April 11, 2021
Hear to Serve …
GIFT OF DIVINE MERCY
Wasn’t it just a week ago that the Easter fire was lit and the light of Christ filled our churches and our hearts? Wasn’t it just a week ago that we acclaimed, “Christ is risen, alleluia?” Didn’t we just celebrate the highest feast of the Church, Easter? Then why, just one week later do we need Divine Mercy Sunday?
Our Gospel reading today explains why. On the evening of the day of the Resurrection, the Apostles had their doors locked. They were afraid. They were afraid of the Jews and probably also afraid of seeing the Risen Jesus. How could they explain why they had abandoned him? It was only a few days before that Jesus had instituted the Eucharist. It was just a few days before when Jesus had explained to the Apostles that even though he would die, He would rise again. And even though everything that Jesus told them would happen, happened, confusion; fear, doubt, and guilt filled the room.
Then, the Risen Christ entered into the chaos and changed their hearts, minds, and souls with the words, “Peace be with you.” Jesus did not chastise them. Jesus didn’t punish them. No, Jesus commissioned them and breathed new life into them. Jesus gave them the authority to bestow God’s unending mercy upon us through the forgiveness of sins. Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This was more than the Apostles had hoped for. In their excitement, they tried to share their joy with the one Apostle who was not there when Jesus appeared. Thomas refused to enter into the celebration. He refused to believe what he had not witnessed for himself.
Jesus answered Thomas’s prayer by offering the wounds in his hands and side. Thomas immediately understood the mercy that was being offered. Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who have not seen but believe,” were not just for Thomas but for all of us.
There are times that we will feel the presence of Jesus and even witness His love and mer-cy. There are also times that we cannot feel Jesus and we cannot see Him at work in our lives. Divine Mercy Sunday is for those of us who really want to live out Easter joy, but just cannot get over our confusion. It is for those of us who live with the nagging fear that maybe we are not good enough, or that our sins are too dark or too many to be forgiven. Divine Mercy Sunday is for those of us who just cannot believe without seeing, those of us who cannot go beyond our physical senses to see with the eyes of faith. Divine Mercy Sunday is for all of us. It reminds us that every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection. Divine Mercy Sunday is also our reminder that Jesus is there for us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In His Divine Mercy, Jesus waits to breathe new life into us.
April 4, 2021
Hear to Serve …
“THE EQUALITY ACT”? NOT SO MUCH!
In last week’s bulletin there was an insert titled, “Bishop Ricken calls the Diocese of Green Bay to Prayer, Education, & Action.” It concerns the Equality Act which is legislation about to go before the Senate. It has already passed in the House of Representatives.
This bill which is supposed to bring equal rights, fair treatment, and respect to people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ). That is all well and good in and of itself. We as Catholics are to treat all people with love and respect. We are to welcome everyone because we are all brothers and sisters. If you listened to the homily last week, this is part of accepting all of Jesus, not just the parts we like or understand.
But just like everything else these days, the issue has become polarized. In defending the rights of one group, this bill tramples on the rights of other groups, including those who hold Christian beliefs. Religious freedom is being threatened in this country. In 1993 there was a law passed called The Religious Freedom Act. This act allows us to practice our religion in this country as we see fit. The Equality Act exempts itself from this act and threatens our religious freedoms.
One of the biggest concerns of this bill is that it could lift the prohibitions that are now in place that prevent using federal tax money for abortions. It is very likely that this bill could pressure or force healthcare professionals to participate in abortions or risk losing their jobs. The moral or religious objections of healthcare workers would not matter anymore. The same can be said for healthcare professionals when it comes to gender transition procedures.
This bill also expands the government’s definition of public space. This could force our Catholic parish halls to host events that are in conflict with our beliefs. If we allow one group, we would have to allow every group.
These are just some of the things this bill could do to squash our religious freedoms and other rights we have. You need to seriously look at this and voice your opinion. Go to the Diocese of Green Bay website www.gbdioc.org. On the right side of the front page of the website you will see, “Bishop Ricken Calls Diocese of Green Bay to Prayer, Education & Action.” There are four different links you can click on. You can see and read The Equality Act. There is also a link to the United States Catholic Council of Bishops (USCCB) website with more information. The last link is titled, “Respond to the USCCB Action Alert.” Click on it. It will take you to where you can register your dissatisfaction with this bill before it goes to the Senate. It even has a premade message to our senators. It is easy and takes less than five minutes.
