Archive for the ‘Salvation History’ Category

“Keep Watch!”

November 27, 2022

1st Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today we begin the season of Advent. The Church invites us to be ready and prepared to receive the Lord. The word Advent means waiting. The 1st Sunday of Advent gives us the warning to be watchful, waiting, and prepared.

The Titanic was the world’s largest ship when it was built. It was considered unsinkable. During the night of April 14–15, 1912 it struck an iceberg, ripping a three–hundred-foot hole in the ship. The crew received many warnings that they were speeding into an ice field, but the messages were ignored. The crew was preoccupied with dinner menus and other unimportant matters. They disregarded the danger of the weather and there were not enough lifeboats on board. It sank in two and a half hours killing 1,513 people. Sometimes we believe that our ‘ship’ is unsinkable, our life is all well planned, and the unthinkable can never happen to us. We need to pay attention to the warning signals.

Jesus is coming again and He is coming whether we are ready or not. Today’s Gospel tells the story of what happened in the time of Noah. In the days leading up to the flood, people were very naughty, not keeping the commandments and they did not care. They did not heed the warnings of God. God sent the flood. Only Noah and his family were safe inside the Ark. Everyone else was destroyed by the flood. No one knows when the end will come, ONLY GOD KNOWS!

Jesus gives us another example “Two men will be in a field; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding their meal; one will be taken and the other will be left behind.” Jesus then says to his listeners: “Stay awake! You do not know the day your Lord is coming. Be sure of this, if the owner of a house knew when a thief was coming, he would be watchful and prepared. You also must be prepared. The Son of Man is coming when you least expect it.

To be ready means to be awake. It means that we live in the present moment with God. Always be aware of His presence in our life. Everything we do, work, rest, eat and drink, we give glory to God. Today we celebrate the Sunday of Hope in God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom God has promised to save and redeem us.

What is the pattern of your life? Do you share your time, talents and love with your family, your neighbor or even people you do not know? if we choose to do these things, we are preparing to welcome Christ. Shouldn’t we pray every day Lord, Show me someone today with whom I am to share your love, mercy, and forgiveness. St. Mother Teresa said, “Whatever you do in your family, for your children, for your husband, for your wife, you do for Jesus.” Every night let’s ask ourselves, where have I found Christ today? The answer will be God’s Advent gift to us that day. By being alert and watchful, we will be getting an extra gift: Christ Himself.

Ready for Christ’s Coming? Then & Now

November 26, 2022

1st Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Our season of Advent has now begun — a season of Christian preparation. Throughout Advent, we the Church are getting ready in two different respects: we are preparing to celebrate and commemorate the historical birth of Christ at Christmas and, at the same time, we are preparing for the day Jesus will return to this world in unveiled glory. In today’s Gospel, Jesus recalls the story of the days of Noah’s Ark, in which a few were prepared for the flood and saved while most were unprepared and swept away. “So too, you also must be prepared,” Jesus tells us, “for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Will we be prepared for the day of Jesus’ return? How well prepared and open were people for Christ’s first arrival and what can their examples teach us?

Local shepherds of Bethlehem were the first to hear of Christ’s birth on Christmas. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, “[B]ehold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy… a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord!” Now these shepherds were working, keeping night watch over their flock. They could have claimed they were too busy to accommodate Christ into their schedules. Instead they said, “Let us go… to see this thing… which the Lord has made known to us!” They went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and their Lord lying in the manger.

Sometime later, word of Christ’s birth came to King Herod in Jerusalem, but he did not welcome this good news into his heart. This man loved to reign in his own domain and did not wish to share control. So the king sent soldiers to kill the children who could be Jesus. King Herod refused to change for Christ.

Where had Herod learned of Christ’s birth? Through Magi from the east who came to Jerusalem in good faith expecting to find the newborn king of the Jews. “We saw his star at its rising,” they said. They came with their gifts to honor him. Now most had missed the important sign from heaven (they were focused on other things) but the Magis’ attentions were not distracted, and based on what they saw, they acted. They too found the Lord amidst his Holy Family.

The examples of the shepherds, King Herod, and the Magi show us ways of either being ready and open for Christ or not. So ask yourself this Advent, will I allow work and responsibilities to crowd out my time for Jesus, or will I be like the shepherds who came to him and his Holy Family with joy? Will I cling to my own control, my wealth and my sinful pleasures like King Herod did, or will I offer and sacrifice these things to Christ? Will be distracted by the many diversions of this world and overlook what really matters, or will I be attentive like the Magi to act for the Lord?

At the start of this Advent season, St. Paul tells us, “You know the time; it is now the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.” Let us prepare to celebrate and commemorate the historical birth of Christ at Christmas, while at the same time preparing for the day Jesus will return to this world in unveiled glory.

David’s Kingdom Prefigures Christ’s Kingdom

November 20, 2022

Solemnity of Christ the King
By Fr. Victor Feltes

When the ancient Romans would crucify someone they displayed upon the cross the person’s name and the reason they were punished. For the Holy Cross on Good Friday, Governor Pilate had a sign inscribed in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek with Christ’s identity and the why he was condemned. It read: “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” (The famous first letters of this phrase in Latin were “I.N.R.I.”) The Jewish chief priests told Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’” But Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written.” Pilate did not have faith in Jesus — he wrote what he did to troll the Jewish leaders — but what he had written was true. Jesus was condemned, suffered, and rose again as the King of the Jews and King of the Universe. This Sunday, we celebrate Christ the King, but where is Christ’s Kingdom today?

