From Our Pastor's Desk
From Our Pastor's Desk
Sunday, July 23th, 2023 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19, Psalm 86: “Lord, you are good and forgiving”, Romans 8:26-27, Matthew 13: 24-43 MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCISFOR THE THIRD WORLD DAY FOR
Dear brothers and sisters!
“His mercy is from age to age” (Lk 1:50). This is the theme of the Third World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, and it takes us back to the joyful meeting between the young Mary and her elderly relative Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39-56). Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth addressed the Mother of God with words that, millennia later, continue to echo in our daily prayer: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (v. 42). The Holy Spirit, who had earlier descended upon Mary, prompted her to respond with the Magnificat, in which she proclaimed that the Lord’s mercy is from generation to generation. That same Spirit blesses and accompanies every fruitful encounter between different generations: between grandparents and grandchildren, between young and old. God wants young people to bring joy to the hearts of the elderly, as Mary did to Elizabeth, and gain wisdom from their experiences. Yet, above all, the Lord wants us not to abandon the elderly or to push them to the margins of life, as tragically happens all too often in our time.
This year, the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly takes place close to World Youth Day. Both celebrations remind us of the “haste” (cf. v. 39) with which Mary set out to visit Elizabeth. In this way, they invite us to reflect on the bond that unites young and old. The Lord trusts that young people, through their relationships with the elderly, will realize that they are called to cultivate memory and recognize the beauty of being part of a much larger history. Friendship with an older person can help the young to see life not only in terms of the present and realize that not everything depends on them and their abilities. For the elderly, the presence of a young person in their lives can give them hope that their experience will not be lost and that their dreams can find fulfilment. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and their shared awareness that the Lord’s mercy is from generation to generation remind us that, alone, we cannot move forward, much less save ourselves, and that God’s presence and activity are always part of something greater, the history of a people. Mary herself said this in the Magnificat, as she rejoiced in God, who, in fidelity to the promise he had made to Abraham, had worked new and unexpected wonders (cf. vv. 51-55).
To better appreciate God’s way of acting, let us remember that our life is meant to be lived to the full, and that our greatest hopes and dreams are not achieved instantly but through a process of growth and maturation, in dialogue and in relationship with others. Those who focus only on the here and now, on money and possessions, on “having it all now”, are blind to the way God works. His loving plan spans past, present and future; it embraces and connects the generations. It is greater than we are, yet includes each of us and calls us at every moment to keep pressing forward. For the young, this means being ready to break free from the fleeting present in which virtual reality can entrap us, preventing us from doing something productive. For the elderly, it means not dwelling on the loss of physical strength and thinking with regret about missed opportunities. Let us all look ahead! And allow ourselves to be shaped by God’s grace, which from generation to generation frees us from inertia and from dwelling on the past!
In the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth, between young and old, God points us towards the future that he is opening up before us. Indeed, Mary’s visit and Elizabeth’s greeting open our eyes to the dawn of salvation: in their embrace, God’s mercy quietly breaks into human history amid abundant joy. I encourage everyone to reflect on that meeting, to picture, like a snapshot, that embrace between the young Mother of God and the elderly mother of Saint John the Baptist, and to frame it in their minds and hearts as a radiant icon.
Next, I would invite you to make a concrete gesture that would include grandparents and the elderly. Let us not abandon them. Their presence in families and communities is a precious one, for it reminds us that we share the same heritage and are part of a people committed to preserving its roots. From the elderly we received the gift of belonging to God’s holy people. The Church, as well as society, needs them, for they entrust to the present the past that is needed to build the future. Let us honour them, neither depriving ourselves of their company nor depriving them of ours. May we never allow the elderly to be cast aside! The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is meant to be a small but precious sign of hope for them and for the whole Church. I renew my invitation to everyone – dioceses, parishes, associations and communities – to celebrate this Day and to make it the occasion of a joyful and renewed encounter between young and old. To you, the young who are preparing to meet in Lisbon or to celebrate World Youth Day in your own countries, I would ask: before you set out on your journey, visit your grandparents or an elderly person who lives alone! Their prayers will protect you and you will carry in your heart the blessing of that encounter. I ask you, the elderly among us, to accompany by your prayers the young people about to celebrate World Youth Day. Those young people are God’s answer to your prayers, the fruits of all that you have sown, the sign that God does not abandon his people, but always rejuvenates them with the creativity of the Holy Spirit.
Dear grandparents, dear elderly brothers and sisters, may the blessing of the embrace between Mary and Elizabeth come upon you and fill your hearts with peace.
