Messages from the Clergy

5/24/2020 - Seventh Sunday of Easter - by Fr. Ben Dunkelberger

     There are many parts to my story of becoming a priest, but one very powerful instrument God used to lead me in the right direction was a Catholic organization I participated in during college. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) was formed in 1998, and it started with 20 students at a college in Colorado. Now in 2020, it has involved well over 40,000 students and has small teams of young adult Catholics working as missionaries on over 150 college campuses in the U.S. I bring this up because one of the founders of this organization, Curtis Martin, just recently wrote a book detailing the vision of the FOCUS organization, and one of his foundational bible verses is from this weekend’s Gospel. The verse John 17:3 was an easy choice for Curtis because it is also in the very first sentence of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This verse inspired one of the core habits that is taught and experienced within FOCUS, and Curtis calls this habit Divine Intimacy.

 

John 17:3 is one of the few verses in the Bible that talks about our future experience of heaven; and Jesus, in His prayer to God the Father, explains that heaven will be an experience of “knowing God.” Jesus is speaking to Father about his apostles and says, “this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Therefore, Jesus is telling us that heaven is primarily going to be an experience of a relationship. Curtis Martin explains in his book, Making Missionary Disciples, that the biblical word for “knowing” can be a bit misleading in our current English language.  Many other languages have multiple words for this one English word such as the Spanish language, which uses saber (to know facts about something) as well as conocer (to know someone personally in a relationship; familiarity).  The biblical word for ‘knowing’ is much more like conocer, it is about knowing someone as a person and being acquainted and familiar with them in a relationship. Heaven is knowing God in a loving relationship of giving and receiving love. Furthermore, this same word in the bible is used for the marital embrace (Genesis 4:1) and implies a deep lifelong and life-giving, knowing relationship. This idea of heaven being a personal knowledge of God, as far as knowing the infinite Trinity in a personal relationship, should translate to how we approach our prayer lives. God wants to help us to know his specific, personal love for us so that we also know God on a personal and intimate level, which is truly Divine Intimacy.

 

Three practical encouragements for our prayer lives can be found in today’s readings as well. The first is found in the 1st reading, which is that all the apostles together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and a few others were praying in “one accord” (Acts 1:14). Imagine what would happen if we encouraged each other to pray in silence for at least 10 to 15 minutes every day!  Encouraging each other to pray, keeping each other accountable, and praying with each other at times, are all great ways to help grow in our relationship with God.  Secondly, St. Peter in the 2nd reading mentions that sacrifice and suffering are a part of our lives as Christians, and this is true for prayer sometimes as well. If we are distracted during prayer, perseverance is one of things we need to develop the habit of prayer and Divine Intimacy. In an age of noise, perseverance in silent prayer can be a true sacrifice, but Christ is with us and encouraging us every step of the way.  Finally, the third encouragement is from Psalm 27, and the psalmist expresses the most beautiful prayer relating to our desire for God. We desire many things in our lives, but ultimately, our hearts should be directed to God and His infinite love for us. There is only “one thing I ask of the Lord…to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord.” May we make the Psalmist’s words our own and ask God to put into our hearts a deep desire to experience His love in a powerful way in our prayer lives. If we do this, then we are preparing ourselves for the experience of heaven: “This is eternal life, that they may know the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent!” God Bless you!

5/17/2020 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - by Fr. Ben Dunkelberger

“There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” This quote from Fulton Sheen in 1938 is still very true in our world today. Venerable Fulton Sheen was a Catholic priest from Illinois, hosted a well-known radio and then TV show throughout the mid-1900s, and was eventually a Bishop in New York. He knew the importance of dispelling misconceptions and explaining the reasons behind what we believe as Catholics. In this weekend’s second reading, St. Peter exhorts all Christians to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” It is easy to think that this doesn’t apply to us, but we need to realize that our own explanation can be very powerful to other people who are struggling (sometimes silently) with questions of faith and the meaning of life. God does not expect us to become a professional philosopher or theologian overnight, but He does desire us to learn little by little about the truth of the Catholic faith and witness and explain that truth to other people in our world.

