Hosmer Wednesdays 7:00pm
Bowdle Fridays 5:00pm
Hosmer Wednesdays 7:00pm
Bowdle Fridays 5:00pm
Dec 24 St John, Onaka, 7:00 pm
Dec 24 St Anthony, Hoven, 10:00 pm (Caroling 9:30 pm)
Dec 25 St Augustine, Bowdle 10:30 am
Note: January 1, 2018 not a Holy Day of Obligation this year.
4th Sunday of Advent
Dec 23 St Anthony, Hoven 5:00 pm
Dec 23 St John, Onaka 7:00 pm
Dec 24 St Augustine, Bowdle 10:30 am
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday because of the Scripture readings and Mass prayers appointed for this day in the Liturgy. Today’s Communion Antiphon, for example, proclaims that “The Good Shepherd has risen, Who laid down His life for His sheep and willingly died for His flock, alleluia.” The Latin word for shepherd is pastor, and this reveals why the Church asks us to pray for more priests on Good Shepherd Sunday.
The call to the priesthood comes from God, and the Lord has promised always to provide shepherds for His people. In the Book of Jeremiah, the Lord promised Israel: “I will give you shepherds after My own Heart.” (Jeremiah 3:15) But He also asks us to seek the gift of pastors in prayer: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
In Africa, in South America, and in Oceania, the number of young men offering themselves for priestly formation is on the rise, in some cases a dramatic rise. As you know already, however, this is not the case in Europe and in North America — the “developed” world — and the disparity points to one of the chief difficulties for the young men among us who are being called today: sometimes the call is not heard because of the noise in which we live. This “noise” takes many shapes (e.g. desire for a lucrative career, fear of loneliness, the presence of so many options that making any choice is difficult, etc), but whatever the source of the noise, if the man being called never hears the call, we may assume he’ll never find his place and purpose in life. But even worse than such noise is the failure to live the Christian life with a full understanding of what a radical way of life it is.
The priesthood is not a life for extraordinary men; it is an ordinary Christian way of life for ordinary Christian men. But the key to hearing and answering the call is that the man must understand what it means to be a Christian, to be a disciple of the Jesus. The radical thing is not forsaking marriage and giving one’s life to the Church; the radical thing is being baptized and giving one’s life to Jesus Christ, knowing that this means following him in the Way of the Cross. When young men grow up in a vibrant Christian community in which the truth of the Catholic faith is a thing for rejoicing and the beauty of the Mass is lived day in and day out as the source and summit of the Christian life, then those who are being called will have no difficulty hearing the summons of the Savior to serve his flock as priests, as shepherds, as pastors.
When Catholics ask “Why isn’t the Church doing something about fill in the blank?”, what they’re really asking is “Why aren’t the clergy doing something about that?” And that tendency to identify the work of the clergy as the work of the Church comes from a tragic misunderstanding of the dignity and demands of our Baptism. When anyone who is baptized is engaged in making just laws, teaching those in need of instruction, consoling the sorrowful, feeding the hungry, counseling the doubtful, visiting the sick or imprisoned, or serving someone in any kind of need, then the Church IS doing something about those problems, because everyone who is baptized is a member of the Church and bears responsibility for fulfilling the Great Commission.
Even more, all of the baptized have the high privilege and grave obligation to sanctify the world by their witness to Jesus Christ, and this can be done in every field of human endeavor. The Christian businessman who makes or sells something others need and does so honestly while treating his employees and customers with respect and fairness is bearing witness to the grace of his Baptism. The Christian politician who seeks to serve the common good and assist in the just governance of society according to the law of God is bearing witness to the grace of her Baptism. Christian doctors, lawyers, teachers, musicians, professors, accountants, journalists, architects, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, engineers, mechanics, soldiers, nurses, social workers, secretaries, pharmacists, artists, and shop keepers who work to the uttermost limits of their gifts and do so with integrity and virtue are bearing witness to the grace of their Baptism.
But if all of the above is true, then the converse is also true: Christians who sin gravely and behave badly and fail to live according to the Gospel give scandal to the world and make it more difficult for others to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. We know this instinctively about priests, but it is true no less of everyone who is baptized and called by the Lord Jesus to be his disciple and follow him in the Way of the Cross. That is among the many reasons why all the baptized must strive with all their might to repent of their sins, believe in the Gospel, and cooperate with God’s grace to live in the evangelical freedom of the children of God.
