From the Pastor's Pen & Deacon's Bench
Pastor's Pen ~ October 31st
The Church is composed of the faithful living upon the earth and those who have gone before us. The latter includes the saints in heaven and the faithful souls being purified in Purgatory. The month of November brings us to the memory of the departed ones. Just as on November 1st we honor those who are with God, on November 2nd Catholics celebrate a Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. Also known as All Souls Day, we honor them for their fidelity in life, as well as pray for them, since they are being purified before entering the holy presence of God. As Revelation 21:27 says of the heavenly Jerusalem, “… nothing unclean shall enter in.”
Death embraces everyone. It’s a fate none of us can overcome. No matter who we are in life, death will come to us all. Yet encountering death is arguably our most difficult task for anyone. Death, for many, is still a mystery that raises questions that have long troubled humans: what awaits us when we die? The Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges this struggle of the humans: “It is in regard to death that man’s condition is most shrouded in doubt” (CCC 1006). Death brings an end to our earthly existence, but it has been transformed by Christ. The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the Liturgy of the Church: “Indeed, for your faithful Lord life is changed but not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.” Life when seen as a journey with God, death is our final step in that journey to God. For us Christians, death is not a mystery to be solved but a reality to be lived daily.
The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of death. St Joseph is honored in the Church as the Patron of Happy Death. The Church has profound burial customs and rituals. Burying the dead is one of the seven Corporal works of Mercy and it displays the core beliefs of the Faith— eternal life, judgement, purgatory, hell, heaven. Praying for the dead has been a longstanding tradition in the Church and it is a Spiritual work of Mercy. Even though All Souls Day is not a Holy Day of Obligation, it is a good idea to attend Mass on this day. The day could be spent, at least in part, in prayer for the souls of our loved ones, as well as those who have no one to pray for them. It is an honored custom, as well, to visit the graves of our deceased on this day, both to pray at the place where their bodies, hallowed in life by the sacraments, await the General Resurrection and to leave some mark of esteem, such as flowers, to adorn their graves.
JUBILEE CELEBRATION!!! We had initially started the Jubilee Year in 2019 with the theme “Celebrating God’s Faithfulness”. A yearlong activity was part of that original plan. But the pandemic that arrived on the scene changed everything. Anyway, here we are! And in 13 days, we shall be celebrating the 75th Jubilee of our Parish. What a historic moment! I warmly welcome everyone to join for the celebration. Msgr David Kunz, (former Vicar for the clergy) the very first vocation to priesthood from our Parish, will be the main celebrant at the Jubilee Mass. A few more priests are expected to join us at the Jubilee mass. Even during the Jubilee mass, I know that the members of various committees will be working behind the scenes. I thank God for your love and commitment. Indeed, God has shown his faithfulness to us. It is only right to celebrate God’s Faithfulness. As we celebrate this Jubilee, we shall recall with gratitude all who have walked before us and have left us examples of living faith. May this jubilee celebration be a fitting tribute to God’s faithfulness to us.
Pastor's Pen ~ October 24th
On this World Mission Sunday, we join the entire church, reminding our call to become missionaries in heart and mind. Catholics throughout the world share their financial resources to support the evangelizing mission of the Church. In the Church, as you all know, we have patron saints for all causes. On December 14th, 1927, Pope Pius XI proclaimed St Therese of Lisieux as the Patroness of the Missions. She never went to the missions! And yet Pope Pius XI decided to proclaim her Patroness of the worldwide Missions, alongside Saint Francis Xavier, a tireless Jesuit missionary in India and Japan. Her canonization emphasizes the important role we all share as missionaries through prayer and sacrifice.
What makes a missionary are not the legs but the heart! A missionary is a person whose heart burns with love for Christ and zeal for souls and therefore answers to the call of Jesus: Go, teach and baptize! A missionary shares Jesus’ mission. The means might differ- prayer, writing, preaching, penance; the goal and the motive are the same: save souls by love. In our congregation (Missionaries of St Francis De Sales), we celebrate 2021-22 as the Year of the Mission. The celebration focusses on our call as missionaries and the ways to deepen our own witness as missionaries. Let me add one more to the trivia: Today, October 24th is the 183rd anniversary of the foundation of our Religious Order, the Missionaries of St Francis De Sales. Please include us also in your prayers.
As we offer our financial contribution to the mission of the Universal Church, we should not forget our role locally— preparing the young to respond to God’s call to priesthood and religious life. God calls us. God calls our young people. As a Parish community, we need to intensify our prayers so that God’s call to priesthood and religious life may be heard and responded to by young people of our Parish. Pray that in the next 75 years, our community may receive the joy of having some priests, religious and deacons from our own parish families. It is certainly true that we become missionaries of Christ by our faithful witness wherever we are placed in life’s journey. Yet, there is a greater urgency to pray, encourage and prepare children to hear God’s call. Do parents ever share stories of missionaries with their children? Do they ever pray for one of their children to answer God’s specific call to religious life or priesthood? Is there a habit of prayer in families? Prayer in our families will help to foster vocations!
In twenty-one days, we will be amid the celebration of the 75th Jubilee Festival. I appeal to all- young and old- to be involved in the celebration. Many are working behind the scenes to make this celebration a blessing for all. I raise my heart to God in thanksgiving for all of you.
The Scripture passage presents yet another episode on the way to Jerusalem. The encounter of the blind man happens in Jericho, which is about 18 miles from Jerusalem. We hear the famous question of Jesus, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk 10:51). What follows is very important: The blind man uses his regained sight to follow Jesus on the road. Isn’t it a beautiful story! Perhaps, the Lord asks us the same question. How would you and I answer him? More importantly, what would you and I do with the blessings of the Lord?
Peace to all,
Pastor's Pen ~ October 17th
October 24th is celebrated as the World Mission Sunday. Each year, the celebration of the day brings attention to our baptismal call to mission. We are to grow in zeal for sharing Christ-experience to others. The theme of Pope Francis, “we cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20), encourages us to share that same zeal. Our parish has always been generous in contributing to the support of the worldwide mission of the Church through our prayers and financial support. Kindly use the envelopes for your contribution to World Mission Sunday. I thank you for your support.
In 28 days, our Jubilee Festival will be here! The Jubilee celebration brings us together as a community of believers to share the joy of ardent living our faith. Jubilee is a celebration of THANKSGIVING. We express our gratitude to God for all that we enjoy as a community. We express our gratitude to all those who have walked the path of faith before us, worked hard to build all that we see, and have gone from our sight. The love and sacrifice of many have contributed to the making of who we are today as a Parish.
I thank God for the blessings that come through the School, Faith formation, Missionary Discipleship, RCIA, Bible Study Groups and other ministries. The services of many volunteers and groups bring abundant blessings to our Parish. The Liturgy has come alive through attentive participation, listening, singing and praying. Let us not forget to keep praying for the wellbeing of all families and for the smooth running of all our ministries and programs. I express my gratitude to all who do their part- lovingly and diligently.
The blessings we have received manifest God’s faithfulness to us. Let us not just sit back and enjoy this moment. Rather, let us GIVE our very best to this moment, making it a gift of love for our community and our gift for those who would follow us in the years to come. I invite every Parish family to take a keen interest in the celebration of the Jubilee Festival through participation, contribution and service. Let us honor this moment with pride and joy of a community.
What do the Scripture passages of this week speak to us? Among the many things, I love to look at the common thinking that we have of the apostles— as perfect followers. The truth is far from it. They were simply imperfect men. Look at them. They are impulsive and quarrelsome. They argue, seek glory and desire status. What more! They even demand positions of power! The descriptions of their foibles and failures lends certain authenticity to the writings. Surprisingly, all these happen while they are with Jesus and under his direct tutelage. This Sunday’s Gospel passage presents another scene of their quest for self-glory and status. We see Jesus patiently dealing with their imperfections. Of course, eventually they turn out to become fervent followers of the Master. What an amazing transformation that was!
Each of us is on the same journey of transforming our inner selves. We are to become more Christ-like each day of our lives. When we meet with failures, let us not be discouraged. Learn to get up and walk again, trusting in God’s care. The pandemic has created an unimaginable impact on everyone. The long period of isolation continues to build massive mental issues. The social, cultural and political situations have only exasperated the strain in people’s lives. The impact left by all these on Family life and relationships are beyond anyone’s calculation. I pray for families. I pray for all parents. Keeping a certain balance to family life is an art parents need to learn. It starts with giving GOD the priority in the family and in all types of relationships. I call upon all parents to place God at the center of their families. We need to choose the way of Jesus in our lives and families. Through personal witness and example, let us give our children a strong foundation to their lives. Remember, GOD is GOOD!
Wishing you peace as you march on,
Pastor's Pen ~ October 10th
Three years with you! On the second weekend of October 2018, I celebrated my first mass here at Immaculate Conception. Does it make you surprised? I am amazed that the three years have gone so swiftly. These years have brought many blessings to me. Being part of this Parish family and walking together with you in an incredibly challenging time, is purely God’s grace alone. Your collaboration has been encouraging to me in times of doubts and fears. Your support and prayers have strengthened the walk together. Many continue to share their love and concern in so many ways. Many, I know, keep praying for me. I truly appreciate the friendship of all of you. Apart from the liturgical celebrations, I believe that some of you have had chances to know me personally. Yet, I know there are many whom I do not know personally. In fact, I have tried to make use of every occasion to know you and your families. Being a part of your family at some key moments- baptisms, weddings, anointings, first communion, first reconciliation, confirmation, funerals- have brought me closer to you and your families. It has been a blessing for me to be with you especially at the special moments of your life’s journey. I thank God for each of you and your families and for the blessings that have come to me through you and your families in these past years.
In four weeks, we will hold the 75th Jubilee Festival- something we have been excitedly waiting for. I invite everyone of you to join in thanksgiving to God. Many parishioners have been joyfully working to make this event truly an enjoyable experience for all. Let us collaborate with their efforts. Please do not hesitate to be a volunteer at this event. Together we can make the work related to this celebration easy. Let us unite ourselves to give a collective witness of our community.
Let us turn to the Scripture readings of this weekend liturgy. We hear the following line from the young man: “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth” (Mk 10:20). The young man’s total fidelity to observing the commandments is truly praiseworthy. None can stop admiring him, who came seeking more! The question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” reveal that he was searching for more. Jesus loved this young man. But did he do what Jesus asked?
In reading this story, I wondered: how many of us can say that we observe all the commandments of God? Secondly, how many of us truly express a thirst and hunger for eternal life? As the story progresses, we see the rich young man unwilling to “do the one thing that was lacking”. His wealth stood as an obstacle. He became a prisoner of his own possessions. We are told that he “went away sad”. How do you feel about that scenario?
“You are lacking one thing"(Mk 10:21). Why not ask Jesus to tell us the one thing that lacks in each of us? We all have something in our lives that serves as a major obstacle to true happiness and peace. It may be anger, holding grudges, alcohol, drugs, lust, apathy, lies, unfaithfulness, theft or fraud. Let us invite God into our lives and into our efforts to face and remove that one obstacle to holiness. The Pandemic, despite all its terrible impacts, has brought us to an awareness of things that really matter in life- our daily walk with God who walks with us. Let us continue our walk with God!
Have a blessed weekend,