During his public ministry, Jesus preached, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is among you!” And at the Last Supper, Jesus prophesied, “Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” The next time Jesus drinks “the fruit of the vine,” (that is to say, wine) is on his Cross, when he drinks it from a sponge held up to his lips. From these passages, we can gather that the Kingdom of God has arrived. Yet we can also see that his Kingdom has not yet reached every place and every heart in every way. This is why the world was able to hand Jesus over to death and why Christians still pray to our Father above: “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” So where are we to find Christ’s Kingdom on earth? There are clues for us present in Sacred Scripture and history.

In our first reading, all the tribes of Israel become joined to David as their king. The Jews believed that the coming Messiah, their Christ, would be the King of Israel. And Jesus in the Gospels is repeatedly called the Son of David (that is, King David’s descendant, the heir to David’s throne). As St. Augustine taught, the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. The old foreshadows and points to the new. And though imperfect, the Old Testament Kingdom of David and his successors prefigures Jesus’ New Testament Kingdom. Several aspects of the old Davidic Kingdom help us to identify Jesus’ Kingdom in our midst; in particular, the Queen Mother, the Chief Steward, and the royal eunuchs.

One flawed feature of the old Davidic dynasty was that the kings each had multiple wives. From the beginning, God intended marriage to be a union of one man and one woman, but the kings of Israel — believing blood is thicker than water — used multiple marriages to seal their peace treaties and alliances with other lands. However, this creates a problem: when the king has many wives, who is the queen? You can imagine the rivalry and discord this question could cause. The Davidic dynasty’s solution to this problem was for the mother of the king to hold that prominent place as Queen Mother. The Queen Mother had a throne of honor at the king’s right hand and she served as an intercessor for the kingdom. If people had a request, they might bring it to her to present to the king. And if her request were pleasing to her son and served the kingdom’s good, the king would happily grant it to please his beloved mother.

Like in other kingdoms of past and present, the Davidic Kingdom had many royal ministers serving the king. But there was one prime minister among them: the king’s chief steward, the master of the royal household. The Davidic king’s chief steward bore on his shoulders a large wooden key as a sign of his office and authority. Today we honor citizens by giving them a symbolic key to the city; but this chief steward carried a symbolic key to the kingdom. His power was that of the king, on whose authority and with whose authority he acted, to open or to close, to permit or to forbid. However, any chief steward acting contrary to the king’s will would soon find himself replaced by another.

In the courts of ancient kingdoms like Israel’s, one would find royal eunuchs. A eunuch is a male who is either born or made physically incapable of marrying and having children. Kings preferred eunuchs for practical reasons: first, these men were safe to be around the king’s harem; and second, since they had no wife or children of their own, these eunuchs were fully-focused on the work of the kingdom.

The trusted eunuch’s mission, personal success, and legacy were wedded to that of the king and his kingdom. Perhaps you may already realize how the old Davidic kingdom foreshadows the Kingdom of God among us now. Jesus calls disciples who are willing and able to be “eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.” Today, in his Church, celibate clergy and consecrated religious are dedicated to serving Christ’s Kingdom. Jesus told St. Peter, “I give you the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” Jesus made Peter his prime minister, the first Pope, his chief steward and master of his household on earth Pope Francis is St. Peter’s successor in that office today.

Jesus has sealed his peace treaty and alliance with peoples of all lands through a single marriage: his marriage to his bride, the Church, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. But among the Church’s many members, is anyone the queen? As before, our queen is the mother of our King. Christ the King has raised up his Blessed Mother Mary to a throne at his right hand where she intercedes for his Church. We can ask her to present any request to her Son, and if it is pleasing to him and serves his Kingdom’s good, Christ our King will happily grant it, because he loves his mother and us so much.

The beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth is the one Church of Jesus Christ. Let us remain loyal to Christ our King, and remain loyal to his Kingdom, a Kingdom that is among us now, his Holy Catholic Church.

He is not God of the Dead, but of the Living

November 5, 2022

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

My first funeral as a priest was for a baby who was two weeks out of the womb. How does one talk to the family? They are a devout, Catholic family, but they asked, why is God allowing this? I listened to them and cried with them. I later responded to them by saying that when I ask why I look at a crucifix. Why did God allow His own son to die? Our salvation and redemption come from the cross. Through the death of that baby, God wants to say something to us; resurrection is what comes out of Christ’s death.

When God revealed Himself to Moses in preparation for bringing His people out of Egypt, He called Himself “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6) When God told this to Moses, centuries had passed after these forefathers had died. However, God acknowledged their existence even after their death. Though the verse did not specify the resurrection of the dead, it implied their survival after death.

Today’s first reading describes a Jewish family, consisting of a mother and her seven sons, who refuse their king’s command to eat pork, forbidden as “unclean” by Jewish Law. Because of their obedient Faith in God, they endure suffering and accept martyrdom. During their torture, three of the brothers speak, and each of them finds strength in the belief that he will eventually be raised and rewarded by God.

The second reading encourages the Thessalonians, who were waiting for the second coming of Christ, to trust in the fidelity of God who would strengthen their hearts in every good work and word.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is challenged by a group of Sadducees concerning the resurrection of the dead. Just before this, Jesus had been challenged by Pharisees and Scribes, whether to pay taxes to Caesar or not. Jesus had dealt effectively with them and reduced them to silence. Again they raised a question this time about the imaginary story of seven brothers marrying one woman, and their relationship with each other in the next life. Their question in the Gospel is certainly an insincere and impossible example, they want to ridicule a belief in the resurrection.