PLEASE! Do what our Bishop asks of us. The Equality Act does not promote equality, it creates further division and goes against many of our Catholic beliefs. As Catholics, we pray and work for the salvation of all souls. Pray, pray for our people in government. Pray for the LGBTQ community who are our brothers and sisters, our children and grandchildren deserving of our love and respect. Pray that as a country, we learn to value all human life, from conception to natural death.
Educate yourselves and take some Action!
Christ is risen, Alleluia!
March 28, 2021
Hear to Serve …
I was looking at one of the Virtue of the Month booklets that are given to each family in the Religious Education Program. The featured virtue for March is Justice. One of the things included in this packet is a "letter" from St. Faustina who explains the relationship of Justice and Mercy. It is interesting because I have a feeling that many of us have a skewed sense of justice. We tend to think of justice as "getting what you deserve," or "You do the crime, you do the time." So, what is God's take on justice?
Well, like it or not, God's penalty for sin is death which means eternal separation from Him. We know that God is just, and what God says, stands. Adam and Eve sinned and paid the price of leaving the Garden of Eden and the presence of God. We sin and God demands payment, right? But God is not about punishment, He is about justice. In Scripture the term “justice” means “to make right.” Justice is about relationship--people living in right relationship with God, one another, and the natural creation.
Because we sin, we are no longer in right relationship. We are separated from God, who is life. God sees the mess of the human situation and right from the time of the fall He began His plan to set things right. He began His plan of salvation. God entered into covenants (relationships) with Abraham, Moses, and David. He gave them laws to guide them, eventually showing them that they cannot save themselves. We cannot save ourselves. We constantly enter into the state of separation from God, from life. On our own, human beings choose death over life.
God entered into this human condition and this broken world and healed it through Jesus Christ. It is because of the obedience of Jesus to the Father, the total sacrifice of self, that justice was restored. It is through the mercy of God that justice is possible.
I like to think of it as not getting what we deserve but getting what we choose. We can choose the justice offered through the forgiveness of sins, or we can do it on our own which will always lead to death, the just punishment for sin.
As God is just and loving, so we are called to do justice and live in love. God does not desire anyone to be separated from Him. As the people of a merciful and just God, we need to always act for the common good. We must see that each person gets their share of the good. We must put aside what we think someone deserves and extend forgiveness and reconciliation.
As we begin Holy Week, we walk the path of the Passion of Christ. The most loving and just thing we can do for our neighbors is to bring them with us. Participate this week in every way you can to tell the story of our Salvation, the great gift of a loving Father through His obedient Son. In a truly just world, all people would share in the joy of Easter.
March 21, 2021
Hear to Serve …
JESUS, THE LEAST OF MY BROTHERS, RICE BOWLS, AND 1%
In Matthew’s Gospel, we hear Jesus tell the people, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:34-36).
Well, I don’t know what your thoughts may be, but to me it seems Jesus is being pretty clear about the actions He wants us to take. He is telling us that if we want to inherit His kingdom, then we must take care of the physical needs of the poor in this world.
One of the ways we can do this is through the CRS Rice Bowls that come out to the parishes every Lent. CRS, Catholic Relief Services, is one of the largest charities in the world to help the poor and the marginalized. CRS reaches out to the poorest of the poor, providing food, clean water, and medical help. They try to help people become self-sustaining by offering education and business loans so that they do not have to rely on hand-outs the rest of their lives. Out of every dollar given, 92% goes to help the poor. And CRS always promotes our Catholic Identity to the world.
With the COVID Pandemic, it is the poor who are the hardest hit. Unfortunately, I see a lot of empty Rice Bowls sitting in the back of our parish churches. So, I offer you a challenge. What I’m asking for is a one-time gift from you. I know we have just heard about the Bishop’s Appeal for the last couple of weeks which does provide for those who need help in our Diocese. However, giving to the Rice Bowl is how we can go the extra step to help the poorest of the poor in the world as part of our Lenten almsgiv-ing.
So, I’m going to ask each of you to prayerfully consider giving just 1% of your monthly budget to the CRS Rice Bowls. A one-time gift to help feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give drink to the thirsty. That’s it, just 1%, one time. (For this year.) Think about it, add up what you spend to house, clothe, feed, and care for yourself in a month. If all of your monthly expenses add up to $3,000.00, 1% would come out to be just $30.00. A one-time gift.
Now, after prayerful consideration, if 1% is too much, how about a half of a percent of your monthly budget? If that’s still too much, give what you can. Every dollar helps. You don’t even need the Rice Bowl. Put your donation in an envelope and mark it, “Rice Bowl.” Drop it in the collection basket or send it in the mail to the Parish Office. Now, if you have already given to the collection, “For the World's Poor,” thank you, and you have dispensation from your Deacon for the Rice Bowls. Unless of course you feel compelled to help out.
Then the righteous will say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and welcome You? Or naked and clothe You? When did we see You ill, or in prison and visit You? And the King will say to them, Amen I say to you, whatever you did for the least of my brothers you did for Me” (Mt 25:37-40).
I’m not telling you a CRS Rice Bowl will guarantee you a spot in the Kingdom, but it’s a start. Let’s do this for Jesus this Lent.
March 14, 2021
Hear to Serve …
GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON Jn 3:16
We have been told many times that when we pray, fast, and give alms during Lent we do it to become closer to Christ. Sometimes it feels to me like we are playing some kind of Hide-and-Seek game. God is hiding from us and we are supposed to find Him so we win the prize of eternal life.
In our Gospel reading from John this week, a Pharisee named Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the night seeking answers. Jesus tells not only Nicodemus, but also us how wrong we can be. Our thoughts of us being the seeker or the hunter in this divine game of hide and seek couldn’t be any further from the truth. We are not the ones who are doing the finding, God is.
It has been God’s plan since the fall of Adam and Eve to set this broken world of ours right again. God knows that due to original sin, and no matter how hard we try, it is our human nature to return to the darkness. We prefer to stay hidden in the darkness of a cave where the beauty of God’s creation becomes covered in the mold and slime of sin, sin that only hides the Light from us. God is so serious about finding us that he sent His only Son down into the dirt, the muck, and the dysfunction of the human world to bring us back into the light of Divine love.
The Father sent the Son to suffer and die on the cross for our sinfulness not because God the Father is a God of anger and wants appeasement for our sinfulness. No, God the Father is a God who is consumed with compassion for His creation, namely us. He does this out of love for us. (And frankly I really don’t understand why.)
God loves us so much that He wants us to be born again into His Divine life. He wants us to share in the love between the Father and the Son so we can experience love like we have never experienced before. This is offered to all of us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and His Resurrection.
This Lent, we come to understand the truth. It is not about what we do and how hard we try to find God because God has already found us. We do not have to play games or go searching in the night to find the truth, we just have to live the truth of Jesus Christ. Because as Jesus told Nicodemus, “whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
March 7, 2021
Hear to Serve …
"We Rise Again"
Our holy Lenten season comes each year to give us pause and allow time for deeper reflection. As I think about the blessings in my life, I am overwhelmingly grateful to be on this path to our Lord with you.
Because of your prayers and support, our parish’s Bishop’s Appeal is off to a strong start. I am not surprised, as our parish has always responded generously when asked. Catholics have always shown great resilience in times of trial, hardships and now, through a pandemic! With the love of our Lord, we are able to rise to these challenges and I am grateful for your continued generosity.
The Bishop’s Appeal supports ministries and programs that serve those in need through Catholic Charities. It provides opportunities to grow for our leaders in Catholic education and faith formation. You make this and so much more possible through your gift. Thank you!
These extraordinary times require an extraordinary response of faith and generosity. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to give, please prayerfully consider joining me by supporting the 2021 Bishop’s Appeal.
It is fast and simple to share your blessings with our brothers and sisters:
• Make your pledge online at www.catholicfoundationgb.org/give
• Send back the blue envelope that was included with the letter from Bishop Ricken with a check or credit card pledge.
Every gift is important and touches someone’s life. Blessings are multiplied when all of us work together.
May God bless you and your families during this season of Lent. Please continue to pray for the continued health of our community. Together, We Rise Again!