheries of our own limited view. Knowing that the Lord has taken the divine initiative by loving us first, we can boldly go forward, reaching out to others. We must invite into dialogue those we ordinarily would not seek out. We must work to form relationships with those we might regularly try to avoid. This demands that we go beyond ourselves, opening our minds and hearts to value and respect the experiences of those who have to a change of heart in those who may be dismissive of other’s experiences or whose hearts may be hardened by prejudice or racism. Only by forging authentic relationships can we truly see each other as Christ sees us. Love should then move us to take what we learn from our encounters and examine where society continues to fail our brothers and sisters, or where it perpetuates inequity, and seek to address those problems.
(to be continued)
Today’s Gospel presents this scene for us: “As he was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and his brother, Andrew, who were casting nets into the sea. They were fisherman. He said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets
and followed him.”
There is much to think about in this calling of Simon and Andrew – such a radical move to leave what they were familiar with –and their father – to follow this itinerant preacher. We don’t know what preceded this, but it seems that they were ready to begin this new life even though there were many unknowns and questions connected wit their action. This gives us encouragement to follow Jesus even more closely and leave behind what are our doubts and insecurities.
Next weekend, we will celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This feast rarely falls on Sunday, but this year we will celebrate it over the weekend. In the Jewish culture, this was the dedication of the firstborn son to the Lord. In the day’s Gospel, we meet Simeon, in the temple, who declares that this child is to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.” A “light” for both Jew and Gentile is to be his vocation. This is a rather unusual statement: a light for the Gentiles? Simeon knew what he was saying. We celebrate this pronouncement this weekend. This feast was often called “Candlemas day.” It occurs 40 days after Christmas and candles were blessed on this day for use in church and in homes. The lighted candle symbolizing Jesus the light of the world.
-Fr. Andrew Reitz, O.F.M.
Being Open to Encounter and New Relationships
“To walk humbly with God” requires even more. We know that we do not have all the answers, but a missionary disciple is one who willingly meets every problem and every sinful attitude with the confidence that comes from a deep love of Jesus. As Pope Benedict XVI has said, “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
The Christian community should draw from this central, ongoing encounter with Christ and seek to combat racism with love, recalling the insight of Pope Francis that “if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?”With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this wellspring of strength and courage must move us to act. Consequently, we all need to take responsibility for correcting the injustices of racism and healing the harms it has caused.
(to be continued)
This weekend is the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. The Christmas season has ended and now we move into Ordinary Time until Lent begins. The Gospel begins with John the Baptist seeing Jesus and saying: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World.” Earlier we heard Isaiah say: “You are my servant, Israel, …I will make it a light to the nations.” It is time for Jesus to begin his mission. John speaks about seeing “the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain(ing) on him.”Yes, it is time for Jesus to heal, to teach, to forgive and to gather in the “lost sheep.”
The letter from our Provincial Minister, Fr. Kevin Mullen, that was in the bulletin last week was disturbing, yet it was easy to see that the reality of the number of working Friars has decreased significantly. There are nine of our current ministries that we will be withdrawing from later this year. Two of them are near us: Holy Name of Jesus Church on 96th Street, and Assumption Church in Woodridge, New Jersey. Also, on the list are churches in Orlando, FL, Anderson, SC, Greenville, SC, Raleigh, NC, Campus Ministry in Athens, GA, churches in Wilmington, DE, and a chapel in a mall in Albany, NY. There was much discussion, consultation, study and prayer before these decisions were made. All of these ministries will return to the various dioceses or archdioceses where they are located. Please keep us in your prayers.
-Fr. Andrew Reitz, O.F.M.
It is fitting that on this final feast of the season of Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’ baptism, and with it our own entry into Christ’s life through the waters of baptism. During Christmas, we have reflected on the stunning recognition that God came to be one with us in Jesus Christ. Now, as we make the transition to Ordinary Time, we think about what it means to follow this same Christ, the Anointed One of God. In baptism, we too are anointed. Baptism plunges us into Christ’s death and resurrection; in baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit. Baptism, which is available to all who believe, draws us to the very heart of God. In baptism, we become the servants of the Lord, chosen ones who are called for the victory of justice, a light for the nations.
Why are you coming to me?
We can almost hear the amazement in John the Baptist’s voice as he says to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Throughout the time that John preached and baptized people in the desert, he had been preparing people for the coming of the Messiah. Now, Jesus approaches him for baptism! We might share in his wonder. Why would Jesus, who is sinless, come to John for a baptism of repentance? Jesus’ response to John helps us understand. Jesus has come to fulfill all that is expected in the Messiah, and more. As he entered the waters of baptism, Jesus entered fully into our humanity, raising us toward God. Jesus sanctified the waters of baptism, making them holy, opening the heavens through his humble obedience to God’s plan of love.
Christ’s mission is our mission
As Jesus came out of the baptismal waters, the Holy Spirit descended upon him and a voice from the heavens was heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” In joining himself to humanity, Jesus opened the heavens for us, and in doing so, was confirmed in his mission of mercy and love. In baptism, we are joined with Christ. Immersed into his life and love, his mission is our mission. It is still early in this new year. Today, reflect on your baptismal call to live as a member of Christ’s body. In what ways do you love God and others? In what ways might you grow as a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ? How are you living the mission of Christ, to make God’s love and mercy known in the world? Is Christ’s mission your mission?
