Messages from the Pastor
4/5/2020 - Palm Sunday - Fr. Bob's Condensed Homily (as printed in the bulletin)
Today we celebrate the Lord’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. St. Matthew writes for the Jewish people and so into the Gospel he inserts fulfillment citations (passages from the Old Testament that are fulfilled by Christ). Zechariah 9:9 is one of those passages. Chapter 9 is titled “Restoration under the Messiah.” The messiah will come in total humility. He will not ride into the Holy City on a strong steed adorned with chain mail and a coat of arms. No, he will arrive on a lowly donkey. Can you imagine an official motorcade with a President of the United States riding in a blue, rusted Chevy Chevette (anybody remember those?)? The Prince of Peace arrives self-emptied of glory. Humble and lowly is the choice of our Redeemer.
The people threw cloaks and branches on the road as a tremendous sign of honor and respect. Important people should never have the dust of the road water their eyes or choke their breathing. They cry out “Hosanna (Save us we ask you) in the highest.” This phrase comes from Psalm 118 which is a hymn of thanksgiving to the Savior of Israel; thus, the people fulfill the prophecy with their acclamation of faith.
And when he finally entered Jerusalem, the whole city was SHAKEN. This is unique to Matthew. The earthquake is a powerful sign for Matthew and he uses the word “seismos” at critical moments in the life of Jesus. Back in Chapter 8:24 when Jesus calms the storm on the sea the actual word is earthquake. Only God has power over nature. In Chapter 27:51-52, the earthquake happens at the moment of Jesus’ death. In Chapter 28:2 another earthquake shakes the earth as Jesus rises from the dead. In an apocalyptic way the whole planet is shaken by the mighty power of God. Even the earth herself cannot halt the effects of redemption as they rumble deep throughout the world.
We are shaken right now in a fearful way because life has been greatly disrupted by the Coronavirus. People are sick, some have died, and our livelihoods and economy are shut down. We have fears, frustrations, anxiety and even anger at what is happening around the world. It is very easy for me right now to relate to the Book of Exodus and especially the two plagues in Egypt of the pestilence and boils. I can understand the suffering, fright and helplessness of the Egyptians as cattle, animals and people are dying in great numbers.
How do we escape this fear? Well, we can also be shaken in a spiritually good way. We should all be shaken as we enter into Holy Week. The events of the passion of our Lord should shake us down to our knees in humility as we contemplate the sufferings that Christ endured for us. We can be shaken out of our apathy by offering our communal sufferings for the world and for ourselves. We can be shaken into a renewal of faith, prayer and devotion. We can be shaken in our will to desire to be holy always and not just in a time of crisis. We can be shaken to a stronger trust in God and cry out as did the people in today’s Gospel – “Hosanna” – “Save us.”
This week, we can walk with the Lord in a spiritual way through the streets of Jerusalem to Calvary. We can do this in our own homes in a prayerful manner and also with the streaming of the liturgies on Facebook. I pray that we all make the best of this week and if we do, all of us will be shaken with great joy in our celebration of the Resurrection!
In closing, I do not have a Facebook account or any social media platform. Perhaps that is why Tom Lauer called me the “Ghost of the Internet.” I send everything to Diane Skirpan as an attachment in an e-mail and she posts it for me. I did not know that people make all sorts of comments when something is posted. Diane Skirpan forwarded me your comments and I have to say I was greatly SHAKEN that so many of you were laughing at my hopes of landing a 24 inch, 8 pound trout this spring! I see that my extraordinary prowess in the art of angling is a great unknown among the faithful. Fr. Ben is laughing right now! Amen, Amen I say unto you, no sign shall be given this generation except for this: when I catch that monster trout there will be a great earthquake.……and a huge snowstorm……and an explosive volcanic eruption…..and a giant comet crashing into the sea…….and………..
Wishing you all a Blessed Holy Week!
3/29/2020 - 5th Sunday of Lent - Fr. Bob's Message
Hello everyone. I hope all of you are doing well during our unwanted time of isolation. I want to thank Fr. Ben for streaming the Sunday Mass. I believe this is going to launch his career as the modern day Fulton Sheen! I also want to thank Diane Skirpan who has been AWESOME in the administration of our website & social media. She has helped both of us to communicate with all of you. Please thank her online or in person when you see her! THANK YOU DIANE!!!
In addition to all my regular prayers, I have been praying a prayer of St. John the Baptist each day. We are all still connected in a spiritual way through Christ and our faith. I also believe we are connected through the intercession of our great patron – St John the Baptist. He was out in the wilderness by choice – we, by governmental and ecclesial mandate - but in every wilderness, God is present.
This week, the prophet Ezekiel speaks God’s Word, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.” He is speaking directly about their return from exile. Their exile was a deportation from their nation which was seen as a type of spiritual death. Their isolation brought them despair and misery, yet God enters into their midst to show them the way to life, a life that goes beyond just a journey back to the homeland.