Our current society often claims that teaching moral or religious truths to other people is a harsh or judgmental approach to life, and instead, we should focus on loving and caring for each other. However, in this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that following commandments is actually an essential part of loving God and other people. For example, the truth of morality, what is good versus what is evil, determines how we act and therefore how we love. In addition, the truth of what we believe, what is true about God versus what is untrue, determines how we act towards God and within the family of the Church as well. For example, if Jesus is not present in the Eucharist, His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, then why do we bother with all the reverence and prayer during Mass? If God does not command us to come to Mass every Sunday, then we could very easily stay home and sleep in because it is easy to be busy with many other things in our current world. On the other hand, if God does command us to come to Mass every Sunday (we are dispensed right now due to the pandemic) and if Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, then we know what are duty is to God and our parish family as well as how to relate to Jesus and love Him. Because of those religious and moral truths, we can be confident of how God desires us to relate to Him, and we can then pour out our hearts in love to Jesus every Sunday as Jesus pours His love into our hearts through our reception of Him in communion. However, we have to believe that these things are objectively true in order to fully enter into this relationship that God has prepared for us.

My encouragement for you this weekend is to find a topic you are interested in learning about within our faith and spend some time this week learning about that topic. You could choose scripture, prayer, church history, philosophical questions, common questions people have about Catholicism, or any other topic that interests you (there are so many to choose from). Let’s say for example, you decide to study the truth of the Eucharist. Maybe you read articles online about the Eucharist (see two websites I recommend below for a start) or maybe you read a good book on the Eucharist (I’ll leave just two of my favorites below), but whatever you choose, the last thing to realize is that this can be both a powerful witness to others and also bring you closer to God as well. We must remember that St. Peter encourages us to give the reasons for why we believe, not just to win arguments, but with “gentleness and reverence” in order to not coerce but invite others to understand and believe in the truth of the Catholic faith. Therefore, the truth of our charity will align with the truth of our creed. Lastly, as we learn more about our faith, little by little, we are also growing in understanding of a person. This person, Jesus Christ, says that He is the Truth. Our learning can become delightful to our souls as we increase in our knowledge of the Truth, and therefore, it can be a profound way that we continue to grow closer to the person of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our God, on a regular basis in our lives.
God Bless you!

Online Articles on the Eucharist:

https://www.catholic.com/tract/the-real-presence

https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/controversy/protestant-objections/the-early-church-fathers-and-the-eucharist.html

 

Two good books on the Eucharist:

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre

The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn

 

5/10/2020 - Fifth Sunday of Easter - by Fr. Ben Dunkelberger

You don’t need to be an expert on all things Harry Potter, or for that matter even familiar with it at all, to understand the power of this quote from the book series,

    “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. Love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”

 

At the root of so many problems we have in this world, one major factor is that people do not realize that they are loved. They may have never deeply experienced it, or they may have become cold towards the people who actually love them. Motherly love is often recognized as the most powerful experience of love that people have ever known in their lives, especially as we grow older and realize all the hidden, unrecognized, and unrewarded sacrifices and small acts of love our mothers have done for us. On this Mother’s Day and in the midst of this pandemic, it is so important for us to realize and remember that still today, mothers often make unrecognized and unrewarded sacrifices for their families. It is so important because this can be one of the inspirations for all of us during these unusual and difficult times in our world.

 

In this weekend’s Gospel reading, when Jesus says that He is “the way,” a big part of this way is following Jesus’ example of small, hidden acts of love that come from the depths of our hearts. Jesus’ heart was ready to perform big, visible acts of sacrificial love, such as carrying His Cross and allowing Himself to be crucified. However, those big acts of love come from a heart that is also capable and eager to perform the small, hidden acts of love just as much. Whether it was years of obedience and hard work as a carpenter in the family life of Mary and Joseph, or the hours and hours of silent prayer Jesus offered to the Father in secret (Lk. 5:16, 9:18), or even His clear teaching on love from the heart with the poor widow who gave much more than the rich donors because she gave out of the deep love in her heart (Mk. 12:44), these small, hidden acts of love and sacrifice are worth more than we can ever imagine in the eyes of God.

 

This must be our motivation moving forward as a Church and as a society during this pandemic. We cannot give up on making the small, hidden, and seemingly unrewarded acts of love, both to our family, friends, and neighbors as well as to God Himself. This is in fact St. Peter’s encouragement in this weekend’s second reading. Through our Baptism in Christ, we are all “living stones” that can be built and formed into the mystical body of Christ and become the “spiritual house” of God. We accomplish this by making the “spiritual sacrifices” through Jesus Christ, our high priest in heaven. Please realize that during this pandemic at every Mass offered by Fr. Bob and myself, we are offering it with that intention in mind. To bring not only our small sacrifices, but especially all of your sacrifices as well to God, that the Father may receive them through Jesus uniting Himself to us during all our trials, joys, and activities. These sacrifices of love create a permanent mark on the heart of the mystical body of Christ in a good way. Also, Jesus’ love for us should leave a mark on our hearts just like the love from a mother often does in our lives.