Hands Lifted up to Heaven

October 16, 2022

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

After God’s people, the descendants of Israel, crossed the Red Sea in the Exodus, an army of Amalekites came to battle them in the Sinai desert. So Moses instructed his servant Joshua: “Pick out certain men, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” The next day, while Joshua led Israel’s soldiers in fighting the foe on the battlefield, Moses stood upon an adjacent hill along with Aaron and Hur.

As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” Moses wielding this staff at God’s command triggered the plagues in Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and now brought Israel’s victory on the battlefield. But this raises a reasonable question: why would God condition his people’s success in combat upon an old man holding a piece of wood above his head? Moses lifting up this staff of God was a sign for God’s people which preserved them from a spiritual disaster.

God knew that if Israel had won apart from this sign they would have ascribed the victory to themselves. “We won this battle because we’re so smart, and strong, and brave! Maybe we don’t need God’s help after all.” Such pride in their success could be their downfall, in this life and the next. So instead, through the sign of an up-lifted staff, the Lord showed Israel, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains [with] me and I [with] him will bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”

Similarly today, our Lord desires us to pray without ceasing for the good things we want or need. Otherwise, if and when his blessings come, we shall attribute these things to mere luck, coincidence, or to our own personal abilities, with no growth in our relationship with God. He is the source from whom all good things come. By asking and then receiving, we come to see and know the Lord is near and cares for us. And in the end, that is the most valuable gift of all.

God not only wants us to know and to love him, he desires us to glorify us as well. God is all-powerful, omnipotent, he could do everything without us. But by God accomplishing his will through us, as he did with Moses, the Lord makes us more like himself and causes us to share in his glory.

Holding the staff of God in his hands throughout the day made Moses’ hands and arms grow tired. (If you cannot understand why, try holding an object above your head for just ten minutes sometime.) When Moses’ body grew tired, his friends came to his aide. “They put a rock in place for him to sit on. … Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, [one on his right and the other on his left,] so that his hands remained steady till sunset.” With this help from his friends, Moses kept his arms raised-up and God’s people prevailed against their foe. All of this was a foreshadowing of greater things to come.

On Good Friday, when Jesus was condemned to death, he took the cross into his hands and carried it to the top of a hill. There his hands were nailed to the wood above his head. And Jesus was not there alone. All four Gospels note he was crucified between two others, “one on his right and the other on his left.”

Our Lord was mocked as he hung for hours upon the Cross: “Are you not the Messiah? … If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” But in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had said, “Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled…?” Christ had the power to come down from the Cross, but if he had done that—if Jesus had released his hands from the wood—if he had refused to die for us, how would we have been saved from our enemies, sin and death?

Love kept Jesus on his Cross: love for his friends gathered nearby. love for the criminals on his right and left, and love for you and me. Consider what a precious consolation it was for Jesus in his suffering to have his Mother Mary, John the Beloved, and Mary Magdalene there supporting him. “But,” Jesus asks, “when the Son of Man comes [again], will he find faith on earth?” Will Jesus return to a world where everyone imagines they can get along just fine without him?

Let us continue being God’s humble people, recognizing our dependence on him. Let us ask of him our wants and needs so that we can know and experience his blessings. Then we shall share his deeper friendship and share in his great works, increasing in his likeness and increasing in his glory. By relying on God and the holy friends and loved ones his providence places near to help us, we shall share in our Lord’s great victory.

Gratitude for our Healer

October 8, 2022

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

My dear brothers and sisters, God is the creator of every human being. He has given life to all of us. He continually gives us sustenance, His protection and care. What is expected of us is to be grateful to Him and become more aware of how much we have been given. Gratitude is an expression of the heart, counting our blessings and acknowledging everything that we receive. Giving thanks makes people happier, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and reduces stress. The readings of today present the theme of gratitude, showing that it should come spontaneously from the heart of every individual.

In today’s first reading, we heard the story of Naaman, the military general of the king of Aram. He was a great man in high favor with his master because, by him, the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. The king sends him to the Kingdom of Israel for his healing. The king of Israel, however, misunderstands the entire motive of his coming and shows his anger. This anger is countered by the Prophet Elisha. In the name of Yahweh, Elisha sends a message to Naaman to cleanse himself in the River Jordan. Even though Naaman refuses at first, he carries out the order given by the prophet and is healed. Here we see the conversion of a pagan into believing in the true God. St. Paul, in the second reading, advises Timothy to be grateful to God even in his physical suffering and amid the dangers associated with spreading the word of God. Why? Because God will always be faithful to His people. And in today’s Gospel, we have the narrative of Jesus healing the ten lepers. The incident of the ten lepers happened when Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, where he was to receive His cross and suffer for us.

The Gospel reminds us of the love, kindness, and mercy of Jesus to all classes of the people. Even lepers are not excluded from it. Jesus said to the lepers “go and show yourself to the priest.” While on their way they were gradually healed, one of them, the moment he realized that he was healed, knew that Jesus had healed him and returned to him before going to the priest to fulfill the obligation. He came and prostrated before Jesus, a sign of deepest respect and honor. This act of the Samaritan leper pleased Jesus but was He surprised and sad at the ingratitude of others.

The word of God today tells us that we all need to be grateful to God every day of our life for the graces and good gifts we have received in and through him. He has not only given us our life with all its joys and sorrows, but he has prepared for us a future life of joy and happiness. We often fail to acknowledge the good he has done to us. What is needed in our life is the recognition of these goods and the acknowledgment of gratitude towards God and all persons who come to us as instruments of God.

