Archive for the ‘Christian Perfection’ Category

The Holy Spirit Outpoured

May 28, 2023

Vigil of Pentecost
By Fr. Victor Feltes

All plants and animals depend upon water to live. Water comes down to us freely from the sky. Though its appearance may vary (as rain, or hail, or snow, or dew) once it rests upon the earth it produces many different effects throughout creation. Water, while ever remaining itself, adapts to the need of every creature that receives it, growing apples on an apple tree, creating sweet sap in a maple tree, or generating many-kernelled cobs on a cornstalk. In this way, water is similar to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit descends as a free gift from heaven. He comes in different appearances (as fire, as a dove, as wind, or invisibly) while always remaining his same divine self. He is the Lord, the giver of life, and in each person who receives him through Christ he produces fruits through gifts which he imparts as he pleases.

On the last and greatest day of a Jewish feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me!” John’s Gospel tells us “he said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive,” adding, “There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.” How are we to understand this verse which says, ‘There was no Spirit yet’?

Is it teaching that the Holy Spirit did not yet exist? No, the third Person of the Trinity is co-eternal with the Father and the Son. There was never a time when he was not.

Is the passage saying the Holy Spirit was not yet present and active in the world? No, Luke’s Gospel describes several actions of the Holy Spirit on earth long before Easter or Pentecost. He overshadowed Mary at Jesus’ conception and inspired Elizabeth at the Visitation. He enlightened Simeon and Anna to recognize the Christ Child at the Presentation in the Temple, and our Nicene Creed proclaims that he has spoken through the Old Testament prophets.

Is Pentecost of note because that is when the apostles received the Holy Spirit for the first time? No, for John’s Gospel records how Jesus appeared in the Upper Room on Easter Sunday evening and breathed on them saying, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Seeing as how they had already received the Holy Spirit on Easter, what is special and new about the descent of the Holy Spirit fifty days later on Pentecost such that previous eras can be likened to there be “no Spirit yet“?

We remember and celebrate Pentecost because it is a broader and more manifest outpouring of the Holy Spirit than ever before. The Acts of the Apostles recounts how “there was a group of about 120 persons in the one place,” and “when the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. … Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

He does not descend and rest upon a few of them, but on all of them, and the power he manifests through them is not subtle nor secret. They fearlessly go into the streets proclaiming Jesus Christ in languages they do not even know. The Holy Spirit would no longer to be an occasional, temporary visitor for a special select few, but the enduring animating Spirit of the Body of Christ, the Church in the world.

Surely, the Holy Spirit would like to do more among us, but we must be open to receiving more from him. How can we receive more of his gifts and inspirations? First, we should desire them, and ask for them, and praise and thank him for all the graces we have already received. Next, we should resolve to be open to him, choose to be available for him, and decide to be generous with him, trusting that God is good and wills our greatest good. Finally, we should practice daily prayer, pursue silence and peace in this noisy and anxious world, and be attentive to the subtle movements in our minds and hearts which are the Holy Spirit’s quiet words and gentle nudges. If we ask, are open, and then listen to him, we will receive more of the Holy Spirit’s good gifts and inspirations.

Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats,” as the Prophet Isaiah wrote, so the Holy Spirit would come to us like water from heaven anew, more powerfully fruitful throughout our world today.

Ascension: a Bittersweet Christian Mystery

May 21, 2023

Feast of the Ascension
By Fr. Victor Feltes

The bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven feels like a bittersweet Christian mystery. Before ascending, Jesus said, “I am going to the one who sent me… But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Though Christ is no longer openly, visibly walking the earth today, he assures us, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” At this time of year, during the Easter season, when celebrating Jesus going up and the Holy Spirit coming down, with so many young people graduating from one life into another, and I am reminded of the most difficult homily I ever preached.

I have heard it said that when a young person goes off to college or off into the world their experience is very different than their family’s. For the one who goes, the change begins an adventure. They learn and experience new, amazing things. They meet great people and make new friends, while still loving and caring about their family. They are happy and excited to be starting a new life, while their loved ones left behind understandably take this transition much harder.

For a daughter who goes off, her life becomes more full, but her family at home feels a new emptiness. She’s not in her room. She’s not in her seat at the table. Her voice and laughter are not heard like before. Of course, her family can still speak to her long-distance, and she’s still well-aware of what’s going on at home, but her departure creates a separation, and that’s difficult. Loving families could even wish their loves ones would never ever leave. But imagine how much those loved ones would miss out on if they never journeyed forth?

Bridget Achenbach, 1995-2015

I first shared these reflections in 2015, at the funeral of a nineteen-year-old, first-year college student I knew named Bridget. Eight years ago, following the Sunday Mass of Pentecost, Bridget was driving to a friend’s graduation party. Her car hydroplaned on an old, country highway and she died in a violent crash.

Some people today, when faced with this world’s temptations, despite their Christian upbringing choose to leave our Lord and go their own way. Bridget, with her beauty, smarts, and popularity was free to choose that too, but instead she grew from good to better. During her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin in La Crosse, through the campus’s Catholic Newman Center, she participated in Bible studies, attended a five-day Catholic youth conference in Tennessee, and pilgrimaged to the March for Life.

On the bus ride of that last trip she shared with friends how Jesus was transforming her life and said she felt closer to him than ever before. At times during that final year when she was home from college, I would not only see Bridget receive Our Lord in the Eucharist at Sunday Mass but sometimes at weekday morning Masses as well before she would leave for her job as a pool lifeguard. The Lord was calling her to be closer to him, just as Jesus calls us all.

At her funeral eight years ago, I noted that Jesus never does evil. He is goodness and love incarnate, “in him there is no darkness at all.” But we also know the Lord refrained from intervening even with some subtle miracle to prevent Bridget’s car accident and death. Why would God allow such a charismatic young woman to die on Pentecost?

Consider how the Blessed Virgin Mary was an invaluable presence among the first Christians. Yet, once she had completed the course of her earthly life and was taken up into Heaven, Mary could assist more powerfully than before. Now, in glory, Mary can hear and intercede on behalf of many, many millions of people while loving each of us uniquely. Like Mary, the spiritual mother of all Christians, I believe Bridget was ready to graduate from this life to the next.