May we once again take Mary as our model, along with all mothers, so that we may be inspired and strengthened to make the small, hidden sacrifices and acts of love that build up each other, support our world, and mysteriously create a new heart in the mystical body of Christ on this earth.

 

God Bless you!

 

5/03/2020 - Fourth Sunday of Easter - by Fr. Ben Dunkelberger

“You learn something new every day!” “I never realized that before!” “Who would’ve guessed?!” These are all statements that we could probably say just about every day of our lives. A big part of these statements is that the fullness of the truth and reality is hidden from us to some degree. Throughout our entire lives, we are learning more and more about the world, about ourselves, about other people, and hopefully also about our faith and about God Himself. However, in order for this to happen, we have to prepare our minds, hearts, and souls with the correct perspective. The proper mindset is that we might not yet know the complete reality of another person or even the totality of the truth about our relationship with God and the Church.

 

We see this mindset encouraged throughout the entire Bible as well as in our readings today. St. Peter is revealing the full truth of Jesus to the Jewish people of Jerusalem, who are cut to the heart and say, “what are we to do?” Or in other words, how are we to respond to this new situation and new knowledge? We also see the Pharisees in this weekend’s Gospel reading, who are selfishly focused on their own status, power, and personal gain, rather than being focused on who Jesus really is in their lives. Even though Jesus tries to get them to see who He really is, they are blinded by their own selfishness and pride, and they can’t even imagine God appearing as a human being and shepherding the people by His sacrificial love for them. Their hearts are not open.

 

If we have the proper mindset, one profound spiritual realization we are meant to discover more and more throughout our lives as Christians is that in the midst of suffering or difficulty, God still desires us to experience His divine life, love, and peace. We are meant to follow Jesus’ example of self-sacrificial love for other people and return that love to God Himself, but this means we will experience suffering during our lives. We will have to pick up our cross and follow Jesus to do this. In the 2nd reading this weekend, St. Peter writes that we are meant to follow Jesus’ example and do what is good even when it is hard. If we do this, we can “live for righteousness” and experience Jesus both healing our wounds as well as shepherding and guarding our souls! The Gospel takes this one step further when it says that Jesus’ sacrifice and our acceptance of Jesus as our Shepherd will lead us to first, recognize the voice of Jesus along with experiencing life through Jesus and life in abundance (John 10:10)!

 

A practical way we can enter into this reality more and more during this time in our lives is something very simple but also very difficult. Psalm 23 this weekend says, “Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for you are at my side.” This message fits the common theme of the other readings; even in the midst of the dark valley of suffering, God’s presence is with us, and He wants us to experience the consolation of His love in those moments. When we put this belief into action, we can learn the lived reality in a new way and experience God’s presence in a more full way than ever before. For example, we will strive not give into discouragement or pessimism in the midst of continual societal changes, unknowns, and possible sufferings due to the pandemic. We will look for moments of silence and prayer to open our hearts to that accompanying presence, love, peace, and joy. In other words, we will believe that - no matter what - God still leads us to “verdant pastures” and “beside restful waters” where God “refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23). May we ask God to continue to help us to “learn something new every day,” and may God bless you and convict your heart that, even in darkness, He has come that we “might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
 

God Bless you!

4/26/2020 - Third Sunday of Easter - by Fr. Ben Dunkelberger

In the United States of America, we have become experts at rejoicing or celebrating when the occasion arises. Also, we are pretty good at finding a way to turn almost any occasion into a reason to celebrate or throw a party. Whether it’s food or music, dancing or singing, games or fun activities, we have become experts in that sense, and we know how to celebrate and enjoy ourselves when we have the opportunity. However, we need to ask ourselves the question, do I know how to celebrate my faith? For example, do I know how to rejoice in the Easter reality of Jesus’ Resurrection from dead?!

 

Celebrating our faith does not have to be completely different from celebrating a normal holiday such as Thanksgiving or the 4th of July. However, there are at least two main differences that we need to be aware of in order to include God in our celebrations. Otherwise we might just be celebrating ourselves or celebrating the things God created for us, rather than celebrating God Himself. The good news is that all 50 days of Easter are meant to be a celebration!