Finally, while living an upright life is an essential part of fidelity to one’s Baptism, it is no substitute for explicit proclamation of the saving truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. All of the baptized are also called to announce the Good News of salvation in Christ and must be prepared at all times to speak to others about their friendship with the Lord Jesus, the truth and beauty of his Gospel, and the joy of living the life of grace in his holy Church. Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!
During the Advent and Christmas Season, we say Merry Christmas to each other as we pass by … wouldn’t be great if, like modern Greeks, we would say public to each other… Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti! These Greek acclamations mean “Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen!”, and in the Christian East — both Catholic and Orthodox — these acclamations replace the usual greetings of hello and goodbye during the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, the liturgical season of Easter or Eastertide. During Eastertide, the first eight days have a special identity, and today (in the liturgical calendar) — eight days after Easter Sunday — has three names: 1) the Octave Day of Easter, 2) the Second Sunday of Easter, and 3) Divine Mercy Sunday.
The number eight has special meaning in the sacred liturgy because it is a symbol of the new creation (the eighth day of the week we await for Christ’s 2nd Coming). The drama of creation unfolded over seven symbolic days, and the eighth day is the sign of God’s pluperfect love revealed in the new creation. This is foreshadowed in the Old Covenant through circumcision taking place eight days after birth and is confirmed by the Resurrection taking place on Sunday, both the first day of the week and the eighth day. Accordingly, in the liturgical calendar the eight days from Easter Sunday until today are kept as one festive celebration of the Resurrection, and today completes the eighth day or Octave of Easter.
Moreover, because the Gospel appointed for today speaks of the Divine Power to forgive sins which the Lord Jesus gave to his Apostles when he first appeared to them after his Resurrection, the emphasis of the liturgy today is on the great mercy of God. Modern devotion to the Lord Jesus as the embodiment of Divine Mercy is connected to the spirituality of St. Faustina, a Polish mystic and religious Sister who was canonized by Pope Saint John Paul the Great. (You may remember, John Paul died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005, was beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2011, and was canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2014.) It was Pope Saint John Paul who decreed that the Second Sunday of Easter would be kept as Divine Mercy Sunday, and with Pope Francis’ a Jubilee Year of Mercy which will conclude in on the Solemnity of Christ the King this year.
In his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (or Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis explained that as a teenager he had a life changing experience of mercy by going to Confession. “After making my confession I felt something had changed. I was not the same. I had heard something like a voice or a call.” This moment of mercy in the life of Jorge Bergoglio helps explain his burning desire to share God’s mercy with others, and now as Pope Francis he describes the Church as a “community [that] has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy” (EG, 24). Let us keep this Octave of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, by resolving to seek the Lord’s mercy for ourselves and be instruments of that mercy for others. Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!
As I sit in the office, looking back at where we have been in the past year (thinking about what we will be soon facing for Easter, Confirmation, Graduation … tired and wondering about a nap … I want to say a few “thank you’s”. I want to thank all the people who have dropped off cookies and cakes and other sweets as well as a great surprise of shrimp of all things (for my Fridays). Thank you from the bottom of our stomachs! Thank you also to the others who gave us gifts too. It is overwhelming to feel the generosity of so many people.
I’d like to thank the folks who decorated all the churches for the Christmas season. They both came out beautifully and the hard work is appreciated the wonderful music during our Concert and Christmas celebrations. Music lifts us up when performed well. Now that Lent comes to an end, the somber will be replaced with awesome glory. Those who plan and execute the music for the churches mightily lift us up!
I mention now just those who are directly involved in the church and the liturgy celebrations. Now, thinking of those who do so much outside the church. Those who volunteer at the Treasure Hut, those who help at the Food Bank, the hospital, the nursing homes, pro-life causes merit recognition. The witness is often lived (and tends to be just “assumed” that’s the way it should be).
Thanks to the rest of the staff and CCD volunteers of both St. Anthony and St. Augustine for all their hard work this past year. There is so much that needs to get done behind the scenes and the folks that work for us do a great job, every day, all the time. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, they bring me back; when I need to see the good in others, they show me. When I feel sad about something they cheer me up and there is something to be said for good people who do good things just because it is the right thing to do. On top of all that they are crackerjack at their respective jobs…all of them. Next time you see or interact with a staff member or volunteer, tell them they are awesome, because they are … and so much more.
There are many more people I could thank, but I think I’ll stop with the last but not least, God … Who we tend to forget when thanks givings are going around. God has blessed me so much and I know He has blessed you too. I thank God for the many blessings, but I truly thank God every day that I am here as your pastor and while I’m not perfect … I hope you will join me in this prayer as we journey together on the road home.