From Pastor's Desk
From Pastor's Desk
“…do it in memory of me…”
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also known as "Corpus Christi". It has its biblical background in the the Lord’s Supper which is remind the liberation of the people of God from slavery in Egypt when the angel of death passed over the houses of the Hebrews who had painted their doorposts with the blood of a lamb (cfr. Ex 12, 1-14).
All three Readings that we'll be hearing this Sunday are related to the Eucharistic theme. They speak about food, wine, fish and prayer of blessing before the meal. Especially in the second reading (1 Cor 11,23-26), we see Saint Paul describing the Eucharistic gesture per excellence which is performed by Jesus in his last hours with the disciples. This gesture also challenges us. Now Jesus becomes the lamb, offering himself in sacrifice in order to give us life. According to our human Nature, we cannot live without food. Jesus says the same about the Eucharistic in the gospel of St. John: “if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man, you will not have life in yourselves”. (John 6:53) The Lord who breaks no one, yet allows himself to be broken; The Lord who does not demand sacrifices, but sacrifices himself; The Lord who asks nothing but gives everything.
In celebrating the Corpus Christi, we are all called to imitate our Lord Jesus. He takes everyday bread and transforms them into food that will last. Today we are so grateful for this bread and wine that Jesus gives us. We too are called to share our bread to others. Receiving and Having Jesus in our heart means that we become the bread for others exactly as it happens in the Eucharist. For we cannot partake of that Bread if we do not give bread to the hungry. We cannot share that Bread unless we share the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in need.
Therefore this celebration of the most holy body and blood of Christ is inviting us and challenging us to become the body of Christ, the real presence for others in our family, in our parish,in our neighborhood and for all whom we encounter today. This why we are always reminded that our celebration of Eucharist doesn't end when we leave the church; it is just the beginning.
Happy feast to all of us.
Father Louis Gbandi Nakpane,SVD
Sunday, June 5th, 2022 – Pentecost Sunday - Cycle C Readings: Acts 2:1-11, Psalm 104 “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth”, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13, John 20:19-23
We congratulate our eleven parishioners who will be confirmed this Sunday by Bishop William Wack. Confirmation completes the sacraments of initiation. We are born anew by baptism, strengthened by confirmation, and receive the food of eternal life in the Eucharist. We pray that the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit multiplies his gifts upon them and makes them his worthy instruments of peace, joy, and renewed hope in the world. We are very grateful to all the Catechists for their love and dedication in sharing the faith to our young ones. May the almighty God richly bless you.
My dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. The birthday of the church, the day the Lord fufilled his promises that he will not leave us alone. The first reading and the gospel present the descent of the Holy Spirit differently. The stories of Luke and John complement each other and teach us that the Spirit is the new law, the power that enables humankind to do good. The Spirit is the source of unity (does away with barriers) and whatever it is, it destroys sin. The second reading shows us the consequences of the presence of the Spirit in a community.
After Pentecost the Church struggles to live the language of the Spirit. In the second reading we hear Paul reminding the divided community at Corinth that their diverse gifts are for the good of the community. It is the one dynamic Spirit which is the source of the community’s gifts. And the Spirit which fired the apostles and which enthused Paul is the same Spirit which fires and enthuses us. The Spirit does that in our own mundane attempts to work at forgiveness and love and understanding. That is the language of the Spirit. Forgiveness, love and understanding form a language which everyone understands and needs to hear. That is the language we are invited to speak and the promise is that when we speak it people will recognize it as their own language. They can truly say that we are speaking their language because it is the language which has no boundaries, and no special dictionaries are needed to understand it. It is the language of the Spirit. It is the language of love: the language that all people understand. As we celebrate this solemnity, may the Lord bless us, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen. Father Paschal Chester
Sunday, May 29th, 2022 – The Ascension of the Lord - Cycle C Readings: Acts 7:55-60, Psalm 97:1-2, 6-7, 9, “The Lord is king, the most high over all the earth.”, Revelations 22, John 17:20-26
We congratulate all the graduates from our parish and we recognize and pray for them on this Sunday. We thank the Lord for how far he has brought them and pray that he guides them as they begin a new phase in their lives. We also congratulate our five children who received their First Holy Communion last week Sunday. It is our prayer that the reception of the Holy Eucharist helps them to grow stronger in the faith, and love of God.
This year’s catechetical program was successful due to the grace of God and the collaboration of our Religious Education coordinators, Catechists and parents. We are very grateful for sharing your time and talents with us. God richly bless you.