The Gospel makes us confront real death, an exile of a different sort that will occur for each of us. The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the 7th sign (miracle) in John’s Gospel. This sign becomes an irrefutable demonstration that God is in the wilderness with us and is at work to raise mankind from death to eternal life. Faith in the Son of God brings us to trust His promise and the mighty works of God. In the 1st sign of John’s Gospel, the Blessed Mother pleads with Jesus, “They have no wine.” Immediately in faith, she turns to the waiter and says, “DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.” Today, Mary pleads with Jesus about her brother Lazarus and expresses astonishing faith when she says “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would never have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” She believes not only in his power to cure the living but also in the power of God to raise the dead! Indeed, faith in the Messiah will be rewarded with new life and joy.
Having arrived at the tomb and commanded that the stone be removed, Jesus prays. It is not a prayer of petition. His prayer is a statement of the unceasing love, union, and communication that exists between the Son and the Father. It is a prayer prayed out loud to convince and instill the gift of true faith in all the bystanders around the tomb. It is a prayer that identifies Him as Son of Man, Son of God, Messiah and Lord, who is anointed by the Holy Spirit and actively at work with the Father in bringing salvation to the whole world. It is a prayer that points to Him as the fulfillment of all the prophets and the law, the hopes and dreams of every soul longing for light and life.
Jesus already said earlier, “The hour is coming, and indeed is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and rise from their graves to eternal life” (John 5:24-29). Now He demonstrates the veracity of that claim. He utters the command and death gives way. Lazarus awakens to life again and walks out of the grave, still bound by burial bands but no longer bound by death.
This last sign concludes the public ministry and leads us to the passion of Christ. Jesus will now make His way to the Holy City where He will accomplish in His own body what He has demonstrated at the cemetery in Bethany. His body will also be wrapped in burial bands but they will not be able to imprison Him in Hades. These lowly cloth garments used in wrapping dead bodies for burial will become the first material objects of this world to proclaim the resurrection of Christ! Without saying a word, the burial bands will profess to all the world “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.”
As we, the people of St. John’s, continue our Lenten journey in the wilderness, we hold fast to our belief that our Lord is with us. Even though we are physically apart, we are one by the power of the Holy Spirit. Keep up your prayer and Lenten practices. Invoke St. John the Baptist each day for you and for all of us. The Light of Life is in our midst.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Hello everyone. I have been working hard at keeping up with e-mails. I am getting more than I ever received before. I don’t know how to type efficiently (I use 2 fingers) so it takes me a while. I have been asked quite often about envelopes and donations. Your envelopes can be sent to the Parish by mail or if you are in the area you can place them in the drop box right outside the parish office. The drop box is locked and we check it first in the morning and then before the office closes at 4:00PM. If you give online with Faith Direct nothing changes. There is information posted to sign up for Faith Direct for those who are interested in doing so. Your donations are important. We still need to pay our bills, so thank you for the support that you give to our Parish. These are difficult times for so many people who are not working because of mandated closures of businesses. I know that we all hope this ends soon.
Another question that comes up often is whether the office is still open. The office is staffed but none of the buildings are open to the public. We have one of our office staff in each day and they are alternating days. We are still open from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM Monday through Friday so feel free to call if you have any business or questions. Any sponsor certificates, sacrament certificates, tax statements etc. will be mailed to you.
Another question that comes up very often is about Holy week and Easter. Fr. Ben and I just received directives from the Bishop’s office. We are reading them now and will announce in the very near future about the Masses, liturgies, and the times they will be streamed.
Lastly, I understand the WHY of what we are doing but it still feels very strange. For example – The opening of trout season in PA is delayed 2 weeks but it will open to the public. So I can go trout fishing but I can’t celebrate Mass with my people. Go figure! I guess they suppose that when we are fishing in a mountain stream we are as “Socially Distanced” as we can get. As for that 24 inch, 8 pound brown trout that I will catch – It will be one Big Jerk at the end of a line waiting for another big jerk at the other end.
Stay healthy and safe. Let us continue to pray for all those sickened by this virus that Jesus, our Divine Physician, may bring healing to all and ease our sufferings. You are in our prayers.
To the good parishioners of St. John the Baptist Parish,
We are in uncharted waters with all the cautions and restrictions concerning the Corona Virus. None of us ever expected in our wildest dreams that churches would be closed to public access and that Masses, confessions and sacraments would be suspended. Anyway, being the super intelligent pastor that I am, I put Fr. Ben in charge of tech/liturgy since I am not super intelligent in that area. Daily Masses and Sunday Masses will be on 87.9 FM radio. Fr. Ben is hoping to audio record the Masses so that you may access them if you are outside of the FM radio signal. Also Fr. Ben is working on streaming the Sunday Mass so that you can see it online ( I lent him my cat 6 ethernet cable for the task)! To make it easy all the Masses will be at 9:00 AM. Those that are recorded may be accessed by you at any time. You will be informed about the links and whether they will be on the website, facebook or both. We will journey these 40 days of Lent together through cyberspace.
We are in touch with all of our homebound to make sure their needs are being met. If you know of anyone who is seriously ill or in danger of death please call us. It is extremely difficult but we are demanding to get in to see our seriously ill parishioners at the hospitals & nursing homes. Also for those who want the sacrament of reconciliation contact Fr. Ben or me by phone or e-mail and we will work something out. We are keeping all of you and your loved ones in our prayers. Please keep us in prayer as well. When you see Fr. Ben thank him for what he is doing for us.