Sunday, August 13, 2017

Will YOU Get Out of the Boat?

I was given the glorious opportunity to spend a week at a lake house in the Adirondacks recently and it was absolutely beautiful. While the app on my phone said that it would be rainy most days, somehow, God prevailed and each and every day was sunny and warm. Perfect days for reading, relaxing, kayaking...and trying to swim a bit in that cold lake water. As a woman who grew up on Jones Beach in NY, I find lake water very cold, even in the summer. But, beggars can't be choosers and the gift of a week at a lake is not something to be scoffed out. So most days saw me slowly work up my courage to get into the water, stay in for about five minutes and then run out muttering: "It's cold, it's cold, it's too cold...."

Today's Gospel is about Peter coming out of the boat, at Jesus' beckoning, and risking walking on the water.

Yesterday in our country we saw crazy behavior from crowds protesting in the South.

Today we come to church...and do what? How do we understand yesterday's events in light of the gospel?

We ask ourselves what the heck is going on in our society?

I don't know the answer to that really. I suspect it has something to do with the idea that we've stopped listening to each other. We may be so preoccupied with being right that we can't even discuss another point of view. I don't know.

But this is what I heard at church this morning. I need to have the courage to get out of the boat and take the risk to walk into the unknown, for the sake of my brothers and sisters. For the sake of the world I love, I need to try to move beyond where I am warm and comfortable. I need to step into a situation totally foreign to me, and try to learn something new. I need to be vulnerable.

I don't want to get out of the boat. The water is too cold.
But that doesn't matter...this life isn't about being comfortable is it? It's about being called to make a difference, for the better...with my sisters and brothers.

Even as I write this, our Social Justice group is meeting in the parish. I am so proud of the work that they do, and the care that they have for the community we belong to. I love that they are teaching the rest of us in the parish how we can make a difference for the better.

So, cold water or not, who's going to get out of the boat with me? How are we going to make a difference...knowing that God will help us on our way.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Live Jesus!

It is my hope in the next year, to learn more about who St Francis de Sales was so I can try to practice some of the virtues he taught.  By now you have surely noticed the amazing new banner hanging outside our church. This beautiful piece of artwork, created by Br. Mickey McGrath proudly shouts St Francis’ motto all over 96th St: “LIVE JESUS!”
Two simple words that will take a lifetime to understand, I think.
What does it mean for us to LIVE JESUS now in the 21st century? What does it mean to LIVE JESUS here in the midst of the city, at the crossroads of El Barrio and the Upper East Side? What does it mean to LIVE JESUS in whatever your current circumstances are? What does St Francis mean by those simple words: LIVE JESUS!?
I can only begin to tweeze these words apart to begin to understand them. I imagine this has something to do with letting the very heart of Jesus message of love and compassion for others begin to become part of the very fabric of my being, of my everyday life, of the way I approach the world around me.
It has to mean too, that on a very basic level I need to get to know who Jesus was/is so I can adopt his way of life and incorporate his virtues into myself.  As much as that sounds like a tall order, maybe the way I can best begin is to think about those qualities of Jesus that I most admire and start, one at a time, to make them a part of who I am.

So I think I will start with how accepting Jesus was of others.  He didn’t judge folks, he listened to them in love and invited them to follow him and get to know his Father’s love.  I would really love to be more accepting and less judgemental of others.  That’s where I’m going to start. What about YOU? Where will YOU start? (No judgement there, just a pretty direct invitation!)

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where Is Your Center?

I find myself wondering again, where the time goes when presumably the schedule should be a bit lighter now that the Spring Sacraments are done. It is true though that there is never a dull moment in parish life.

So, when Elisha visits the 'woman of influence' in the first reading on Sunday, how kind is she to set up a place of respite for him? Someone else would be trying to get rid of a guest who overstays their welcome! Not her, she is most hospitable and her goodness is rewarded magnificently.

I had an opportunity last weekend to meet a group of people who could not have been more welcoming. They were so very gracious. They told us over and over again how much they were moved and touched by the hospitality that was offered to their son and daughter at our parish of St Francis de Sales. It reminds me that our 'influence' can be far reaching. A kindness offered to someone on Sunday becomes the seed of great faith when given the time and love to blossom.