A final exam awaits you. You do not know its exact day or its hour, but it awaits us all. Are you ready for it? None of us know if we will still be here next year. Jesus hopes that with his help you will graduate to where he has gone before us. In Christian maturity, St. Paul writes that “we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.” This present world is not our true home. May the bitterness and scandal of death and parting not cause you to overlook the sweetness of heaven. And may you always choose to follow Jesus closely in this life so that you may one day follow him above.

A Mother’s Love — Memorial Mass Homily for Georgetta Thibeau, 94

May 15, 2023

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Georgetta was born here in Bloomer in 1928. She grew up in this parish, attending our St. Paul’s School. Her funeral Mass was offered in Racine after she passed away this January. And following this morning’s Mass, her remains will be laid to rest in our South Catholic Cemetery.

In the gospel for today, Jesus says, “Love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” So I asked Georgetta’s daughter, Sue, whether her mother had laid down her life for her friends. She replied, “No,” — her mother laid down her life for her family.

Georgetta raised her six children all by herself in Racine for most of their youth. Her two boys and four girls knew it was not easy for her and helped out as they could. In an era with much less government support, Georgetta worked night shifts to provide for her family. But she lovingly provided them more than just food and shelter. She also gave them the example of her Catholic Faith.

Georgetta, it is said, was never without a rosary in her hands, day or night. Whenever she came across a rosary she would pick it up and place it into her prayer rotation. But there was one rosary in particular about which she gave her children special instructions. On more than one occasion, she told them to take the rosary she kept on her headboard and place it into the urn (this urn) with her ashes when she died. Why? “Because that one glows in the dark.”

The Holy Rosary and our Blessed Mother Mary were always near to her heart. And the Blessed Mother she loved leads me to a final reflection. Jesus Christ perfected his mother in love to love like himself. Jesus said, “Love one another as I love you.” Who besides the Lord has loved with a greater love than her? Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Yet this presents a puzzle, since the Virgin Mary never died a martyr’s bloody death.

From Mother Mary we discover that a person can lay down one’s life with the greatest love as a loving offering for others even without dying a red martyrdom. And these others (these “friends” one loves and lays down one’s life for) can be one’s own sons and daughters, since Mary is our spiritual mother and we are her dearly beloved sons and daughters. Mother Mary learned how to love like Jesus loves us, and Georgetta learned how to love like Mary loves us. That is why, even in death, Georgetta remains in the light.

God Is With His People

May 13, 2023

6th Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

We are approaching the end of the Easter season. Next Sunday, we will celebrate the Ascension of the Lord into heaven. At today’s point in Easter time, Jesus is about to leave the world and return to His Father, as he promises to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples. He tells them that he will not leave them orphaned but his Spirit will be with the church and his people till the end of time.

Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles was a historical event in the church. Deacon Philip was on a mission to Samaritans, who were non-Jewish. While he was preaching to them, they accepted Jesus as their promised Messiah and received the Holy Spirit in their lives through the laying of the hands of Peter and John. The laying of hands is used in the church even today at baptism, confirmation, and ordination.

Today’s Gospel is once again in the context of the Last Supper. Jesus is preparing His disciples for his coming suffering and death but also for his resurrection and Ascension. Jesus promises them that even after his ascension he will remain with them in a very different way from now. He tells them clearly that he is the way, truth, and life. Jesus promises His Holy Spirit, the “Advocate”. The Advocate will come upon the Apostles and continue the work of Jesus.

Advocate” means an intercessor, defender, and witness for the accused, best friend, comforter in distress, counselor, and Helper. The Advocate is always by our side to instruct and correct us when we make mistakes. The Advocate encourages and motivates us when we fall down, and fights for our rights when judges are unfair.

God is with us neither judging us nor rejecting us but patiently waiting and calling us to change. God is with us in our suffering. When sickness and death surround us, God is with us affirming us and calling us to patience and to courage. There is a beautiful line in today’s second reading. It says, “Always be prepared to give your defense to anyone who wants an explanation of the hope that is within you.” Always be ready to explain why we are people of hope. We are people of hope because God is with us. God is with us now and always. God is with us forever. We are not alone. In good times and in bad, God’s presence will always be with us. No matter how hard life is, He will stay with us and will never leave us. God, the Holy Spirit, is always our Advocate.

Pay special attention to the Holy Spirit who is present in your thoughts, words, and deeds. Give thanks for all the gifts you have received. Ask the Holy Spirit to take over your life, and allow Him to fill you with His gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self–control.

Proclaim What Christ Has Done For You

May 13, 2023

6th Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Victor Feltes

In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard how Philip went to Samaria and proclaimed Christ to them. “With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.” Who was doing these signs? The natural sense of this scripture passage refers to Philip, whom the crowds saw and heard and believed. But in a supernatural sense, it was the Christ being proclaimed to them who was performing these signs through and with Philip. In our gospel, Jesus tells us, “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” Jesus would have others behold and hear of his great works in you and me.

The psalmist in today’s psalm says, “Hear now… while I declare what he (the Lord) has done for me. Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer or his kindness!” It is good to declare and share what God has done for you. St. Peter teaches all Christians in today’s second reading to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” What are your life’s best God stories? What is the Lord doing with and for you recently? I have two personal examples to share, one old and one current.

When I was about thirteen years old, I remember being in the living room of my house thinking about life and death, when nature called. While heading to the bathroom on the other side of the house, I got stopped in my tracks at the architectural crossroads of our home. It would be a crossroads moment of my life. In my imagination, I stood before Jesus’ judgement seat. His sat upon a white throne atop a white stone cube and the background behind him was all blackness. Jesus did not look at me angrily, but he seemed frustrated and disappointed. And he asked me, “Why didn’t you live your life like I wanted you to live it?

I did not know whether these ideas were coming from God or my own imagination, but either way I knew that I would not be a man of integrity if I just kicked this question down the road for the rest of my life. While still needing to use the bathroom, I felt a sense of urgency to face this valid question. I stood there thinking, ‘How would I answer this question in my own defense?’ I replied, ‘Well Lord, I wasn’t even sure that you were really, really real. How could you expect me to dedicate my life to you while being so uncertain? I wouldn’t stand out on an extending cliff-ledge if I wasn’t sure that it could hold up my weight. And what if I were commit my entire life to you and die and you’re not real, what would I have?