Also, let us realize the truth that we all need healing from our spiritual leprosy. Although we may not suffer from physical leprosy, the ‘spiritual leprosy’ of sin makes us unclean. Jesus is our Savior who wants to heal us from this leprosy of sin. Since Jesus is not afraid to touch our deepest impurities, let us not hide them. Just as the lepers cried out to Jesus for healing, let us also ask him to heal us from the spiritual leprosy of sins, including all kinds of impurity, injustice, and hatred.

Essential Conversation — Funeral Homily for Marcel Sobotta, 86

July 11, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Marcel’s family moved here to Bloomer when he was just three years old. And back then, starting out, the only language he knew was Polish. Marcel had to learn how to speak English here, partly from his friends, who reportedly taught him how to say useful words like “potato.” Consider how essential practicing this new language was for his life. How isolated would his more than eighty years of life on earth have been, if Marcel had never practiced such conversation?

About Marcel, Beverly and their children have shared many memories. Of his love for his wife and kids, grandkids and great grandkids. Of his delight in farming and gardening. Of his work ethic at the dairy and driving school bus. Of his raising the beagles and rabbits. Of his joy in fishing and hunting in God’s creation. Of his frustration with The Green Bay Packers. But the particular aspect which stood out to me most is what his family shared about Marcel’s life of prayer.

Marcel prayed at every meal time and prayed every single night. He would kneel down by his bedside and was not ashamed to let his children see it. In fact, he taught his children to do the same. They tell me he was very faithful to God. Prayer, it seems, was a constant throughout Marcel’s life. When I visited him with Beverly, just days before he died, to give him the Holy Eucharist and the anointing for the sick, he joined us in the prayers as he was able, and he was happy. Marcel had learned and practiced the language of prayer.

Prayer is simply a conversation with our friends in heaven. Prayer is how we talk to God. And through the important practice of prayer, a Christian becomes more and more conformed to Christ and shares in his blessedness. The Christian who prays recognizes their poverty in spirit, that they need God. The Christian who prays will mourn the evils of this world, for Jesus will share with them his heart, and there is much to mourn. The Christian who prays meekly asks the Lord to intervene with his wise solutions, for “man’s wrath does not accomplish the righteousness of God” and “his ways are above our ways.” The Christian who prays increasingly hungers and thirsts for righteousness, within themselves and others, for Christ calls us all to be holy saints. The Christian who prays grows merciful, because they know they have received great mercy. The Christian who prays is clean of heart, desiring one thing, God, above all. And the Christian who prays is a peacemaker, nurturing peace within themselves and for all around them.

Connected to Christ in daily prayer, we no longer live an isolated human life, cut off from deeper meaning and purpose, settling for small potatoes. Our Lord has a purpose for you and has prepared a feast for you. 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 come to him and dine with him and he with me.” Behold, he stands at your door and knocks. He knocks at the door of your soul, and prayer is how you open the door to him. Blessed is he who opens that door, for consolation, the Kingdom, and the vision of God await. May we learn this valuable lesson from Marcel’s lived example.

Patterns in Christian Dying — Funeral Homily for Ione Seibel, 84

June 6, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

As a priest, I encounter many people in their dying days. And though every life is different, I have noticed often-repeated patterns. Three of these gracious elements are seen in Ione’s story.

Something I often find is the phenomenon of “a last good day.” The dying persons may or may not know they are in their final week of life, yet they are blessed to have a last good day. Sometimes they love being outside, and there’s a rare day in their final week when they feel well enough to go on a walk or do gardening. Sometimes it’s the day of a family reunion, where they delight to see their family and to say goodbye. Ione, despite her Alzheimer’s condition, had a last good day the Wednesday of her final week. Vernie, her husband of nearly 65 years, who was visiting her at her nursing home with a pair of their daughters, says Ione was “grinning, smiling, shining.” He and the staff described it as Ione’s “best day in two years.”

Jesus also had a good day before he died. When he took his place at table for the Last Supper he told his friends, the apostles, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.” Such blessings are bestowed upon us in this life as signs to us of God’s goodness before we enter into the next life.

A second phenomenon I often see is an alertness for the anointing of the sick and last rites. Vernie let me know Ione was dying and I was soon able to visit her on Saturday. When I arrived, he and their children were gathered around her. Now the sacrament of anointing is like the sacrament of baptism in that a receptive person may receive this sacrament even in an unconscious state. Some babies, for instance, sleep through their baptism yet receive the graces of baptism nonetheless. Her family tells me Ione had been unresponsive, but when I greeted her, as I told her who I was and why I had come, she opened her eyes at me. Ione’s family was struck by this but it’s something I commonly see—a providential alertness to receive this sacrament. The Lord often wills for his beloved to consciously experience this gift.

Jesus himself was anointed upon his head with precious perfumed oil in his final days and said, “She has done a good thing for me. … She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.” He was consoled and strengthened by this gift of love, and Jesus desires to console and strengthen us as we enter into his Passion and death.

A third thing I commonly encounter in my ministry is the bittersweetness of a beautiful death. Suffering and death are painful signs of this world’s brokenness from sin. Yet the circumstances which accompany many Christians’ passings are poetic signs to us that death is not our end. As we heard in our gospel reading, on the first Good Friday, a darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. Then our Lord breathed his last, near those who loved him most. The centurion who beheld how Jesus breathed his last said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” And the curtain in the Temple, which veiled its holiest place, was torn in two from top to bottom, from heaven down to earth.

Ione died on a Sunday, Christ’s day of Resurrection. And she died during Easter, the season of Jesus’ victory over death. Like him, she breathed her last in the afternoon’s third hour. And Ione passed away from us on the Feast Day of Jesus’ Ascension, when he passed through the veil from this world into heaven.

