From the Pastor's Pen

Deacon's Bench ~ May 2nd

Our Own Easter and Pentecost

“The church… was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers” (Acts 9:31).

In the fifty days from Easter to Pentecost, we will continue to read in the Book of Acts about the birth and the early growth of the Church. One of the things that always impresses me about the early Church is the joyful zeal of these new Christians. Impressive also is the outpouring of charity in the new Church and how, as new a creation in Christ, they have begun to build a new Christian culture as well, living in community, having all things in common—“they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The bold preaching of the disciples in the face of official opposition also impresses us. These days, however, what most catches my attention is the rapid growth of the Church -“…every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (2:41, 47). 

All of these events are connected; they all spring out of the Church’s joyful faith in the Resurrection of Christ at Easter and in the power of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the disciples at Pentecost. We are in the midst of our yearly celebration of Christ’s Resurrection and we anticipate, in a few weeks, our celebration of Pentecost as well, which makes me wonder: do we at Immaculate Conception have the same zeal as did the early Church? Do we exhibit the same spirit of charity? Are we, too, inspired to create a new Christian culture? Do we preach the Gospel boldly as Peter did, even in the face of opposition, scorn and indifference? Do we see at Immaculate Conception the same growth that the early Church saw?

Of course, that was then and this is now; the Holy Spirit works in different ways at different times and in different cultures; and certainly, we are only now clawing our way out of a world-wide pandemic; it would be a mistake to insist that there should be a one-to-one correspondence between the Church in America AD 2021 and the early Church in Israel AD 31. But wasn’t the Book of Acts written for our edification? Wasn’t it written, in part, for our encouragement, as an example? 

In what way are we at Immaculate Conception like the early Church in Acts? How can we be filled with a similar zeal that animated the apostles? A similar charity? A similar re-thinking of our culture in the light of Christ’s resurrection? How can we become bold preachers of the Gospel in our community as the disciples were in theirs? What are we as individuals and as a church doing (or not doing) that is preventing the Holy Spirit from adding to our number those who are being saved?

Perhaps—here’s a grim thought—perhaps we are unlike the Church in Acts because we are not at the beginning of the life of the Church, as they were, but near the end. Could it be that in our culture the faith of the Church is dying out, rather than being re-born? And if the Church is dying out in our culture, how then should we respond?

One thing we do know is that if we want to resist the long, withdrawing roar of our culture away from the Christian faith, away from its moral teachings, away from its understanding of fundamental human nature, we cannot continue doing what we have always done. 

Any revitalization of the Church must begin with each member of Immaculate Conception Parish. Each of us must nourish our own faith in Christ’s Resurrection—we must, as it were, experience our own Easter; each of us must nourish the Holy Spirit poured out on us at our Baptism and our Confirmation—we must, as it were, experience our own Pentecost. 

The starting point for any possible renewal—in ourselves and in our Church—can be found in Jesus’ words to His disciples in this Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of John: 

“I am the vine, you are the branches. 
Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without Me you can do nothing(John 15:5).

 

Pastor's Pen ~ May 2nd

Goddess-worship was prevalent in some ancient cultures of the world. The early Greek and Roman cultures had the custom of honoring important women in their religions. The influence of these customs can be traced to our veneration of Mary, the most important woman in our faith history. The Church was able to Christianize the secular feasts which were customary to take place at that time. The Christian custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin arose at the end of the 13th century. During this month Christians, both in church and in the privacy of the home, offer up to Mary fervent and loving homage of prayer and veneration. In the 16th century, books appeared and fostered this devotion.  

Catholics neither see Mary as a goddess nor to worship her. So what reasons justify our special veneration for Mary? Here are a few grounds: (1). Mary is Jesus’ mother. (2). She is the first and most perfect disciple. (3). She is our mom. She may not have given birth to us physically, but she certainly has given birth to us spiritually. (4). She loves us more than we can ever imagine. She loves you like no human mother ever could. (5). Mary is an advocate, helper, benefactress and mediatrix. As the first and most perfect disciple, she is devoted to Jesus and is at work 24/7 to draw us closer to her son. For all these reasons and more, Mary deserves honor, not only during the month of May but always. Crowning Mary with flowers is a tradition the first communion children do each year. What a display of a child-like devotion! It was indeed a joy for me to be with them this year too. You will find a lovely picture of the first communicants in this bulletin. 

On Mothers’ Day, children show their love to mothers in varied ways. Mothers are being honored throughout the World in May. The celebrations highlight the importance of the mother in the life of every child. Thanks to all mothers who make enormous personal sacrifices for their children and families. Congratulations to all mothers in our Parish community! If mothers deserve our love, respect and honor, then how much more does Mary
deserve from us all! Let us drench ourselves in paying respect and honor to Mary. In doing so, let us also grow in showing respect and love not only to our own mothers but to every woman. Sadly, the Modern Culture stands opposite to the earlier cultures in showing respect and honor to women. Our families must train children in the ways of showing respect, honor and love. In fact, the theme of love runs through the readings of this weekend
Liturgies: “Love is of God”; “let us love one another”; and Jesus reminds us that “as the Father loves me, I love you. Remain in my love.” Motherhood,
be it physical or spiritual, is an embodiment of love.  

In two weeks time, we would have a number of our young people confirmed. Again, what a joyous moment for the Parish! And what more! They would be confirmed on Pentecost Sunday- the day on which the disciples were also filled with the Holy Spirit. The preparation for receiving the Sacrament is underway with the help and guidance of mentors and Catechists. I had the joy of meeting with each of them personally. I heard each one basically
repeating: “I am serious about my faith journey.” We do have hope for the future. Let us accompany them with our prayers and encouraging support.  

Recently, I stumbled upon the quote, which has been scripted by Ayn Rand (1905-1982), a Russian- American writer and philosopher: “We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.” In my pensive moments, I wonder what I see and hear all around— globally too! Let us seek the intercession of our Blessed Mother for our World.  

Peace!