This Sunday we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. Parting messages have a great impact in the lives of people. Many students, newly married couples, seminarians, travelers vividly remember the final admonition and blessing of a heart- broken parent. Often time school leavers hold on for years to the parting wisdom of an inspirational teacher. An employer can frequently recall the parting outburst of the sacked employee. Final words have the power to make or to break, to challenge or to crush, to inspire or inhibit, to energize or deflate. We might recall the story of Elijah in 2kgs 2:8-15, when he was taken up by a chariot drawn by horses of fire as Elisha looked on.
From that time on his disciple Elisha received the spirit of his master and was empowered to continue his mission. Elisha began to do exactly as Elijah had done. The parting words of Christ, as he left his disciples on Ascension Day, are no exception. “‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”
Thus, does Luke describe for us the Ascension of the Lord in the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus’ life on earth finished not with his death on the Cross but with his Ascension into Heaven. The disciples who saw Jesus die amid insults, scoffing and mockery on the cross now see him exalted. The ascension strengthens and nourishes our hope of attaining heaven. It invites us to lift up our heart, as the preface of the Mass says, and seek the things that are above.
Our hope is firm because Christ himself has gone to prepare a place for us. Jesus departs, but he remains close to each of us. In a special way in the Holy Eucharist, which our eleven children received for the first time on this day.
As we celebrate this solemnity, Jesus wishes each of us to remain in his place, sanctifying the world from within, improving it and placing it at the feet of God. May the Lord bless us all. In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen. Father Paschal Chester
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43, Psalm 118 “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad”, Colossians 3:1-4, John 20:1-9
Jesus is Risen! Yes, he is truly risen! On Friday, we gathered here to celebrate the passion and death of our Lord. He died the violent death of a criminal outcast. He died with a question and with a scream “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” After they buried Jesus in the tomb, they rolled a stone to seal the entrance and then guards were put there. The gospel tells us that on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early in the morning and found it empty. She was still sad about what had happened, she was wondering who was going to roll the stone for her. Then she got there and the stone was rolled away.
My dear brothers and sisters, today, Alleluia is our song. Because the question of Jesus on the cross “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”; is answered by the empty tomb. It is God’s answer to his Son’s suffering and death. The empty tomb is God’s stamp of approval on all that Jesus said and did: his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, his treatment of the poor, sinners and outcasts, his acts of compassion, healing, liberation, his understanding of forgiveness, his preaching, his intuitions, and his parables, they became validated, vindicated!
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is useless and your believing is useless too”. And in Romans 10:9, “if you admit with your lips the Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. So we have a reason to be happy.
I wish to express my sincere gratitude to each one of you for journeying with us during the Lenten season and sharing in the resurrection of our Lord. Thank you for your continuous support to the St Eugene Catholic Mission and Students Center. May the resurrection of Christ permeate every part of your life. May you and all your dear ones share in the joy of the risen Lord. Happy Easter!!!!!
Father Paschal Chester
Readings: Luke 19:28-40, Isaiah 50:4-7, Psalm 22 “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”, Phillipians 2:6-11, Luke 22:14—23:56
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the first part of the celebration of this Sunday marks the triumphant procession of the crowds with Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. This event is what gave the name “Palm Sunday” to this Sunday but we know that as soon as we process into the church we also begin the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. The passion is both a physical and spiritual journey. In this Gospel, the physical journey starts near Bethphage and Bethany, on the mount of Olives, with Jesus sending two disciples to the village opposite them to get a tethered colt.
It was enough for the disciples to say to whoever asked to know what they were doing that “the Master needs it” and the deed was done. Jesus, who did not have any property, relied on his Father to provide him all he needed. The Father did so using other people who came to the aid of Jesus. His great trust in the Father is what made him confident in having the colt he needed for his triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem. We need to have great faith in God so that we can also experience his providence.
Another symbolic sign in the narrative is Jesus riding on a donkey or simply a young animal. Whereas many people would like to see an imagery of a warrior in the action of Jesus, it may seem more correct to think of the picture of a shepherd since that is the imagery that Jesus himself presents throughout his public ministry.
As he entered Jerusalem triumphantly, some people asked the question “who is this?” This is Jesus, the messiah and our King. He enters the city not as a warrior who has been triumphant over his enemies but as a shepherd who leads his flock of human persons to take procession of the city which is theirs by right. Thus each time we enter the church in procession, we know that Jesus our shepherd is before us and leads us to the house of God where we are called to dwell forever. Let us therefore learn to make God's house our dwelling place so that we may benefit from the graces that his triumphant entry showers on us.
As we begin this Holy week, we follow him who wants to enter triumphantly into the lives of people today. If we are to accompany Christ in his glory at the end of Holy Week, we must first enter Jerusalem with him and journey with him through these days leading to his death on the cross. May he grant us his presence, Amen.