© J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.
Below is a table comparing December 2018 collections to our current December 2019 collections. This includes the Christmas collections for both years.
We want to thank everyone who helped us exceed our budget for December and who support the Church of St. Francis throughout the year. Our income comes only from our members and visitors who financially support our community. We need everyone to do their part to keep St. Francis on firm financial ground. The best way to use this is to make your offering using our online giving system.
We ask all of our members and visitors to offer the equivalent of ONE HOUR of their weekly salary per week to support the mission of the church. This comes to a tithe of 2.5%
Examining our sinfulness – individually, as the Christian community, and as a society, is a humbling experience. Only from a place of humility can we look honestly at past failures, ask for forgiveness and move toward healing and reconciliation. This requires us to acknowledge sinful deeds and thoughts and to ask for forgiveness…
We… realize the ways that racism has permeated the life of the church and persists to a degree even today. “For too long,” in the church’s missions throughout the world, “the way to a fully indigenous clergy and religious was blocked by an attitude that was paternalistic and racist.” Not long ago, in many Catholic parishes, people of color were relegated to segregated seating, and required to receive the Holy Eucharist after white parishioners. All too often, leaders of the church have remained silent about the horrific violence and other racial injustices perpetuated against African Americans and others.
(to be continued)
Today’s celebration of the Baptism of the Lord concludes the Christmas season. This is an excellent time for us to consider the great gift that was given to us when we were baptized. Our lives were joined to that of Jesus Christ, and our vision of life – our thoughts, words and deeds – are shaped by our closeness to the Lord. Of course, we had no idea what was happening, but now as adults we understand how important Christ is to us. Let us be grateful that our parents brought us to the Baptismal Font.
I would like to share with you an edited version of a letter from Fr. Kevin Mullen, O.F.M., our Provincial Minister, on the recent announcement of our current ministries. The complete letter can be found online HERE.
Dear Parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi Parish,
Over the past two years the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province have completed a thorough examination of all the fraternities-in-mission where we currently serve the church, with the goal of identifying where we will remain and where we will need to withdraw following our Provincial Chapter in June of 2020. This was not an easy process, but it was a prayerful, comprehensive and realistic one.
I am very happy to share with you that we have informed Cardinal Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, that we are able to continue our ministerial commitment to St. Francis of Assisi Parish for the next three years.
Why did we engage in this two-year discernment process? It was a response to two decisive factors that affect our lives as Franciscans: our declining numbers and fidelity to our Franciscan charism.
In 1982 we had 708 Friars active in ministry in our province. In 2001, we were down to 443 friars in active ministry. Today, we are about 120. Very simply stated, we no longer have sufficient Friars to staff all the ministries where we have served in the past.
Additionally, our Franciscan charism calls us to live and minister as brothers in community… With diminished numbers, it is impossible for us to maintain all of our current ministerial commitments while also maintaining fraternities composed of several friars living in community.
In addition to “right-sizing” the number of our ministerial commitments, this evaluation process was also designed to provide the opportunity for reimaging how our ministries might serve the People of God more effectively…
Please know that I and all the Friars of Holy Name Province are very grateful for all the support and collaboration that you, the community of St. Francis, have extended to us… We give thanks to God that we are able to continue partnering with you in faith and community at this time.
Sincerely in Christ,
Rev. Kevin J. Mullen,
O.F.M. Provincial Minister
The Epiphany of the Lord
Picture a nativity scene in your mind’s eye. The scene likely includes figures arriving on camels, some elaborately dressed, with jeweled boxes containing precious gifts. These magi arrived from distant lands to pay homage to the Christ Child. We know little about the magi, but we do know that these visitors were not Jews. They represent people of all nations who will be drawn to the Lord. “Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.” The Good News of Jesus cannot be limited to one people; all share in the promise of God’s mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Stewards of God’s
Grace Saint Paul speaks of the “stewardship of God’s grace” to which he was called. Like Saint Paul, each of us is to be a steward of God’s grace. A steward is one who is entrusted with something that belongs to another. The steward bears responsibility for what is entrusted to him or her. Saint Paul understands that his encounter with the Lord and his faith in Jesus Christ carry with them a sacred responsibility, to bring the news of salvation to all. We too have been blessed with much, including the gift of faith, and are called to be good stewards of all with which we have been entrusted. We do this by nurturing a faithful and faith-filled heart, responding to God’s grace through the attitudes and actions that make up our daily lives. We do this as well by sharing our faith and the impact of faith with others, so that they may be drawn to our Lord. This is a sacred responsibility, a blessing, a privilege.
The magi brought gifts to the baby Jesus. What gifts do you bring to the Lord? You might have the gift of patience or understanding and bring this gift in your interactions with others. You might have a talent for bringing new ideas and creative insights into situations at home, work, parish, or your city. You might have a gift for helping people to work together for a great cause or purpose. All of these gifts have been given to you by God, to be used for God’s purposes, for God’s greater glory. All of these are glimpses of God’s grace, and like Saint Paul, you are called to be a good steward of them, as a sign of Christ’s life within you. You bring your gifts to the Lord by using them well, sharing them generously and responsibly in caring for others and for all of creation.
© J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.
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