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.
Walk Humbly with God
To press forward without fear means “to walk humbly with God” in rebuilding our relationships, healing our communities, and working to shape our policies and institutions toward the good of all, as missionary disciples. Evangelization, which is the work of the Church “means not only preaching but witnessing, not only conversion but renewal; not only entry into the community but the building up of the community.” Racism is a moral problem that requires a moral remedy – a transformation of the human heart – that impels us to act.
The power of this type of transformation will be a strong catalyst in eliminating those injustices that impinge on human dignity. As Christians, we know this to be true, for with “God all things are possible.” It is the Lord who, by his grace, forgives and restores us to these relationships and heals the wounds between us… To press forward without fear also means cooperating with God’s grace by taking direct and deliberate steps for change. It means opening doorways where once only walls stood.
(to be continued)
“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come.” On this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, we might paraphrase this quotation as: “Rise up in splendor, O earth! Your light has come.” Indeed, the splendor of the Lord shines on all people. This is a great feast for many cultures; this is the day when presents are exchanged and the blessings of the Lord are celebrated. The First Reading proclaims that “darkness covers the earth, but upon you the Lord shines.” Yes, there still is darkness in the world, locally and well as far away. It is by embracing the Lord and opening ourselves to his light that this darkness is transformed into light. It is, indeed, a day of celebration as we move into the year 2020.
The beautiful liturgies, the beautifully decorated church, and all of the festivities were the result of the work of many people working together. Our Maintenance Crew works behind the scenes setting up and cleaning up, Meredith Augustin and the musicians practice long hours for our liturgies; Edward Trochimczuk is assigning our volunteers for the many jobs that need to be done; Joe Nuzzi organizes our use of technology; the Friars prepare homilies and hear many, many confessions; the receptionists serve the many people who want to purchase items or arrange Masses; the Development Office records and sorts through the volume of mail received daily; and the other ministries keep running smoothly even thought there are more pressures. And you are a blessing to us – thank you for your donations, greetings, cards, and presence at the many things that happen here.
Happy New Year!
-Fr. Andrew Reitz, O.F.M.
It seems appropriate that we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph during the Christmas season, just after families have gathered for Christmas, frequently with stress over gift-giving, travel drama, and the intricacies of meal preparation for people with their various dietary needs and preferences. Today’s readings ask us to put family and life in their sacred and holy perspective. When we take care of aging parents we care for Christ, who is with all and in all. When we approach one another with compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience, we communicate Christ’s love. Even when the Lord leads in ways we cannot quite appreciate or understand, we must follow God’s will, knowing that in doing so, we cooperate with God’s grace in our midst. Every family is called to be a holy family.
Your Holy Family
Families come in all shapes and sizes. When asked to describe your family, you might begin by telling people about a parent, sibling, or extended family members. You might even describe what you have learned from a genealogical study. You are unlikely, however, no matter how wonderful your family may be, to describe your family as “holy.” And yet, this is our primary call. Each of us as people of God, and each of our families, is called to be holy. We are called to live as God’s people in the world, to communicate God’s love and presence through the way that we live together and in relationship with others. Every family, no matter what their circumstances, is called to be a holy family. Even Mary, Joseph, and Jesus faced challenges and trials. And yet they rose to the occasion, listened to and followed God’s will, and were assured of the love of the Lord through it all.
Listen to Your Angel
Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads? One direction may be momentarily advantageous or easy, another more challenging but right or good. It is not always easy to know which direction to choose. Discerning our path of life necessarily involves prayer, the guidance of others whom we trust, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit within us. The example of the Holy Family is that they followed the will of God, trusting in God’s abiding presence even when they knew that doing so involved risk and uncertainty. Mary trusted the voice of the angel, although the message was beyond comprehension; Joseph listened to the voice of the Lord in dreams and proceeded, assured of God’s guiding spirit in the midst of troubling circumstances. This is what our families must do as well. Being Christian people in today’s world is not always easy, even when we know it is right. This is the meaning of holiness. This is what it means to be a holy family.
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