The beginning of the Gospel always unnerves me. Does Jesus really mean those harsh words? Or was he just trying to catch our attention so that we could hear the truth-that God must be in the center of our lives. Our decisions need to be considered from a heart of faith. This I can understand and pray with. I know when God is my center, there is a peace beyond all understanding even in the midst of the turmoil of my life.

My prayer for each of us as we enter into the summer months is that we keep God in the center, in the good times and the hard, at work, at the beach, in the everydayness of grocery shopping. May we remember that God is with us in it all, and may we stay centered in God's love.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Where is the Spirit calling you?

I am realizing the day is getting away from me at a rapid pace as we try to prepare for our Parish Pentecost Event this Sunday. We are also hosting the Last Class Party for our families in Religious Education classes as well as welcoming two young men into the initiation process. Busy? Absolutely! The Spirit is working overtime here at St Francis de Sales for sure!

As we approach Pentecost I find myself thinking about the folks who were in that upper room with the disciples. Last week's reading said Mary and the other women were there too. They are not mentioned at all this Sunday in the account of the Spirit's coming. I wonder why....

I'm reading a book now called "Everyone Leads" by Chris Lowney. It is one more idea of how we need to revitalize our beloved church in order to continue to grow and serve the world in the next century. He has me fascinated with a quote by Pope Benedict (!!) who is referencing back to the documents of Vatican II when he states that the laity are called to be not only collaborators in leading the church but more truly that we are CO RESPONSIBLE for the LEADERSHIP of our church. To hear that the church believes that WE are  (co) responsible for our future is quite a lot to take in. I'm pretty sure this is news to most of us on both sides of the aisle.

But not so much here at St Francis. I do think that we are on the cutting edge of believing that we are leaders in our church and are excited about preparing ourselves and each other to be the most responsible, most creative, most welcoming Catholics around 96th St. There is an energy here that is exciting to be a part of.  Today I received a compliment about how welcoming, well spoken and kind our maintenance man is! I am proud to say we all share a vision of how we want St Francis de Sales to be a place where people learn how to "LIVE JESUS" and his message of peace in the midst of our crazy city lives.

As we prepare for our Pentecost event I am hopeful that our time together will be filled with great conversation on how to seek creative ways to bring the message of Jesus and the church into our neighborhood. I anticipate much laughter, the seeds of new friendships planted and a renewed sense of hope for our parish. We have much to be grateful for. We have much work to do for the kingdom. 

Aren't we all called by the Spirit of Pentecost to change the world? 
Let us go forth into the world, blessed by the gifts of the Spirit, to renew our corner of the earth.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why Do I Hope?

St Peter says in the reading this Sunday: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you a reason for your hope.”
So I thought I’d share with you some of what I get to see in our parish and in our church that gives me hope in these Easter days.
Our Young People: I’ve had the chance to spend time with both the young ladies from Marymount and the gentlemen from Xavier.(thank you Kathleen and Jim for the invites) I was so very impressed with the thoughtfulness with which these young men and women are able to share their faith with one another. If they are what the next generation of Catholics will look like, then I can breathe a little easier.
Our Families: Sunday we celebrate both First Communions and Baptisms. At the end of the month we will celebrate Confirmations. Each and every one of these families has made a commitment to raising their children carefully and faithfully. We see these families at church most Sundays. What great joy it brings us to get to know them and to watch them participate and grow in their faith. How can we not but smile when we see all the life they bring to our parish.
Camden: I had the opportunity to go visit Br. Mickey McGrath in Camden NJ this week. Wow. They aren’t kidding about how tough things are in Camden. It is pretty bleak. Except for this one block that surrounds Sacred Heart Church in Camden, where the parish priest, now 82 years old and fighting cancer, has spent his life building up the neighborhood around the church. Through the arts and literature, through gardens and creativity, the kingdom of God grows in Camden. It was amazing to witness.
Our Parish Council: What a fine group of men and women. Not only are they committed to helping SFDS grow into the future, but they are concerned about who we will be as a parish in the future. Yes, there was some conversation about how we need to be financially secure, but there was also significant time spent on how we want to be a parish that is loving and welcoming. There was much talk about how we need to find ways as a church family to live out God’s call to justice and mercy.  To that end we would like to invite folks who are interested to consider attending local community board meetings and police precinct meetings to help keep all of us informed on how we can better help our neighborhood be a place of peace and justice for all. We are coming to understand, as Pope Benedict XVI told us, that we are all called to live out our baptismal roles, to be co responsible for the church. We are all called to be leaders. How are you being called to lead?