A Christian is never truly alone because the Lord Jesus is always with us through life and death. He makes our life story a part of his story, and makes our story like his own. Today is a day of grieving and joy, because we can see this truth anew in the life and death of Jesus’ servant and sister and friend, Ione.

“Receive the Holy Spirit”

June 5, 2022

Pentecost Sunday
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended with power upon the Apostles in the image of tongues of fire and thus began the mission of the Church in the world. Once they received the Spirit, they went out boldly and preached to all in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Jesus himself prepared the Eleven for this mission, appearing to them on many occasions after his Resurrection.

Jesus asked them to stay together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The disciples followed the command of Jesus. They as a community gathered together in prayer along with Mary in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised event. It is here they all received the Holy Spirit. This feast of Pentecost is the culmination of the Paschal mystery which tells us of the sending of the Spirit of the Father and the Son on the disciples.

During his apparitions Jesus gives two gifts to his followers, the gift of his abiding peace and the power to forgive sins. He commissions them to carry on his work, empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit and peace. The Holy Spirit will continue to teach them the message of Jesus. Today is also the birthday of the Church. This Sunday is a commemoration and celebration of the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the early church.

We celebrate this day to recognize the gift of the Holy Spirit, realizing that God’s very life, breath, and energy lives in believers. The celebration reminds us of the reality that we are all having the unifying Spirit that was poured out upon the first disciples. It tells us that the same Spirit is given to each one of us, that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body, and that the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead will raise us too. So he said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” With the giving of the Spirit came also the authority to speak and act in the name of Jesus.

If you forgive sins, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Forgiving sin, reconciling people with God has been the very core of the work of Christ and the Christian mission. The Holy Spirit will teach them the divine knowledge and wisdom of the Father that belongs to Jesus, both the Father and the Son is one in the Blessed Trinity

Being filled with the Holy Spirit, they were given the power of preaching and healing and they spoke in tongues. Thus having received the Holy Spirit, the disciples went out and preached the message of Jesus. Jesus greets his disciples with the gift of peace. “Peace be with you,” he says. Jesus then commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He breathes the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and sends them to continue his work of reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins.

As we celebrate this great feast of the Church’s fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, how have we been a sign of reconciliation in our families, in our world, and among people of faith everywhere? Have we been an instrument of God’s peace to everyone we meet? With the faith and trust modeled by Mary, the Mother of God, let us offer our prayers to God this day. Heavenly Father, in your wisdom, please hear and answer our prayers this day. We ask through Jesus Christ, your Son.

Our Upper Room

June 4, 2022

Pentecost Sunday
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Before his Passion in Jerusalem, Jesus desired a gathering place for him and his disciples. He sent Peter and John into the city, telling them to find a certain house and ask the owner of the home to use its guestroom. They did as Jesus asked and found “a large upper room, furnished and ready.”

This famous room, known as “the Cenacle,” was the site of the Last Supper, the First Holy Eucharist or Mass. Here the Risen Lord appeared to his Apostles after his Resurrection. This is where Mary, the Apostles, and other disciples (“a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place”) “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.” And here on Pentecost, following the Church’s first novena, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in the likeness of separating flames. Then they went forth from there into the world, joyfully proclaiming Jesus to the nations with confidence and power.

Jesus desired his disciples to gather together in the Upper Room. There they meet with him, heard his teaching, and came to know that he is risen. They ate with him and worshiped him. And there his followers socialized, prayed as one, and received the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes people ask, “If God is everywhere, why do I have to go to church?” Yes, there is no place where God is not, but this excuse misses something important. Water is likewise everywhere around us—in clouds, in blades of grass, as vapor in the air—but if you do not wish to die of thirst you are well-advised to drink water from a well or a faucet. Jesus tells us, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.

In the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, “We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some.” This church, St. John the Baptist’s, is our Upper Room. Here we gather together and encounter Jesus Christ in his sacraments, Here we listen, and worship, and receive his gifts, blessings meant for us and for others in this world. Like the Apostles in the Upper Room, we did not build this room or parish. This holy place has been lent to us by those who were before us, and the Holy Spirit inspires us to care for and sustain it.

This weekend at St. John’s is Commitment Weekend for our Inspired by the Spirit” Capital Campaign. You have probably heard me speak about this campaign before, either at receptions or back on Announcement Weekend. 35% of our $80,000 goal funds our 2022-2023 Annual Appeal and other worthy diocesan initiatives, while 65% the goal returns to us to replenish our greatly diminished building maintenance fund.

Now the maintenance of parish facilities is not a flashy thing. Patching cracks in our parking lot or replacing our furnaces as they fail from old age are less exciting endeavors than when we renovated this church of ours into one of the most beautiful in our area. But without funding for the care and maintenance of the mundane things this parish and its mission will fail. That is why I ask you to join me in making a pledge to this five-year capital campaign.

Our pledging phase ends on June 17th, less than two weeks away. So far our recorded pledges total $60,000, so we have $20,000 in pledges to go. If we happen to raise more than our $80,000 goal, know that 80% of that surplus comes back to our parish. I’ll give you an opportunity to fill out a pledge card today during announcement time before the final blessing. I ask you to prayerfully consider pledging a $3,000 gift spread-out over five years, which (after a 10% initial down payment) works out to $45 monthly (above your usual tithing) for 60 months. If you are blessed to be able to pledge more generously than this, please do. If you can only pledge less, that’s ok too. And if you pledge a certain amount now and three of four years from now your financial circumstances change, you can just let us know and we’ll modify your pledge.

