Reflection for the 7th Sunday of Easter 2015

18 May 2015 - By

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Let one
stand up.

“For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘May another take his office.’ Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

This week the Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life released its annual survey of religious affiliation in the United States. As with any survey result the pundits began to make predictions, some in churchy circles rang the alarm bells.

The Study tells us that: “The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing… Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among all ages. A large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with the Christian faith. But, the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points.”

The pundits note the decline of Christianity and are ready to sound its death knell. Christianity is irrelevant. Churchy folks, in response, try to make themselves more relevant, looking for ways to draw in the young. Some others see this as the great winnowing, the driving out of imperfect Christians leaving behind only the perfect.

These groups are missing something very important. They attempt to define adherence and faithfulness in light of relevancy and perfection. That is something Christianity is not attempting to achieve.

Living the life Jesus has called us to live makes us quite irrelevant by the world’s standards. The world’s criteria’s are never the measure of our success. In the same way, perfection is not the yardstick by which we are to measure being a good Christian for as St. Paul told the Romans: for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. If the imperfect are to be driven out every church will be empty.

Our true measure is our willingness to mature in faith and to stand up to declare our faith in ways both big and small. Our call is to witness to what is truly relevant: Jesus’ community – the Church – guides us to eternal life. Now that’s really what is relevant for everyone.

Reflection for the 6th Sunday of Easter 2015

11 May 2015 - By

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Love as
God loved us.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

We are a busy Church today. As we observe the Sixth Sunday of Easter we also observe the 64th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Joseph Padewski and Mother’s Day.

It may seem to be a difficult challenge. We have to, as a Church, concentrate on Easter. That is our first duty, to proclaim Jesus’ salvation and the promise of His resurrection to the whole world. How do you mix that with the fact that members of the Church are sometimes called to suffer and even die to proclaim this message – something happening right now in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Then couple all that with honoring our Blessed Mother and our moms in a special way.

Certainly, each of these events can stand alone and with deep significance for the Christian faithful. Thankfully, our Lord has already showed us how all this is bound together: This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Jesus told us what we should do, but as opposed to false prophets and made up gods – He walked the walk. He laid down His life for all of us voluntarily. As St. John recounts Jesus saying: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.”

Bishop Padewski lived his vocation and followed in Jesus’ footsteps. He returned to Poland from Albany to serve God’s people in the devastation following World War II. He did not consider his own safety or comfort, but rather followed the commandment of love and walked into the horrors of the communist takeover of Poland. He was arrested, tortured, and killed for his love of God’s people and his faithfulness to Jesus.

The Blessed Virgin is the exemplar of love for Jesus. We not only honor her as our heavenly mother, but also as our example of love and dedication to her Son, Jesus. She sacrificed her heart and life for Him. So too our mothers, the first example of love in our lives. They laid down their lives in a great act of sacrificial love.

All of these themes, all of Christianity, is joined together by love – love of God and for each other – giving all we are for the truth of love.

Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Easter 2015

3 May 2015 - By

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Times of challenge
and peace

The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.

Saul has been converted and because of the generosity, friendship, wholeheartedness, and witness of Barnabas is brought into the fold in Jerusalem even though the fellowship still feared him. Saul is welcomed and he sets out with zeal to proclaim the name of Jesus. The Greek Jews, having heard Saul’s witness set out to kill him and the Church spirits him away, back to his hometown of Tarsus.

The first three years since Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit had been both edifying and trying. Judas was replaced. Many believers were added. The faithful witnessed out-in-the-open. They prayed in the Temple, healed, and talked about Jesus to all who would listen. Many were added, and the Church was of one heart and soul and marked by a consistent spirit of harmony, but a price was being paid. The Apostles were hauled into court and they were whipped. Stephen was martyred.

Certainly Saul’s conversion did not end prosecution. Others likely followed in his footsteps. The Greek speaking Jews plot to kill Saul shows the hatred that existed. Yet suddenly the Church was at peace.

Some scholars point out that the Jewish leadership had to take its eyes off the Christians for a while. They were probably having bigger problems with Rome. The Governor wanted to erect a statue to Caesar in the Temple. There could be a thousand other reasons as well.