Once I had presented my best case, Jesus immediately replied, “Did you ever really try to find out (if I was real)? Did you even read my book?” That last line made me laugh a bit even as it convicted me. I realized that if I were really looking for the truth I would be searching for answers more seriously than I was. After that I started reading the Bible and praying every night, and began earnestly learning more about our Catholic Faith.

When I eventually read the Book of Revelation at the end of the Bible, I found there a description of the Last Judgment. St. John wrote: “I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls.” A large white throne shrouded in darkness while the dead stand before him to be judged according to their deeds matches what I saw in my vision – a vision that has led to me standing here to tell you this story today.

And our Lord is still actively doing things among us today. Currently, according to our latest figures, St. Paul’s has well-surpassed $500,000 in pledges for our capital campaign, and things throughout this renovation effort have been going so providentially that I have a peaceful confidence that the Lord is helping us succeed.

What great things has the Lord done in your life? How has he been working with you recently? He is in you and you are in him. Know your stories and have the minimal courage to share with others what the Lord has done for you. Praying for the conversion of souls is important, but bearing witness to them is important too. Sharing your stories, sharing the reasons for your Christian hope, will be more effective than nagging or silence. Do not hide what God has done for you under bushel baskets. Instead, share your highlights with others.

Jesus: Our Way, Truth, & Life

May 7, 2023

5th Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Time and again we experience fears, worries, and anxieties. Since our faith is weak and we focus on our problems instead of God, the Holy Bible, many, many times, advises us not to worry. When God created man and woman, living forever was perfect and beautiful. Man was meant to have a family without the fear of sickness and disease. We know the story of how man disobeys God and sin comes to be. In that very moment, Man went another way, to go to another place rather than to God. Everything was turned upside down.

Now we face death, we face pain, we face loss, and we have to struggle every day to make a living and keep our lives going. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, to walk away from God, but I have good news today. For those of you ready to come back to the Lord, there is a way. God has made a way for restoration, He has made a way for renewal, and His name is Jesus. Jesus is the way, the life, and the truth.

Our Lord Jesus is ready to open up our minds to receive the way, life, and truth. He is ready to bring us into a new life as the new creations that he has intended for each of us. How do we come back to the life that God has intended for each of us? The answer is found in today’s Gospel. Jesus was speaking to His disciples about a place He was going to prepare for them, where we are going to dwell with Jesus forever and live with God.

Jesus is the way because he is the only begotten Son of God. He is the safest and surest Way to God because he came from God and he can lead us to his heavenly Father. While he was still on earth, Jesus spoke much about his Father. He talked about his union with the Father, the goodness and compassion of the Father. He gathered the people, and he even ate with sinners with the aim to bring them back to the Father. Jesus’ sure Way to God is the narrow way of the cross. It is the least–traveled way to humble, loving, self–giving, and committed service to others, through which we can reach the Father.

Jesus is the truth. The words of Jesus are true, and this truth sets us free. Jesus is the truth because he is the only one who reveals to us the whole truth about God. He teaches us that God is a loving, merciful, providing, and forgiving Father.

Jesus is the life because he has Eternal life in himself. He is the one who gives us his life–giving Holy Spirit. In the Creed, we profess that we believe in life everlasting. This belief has its connection to our faith in Jesus who is life. If we chose life, then we need to remain in Jesus.

Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life has something to do with our day-to-day life. Just as Jesus is the way, we may also be the way or instrument for others to go to God. At the same time, we should also be bearers of truth and promoters of life.

God’s Glorious Temples

May 7, 2023

5th Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Victor Feltes

For the Jewish people, the temple in Israel was the one place where they could offer Old Covenant sacrifices to God. Jerusalem’s temple was at the center of their relationship with God. So it was very disturbing to Jesus’ hearers when he declared in its temple courts, “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Jesus was proven right about forty years later when the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed that temple in 70 AD.

On another occasion, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Some Jews objected, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But St. John’s Gospel tells us Jesus “was speaking about the temple of his body.” In the New Covenant, Jesus Christ himself supersedes that temple in Israel at the center of our relationship with God.

Here in this holy church building we encounter Jesus and his one sacrifice. In this church, this New Covenant temple, we draw near to the Body of Christ, in his tabernacle, upon his altar, in his Most Blessed Sacrament. And as if that were not enough, in this church through baptism and the Holy Eucharist we become the body of Christ.

After his Ascension, when Christ appeared to an early enemy of his Church on the road to Damascus, he said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked, “Who are you, sir?” And the voice from heaven replied, “I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.” This Saul became better known after his conversion as St. Paul and his story affirms that Christ’s Church is more than just buildings but his holy people, and that Jesus is now mystically one with us.

In today’s second reading, we hear St. Peter—the Catholic Church’s first pope—tell us, “let yourselves be (like living stones) built into a spiritual house (that is, a temple) to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We are called to be holy, called to be more like Jesus, called to offer spiritual sacrifices to God not only at Mass but throughout our lives.

What good is a having beautiful church building if our souls do not become more beautiful too? Jesus says possessing pleasing outward appearances without internal conversion and holiness is like being a whitewashed tomb, beautiful on the outside yet full of dead bones and uncleanliness within. So having a very beautiful church building is not enough. Jesus Christ must be our way, our truth, and our life, for no one comes to the Father except through him. Yet, it is most fitting and right our churches should be supremely beautiful, reflecting the beauty of our faith and the beautiful glory of God, so that others may be transformed by encounters with Jesus Christ like St. Paul our patron was.