 

First of all, at least a good portion of our celebration should be spending time finding joy and rejoicing in God Himself. During the entire Lenten season, the Church does not allow us to say the word Alleluia in any public or official prayer. However, during the Easter season, Alleluia is the one word that is repeated over and over again. This Hebrew word is made of up of two other Hebrew words, to praise (hll) and God’s divine name (Yh), so its true meaning is All hail to Him who is, or more simply Praise God! If we miss out on spending time praising God through our prayer, or through spiritual reading, or maybe even through spiritual conversation with others, then we have missed the mark on true celebration. Ignoring God Himself during our celebrations, would be as if we attended a birthday party, and put the birthday boy or girl in a corner and ignored them for the entire gathering! Psalm 16 this Sunday gives us the right expression to strive for when it says, “You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.”

 

Secondly, when we celebrate using the good things of the world, such as food, drink, music, etc., we are called to listen to St. Peter in today’s second reading. He says to always remember and keep on our hearts and minds how Christ has purchased us from our former futile conduct in the world, which means we should do this even in the midst of celebration. Practically, this should mean that we still plan to avoid temptations and occasions for sin during our parties and celebrations. As an extreme example, a person struggling with alcoholism shouldn’t justify celebrating with a tiny bit of alcohol because that is a very real occasion for falling into serious sin. We wouldn’t criticize them for celebrating in a different way. This is true for all of us as well. Whether it is planning to avoid occasions of gluttony, gossip, or other sins we struggle with, we are truly honoring God and celebrating with Him if we know what our weaknesses are and plan accordingly during our celebrations. We can have fun and celebrate well throughout the entire year without returning to our futile conduct because this is the freedom that Christ has purchased for us through His Resurrection from the dead!

 

Finally, one tip that has worked well for me during celebrations is to try to do one concrete thing that makes the celebration more enjoyable for another person rather than just only finding enjoyment for yourself. This can simply remind us that we are not the center of the world, and as we are helping others, God is there present to us as well. This Sunday’s Gospel bears this truth out dramatically. The disciples walking away from Jerusalem are only worried about their current journey and how unfortunate they are as individuals. They are so focused on themselves that they don’t even realize this man to be the risen and transformed person of Jesus Christ, teaching them and encouraging them along the way. If I’m only concerned with what is going on in my life and during celebrations, if I make celebrating entirely focused on making myself happy, then I might easily be missing the reality of Jesus walking right beside me and wanting me to know His presence. Our hearts should always be burning with the presence of Christ’s love (Luke 24:32)!

 

If we are willing to bring God into our celebrations, both in celebrating by spending time with God Himself as well as celebrating well without putting ourselves in spiritual danger, then we will be living the Easter season in close communion with God. As a result, we can then make the opening prayer in this Sunday’s Mass the prayer of our hearts this Easter season, “rejoicing now in the restored glory of our adoption, we may look forward in confident hope to the rejoicing of the day of resurrection!” May God Bless you!

4/19/2020 - Divine Mercy Sunday - Fr. Bob's Condensed Homily (as printed in the bulletin)

 

“Peace be with you. I say it again, peace be with you.” Jesus greeted his apostles Easter Sunday night with these words. His first gift is peace which flows from mercy. Mercy brings healing, and healing brings peace. How reassuring these words must have been to the apostles!

 

At the Passover meal, Jesus connected the Eucharist directly to the sacrifice of Good Friday. “This is my Body broken for you. This is the cup of my Blood to be shed for you.” The broken body and the blood poured out will bring the forgiveness of sins. At his birth, the angel announces to both Mary and Joseph that the child is to be named Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew meaning “God saves”) because he will save his people from their sins. Now that mission enters into it’s final phase as Jesus prepares for his death.

 

The blood indeed is poured forth, and now - in that same upper room - the Holy Spirit is poured forth so that this great gift will be bestowed on all people of every generation. Upon the cross, clinging to what mortal life was left, the Son of God speaks the words of mercy “Father forgive them.” The Word of God, now in the flesh, accomplishes what he vocalizes - just as God’s Word accomplished the creation of all good things in the beginning. It’s power manifests the richness of God’s love. The human person disfigured and broken through sin is now reconstructed into the glorious temple of God’s Holy Spirit.

 

We no longer have to be enslaved to evil. We no longer have to be bound in the web of disharmony, unrest and helplessness. We can allow the Father to fill us with the mercy of Christ through the Holy Spirit which will loosen every burden. Every sin and all sin can be forgiven! There is no sin that cannot be forgiven! God wants us to be free and he has given us that grace through Divine Mercy!