As in the early Church our faith is tested at times and at other times we find ourselves at peace. Decades ago a faith commitment was seen as a likely part of most people’s lives. Going to church and following the tenants and aims of the Christian faith were ‘normal.’ In the modern age any true witness to the reality of Jesus and commitment to following His commands would be met with laughter and mockery at a minimum. We might find ourselves thought of as old-fashioned and outdated. At the extreme we may lose friends, face ostracism at work, possible termination from jobs or clubs and organizations, and even a court appearance or two. To us these may be fates worse than death.

The common thread we hear today is that Christians must witness publicly to Jesus – to His way. We must do this whether the Church is filled with joyous zeal, is under persecution, or is living in times of peace. In all times the Church will grow in numbers by the commitment and dedication of His disciples (us) to the One who is the only truth and the true vine.

Reflection for Good Shepherd Sunday 2015

26 April 2015 - By

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Asking for
good shepherds

A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.

We pause this Sunday to reflect on Jesus in His role as the Good Shepherd. We can easily identify with what a good shepherd does by looking at Jesus’ words in their cultural context.

Middle eastern cultures understood what good shepherding was all about. It was about feeding the lambs, bringing them to good pasture lands and water, grooming and clipping them, delivering new lambs, leading them and teaching them to stay together, going off after the wandering lost ones, and protecting the sheep in the field and in the fold.

To feed the sheep means to take care of them from the beginning of life. Good shepherds begin the lambs’ introduction to the ways of God, first with the milk of instruction and teaching in God’s way. Then the good shepherds move them to solid food – food for lives lived in righteousness so that the lambs can be fully equipped, able to stand in the day of testing.

Grooming the lambs means good shepherds honestly correct what is wrong and failing in them. Good shepherds must teach lambs discipline and encourage and rebuke them so that they stay true to the Lord and fit for His service.

Delivering the sheep means that good shepherds preach the Gospel so that many are brought to new life – born again and regenerated. Good shepherds must bring many to God’s light so that no darkness can overcome their lives.

The other side of the equation is that good shepherds lead flocks, not just individual sheep. We run into problems when we see Jesus as solely a personal Good Shepherd. True, He is Good Shepherd to us as individuals but not only. Jesus wanted to make sure that we receive all the benefits of being part of His flock, that we be fed, pastured, groomed and trained, that we stay together, that the lost among us be led back, and that we are protected.

To do all this Jesus gave us shepherds who were loyal to His way. We are blessed to have His shepherds among us to this day, who lead us in the pristine Christian faith.

Our bishops and priests maintain the flock and carry out Jesus’ work of shepherding. They further call us to be good shepherds to one another. They ask us to take up the same work of feeding, grooming, and delivering each other. Let us honor the work of our good shepherds and take their and our responsibility seriously.

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Easter 2015

20 April 2015 - By

One order of fish for Jesus.

Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and [...]Read More

Reflection for Low Sunday 2015

16 April 2015 - By

We have true victory in Jesus.

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Who is the winner? That is a frequent question in our world. [...]Read More

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Resurrection 2015

5 April 2015 - By

There is but one answer and hope.

On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him.
A quick check of Google, the Internet Search Engine, points to over 534 million [...]Read More

Reflection for Palm Sunday 2015

29 March 2015 - By

Let us be poured out for Him.

When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the [...]Read More

Ś+P Rt. Rev. Anthony Rysz

22 March 2015 - By

From the Scranton Times-Tribune: Bishop Anthony M. Rysz, 90, died Friday, March 20, in Geisinger Community Medical Center emergency room after being stricken ill at home. His wife of 46 years is the former Marie Bednash Rysz. Bishop Rysz was the son of the late Aniela Szmyd Rysz and Joseph Rysz. Born in Old Forge, he was educated in local schools and attended the University of Scranton. During the Second World War, he served [...]Read More

Reflection for Passion Sunday 2015

22 March 2015 - By

The tide is rolling in.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says [...]Read More

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