On the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit inspired Christ’s disciples to go out into the world, sharing Jesus Christ and his salvation with all nations. But realize this mission began in their Upper Room. Please pledge generously to support our Upper Room: St. John the Baptist Parish.

Why Did Jesus Go?

May 29, 2022

The Ascension
By Fr. Victor Feltes

This week, our Catholic school celebrated our eighth graders’ graduation with a Mass and an awards ceremony. Afterwards, while the graduates were having their pictures taken, a teacher and I stood off to the side, looking on. He remarked, “It’s sad to see them go.” I replied, “Yeah, but it would be even sadder if they stayed.

Just whimsically imagine remaining an eighth grader well into your twenties. You don’t have a full-time job because you’re a full-time student without a high school degree. Of course you’re unmarried and have no kids—you’re still in middle school! And sure, after a decade of eighth grade, having had the same lessons over and over, you could ace all of your homework and tests (if you still had any motivation left to do so) but you would not be learning very much. It is bittersweet to see our graduates go forth from us, but it is better that they go. Though in one sense they are leaving us, they are not really gone. Yet this departure is necessary for them to reach their full human maturity and to fulfill God’s plans for their glory.

Today we celebrate Jesus’ bodily ascension into Heaven. The traditional day for celebrating the Ascension is forty days after Easter, which was last Thursday, or “Ascension Thursday.” Our diocese, like most dioceses in our country, transfers this celebration to this Sunday. I guess we like keeping Jesus around longer. But seriously, the ascension of Jesus into heaven raises this question: “Why did he go? Why didn’t Jesus stay?

Now Jesus does tell us, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name I am there in their midst.” He says, “Behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.” And he is truly present for us in the Holy Eucharist. But Jesus’ presence now remains invisible or veiled to our eyes. By bodily ascending and disappearing into the clouds Jesus is visibly departing from us until he comes again with a glory manifested to all. “But I tell you the truth,” he says, “it is better for you that I go.” Why is this better? What would it be like if Jesus dwelt among us throughout the centuries like he did with his disciples those forty days, walking with them and talking with them, following his Resurrection?

There is no physical reason why Jesus could not have done this. His risen body is a glorified body no longer subject to injury or death, so that’s not the reason he did not remain. Did he go because on earth he’s reduced to being in one particular place, or limited in how much he can see, know, or do? Remember, Jesus is not merely human but divine, all-knowing and all-powerful, and his bi-locating saints (such as Venerable Mary of Ágreda or St. Padre Pio) who have manifested the miracle of being more than one place at once surely do not possess any supernatural ability which Jesus lacks.

So God the Father could have chosen “by his own authority” for his Son to remain visibly active here with us, in one, or thousands, or millions of locations at once, throughout the centuries up to our day. Jesus could be the pastor in every parish, the teacher in every classroom, the doctor in every hospital, and the leader in every country. He is the perfect priest, the best teacher, the greatest healer, and the rightful ruler of all. Who is better-qualified than Jesus to do any of these things? Nobody. People would demand this of him and resent him for not doing it. But if Jesus were visibly present and doing everything, then we would be left doing very little.

Would it be a better world if Jesus personally did everything? In some ways, yes. Earth would be closer to paradise in many respects. But would this lead to more souls being saved? I’m not so sure. Adam and Eve lived in an earthly paradise, too, before they fell. And the glory of Christ being manifested to the world in an undeniable way might gain peoples’ submission, but not necessarily their conversion or love. The demons who fell had no doubts about God’s existence and yet they chose to disobey him as far as they were able.

If Jesus did everything of importance on earth without us, one result which seems evident to me is that we would remain in an unending adolescence, like someone attending the eighth grade well into their adulthood. This is why it was better for us that Jesus ascended. We are children of God called to what St. Paul calls “the stature of the fullness of Christ.” If everything which matters were just Jesus’ job to handle, how would we grow from our immaturity into the full maturity of Christ?

Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the (Holy Spirit) will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” By the Holy Spirit, the Church (which is Christ’s Body) is animated in this world. As members of his body we are moved by the Holy Spirit to love and to work united with Christ, growing more into his likeness and glory along the way. Would Jesus not ascending into heaven, remaining constantly here on earth and doing everything without us, have been easier than this present Christian life of ours? Perhaps, but Jesus desires that we would graduate with him to higher things and ascend to a greater glory with himself.

Resolving Christian Controversy

May 22, 2022

6th Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Victor Feltes

There was a serious religious controversy in the very early Church. The Acts of the Apostles records this story which contains important lessons for you and me and Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in every age. In the first century A.D., some Jewish Christians came down to Antioch and were telling the Christians there: “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Many of the Christians in Antioch were Gentile converts. As Gentiles they had not followed the many Jewish religious laws, including circumcision. Now they were being told they had no share in Jesus Christ’s New Covenant unless they kept the entire Mosaic Covenant.

This was a crucial matter: either these Gentiles were not yet experiencing Christ’s salvation, or else the Law of Moses was being needlessly placed as a barrier between Gentiles and Jesus Christ. St. Paul and St. Barnabas strenuously opposed this alternate interpretation of the Gospel which was disturbing and dividing their community, but how could this important issue be decisively and infallibly settled? Everyone forming their own interpretations obviously would not resolve it. How could the Christian community be sure of the truth?

The Acts of the Apostles details how “it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question.” A Church council was held in Jerusalem and after they had discussed and discerned the matter, “the apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose (a pair of) representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. (They selected) Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, (two) leaders among the brethren.