 

To receive Holy Eucharist is to trust in his mercy. To venerate the wood of the cross is to trust in his mercy. To receive the sacrament of reconciliation is to trust in his mercy. To believe in the resurrection is to trust in his mercy. To forgive one another is to trust in his mercy. While we at this time are physically separated from receiving the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist we are never separated from the mercy of our God. As a matter of fact, our desire and hunger grows stronger just as it did for the apostle Thomas. His absence from the Lord ignited that desire within him to want even more the very same experience the other apostles had – meeting the risen Lord. Lying deep below the obstacle of his human doubt, Thomas hoped beyond all hope that what the other apostles experienced was actually true. His desire led him to make the greatest acclamation of faith, “My Lord and my God!”

 

We pray for God’s mercy to be bestowed upon our world - especially on those who have died, those who are ill, and everyone affected by this modern plague of coronavirus. For the time being we must live the virtue of patience so that when that day comes our sufferings will not have led us further away from Christ; but rather, have drawn us into the arms of his mercy. So let us trust in his mercy as he asks of us. Divine mercy will bring us forgiveness, new life, and joy – and God’s peace will reign within us.

 

Praised be Jesus Christ!

4/12/2020 - Easter Sunday - Fr. Bob's Condensed Homily (as printed in the bulletin)

In the second reading from Genesis of the Easter Vigil, we recount God’s test of Abraham. He is sent to Mt. Moriah (where one day the temple will be built in what would become the city of Jerusalem). They arrive on the 3rd day. It is Isaac, the son, who carries the wood on his own shoulders for the sacrifice. Isaac asks “Where is the sheep for the sacrifice?” Abraham answers, “God Himself will provide the sheep for the sacrifice.”

Abraham finds himself in an unsolvable dilemma. Do I offer the miraculous gift of this child back to God, the descendant in whom the promise of salvation will be carried to future generations? Or do I refuse to let go of the greatest joy given to Sarah and me in our old age? In complete faith Abraham chooses to follow the command of God. The angel is sent to stop Abraham because it is faith that God desires and not human sacrifice.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews explains the awesome faith of Abraham this way: “By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.’ He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol” (Heb 11:17-19). In other words, Abraham’s faith was so strong that he was willing to offer his son and the conveyance of the promise of salvation because he believed that God would raise Isaac back to life in order to fulfill the promise! Abraham believed in the resurrection of the dead! Isaac was received back by Abraham as a symbol of Christ, God’s own Son!

 

God indeed provided the sheep for the sacrifice. Abraham found a ram in the thicket and then offered it on the altar. The symbol of Genesis becomes reality in Jerusalem as Jesus carried the wood for the sacrifice on His own shoulders. God indeed provided the sheep—the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. God offered His own Son for the fulfillment of the promise, and on the 3rd  day, raised His Son in the glory of the resurrection. What Abraham longed to see is now bestowed upon us as the greatest gift of love. Abraham rejoiced from afar that the God in whom he put all his trust has indeed raised us up.

We too rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord because death now gives way to the bright promise of immortality. The tomb is found empty, robbed of death, and Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. He will appear to the other holy women, apostles, and disciples, reigniting the fire of faith that was lost on Calvary. Easter is the pinnacle of our Christian faith. It is a momentous celebration of our victory over death in in Christ and the never ending life that awaits us.

In baptism, we inherit the promise of Abraham. We inherit what he so boldly professed on Mt. Moriah - that God is able to raise even from the dead. The waters bring death to sin and life in the Spirit. In baptism, we are offered up—not symbolically like Isaac—but really and truly in union with Jesus Christ. We acknowledge and accept suffering and death—in Christ and with Christ—so that we may be made heirs to the promise of His resurrection. From the waters that flowed over the Lord in the Jordan and out of His side on the cross, He continues to replenish and consecrate the waters of our baptismal fonts. Through these grace filled waters, we are forgiven and raised up in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

May Easter bring you great joy through a deeper faith our victory over death, a stronger hope in our gift of eternal life,  and an abiding love in our God who has raised us up!                                                                                      

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!     

Fr. Bob

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!
Fr. Bob

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!

3/25/2020

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.

                          

God bless,

Fr. Bob

3/19/2020

 

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.

                                                                       

God bless,

Fr. Bob