The Risen Lord with the Most Beautiful Smile

April 23, 2023

3rd Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

A small boy was walking home after Sunday school. He was thinking about the lesson. When you give something to another person, you are really giving it to Jesus, and you will find the risen Jesus in everyone you meet. As he was walking, he noticed an old woman sitting on the roadside. She looked lonely and hungry. He sat down beside her and gave her chocolate. She accepted it with a beautiful smile. Then they sat together in silence, just smiling at each other. Finally, the small boy gave the woman a big hug and went home with a smile on his face. His mother saw a big smile on his face and asked, what made you so happy today? He said, I shared my chocolate with Jesus. Then, he added, you know, she has the most beautiful smile in the world. Meanwhile, the old woman returned to her home where she lived with her sister, and said to her you know, today I ate chocolate with Jesus. Today’s Gospel tells us that we will meet and experience the risen Jesus in unexpected places and persons.

In the Old Testament lot of people encountered God in an unexpected way. Abraham entertained three Angels when he was unaware. Jacob laid his head on a stone while he slept and saw a stairway to Heaven. While Moses was taking care of the sheep, he heard the voice of the Lord coming from the burning bush. Prophet Isaiah says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty temple, Seraphim singing Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His Glory,” before his own cleansing and consecration as a Prophet of the Lord. (Isaiah 6:1–6) Saul of Tarsus met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and Jesus got Saul’s attention by knocking him to the ground and making him blind.

Our readings today have one common and encouraging theme. No matter what happens in our lives, the risen Jesus is always with us. God is near to those who seek Him. The Emmaus incident is the story of a God who will not abandon us when we are disappointed.

God’s self–disclosure to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus was unexpected, but radically different from others. While they were walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, their eyes were closed from recognizing Him. When Jesus was at the table with them, He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave the bread to them. At that moment, the eyes of the disciples were open and they recognized Jesus just before He vanished from their sight. Jesus will come to us in an unfamiliar way to support and strengthen us, when we least expect our risen Lord.

The Easter and the Emmaus journey tells us that God never forces Himself on us. He joins us in a walk in the garden, enjoying the beautiful scenery, visiting with a friend, sadness of death, or reading a letter from someone we love. God speaks to us in the voices of those who are hurt and sorrowful, in the faces of the poor and the needy.

We need to find Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread, as the Emmaus disciples understood. When we approach the altar to receive the Sacrament, we see and receive Christ Himself. The Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ; it feeds us and fulfills our spiritual needs. When you receive the body of Christ let us recognize the risen Lord who is smiling at you.

3 Mysteries Remembered

April 6, 2023

Holy Thursday
By Fr. Victor Feltes

[Our] Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” At this same Supper, Jesus washed his apostles’ feet, drying them with a towel. Then, when he reclined at the table again, Jesus told them, “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

For this Mass of Holy Thursday, the Church directs me to preach “a homily in which light is shed on the principal mysteries that are commemorated in this Mass, namely, the institution of the Holy Eucharist and of the priestly Order, and the commandment of the Lord concerning fraternal charity.” This no heavy burden. Jesus makes it easy by his actions that night. At the Last Supper, Christ gives us these precious gifts: his Holy Eucharist, his Holy Priesthood, and his holy model of loving service which he commands us all to follow.

Our Bishop William Callahan noted at this week’s Chrism Mass that without priests there would be no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist there would be no Church. The priesthood is essential to the Eucharist, and the priesthood and the Eucharist are essential to Christ’s Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes the words of the first century bishop and martyr St. Ignatius of Antioch in teaching “that without the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, one cannot speak of the Church.” (CCC #1593) And the Second Vatican Council famously teaches that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” For in the Most Blessed Sacrament is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, for it is Jesus himself. All the Church’s other sacraments, ministries, and good works flow from this one sacrifice, are united to it, and united to Christ.

Perhaps there are young men here tonight with a vocation to the priesthood. If you think you may have this divine calling, I urge you to actively pursue it. If you pursue this path and discover you are not called, you will be no worse off but blessed from the experience, and for the rest of your life you will never have to wonder or worry whether you might have had this calling. But if priesthood is your vocation, you will not find anywhere a greater life.

When Jesus commands at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me,” and declares, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do,” he was not only ordaining priests of the New Covenant and showing how them how to serve. Christ’s words are addressed to all disciples; not only that we should faithfully attend Holy Mass, but that we should live the way of love we see from him. The night before offering his Body and Blood on the Cross, Jesus gives these sacramentally in the Eucharist. Before offering up his death on the Cross, we see Jesus humbly provide loving service at table. Do you realize what he has done for you? Jesus has given us a model to follow, so that as he has done for us, we should also do. Do this in memory of him.

The People at the Passion (Part 2 of 3)

March 30, 2023

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Hopeful for the help of the Holy Spirit, I will share with you meditations about people personally present for Jesus’ Passion. In particular, I will reflect on those persons featured in the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Stations of the Cross; Simon of Cyrene, who helped carry Jesus’ Cross; Veronica, who wiped Jesus’ face with her veil; and the women of Jerusalem, who followed and openly wept for Jesus along the Way of the Cross. While considering these reflections, I encourage you to look for two or three golden nuggets that sparkle for you. Tuck them into the pocket of your mind or into your notes and later bring them to prayer for meditation.

Prologue – Pontius Pilate and the Roman Soldiers

Good Friday morning, the hostile crowd cried out for Jesus’ blood. Like Joseph’s brothers in the Old Testament, this crowd intended evil for Jesus, but God intended this for good, in hopes of achieving the salvation of these sinners and the whole world. Governor Pontius Pilate, even after having Jesus gruesomely whipped, was unable to placate the mob. So Pilate washed his hands and sentenced Jesus to death despite admitting that he had committed no crime. Much evil in the world is not only from active hatred like the crowds but from the callous indifference of people like Pilate. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteous, for they shall be satisfied.”

Then, St. John records in his Gospel, the soldiers “took Jesus, and carrying the Cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.” The Romans would compel men condemned to death to bear the instrument of their own torture, a cross. This was an added psychological punishment and humiliation. It is like having to tie your own noose before they use it to hang you. It is like being forced to dig your own grave before they kill and bury you. It is akin to modern totalitarian states that have executed people by a gunshot to the back of the head and then sent the family a bill for the bullet. The correction and punishment of wrongdoing may be necessary both in nations and in households, but we must never do either without respect for others’ dignity.