And they did not send Barsabbas and Silas empty-handed. The pair carried a letter from the council, which read in part: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities.” It then listed a handful of culturally offensive and/or sinful acts to abstain from before concluding, “If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.” In other words, the Gentile Christians would not be required to follow the full Mosaic Law.

Notice how the Church’s leaders, the apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem, pronounce their teaching with authority: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us…” As Jesus had promised at the Last Supper, “The Holy Spirit…will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” The Church’s leaders teach in union with and in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

Note as well how they do not send this letter by itself, but along with Barsabbas and Silas. This is partly to attest to the genuineness of the message—it’s not something Paul and Barnabas simply made up themselves. The accompanying witnesses are also sent to clarify any ambiguities and answer what remaining questions the Christians at Antioch might have. For instance, the Council of Jerusalem’s short letter bids the Christians to abstain from “porniea,” which various Christian Bibles translate as “sexual immorality,” or “fornication,” or “unlawful marriage.” But what was the precise meaning they intended here? One of these things or all of them together? Barsabbas and Silas could answer. We see that even a text inspired by the Holy Spirit (as this one was) can require an authoritative interpreter to be properly understood.

When the delegation from Jerusalem arrived at Antioch, the letter was read to the Christian community and the people were delighted. Barsabbas and Silas preached to them, encouraging them, and remained with them for some time. The controversy was resolved, and the community’s unity and peace of mind were restored; for the Bride of Christ, Mother Church, had spoken, removing all doubt about what Jesus wanted them to do.

This, of course, would not be the last controversy in Church history. Every century since has seen its heresies, and every error gains some followers because it is so easy to be mistaken. Clever minds and willful hearts in a fallen world can go down many false paths, and when lambs or sheep choose their own ways to go they scatter from Christ’s flock. Thankfully, God has given us his Holy Word in Sacred Scripture to help us to know him and his saving, loving will for our lives.

However, the Scriptures do not automatically interpret themselves. Even self-proclaimed “Bible Only” Christian denominations disagree with one another over important questions. The Protestant principle of Sola Scriptura (that “Scripture Alone” is the sole authority for Christian faith and life) is a self-refuting concept because the Bible does not teach it. How can someone even be sure which books are supposed to be in our Bible without there being an infallible Church to recognize them and place them into the canon of biblical books? Without a Spirit-guarded, infallibly-teaching Magisterium neither the Christians at Antioch nor Christians today could be sure about what we are to believe.

The Church of Jesus Christ is not meant to be many separate denomination, but one. Christ’s Church is not meant to bring salvation only to some, but to all. And the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ shares a continuity in her structure and in her teaching throughout the centuries from St. Peter and the apostles to Pope Francis and the bishops today.

In 1926, when G.K. Chesterton wrote his essay “Why I am a Catholic,” he presented a number of reasons, but the answer of his which has always stood out to me is this one: “(I am a Catholic because it) is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.” Some secular people imagine our present generation is the first one to get everything right, but in one hundred years another secular generation will mock and cringe at this one while embracing another set of fashionable errors of their own. However, in one hundred years the Catholic Church will remain, built solidly upon rock, and united to the Person and teachings of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Here is a final reflection from the controversy at Antioch. The teaching of Paul and Barnabas was right, and Barsabbas and Silas carried authority from the apostles. They were important witnesses to the Faith. But their message would have been undermined in the minds of others if St. Paul, St. Barnabas, St. Barsabbas, or St. Silas had not lived as saints. Our fellow Christians, even popes or bishops, may disappoint or cause scandal by their poor personal example, harming souls. But let us, you and I, rededicate ourselves to Christ, loving him and serving him, remaining close to him in the Sacraments, allowing ourselves to be more fully converted to him, so that others may know, love, and faithfully follow Jesus alongside us in his Holy Catholic Church.

“Do You Love Me?”

April 30, 2022

3rd Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Victor Feltes

At the Last Supper, Simon Peter assures Jesus, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.” But Jesus replies, “Peter, before the rooster crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me.” Later that night, during Jesus’ trial before the Jewish high priest, Peter stands with the servants and soldiers outside. It’s a cold night, so they warm themselves around a charcoal fire in the middle of the courtyard. This is where Peter denies three times that he is in any way connected to Jesus. A rooster crows, Jesus turns and makes eye-contact with Peter, and Peter breaks down and weeps.

In our gospel, the risen Jesus appears to seven of his disciples at the Sea of Galilee (also known as the Sea of Tiberius). He invites them to breakfast with him around another charcoal fire. This is the context for the conversation between Jesus and Peter today. After Peter’s three denials, Jesus provides him an opportunity to thrice-reaffirm his love. Jesus meets Peter by that charcoal fire like he mercifully encounters you and me in the confessional.

Now there is more going on in the original Greek of this gospel text than can be seen in our English translation. In English, the word “love” does a lot of heavy lifting. We say: “I love my family,” “I love my car,” “I love my country,” “I love pizza,” and “I love God.” But in Greek, there are multiple words for “love.” For example, “Phileo” refers to friendship or brotherly love, “Eros” refers to romantic love, and “Agape” refers to self-sacrificial, unconditional love. Agape is the way God actively loves us and how we are called to love too. “This is my commandment,” says the Lord, “that you (apage) one another, just as I have (agaped) you.

In today’s gospel, Jesus first asks: “Simon, son of John, do you love me (do you agape me) more than these?” And Simon Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I (phileo) you.” Simon loves Jesus as a dear brother and friend, but Peter, now humbled, recognizes that he does not love Jesus perfectly. Then Jesus asks again, “Simon, son of John, do you (agape) me?” Simon Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I (phileo) you.” But the third and final time, Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you (phileo) me?