Father Paschal Chester
Readings: Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126 “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy”, Phillipians 3:8-14, John 8:1-11
My dear brother and sisters in Christ, in today’s Gospel we have a magnificent story of the mercy of Jesus as he forgives the woman taken in adultery. Does God forgive as easily as that? In the Gospel story the woman is caught committing adultery. If it takes two to tango, it takes two to commit adultery, but the man seems to have had real access to an emergency exit leaving the woman in the scribes and Pharisees. These men are zealous about the execution of the Law which means the execution of the woman. They are in the moral majority for they clearly have the Law on their side. Thus armed they come to tackle Jesus on the issue.
Jesus’ reaction to all the fuss is to start writing on the ground. But his questioners persist and Jesus responds not by taking issue with the law but by taking issue with the lawyers. When you remember the law but forget what the law is for, perhaps your memory is a little selective. Jesus seems to think that all victims can do with some form of allegiance and he refuses to join this moral majority. Jesus does not say the woman is innocent or argue that adultery should be taken off the books; but neither is he persuaded about the innocence of her accusers. He asks them to exercise their memories and check their own track record on sin. If any are innocent, they can throw stones. And while they are all having a good think running their own home videos in their heads, Jesus goes back to his writing.
At least the woman’s accusers are honest people for they readily recognize that they are not innocent accusers. So the procession of unemployed executioners is led away by the elders- who is no doubt giving the example of necessity! Of course Jesus doesn’t want them just to walk away but to exercise their forgiveness too. Jesus and the woman are left alone. And she hears good news from Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.
The challenge of the Gospel is not whether we can see ourselves as the woman who is caught in adultery, but see ourselves as the man who is caught up in forgiveness. Can we forgive as readily as Jesus forgives? Or do we dote on people’s wrongdoing, reminding them of past failures, and lighting vigil lamps to their mistakes? Can we forgive and leave it?
May the Lord grant to us his blessings, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Father Paschal Chester
Sunday, February 6, 2022 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
WHAT DOES EVANGELIZATION LOOK LIKE TODAY?
There is a great deal of urgency here. Whereas in the early centuries after the resurrection, the people embraced the faith because it was completely new, most people today have already heard about Jesus and the Gospel. Some say that they have already tried Christianity, but now they are embracing a new faith – or, most likely, no faith at all. Thus it will be an even greater challenge to bring them back.
However, the goal is not just to bring people back to church; it is to help them to find LIFE in Christ Jesus. We need not get caught up in the thinking that one needs to be eloquent or perfect before one evangelizes. No, this is something for every baptized person. We have the authority, the power and the commission to do this.
Evangelization, put simply, is a means to awaken in people’s hearts a love of God and an adherence to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What can we do to participate in Christ’s mission and continue his work of evangelization? I offer the following suggestions and guidelines. I am sure that you can think of more ideas as well.
Before going outward, remember: Evangelizers must first be evangelized. Learn as much as you can about our Catholic faith (by reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sacred Scriptures, the writings of the saints, and the magisterial teachings of the Church). Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you and to deepen your relationship with God. Never cease to grow in the practice of the faith.
Pope Francis offers us practical advice as we strive to share our faith in the world: “You too need to see the entirety of your life as a mission. Try to do so by listening to God in prayer and recognizing the signs that he gives you. Always ask the Spirit what Jesus expects from you at every moment of your life and in every decision you must make so as to discern its place in the mission you have received. Allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world.” 8
Celebrate the Mass and the other sacraments regularly. In the sacraments, God forms us as his people, strengthens and forgives us, and empowers us to be his witnesses in the world. Pray and ask for God’s help. Then you will take seriously the invitation given at the end of every Mass: “Go, and announce the Gospel of the Lord!” Make it your number one priority to practice the faith above all with your family. Pray the rosary together, go to Mass as a family and talk about the readings and the homily afterward, celebrate the liturgical seasons together and pray before meals and bedtime with your children.
Share the joy of the Gospel. Do not be afraid to give an account of yourself to others. Tell people what it means to you to be Catholic. (No one can argue with you over this since it is your personal experience). Start simply by establishing a friendship with someone. Walk with them and listen to them. Tell them about how you know the Lord and how much joy that gives to you.
Invite people to church or Bible study, or simply ask if you can pray with and for them. (Note: while it is good to invite someone to come to Mass, this may not be the best way to evangelize someone new. They may come to Mass, but because they are not familiar with it, they might become lost and thus turned off.) We cannot simply point out the way for others; we have to accompany them on the road as Jesus walks with us all.
Live your faith well as an example to others. Let people know that you practice your faith in your parish and in your home. When you encounter people who are negative or hostile to the Church – especially, these days, in comments and articles online – point out the benefits of believing and the good things that God is doing in his Church. Preach with your actions. Serve our neighbors in need, whether they are in prison, or are homeless, victims of natural disasters or crime, or simply without basic necessities to survive. Be ready to articulate and defend the faith at work, in grocery stores, airports, schools and wherever people gather.