Jesus was forced to carry his own Cross, a Cross he carried for us sinners. He carried his Cross towards a place called Golgotha, or Calvary. Golgotha was a rock mound within a limestone quarry alongside a road leading to and from Jerusalem. The Romans chose this execution site a short distance outside one of the city gates for its high-visibility to many passersby. The guards with Jesus had orders to crucify him there along with two other condemned men. But after Jesus’ violent scourging, he was in agony, dehydrated, and physically weakened. He had already fallen down at least once under the Cross’s weight.

Perhaps his guards grew impatient because Jesus was progressing so slowly. The soldiers also may have feared that Jesus would collapse from exhaustion and be unable to be made to stand up and continue. And they might get in big trouble with their superiors if Jesus died on the way to Golgotha without receiving the sentence the governor had decreed. We may feel discouraged by the power of wicked people and groups in our world but I think we underestimate their inherent weaknesses, like those reflected in these Roman soldiers. “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” About three hundred fifty years after the mighty pagan Romans executed Christ and began persecuting his peaceful Church, Christ conquered the Roman Empire; Christianity became its official state religion. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.”

The 5th Station – Simon of Cyrene

Saints Matthew, Mark, and Luke all note in their Gospels that the Roman guards found a helper for Jesus. As they were going out, they met a passer-by who was coming in from the country. They took hold of him and pressed him into service to carry his Cross. By law, a Roman soldier could compel a man in a conquered land to carry a load for him for as much as one mile. Daring to refuse would bring on a beating, so this traveler to Jerusalem submitted. Laying the Cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. This man’s name was Simon, a Cyrenian from Cyrene. Cyrene was a region in Northern Africa. It had a Roman colony and a sizable population of Jews.

Perhaps Simon the Cyrene, like so many other Jews, was on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. But however far his previous journeying had been, that day Simon had a place to be and things to do before the feast. Having to carry the Cross that Friday felt like a major inconvenience for Simon, but it was most likely the greatest thing he ever did. Some of the greatest things you have done in your life were probably unpleasant and inconvenient, too. Mentally, let us reframe the interruptions which arise during our days and within our lives as providential opportunities. This way we can make the most of them and engage them at our best.

One can imagine Simon feeling very reluctant to bear a stranger’s cross. Since Simon was a freeman who had not been found guilty of any crime, he may have viewed this forced servitude to be doubly degrading. Simon may have also dreaded that insults, spitting, dirt, and stones would be hurled at him by ignorant bystanders while he made his way through the streets in the procession of the condemned. Yet, even if unwillingly, Simon picked up the Cross and followed Jesus. Simon did not freely choose this burden but, because of it, Simon was probably physically closer to Jesus for most of the journey to Golgotha than Mother Mary, John the Beloved, or Mary Magdalene. We will not choose many of our life’s burdens, especially our illnesses or personal losses, but these can be God’s providential means to bring us closer to the Lord.

I find it interesting that Simon of Cyrene was chosen to carry Jesus’ Cross on the morning after another Simon, Simon Peter, denied Jesus three times and withdrew for a time out of shame. Perhaps this was just a coincidence, another apostle, Simon the Zealot, shared that name as well. But I wonder if Simon of Cyrene was a fill-in substitute for Peter. If Simon Peter had not denied the Lord, or had returned to him more rapidly, would he have been the one to carry Jesus’ Cross? How beautiful and inspiring would that have been! I do not mention this possibility to encourage you ruminate, to lament the unchangeable past and any good things left unrealized on account of your sins. I mention this so that in a moment of testing you might consider how taking the next good step makes many good paths possible.

God providentially allowed Simon to take part in Jesus’ glorious work for the salvation of the world on Good Friday. The Lord likewise invites you and me to play a role in salvation and entrusts a share in his saving work to us today. St. Pope John Paul the Great noted this in 2001 during his meditation on the Fifth Station of the Cross at the Coliseum in Rome:

Jesus could bear his Cross alone, did he so will; but he permits Simon to help him, in order to remind us that we must take part in his sufferings, and have a fellowship in his work. His merit is infinite, yet he condescends to let his people add their merit to it. The sanctity of the Blessed Virgin, the blood of the martyrs, the prayers and penances of the saints, the good deeds of all the faithful, take part in that work which, nevertheless, is perfect without them. He saves us by his blood, but it is through and with ourselves that he saves us.”

If Simon did not know or believe in Jesus before, it appears that this experience of carrying his cross helped lead to Simon’s Christian conversion and the conversion of his family as well. Amongst the four Gospels, only St. Mark notes that Simon of Cyrene was “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” Scripture scholars believe that the names of Simon’s sons were mentioned here because the first audience Mark’s Gospel was written for knew who Alexander and Rufus were. Church tradition reports that St. Mark the Gospel writer was the scribe for St. Peter the Apostle, the first bishop of Rome. And St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans writes, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” Simon’s endurance through a trial with Christ grew his faith in Christ. Simon shared this testimony with his family. And by his faithful example, they became faithful Christians too. Your non-practicing children already know that you believe, but have they heard you say why you believe and the difference that religious faith has made in your life? Be sure to tell them.

The 6th Station – Veronica

The Sixth Station of the Cross recounts an event unrecorded in the Gospels. Despite the crowd and the soldiers, a woman approaches Jesus. His face is covered with blood, sweat, dust, and spit. Moved with compassion, she removes the veil covering her head, and offers it for Jesus to wipe his face. We know this woman as St. Veronica. The Western Church calls her Veronica, while the Eastern Church calls her Berenike. Providence may have arranged that this reflects her proper name, but it seems more likely that we know her by a title which the Church has given her. We see this with other people at the Passion. The name of St. Longinus, the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side, means “Long, Extended,” suggesting “Spearman.” And the name of the Good Thief crucified with Jesus, St. Dismas, means “Sunset” or “Death.” For her part, the name Veronica is Latin for “True Image,” while the name Berenike is Greek for “Bearer of Victory.” May the good deeds we do be so impactful on earth as hers, so that long after the world forgets our names our fruits will still be seen.

Veronica is a female counterpart to Simon of Cyrene in the Stations of the Cross. They both helped Jesus along the way according to their feminine and masculine traits. Simon served Jesus with his physical strength, while Veronica served him with her beautiful tenderness. St. Pope John Paul the Great shared this meditation on Veronica and the Sixth Station of the Cross on Good Friday in 2003:

As a woman, she could not physically carry the Cross or even be called upon to do so, yet in fact she did carry the Cross with Jesus: she carried it in the only way possible to her at the moment and in obedience to the dictates of her heart: she wiped his Face.

Though our traits may differ, both men and women have valuable gifts to offer. Consider sometime what are your unique gifts as a woman or a man.

When Veronica held out her veil to Jesus, he pressed it to his face. The blood, sweat, dust, and spit on Jesus’ face wiped off on her cloth, leaving a likeness of his face, a self-portrait of Jesus. Today several places claim to possess this relic, or else an early copy of the Holy Face. Veronica’s gift of her veil to the Lord resulted in a greater gift in return. Veronica got back what she had given and received still more besides, for God will not be outdone in generosity. As Jesus says:

Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

With this in mind, how generous should we be?

The holy veil is a memento of Veronica’s good deed which reveals Jesus Christ. All of our good deeds in Christ leave behind an impression of our Lord. In the words of St. Pope John Paul the Great meditation on Veronica from the year 2000’s Good Friday Stations:

[E]very act of goodness, every gesture of true love towards one’s neighbor, strengthens the likeness of the Redeemer of the world in the one who acts that way. Acts of love do not pass away. Every act of goodness, of understanding, of service leaves on people’s hearts an indelible imprint and makes us ever more like the One who ‘emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.’ This is what shapes our identity and gives us our true name.

The 8th Station –  The Women of Jerusalem

Finally, we come to the Eighth Station. St. Luke’s Gospel records how a large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said:

Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?’”

(This is to say, ‘The evil you see now occurs while I am with you; what terrible evils will come later when I am no longer visibly here?’) Jesus prophetically speaks of how, forty years after the beginning of his public ministry, Jerusalem would be destroyed. The Romans conquered the rebellious city in 70 A.D., destroyed its temple, and put her people to the sword. Before Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus had wept over the city, saying:

If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

People rejecting Christ naturally leads to personal and national consequences.

Jesus had been falsely condemned as a religious heretic, he had been falsely condemned as a political rebel, but these women did not fear to publicly mourn for him. Some of these women had accompanied him during his public ministry. As Jesus “journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God… some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities (accompanied him. For instance), Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for [Jesus and his apostles] out of their resources.

An interesting observation is that throughout the Gospels Jesus has no female enemies. Surely, there were some women in Nazareth or Jerusalem who despised Jesus, but the Gospels do not introduce us to any of them. Even the wife of Pilate advocates for Jesus, calling him a “righteous man!” This reflects that both men and women are called to be close to Christ. Though Jesus reserved the Sacrament of Ordination for men alone, without the prayers and works of holy women the mission of Christ and his Church would be hobbled, if not impossible. Just try to imagine the Gospels or the Catholic Church without them.

On Good Friday, the women of Jerusalem now saw Jesus struggling. They watched him fall down more than once. They openly wept for him and wished they could do more. Though grateful for and encouraged by the women’s outpouring of loving support, Jesus expressed his concern for them instead:

Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children…

The openness of a woman’s heart for others is beautiful, but Jesus reminds them that it is not selfish to attend to the wellbeing of yourself and your own. Even Jesus took naps. Even Jesus accepted help. Even Jesus took time away, to commune with the Father. Wives and husbands are called to prioritize the salvation their spouses and their children before the world’s affairs. And if you do not take care for yourself, you cannot care for others very well.

In the days ahead into Holy Week, I invite you to meditate on these reflections that stick with you. Contemplate the lessons of Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, and the women of Jerusalem on the way of the Golgotha.

Why Did Jesus Delay?

March 25, 2023

5th Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

In 1582, St. Teresa of Ávila was journeying across Spain to establish new Carmelite convents. The rivers that season were so high that in some places the entire road was covered and obscured by water. It was clearly too dangerous to continue through those waters aboard the carriage, so Teresa and her companions advanced cautiously on foot, with Teresa leading the way. At one point, she lost her footing and fell down into the muddy water. Upon securing herself against the flowing current she exclaimed, “Oh, my Lord, when will you cease from scattering obstacles in our path?” Jesus replied to the mystical nun, “Do not complain, Daughter, for it is ever thus that I treat my friends.” And Teresa famously and dryly replied, “Ah, Lord, it is also on that account that you have so few!

In today’s Gospel, Martha and Mary send word to Jesus about their ailing brother, Lazarus: “Master, the one you love is ill.” “Now,” St. John records in his Gospel, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.” Is not this a surprising twist? Because Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters he delayed departing for their village for two additional days. And by the time Jesus arrives in Bethany with his disciples, Lazarus has been four days dead in the tomb.

Martha and Mary each say to Jesus what they had likely already lamented to each other: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” You can imagine their unspoken, anguished question: ‘You’ve healed others, you’ve helped strangers, so why didn’t you come to help us, your dear friends, when we needed you?’ When Jesus saw Mary weeping and those with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and Jesus wept. So the Judeans remarked, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” And Jesus, perturbed again, went to Lazarus’ tomb to resurrect him.

Jesus had told his disciples days before, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” And when they mistook him as saying Lazarus was merely napping, Jesus clarified, “Lazarus has died.” So Jesus came to Bethany fully-intending to raise Lazarus from the dead. But what troubled Jesus and why did Jesus weep? Was he mourning for Lazarus? Imagine if you learned one of your friends had died this morning but you were also certain that you friend would be alive and well again just fifteen minutes from now. How much would you mourn? As much as Jesus was crying for Lazarus, I believe Jesus wept more so for Mary and Martha and those in the crowd. He weeps for them and for all humanity in all of history who mourn and struggle with fear, doubt, and pain because of the scandal of suffering and death in our world.

We naturally desire to live easy lives; to be untouched by hardship or losses. But Jesus desires far greater things for us than mere ease. Before they left for Bethany, Jesus told his disciples, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” These events were divinely permitted and intended for the greater glory of Lazarus and his sisters, too. Imagine if Lazarus had never gotten sick and died and been raised by Jesus — would we even know his name today? Instead, his story with Christ, his life because of Christ, has blessed the world, including us. Martha and Mary, through enduring this trial, were also blessed. Imagine the intensity of their faith in Christ and their courage in facing death after this experience. Jesus made these sisters a blessing for every generation to come.

Because Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, and St. Teresa of Ávila, he allowed all of them to experience trials. It is ever thus that he treats his friends. So be open to walking, to accepting, to trusting, Christ’s providential path for your life. Even if this journey may be harder than we would choose for ourselves, his path leads to better blessings and greater glory with Christ.

God Calls Unlikely People

March 19, 2023

4th Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent, also known as Laetare Sunday, which means “rejoice.” The Church is joyful in anticipation of the Resurrection of our Lord. Today’s readings remind us that it is God who gives us proper vision in the body as well as in the soul. We need to be constantly on guard against spiritual blindness. God has a plan for each of us. He can call any of us to the vocation He has chosen for us. Being a priest, nun, or religious are not the only vocations. God has called some to married life or to be single. Prayer is very important to us in discerning our vocation.

When God called Moses, he was tending the sheep of his father–in–law, Jethro. God called him from the burning bush, but Moses had many excuses. If I say to the sons of Israel, the God of your father sent me, and they ask me what is His name? what shall I say to them? God said to Moses, “I am Who am.” I don’t think they will listen to me, I am not eloquent, I am afraid, I don’t want to go alone. God told him to take his brother Aaron with him and God would also be with him. Because God was with him, Moses was able to fulfill God’s request. He went to Pharaoh and led the Israelites out of Egypt. They were in the desert for forty years, and God provided everything they needed. Moses was able, with God’s help, to deliver His people to the land flowing with milk and honey.

In the New Testament, we have the call of Matthew. When Jesus called him, Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors were not upstanding citizens, they worked for the Romans, they kept some of the tax money for themselves, and they went after people to get the tax money from them. They did whatever it took to get the money. When Jesus said, “Follow me,” He followed Jesus leaving his work, money, and everything behind. He was completely changed. He became one of the Apostles and wrote the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible. He is the one who wrote the genealogy of Jesus.

In the first reading today, God sent the Prophet Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint a king for Israel. Jesse had seven sons with him and presented each one to the Prophet Samuel. Samuel thought each one would be acceptable, but God said No. Jesse had one other son, David, who was tending the sheep. They sent for him and the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” (1 Samuel 15:12) God chose the most unlikely candidate, the shepherd boy to be king of Israel. God told Samuel, Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.

Our Gospel today tells us about the healing of the blind man. After receiving his sight, he believed in Jesus and followed Him. Let us not be blind to Jesus, we need to believe and follow him as this man did. We are all called by God to be faithful to our vocation, whatever it is in life. Moses, Matthew, and David were faithful to God. As a religious, married, or single we also need to be faithful to God.

Those of you who are parents, bring your children to God. You presented them to God for baptism, don’t stop there. Pray with them. Bring them to church, and teach them to love God as you love them. Be a good example to them. Let them see you praying on your knees at home and in church. Teach them to be faithful to God by your example. God is calling us today to follow Him.

5 Deep Wells of Encounter with Christ

March 12, 2023

3rd Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Jesus Christ desires every person to know him better. Today we watch him draw a Samaritan woman into a deeper relationship with himself. He meets her at a well outside of her town in the middle of the day. People in that era typically fetched water in the cooler morning or evening, but she comes to draw water around noon apparently to avoid her neighbors. When she comes to the well, Jesus initiates an encounter: “Give me a drink.”

She replies, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Jesus is stranger to her and she is wary of him as a presumed enemy, for Jews and Samaritans often felt mutual hostility. How many people today keep God at a distance like a stranger, fearing he does not really love them or truly will their good?

When Jesus suggests he could give the woman “living water,” she skeptically replies, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” She seems to wonder, ‘Is this man a fool, incredibly arrogant, or delusional?’ Indeed, in light of other claims Jesus makes about his own authority and himself he is either a liar, or a lunatic, or our Lord.

Many today relegate Jesus to merely being “a wise teacher” or “a good man” while simultaneously denying he is Lord. However, if Jesus is not Lord, then he was neither good nor wise in claiming to be the Christ and to demand our full devotion. To be consistent we must be for him or against him, either hot or cold. We cannot safely cover our bets by going just halfway. As Jesus warns in the Book of Revelation, “because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

When Jesus describes to her the water he will give, which shall satisfy all thirst and well up to eternal life she says, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Though not yet convinced, the woman is intrigued by Jesus’ words and manner. Many people today, though only vaguely familiar with Jesus, are interested in his person.

Then, even though this is their very first meeting, Jesus gently alludes to the moral irregularities of her life. The Lord is not out to shame us, but our hidden sins do matter and he calls us to conversion. The amazed woman replies, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet,” and understandably redirects the conversation to a less personal topic.

Now convinced Jesus is a man of God, she believes and seeks and finds. She says, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus answers, “I am he, the one speaking with you.”

Full of joyful faith, the woman runs off to town leaving her water jar behind. She shares good news with her neighbors saying, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done! Could he possibly be the Christ?” From this, many of the Samaritans in that town began to believe in Jesus because of her personal witness to him.

The woman at the well began by regarding Jesus as a stranger, a presumed enemy, a crazy or arrogant fool, but she goes on to recognize him as an intriguing figure, then a holy man, a prophet, the Messiah, and the Savior of the world. Today, you and I are further blessed with the knowledge that Jesus Christ is God. However, Jesus not only desires that we know things about him, he wants us to believe in him. How do we move from the one to the other?

The Risen Jesus, though ascended into heaven, is alive and active in our world and in your life already. He would draw you into a deeper relationship with himself through personal encounters like he had with the woman at the well. I suggest to you five deep wells of personal encounter with Christ: Scripture, prayer, Sacraments, the stories of others, and your lived experiences.

  • Encounter Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God, through Sacred Scripture, the inspired word of God. St. Jerome said ‘ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.’ So meet him in the Scriptures, especially the four Gospels.
  • Encounter Jesus in daily prayer. Jesus says in the Book of Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” He knocks on the door of our soul, and daily prayer opens our door to meet him.
  • Encounter Jesus in his Sacraments. In the Eucharist, Confession, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, in every Sacrament, Jesus meets us in a personal, mystical, and grace-giving way.
  • Encounter Jesus in the stories of others; the stories of the saints whose lives are reflections of Christ and those told by other Christians who have personally experienced Jesus’ goodness and power. Meet Jesus through stories like those townspeople came to meet Jesus through the Samaritan woman’s report.
  • And encounter Jesus in your own lived experiences. The Lord who guides the galaxies likewise attends to the small things as well. Jesus would meet us in many moments of our days using our experiences of work or leisure, of nature or other people, to share revelatory signs of himself.

So encounter Jesus Christ in Scripture, prayer, Sacraments, in others’ stories, and your own experiences, that the living Lord may lead you into a deeper relationship with himself.

In conclusion, I wish to speak on a different but related topic. One year ago last week, St. Paul’s Church Renovation Subcommittee began exploring options to renew and beautify St. Paul’s Church — our first, major, interior renovation in three decades. This spring, enjoying the consensus support of our parish councils, we are excited to unveil our renovation plan and a capital campaign to fund it. Stay tuned for comprehensive details to be shared through talks and materials in the next few months. Until then, I ask for your patience and your prayers for the success of this effort for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls through many people encountering him here in a renewed and beautified church.

Every Human Person is Special — Funeral Homily for Lynda Sykora, 58

March 6, 2023

By Chinnappan Pelavendran

On behalf of St. John the Baptist parish and I, I want to extend our sympathy to the family, her husband Roger, and children Rachel, Alex, and Hannah. Also, I extend our sympathy to the friends of Lynda. She will be missed by many for a very long time. We are pleased that she no longer has to suffer. I had the privilege of Anointing Lynda before she died. When I asked how she was, she said she was well. She was very calm and eager to receive Jesus. She was at peace.

Lynda grew up in Alabama and moved to Cooks Valley in 1994. She and Roger have been members of St. John the Baptist Catholic church since they were married in 1995. Lynda worked on the farm, was a great cook, and enjoyed gardening, flowers, and canning. She was also a 9-1-1 dispatcher for a while. She enjoyed spending time with her family. Attending her kids’ sporting events was a happy time for her.

Our readings this morning give us great consolation. In our first reading, we were told the Lord will wipe away tears from every cheek. We know that everything we do makes sense only if it is leading us to peace in God. We know there are many distractions and temptations in life, all pretending to offer us peace and happiness, but none of them do because we know that we will find this peace and happiness only in God. When we find our peace in God, we become friends of God, when we live with God’s love in our hearts, then we have peace. That is why our first reading said the Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek. When we hope in the Lord for salvation, how blessed we are.

There is a truth that is good for us to reflect on at the time of death. The truth is that:

Every human person is special.
Everyone is unique.
Nobody ever takes anybody else’s place.

It is very clear in the gospel reading that being blessed does not always mean being materially blessed. The beatitudes which Jesus offers us are a sign of contradiction to the world’s understanding of happiness and joy. How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution?

Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God’s word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and spiritual oppression. God reveals to the humble of heart the true source of abundant life and happiness. Jesus promises his disciples that the joys of heaven will more than compensate for the troubles and hardships they can expect in this world.

We are gathered here today to remember Lynda and pray for her. Let us also pray for Roger and their children during this difficult time. Let us also pray that we also will find peace in God.

May her Soul Rest in Peace.

Encounter Him & Return

March 4, 2023

2nd Sunday of Lent
Fr. Victor Feltes

What a grace for Peter, James, and John to see the Transfiguration of Jesus. Can you imagine? It was like a preview of the glory we all hope to share in heaven. Jesus shared other special times with Peter, James, and John. Earlier in the gospel, we read that Jesus only allowed Peter, James, and John to be with Him in the house of a synagogue official whose daughter he raised from the dead. These three apostles were also with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Before the Transfiguration, Jesus told His disciples that He must suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders, the chief priest, and the scribes, be killed, and be raised from the dead in three days. They did not want to believe Him because they thought they could protect Him. Jesus responded, “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does but as human beings.” The disciples had to learn that Jesus was not an earthly king, as they were expecting. They needed the special graces from Jesus so they could continue to follow Him and believe in Him. During the Transfiguration, God the Father said, “Listen to Him.” He revealed His glory to the disciples in order to strengthen them for the passion and death of Jesus Christ.

Let us review the events of Jesus’ Passion and Death, Peter denied Jesus three times. James, like the rest of the disciples, ran away. John was the only one who continued to follow Jesus during His Passion and Death on the Cross. He stayed with the women who followed Jesus. After the Resurrection and Pentecost, Peter, James, and John became great witnesses to Jesus. Peter became the first pope and was later martyred. James was killed by King Herod for witnessing Jesus. John wrote the fourth gospel in the bible, the Gospel of St. John.

How many times in your life have you let Jesus down or disappointed Him? We do this many times because we meet Jesus every day in our lives. The most intimate way we meet Jesus is when we receive Him in the Eucharist. It is the time when we are the closest to Jesus. We meet Jesus in the readings from the Bible as they touch our hearts. The Bible is not just about reading the life of Jesus, it is also about listening to His words. He is speaking to us about our lives. We meet Jesus in a very special way in all the sacraments.

Baptism makes us sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us the temples of the Holy Spirit. By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings us, sinners, back to the path of holiness. By receiving the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick in Faith, we are spiritually, and, if God wills it, physically, healed but most importantly our sins are forgiven. The Sacrament of Marriage unites a man and a woman together for life according to His laws. In the Eucharist, we receive Christ’s Soul and Divinity into our body. With Holy Orders, a man becomes a Priest, an altar of Christ, and by the Power of the Holy Spirit, offers the Sacrifice of the Mass and serves as a shepherd of Jesus’ sheep.

We can share experiences like those of Peter, James, and John when we spend some extra time with Jesus in prayer during Lent. Maybe, we may want to fast for one day, taking only water, thus releasing spiritual energy, which in turn, can lift our thoughts to a higher level.