Peter is distressed that Jesus switches this time to asking, “Do you (phileo) me?” Peter may be wondering, “Is Jesus questioning whether I even love him that much?” He says, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I (phileo) you.” Jesus is not doubting Peter’s phileo love for him, but rather meeting him where he’s at, allowing him to answer with an unqualified “yes.” Peter’s love is not yet perfect, they both recognize that, but Jesus tells him to feed his lambs, tend his sheep, and feed his sheep as the chief shepherd of Christ’s flock on earth as the first pope. Jesus reveals to Peter that his faithful service will lead him to the perfection of self-sacrificial, agape love in end.

Amen, amen,” Jesus tells him, “when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this signifying by what kind of death Peter would glorify God; that is, a martyr’s death. Peter would go on to be crucified upside-down and buried on Vatican Hill. Our gospel concludes with Jesus telling St. Peter and us: “Follow me.”

Like Peter there on the seashore, we probably realize that our love for God is real though imperfect. Jesus knows this too, of course, but he still loves us here and now. He meets us where we’re at, he loves us as we are, but he will not settle for that. He intends to call us, lead us, press us forward to more perfect love. His providence will lead us to places we may not want to go, to experience trials we would not choose for ourselves. But his purpose is to make us into a person, a person who loves, like Jesus Christ himself.

A final story…
In C.S. Lewis’ Christian fantasy novel, “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” a little girl named Lucy is told about a great lion named Aslan. Aslan is the Christ figure in the world of Narnia. Mr. Tumnus tells Lucy, “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” Lucy asks, “Is he—quite safe?” And Mr. Beaver replies, “Who said anything about safe? [Of] course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

Running to the Empty Tomb

April 17, 2022

Easter Sunday
By Fr. Victor Feltes

There is a joke about how John ran faster than Peter on Easter. John wins the footrace to the tomb and shouts, “I won, I won!” But Peter taunts him, “Who will ever know?” And John says under his breath: “Everyone will know.

St. John’s Gospel records how when Mary Magdalene told them about the empty tomb, “Peter and [John] went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but [John] ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first.” When Peter arrives, they both enter in to experience signs and results of Jesus’ Resurrection. If St. John is not highlighting his faster foot speed in order to brag, if his purpose is not to rub it in “Slow-Poke Peter’s” face, why include the detail about arriving before Peter?

Part of this is due to St. John accurately describing his firsthand experience of the empty Easter tomb of Christ. Who did what, when and with whom, are important facts when providing eyewitness testimony. Documenting that the tomb was empty before his disciples saw him alive again clarifies that Jesus’ Resurrection is a physical, historical event. The Risen Jesus is not a ghost, he’s not a vision, he’s not a fantasy. His body is not in the tomb. Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.

Like other verses in Sacred Scripture, the detail about John running faster and Peter arriving after contains a spiritual meaning for us. One disciple arrives earlier, another disciple comes later, but they both meet together at the same holy place on Easter morning. They enter in together and see signs and results of Christ’s Resurrection inviting them to believe and accept that the world has changed. Sin and death do not have the last word. Jesus Christ is Lord.

Today, those of us here are like those two disciples. Maybe you’re a disciple who ran here faster. Or maybe you’re one who has arrived more slowly. Maybe you’ve been waiting here, preparing to enter into Easter, since the beginning of Lent. Or maybe you have not come to this holy place for months or years, until today. Either way, whether you came here first or last, all of us are called and blessed to be here together now.

How shall we respond to Easter? With faith or faithlessness? On the first Easter morning, St. Peter could have chosen to leave the tomb and return to his former life of commercial fishing. St. John, the newly-entrusted guardian of Jesus’ Mother Mary, could have abandoned her and fled far away, never to return. But both men chose to remain with the other disciples and soon experienced Christ alive among them.

I hope we all, from this day forward, will be here together each Sunday. Prioritize your faith above the world, like St. Peter did. Draw nearer to Mary and the saints, like St. John did. Remain with us here at St. Paul’s, as fellow disciples of Christ, to experience Jesus Christ alive among us. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. So believe in him, accepting how he has changed our world.

Because He Loves You

April 17, 2022

Easter Vigil
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Our human knowledge and human awareness are limited and finite. Jesus Christ, however, is both fully human and fully divine. As the eternal, Second Person of the Trinity, his understanding and consciousness are unlimited. And so, amazingly and truly, he knew us and loved us even before time began.

At the beginning of creation, he foreknew you and loved you. He called Father Abraham in ancient times, in part, because he loves you. He freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt because he loves you. He settled his people in the Promised Land because he loves you. He established King David’s dynasty because he loves you. He commissioned all the prophets because he loves you. He brought his people back from exile because he loves you.

In the fullness of time, he became man because he loves you. He preached and ministered on earth because he loves you. He tolerated rejection and betrayal because he loves you. He endured whipping and mockery because he loves you. He accepted the Holy Cross because he loves you. He suffered and died because he loves you. But during this night upon the third day, he conquered death and rose again because he loves you.

In more recent days, he gave you life in your mother’s womb because he loves you. He encounters you in his Catholic Church because he loves you. He baptizes you to be his Father’s child because he loves you. He confirms you as the Holy Spirit’s temple and instrument because he loves you. He incorporates you into being a member of his mystical Body and Bride because he loves you. And he fills your life with more blessings than you can count because he loves you.

Each of us rightly celebrates this night because of Jesus Christ. You are here at Easter Vigil because you love him. But more importantly, you are here tonight because he loves you.