Questions for reflection:
Vatican II recognized the need to return to our original charism. Gaudium et Spes was a path forward to engage the world around us. Lumen Gentium serves as a reflection on who we are as a Church, here to glorify God and announce the Good News. If you have not read these documents of the Second Vatican Council, or if it has been several years since you have done so, I exhort you to read these documents, which are still relevant today and are more accessible than ever before. “By her proclamation of the Gospel, [the Church] draws her hearers to receive and profess the faith, she prepares them for baptism, snatches them from the slavery of error, and she incorporates them into Christ so that through love for him they grow to full maturity.”
4 Pope St. John Paul II was the first to use the term “New Evangelization,” and in response to the question about what he meant by it, he said: “The commemoration of this half of the millennium of evangelization will achieve its full meaning, if as bishops, with your priests and faithful, you accept it as your commitment; a commitment, not of re-evangelization, but rather of a new evangelization; new in its ardour, methods and expression.”
5 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, picking up the theme of evangelization, taught that our faith is not merely a program but rather an opening of the heart … to a person: Jesus Christ.
6 Then – and now – we have to think of new ways to evangelize and re-evangelize the world.
Even more recently, our Holy Father Francis has laid out a vision for the universal Church, building on the teachings of his predecessors: “I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming every-thing, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”
7 Pope Francis has repeatedly urged everyone – clergy and laity alike – to leave the comfort of our homes, churches, rectories, etc., and imitate Jesus in seeking out the lost and bringing them the Good News of salvation. Clearly, the Holy Spirit is moving us to return to our roots.
Questions for reflection:
This statement is meant to be provocative. It does not mean that Christianity is dead – that will never happen, of course. Rather, it can no longer be taken for granted that Christian values are the norm. In 1974, Archbishop Fulton Sheen declared, “[W]e are at the end of Christendom.” He could see how people were turning away from God and the truth, in order to refashion God in the image and likeness of humanity. Like our first parents, we were disregarding our dignity and declaring the Church to be unnecessary – even a detriment – to our happiness. In our day, Pope Francis has said, “Brothers and sisters, Christendom no longer exists.” 3 We see it even more clearly today: the Church – and her leaders – are often suspect, ridiculed and dismissed. To be sure, many members and leaders of the Church have engaged in sin, infighting and scandalous behavior, sowing doubt about the truth of the Gospel and its transformative effect on the lives of believers. The people of God must go forward in a spirit of humility, penance and service, in order to show forth the presence of Christ in our midst. For many people today, there are few (if any) objective truths. “Truth” for them is what matters most to them and their happiness. Any restrictions on their freedom or happiness are regarded as suspect or even as intolerance. “That may be truth for you,” they say, “but not for me.” We may argue and debate over where this attitude – this ‘hardness of heart’ – is coming from, but we cannot dismiss the fact that it is the prevailing attitude of our time. What has worked in the past will not work in the same way today. We can no longer be content with opening our church doors and watching people come in. In fact, they are leaving faster than they are joining, and they have been for quite a while.
Questions for reflection:
Over the course of the fourth century, Christianity went from being a persecuted, marginal religion, to a religion favored by emperors and the elite and the wealthy. Over time, Christianity was not only accepted; it became one of the world’s largest religions. As new lands were developed and countries were conquered, Christianity spread wider and wider. “Christendom” (an unofficial term) came about.
What is Christendom? In essence, Christendom constitutes a society that is guided by Christian ideals, beliefs, morals, etc. “When the Christian narrative of the human drama and its corresponding moral order have become prominent in a given society and have come to provide, at least largely, that society’s ruling vision, what emerges can be called a ‘Christendom culture.’” 2 For many centuries (in the West, at least), Christianity was accepted as the norm. The Church was protected, respected, and given a great deal of prominence in society. Despite setbacks, scandals, and even a great schism between the East and the West in 1054, followers of Christ were still able to carry out the mission given to them by their founder.
There are periods in history when evangelistic fervor was greater than others. Wars and crusades were waged to defend the faith and to convert non-believers. The physical structure of the Catholic Church, that is, the hierarchy, became more prominent and defined. In places like what is now our diocese, the State encouraged and funded efforts to bring the Gospel to people in far-off lands. For example, the king of Spain commissioned Tristan de Luna y Arrellano to colonize (and evangelize) Florida in 1559. The Franciscan missionaries who traveled with him celebrated the first Mass in what is now the United States that same year.
Especially in recent centuries, the Catholic Church became established throughout the world – and the sense of urgency that our ancestors had was diminishing considerably. Even so, the Church has faced many persecutions over the years, for instance, during the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, the rise of Communism, the Cristero War in Mexico, and so on.
Questions for reflection: