A Message of Love

Posted on May 6, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, May 10, 2015, 6th Sunday of Easter

May 10

It’s been a brutal couple of weeks.

Baltimore has been burning. Nepal is in ruins, with tens of thousands lost. Israel remains uneasy and on alert. And the city of Tel Aviv was rocked by protests amid charges of police brutality.

At times, it seems we are entering a new Age of Anxiety, with the earth literally shifting below our feet.

And yet, at this very moment, the Gospel cries out a recurring refrain that stands in stark contradiction to the world we know—a message, it seems, of defiance.

It is, in fact, a message of love.

“This is my commandment,” Jesus says in this Sunday’s Gospel: “love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

During these last weeks before we celebrate the Ascension, that theme of love has been heard again and again, echoing in the Scriptures at Sunday Mass. We could almost consider it Christ’s last will and testament: what we need to hear before he leaves the earth and sends the Holy Spirit to continue what he began.

We might find that message of love hard to swallow in our own times, when love seems to be so absent and hatred and fear are so rampant.

But that is precisely why we need to embrace that message so completely—and commit ourselves to living it so fully.

The Gospel is not only countercultural; it is also very often counterintuitive. The dead rise, the blind see, those who would be stoned are set free to start over. This is not the world we know, but it is one we pray to make real and present to others—the kingdom of heaven.

As we pray for our troubled world, and pray for victims of injustice and violence and war, we pray that we may make that kingdom a reality in how we live and, most especially, in how we love.

Dcn. Greg Kandra

PRAYER

Let us ask God
to grant that violence be overcome by the power of love,
that opposition give way to reconciliation
and that the desire to oppress be transformed
into the desire for forgiveness, justice and peace…

May peace be in our hearts
so that they are open to the action of God’s grace…
Amen.
—Pope Benedict XVI, Prayer for Justice, General Audience, December 19, 2007.

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Surprised By God

Posted on May 5, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

Pope FrancisSince 2013, Pope Francis has captivated the world with his remarkable display of discipleship.  And just when we think we’ve got him figured out, he surprises us again!  “Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God,” were his words to the students at Santo Tomàs University in Manila, Philippines during his January pastoral visit – words he clearly lives by.

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Family Time

Posted on May 4, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

CampusPeople say your kids are grown up and out of the house before you know it.  Some say it’s like the blink of an eye.  In some ways that is true, although any parent can agree that some years seem longer than others!  (Some of those teen years can seem really long!)

But the point is there is a limited window of opportunity to help God mold and shape your children into the adults they will become.

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Unleashing Catholic Generosity

Posted on May 4, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

Prince of Peace Cover RedesignThis is the first of 3 documents from The Notre Dame Institute for Church Life that provide important information for shaping the message of what we are offering in a Sustainable Offertory Campaign.  A quote from the first document:

“Our results suggest that the American Catholic giving gap is, in part, a direct result of congregational culture: Catholic parishes are less likely to nurture participatory cultures compared to other Christian congregations. Parishioners are also more likely to focus on giving as “paying the bills” rather than “living the vision” when thinking of money. Because many Catholics are more concerned with “paying the bills,” they lack spiritual engagement with money—the belief that proper stewardship of money is a deeply spiritual matter— which further reduces Catholic financial giving.”

We will be providing parishes with proper stewardship of money formation and working to change their parishioners’ vision of engagement.

Everyday Stewardship: Fifth Sunday of Easter 2015

Posted on April 30, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

EucharistIn The Life of a Christian Steward: A Reflection on the Logic of Commitment, published by the International Catholic Stewardship Council, one reads, “To be most effective in service to God and humankind, Christian stewardship must stem from the liturgical worship in the Church. Here one finds the supernatural motive, the word of faith, and the grace necessary to get the job done.”

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Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

Posted on April 29, 2015 by - Catholic Tech Talk

Mobile FriendlyWith more and more of the Internet traffic being on mobile devices, it is critically important that your church website be mobile friendly.  Remember, your website is a marketing and engagement tool.  It is how local Catholics, traveling Catholics, and anyone interested in finding a church can learn about your parish online.

 

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Transforming the World

Posted on April 29, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, May 3, 2015, 5th Sunday of Easter

May 3

Resurrection has much more relevance to life than just the promise of more to come when we die! When the first disciples met the risen Lord not only did their understanding of Christ’s purpose become clear, but the way they conducted earthly business became transformed as well. How they lived with one another, what they valued, how they prioritized their affairs, their level of confidence, and how they viewed their possessions all were altered by what they witnessed. It is almost like encountering the unconditional love of someone for the first time and realizing that you are forever changed. You cannot go back!

If we believe in the risen Christ with our whole mind, heart, and soul and have truly been transformed by the event we witnessed and celebrated just a few weeks ago, then we can never go back to the mundane or the secular. We have to change. This change affects not only how we view our death but how we view and value our daily earthly lives. The resurrection of Christ realigns and redirects our relationships: with God, ourselves, one another, and our environment.

We are used to examining and tweaking the more obvious relationships we share: God, self, and others. However, our relationship with our environment can sometimes be overlooked, avoided, or perceived as non-essential. After all, will what I do with my garbage every day have anything to say about whether I get to heaven? Probably not! But what we do with our garbage, our bank accounts, our possessions, and the “stuff” we accumulate and use every day for business or pleasure has plenty to say about our faith!

In truth, these are essentials that must factor into understanding the power of Resurrection transformation. Faith is not easy, even when preachers and witnesses call for our attention and try to focus us on truth. Our first reading this weekend demonstrates this very clearly when Saul arrived in Jerusalem. All were afraid of him—perhaps rightly so because of his reputation—and did not believe that he was a disciple. It took a while for them to become convinced. It takes a while for us to be convinced when truth has authentically taken root in an individual too. I am sure that Saul was as surprised by what the Resurrection’s transformative power did in his life as were those who saw him!

The preaching continued and the church was being built up. Those who believed “walked in fear of the Lord.” This was not the kind of fear that seeks to avoid punishment but the kind of fear that stems from a healthy reverence for and understanding of God’s providential presence and power. They were changed and now being guided and led to a new way of living!

God intends us to help in preserving things for future generations. Our faith calls us not only to a healthy reverence of God but for ourselves, each other, and our world. Psalm 22, a poetic prayer predating Christ’s resurrection, clearly shows us that this is God’s intention. “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD…my descendants shall serve him. Let the coming generation be told of the LORD that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice he has shown.” Our free will, one of our most precious gifts next to life and love itself, gives us the power to choose whether our earth will remain an abundant place of blessing. Through our neglect and lack of attention and concern, we can easily compromise God’s gift of earth’s blessing and diminish its ability to flourish for generations to come. Edward Humes, in his new book entitled Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, provides some insights regarding things that are not always considered worthy of our attention. MSN offered a synopsis of his thoughts this past week that you may find interesting.

St. John admonished the early believers by calling them to “love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” It seems that each generation is called to discover anew what this really means and to adapt and change its application based upon what presents itself at the time. It does not serve our understanding of resurrection’s power by limiting our understanding of its implications to a literal second-century interpretation. Life is different and the challenges to Gospel living are presenting themselves in new ways!

Does change and transformation ever come easy? Certainly not! Being pruned hurts! A vine that is pruned surely must experience some kind of trauma but certainly gives itself over to the action for the necessary good that will come. John’s Gospel reminds us that the word prunes us. This means that the Word who is God, a living and effective Word, is life-changing. It is not simply a spoken word that can be heard and yet unheeded. It is a living and effective word that when truly received, changes how we see and understand things. The resurrected Christ spoke this kind of word and it was this very word that entered the disciples’ hearts and changed them! It is this living and effective word that can enter us and change us as well.

Receiving and acting on this word grafts us to the very heart and life of God. It transforms us into his image and likeness and we begin to act as he acts. We see things, people, and life itself as God sees those things. What God intends, we intend. Even the simple and seemingly unimportant elements of life receive a new and refocused priority and purpose. And, yes, what we do with our garbage begins to matter because we suddenly see the connection between that small piece of paper or piece of plastic and the many other small pieces of paper and plastic that are being handled and used at that moment throughout God’s entire world!

It’s all about responsible stewardship! “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Rev. Mark Suslenko

PRAYER

Dear mother earth, who day by day
unfolds rich blessing on our way,
O praise God! Alleluia!
The fruits and flowers that verdant grow,
let them his praise abundant show.
O praise God, O praise God,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
—St. Francis of Assisi

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Superheroes

Posted on April 27, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

SuperheroThe next Avengers movie is almost here and superheroes in film and on TV seem to be taking over.  As a person who sometimes still feels like a little kid at heart, I personally love it.

I was thinking there are people I encounter everyday that fit this description.  These people bear much resemblance to superheroes. Each new day brings new challenges and new villains to battle.

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