With great affection, I give you my blessing. And I ask you, please, to pray for me. Rome, Saint John Lateran, 31 May 2023,
Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Francis
Sunday, July 16th, 2023 – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11, Psalm 65 “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest”, Romans 8:18-23, Matthew 13:1-2
THE WORD OF GOD IS FRUITFUL
The Word of God is like a seed that God plants in the heart of man and bears fruit in the measure that it is received. The grace of salvation is offered to everyone but it is also always conditioned by the each person’s free response. Some hear it, and others don’t; some make it the center of their lives, while others go their way indifferently.
Sisters and Brothers:
1. Why is it that so many of our good deeds remain sterile and fruitless? It is because they are empty of the Word of God. Our consumerist, hedonistic civilization has hardened man’s heart so much that he is no longer able to understand why and how Christ would cure his heart! What are the obstacles that prevent the growing of grace within my soul? Does each day’s “traffic” keep me from thinking about the ultimate meaning of my life? Is it because there is no silent time where I can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit? Or is my soil full of “rocks and thorns” because of my inconstancy in good intentions and my attachment to the things of this world?
2. In a world that is run by criteria of efficiency and power, it is easy for me to fall into the temptation of thinking my worth is based on the appearance I give to others or their apparent acceptance of me. When this happens I begin to do things just to keep my reputation or to get to a higher position; I work in order to stay ahead of everyone else; I live more concerned with having than with being; I think I can achieve anything I want without the help of others, and I fall into a pride filled self-sufficiency. Yes, I need to recognize my talents, but I must always see them as gifts from God and a call to be responsible. Here’s a thought that should strengthen my commitment to those around me: “I am responsible for the world that surrounds me. No one can replace me in my task of orienting my life according to God’s will.” And so I am consoled by Christ’s promise: “Without me you can do nothing.”
3. The most generous almsgiving would be worthless, as would the most beautiful discourses and the most spectacular initiatives, if they are not born from a heart that is truly in love with God. God has sowed his grace in our hearts on the day of our baptism. It grows with our reception of the sacraments and our practice of the virtues; it is made fruitful by our good works and by the testimony of our Christian life. It is up to us whether or not God’s grace will bear fruit, and this is a comforting and motivating thought. The sower told no one “from you I expect thirty, from you seventy…” Rather, he reminds each one of us: “The first commandment applies to everyone” and he tells all of us to “be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. Can we not say with St. Augustine, “If this saint and this other saint have reached holiness, why can’t I?” Let’s ask for this grace today.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD
Sunday, July 2nd, 2023 – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Jeremiah 20:10-13, Psalm 69 “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News”, Romans 5:12- 15, Matthew 10:26-33
My dear brothers and sisters, in the first reading an influential woman assists Elisha with lodging in her home and, in return, Elisha wants to do something for her. I can imagine that nice places to stay were few and far between in the ancient world. It is a very grace-filled scene of hospitality and prophets, like Elisha, bore God’s blessing to any who helped them. As Christ’s disciples today, we must remember the blessing that we can be to others.
As we approach our country’s birthday celebrations on July 4th , it is a good time to reflect on our hospitality, or lack of it, toward immigrants. They are essential to the life of our nation; many fill jobs that more established Americans do not want to do. Yet, so many have faced discrimination as we see, even to this day. But being inhospitable, is not the biblical way and it is certainly not Jesus’ way.
Many of the children of immigrants would become part of the "Greatest Generation" as they willingly Many immigrants are forced to relocate because of dire circumstances in their home country. I often think about the stories I hear of some immigrants making perilous journeys to escape awful circumstances for the opportunity to have better lives. Hospitality should be our priority for those coming to our shores. Fear of "other" subsides when we encounter immigrants and realize they have the same hopes and dreams as we do. Christ’s Spirit is a twofold source of grace, first for the person who bears it and then for any who receive them.
At the Eucharist, we experience God’s hospitality. A banquet is prepared for us and we are welcomed in. We received God’s hospitality. But we also practice it as we, like the Shumenite woman, discern in this gathering a place where we meet God through one another, the Word and the Eucharistic meal. We welcome the Lord today and, as usual, when we are open to an encounter with God – we receive a blessing. In our society people are gracious and hospitable towards other people like them, their friends, family, business associates, etc. But we note today that biblical hospitality is different. What we know from our scripture readings, Sunday after Sunday, is that God comes to us through other human beings, but most especially in the hungry, poor, homeless, sick, prisoner and stranger. We have a ministry here in Eugene called St. Vincent De Paul. Their mission is “a network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need.” Volunteerism, therefore, is the heart of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and they work in helping neighbors in need. We are all called to play our part in being hospitals to others. Happy July 4th. May the Lord bless us. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD