From the Pastor's Pen

Pastor's Pen ~ September 13th

Three phrases caught my attention from the scripture readings of the weekend: “overlook faults” (sir 28:7);  “we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14:8);  “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22). The call of Ben Sira (200 BC), the author of the book of Sirach (also called Ecclesiasticus), to “overlook faults” is more relevant than ever. Paul’s profound statement that “we are the Lord’s” augments the need to look at life squarely. What more! Jesus’s ending of the parable by bringing into our notice the importance of forgiveness gives a grand finale to the prime message of the scripture this weekend: forgiveness brings peace and happiness.

In every nation, there are wounds to heal. Ours is no different. Numerous wounds bleed this nation at this juncture, and healing is needed. I remember a quote, which runs like this: “healing does not mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.” We don’t need to erase the past history or its memories but we can stop allowing the past history to debilitate our present story. No doubt, across the nation’s every community, there is a lot of work to be done. I truly believe that in every heart of this Nations’ people, there’s the power to bring about healing. In due course of time, Covid-19 pandemic will come to an end. But, by then, I am afraid that the “pandemic of misinformation” will have done irreparable damage to the fabric of this nation. We must be alert! America’s greatness lies in its people.

Many families have experienced the loss of their loved ones due to Covid-19. On a personal note, I have experienced the loss of a few religious sisters and priests whom I knew back in India. They contracted the deadly virus while serving the people. Several families in this nation also mourn the loss of their loved ones due to Covid-19. We all need healing. The political unrest and natural calamities have caused further divide and wounds to our already fragile communities of the inner cities. The Forces that seek to divide and destroy would not succeed if people are alert in building up relationship among communities. Let’s seek to heal rather than to wound each other. Heeding to this call would bring peace and happiness to the wounded heart of this nation.

What a news of relief! Regis Schools have opened their doors to the children. Heartiest congratulations to the President, faculty members and the staff, in particular, the non-teaching staff who work to keep the facilities clean and safe. I am proud of our team here at Immaculate Conception Elementary School— Dallas Short, Mel Johnson, Anna and Claire— whose commitment is admirable. We all—  parents, teachers and the administration— need to work not in isolation or in opposition to one another, but together. Together, we can provide the best we have for our children; and also handle the unknown before us. Let us offer our support to the staff members.

The Catholic Bishops of Wisconsin have discussed about lifting of the dispensation and the return to full in-person attendance at Sunday masses as before. The proposed date to lift the dispensation from the obligation for the diocese of La Crosse is October 4th, the feast of St Francis of Assisi. As of now, this remains only as a proposal. The final decision would be made after further study. Let us keep all our bishops in our prayer as they lead us through this difficult time. Reaching out to others and supporting one another are remarkable traits of the people of this nation!  Let us be sharers of hope!

 

From the Deacon's Bench ~ September 20th

“Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near…. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.”

Unless each of us has a personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior, little we do at Immaculate Conception Church is of lasting value. If we do not know Jesus personally, if we do not believe that He died for our own personal sins, if we do not obey His commands, and so grow in Christlikeness every day, then Immaculate Conception Church becomes little more than a glee club with fish boils.

Living in American society today, with its toxic pop culture, its hateful and vindictive politics, its consumerism, and its materialist view of life, is like finding ourselves in a small boat caught in a swift current. If we do not make the effort to row against that current, we will be swept out to sea. We are all busy building our house (to change the metaphor), but a hurricane is imminent. If we do not “dig deep,” as Jesus warned us, and build that house on solid rock—which is faith in Christ and obedience to the Catholic Church—our house will be swept away.

You heard last Sunday from one of three men involved in the Missionary Discipleship Small Groups. You also read, I hope, the blue insert in last week’s Bulletin about the Small Groups. A new season begins this coming week and I, along with Father Francis, and all the men of the small groups, are calling on you men of the parish to join us. (We are also calling on the women of our parish to join, but currently, the Women’s Small Group is in the middle of its season; a new season will begin for them in September 2021.)

We meet once a week (either on Monday or Thursday evenings, depending on your schedule). We will begin with a call to conversion, encouraging each member of the group to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Lord of his life. Without that foundation in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we will have little to give to others who come seeking God at our parish. We cannot give what we do not have.

We will build on that foundation of personal salvation to develop a greater reliance on the Lord, cooperating with the Holy Spirit as we grow in personal holiness. We will strive to mature as followers of Christ by establishing a more consistent Prayer Life; developing a deeper understanding of and reliance on the Holy Scriptures; receiving the Sacraments regularly; growing in Fellowship with other Christians; and living out our Christian faith in public service and witness.

As members of this small group, we will each strive to grow in obedience to the Lord, morally and ethically, in all areas of our lives.

Finally, we will learn to become “missionary disciples,” carrying into the world—beginning with our own Parish—what we have experienced and learned in order to “make disciples of every nation… teaching them to observe all that [Christ has] commanded [us]” (Matthew 28:19-20).

I am hoping that, eventually, every single member of Immaculate Conception Parish will have participated in the Missionary Discipleship small group, our Christian “Boot Camp,” if you will. If we are to be prepared for whatever the future holds in store for us, we need to get busy rowing against the current, digging deep to establish for ourselves a sure foundation.

The next step is up to you: if you are ready to make this commitment, please contact me by email, text or phone. If you know of someone in our Parish who would benefit from this program, please feel free to send me their contact information as well.

We cannot give what we do not have. What our Parish, our city, our country needs is men and women of strong Christian faith, ready to shore up the spiritual foundations not only of ourselves, but of our families and our culture.