A Letter from Fr. Paul - August 18, 2019
This coming Saturday from 9 to 11 am in the church, Br. Silas Henderson, SDS, will give a retreat
based on Mary’s Magnificat. I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity for spiritual growth. Please register by Wednesday through a link on our parish webpage or by calling the parish office.
Tuesday, August 20th, is the feast of St. Bernard. I sent a note to the parish in our name, promising prayers and continued cooperation. The next day is the feast of St. Pius X. Let us ask our patron to help us grow in our ability to be true witnesses to the Gospel.
The weekend marks my return to active ministry after a three-month recovery from surgery. I thank Fr. Patric for taking over the responsibility for the parish immediately after his ordination. He got a “baptism by fire” with a funeral before his first Mass! I also thank my confreres Frs. Peter, Reed, Jeff, and David for their help.
A difficult theme is presented to us this weekend in our readings: doing what is right is not always easy. In our first reading, Jeremiah is telling the king that he should negotiate with the Babylonians or they will destroy the city and take the Jews captive, all a result of their infidelity to the Covenant; the military leaders don’t want to hear any of it and convince the king to turn the prophet over to them to be killed.
The author of Hebrews is trying to encourage the Jewish Christians, who have been disowned by their families and banned from the synagogue. He uses the analogy of a race, urging them to “not grow weary and lose heart,” but rather to continue running until the end, as did Jesus.
In the Gospel Jesus talks about his own trials and then warns that following Him will not be easy, that it can even bring divisions in families, a reality that the early Christians were facing, as they were denounced and shunned by their own families (the situation being addresses in the Letter to the Hebrews).
What does all of this say to us today? History tells us that these readings portray reality: for two millennia Christians have died for what they believe; many have died in our life time and are dying right now.
Would I be able to die for my faith? Would I endure torture rather than deny Christ? I don’t know. I suppose none of us knows for sure before we are actually faced with the choice. But maybe a good indication might be how I face the small, daily challenges that I do experience. For example, the challenge of making sure that I spend time each day in prayer, that I attend Mass on Sunday, that I resist talking about others, that I forgive those who have hurt me, that I open my heart in a meaningful way to those in need, etc., etc., etc.
What I am saying is that our efforts to live the life we know we should, especially when it is difficult or even simply inconvenient, can be strengthening us to be able to die for Christ, God forbid that choice would ever be put before us. And, in one sense, a life lived for the Kingdom on a daily basis, that is living for others and not just self, can be a sort of martyrdom in itself.
I invite us to reflect this week on how much we “sacrifice” to live the values that the Gospel teaches us. How often do I hold the course, even when it is difficult? How often do I take the easy way out? Do my actions give good example to those around me, especially those dependent on me? How can I do better?
And let us support each other’s efforts in prayer.
-- Paul James Portland, SDS
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