On a personal note, I am more aware than ever that I am so blessed to be in the place that I am, with the folks I work with, and the friends that have become my second family. I can't begin to count the many ways they gift me with their love and support and care. Even when things seem the most difficult, I am surrounded by love. I am grateful that I recognize it, and that I can appreciate it.

All in all, lots to be hopeful and grateful for.                        Jayne

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Is Your Heart Troubled Today?

Some gospel stories are much easier to enter into than others. I find this Sunday's Gospel both a bit of a challenge on the one hand, and way too easy on the other.

On the one hand Jesus leads off with those immortal words: "Don't let your hearts be troubled, have faith in God and faith in me"...and every single stressed part of my very human heart wants to snap back at him..."Oh REALLY??" I have no problem jumping right into this imaginary narrative.

What could we possibly have to feel stressed about? Our world? The economy? My budget? My job? My family? My ailing mom? My future? My weight? My health? My friends? All those things jump to mind before I can even take another breath. REALLY Jesus??? Don't worry? Easy for you and your all knowing self to say!! Quite another story for simple humble human me to try and live out.

Do I know anyone in the world who doesn't worry at some point about something? I don't think so. I know worrying isn't good for me, and I know it doesn't change the given reality at all. So why do I let myself go there? Is this something I can change about myself? I'm not sure. I hope so. I don't like all the energy I can spend worrying about things I can't change.

If I can only change myself then I'd better get started. What if, rather than getting upset with others, I just tried to accept that everyone is doing the best they can in any given situation. I wonder if that would help me be kinder and less harsh with others?

Later on in Sunday's Gospel Jesus refers to himself as "the way, the truth and the life." Leave it to John to be so philosophical. This is the part of the passage that I can struggle with. What does this mean? I'm only guessing here, but I think if I want to let go of the worrying, that I have to delve into Jesus as MY way, MY truth and light. If I surround myself, cover myself, in his embrace, I can feel safe and secure. Why would I need to worry about anything I am centered in Jesus. If Jesus is the way I move through life, if he is there as I make my choices, if Jesus is the one I count on to be by my side on the journey, if Jesus helps me to see clearly...why the heck do I worry?

I guess that's where my frail humanity trips me up. But this Sunday reminds me to hand my cares and concerns over to the One who sees the big picture and promises to guide me, to hold my hand on the journey, to walk with me to the end.

And so my heart is not troubled.
Happy Mother's Day to all you out there who nurture others into fullness of life.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What Do You Believe?

At Easter we are asked to renew our baptismal promises and state strongly and clearly what we believe as Catholics. We take it for granted don't we? I do, I do, I often do we pause to think about what we are giving our assent to?

Do I reject sin and Satan and all that tries to keep me away from God? Sure if I knew it was something bad and harmful--I'd stay away from it! But more often there's a subtlety to how sin takes root in my heart and leads me to question everything I thought I believed. My ego can rise up so quickly that I'm choking on false humility before I know what happened. It's then that I hold on with both hands to God and beg for help to be my best self.

Do I believe in God? Creator-Redeemer-Sanctify-er?  Of course I do! I mean, I think I do...but when I reflect on my actions, well, sheesh, sometimes I act like the future of the entire world rests on me...on choices I make and what I do. The world has been redeemed already by Jesus, and I need to remember to get out of God's way sometimes.

Do I believe in the Church? When I listen to the first reading from Acts of the Apostles, the story of the early church, how everyone came together and shared what they had in common. How they listened to the stories of Jesus and prayed and worked together for the good of all. Heck, yes! That's the church I believe in with all my heart.

I feel blessed to say I think this is the image of church we try and create here at St Francis de Sales. Sure we get some of it wrong sometimes, because we're human. For the most part though, I think God is using us to create a vision of parish that is extraordinarily welcoming to all in our neighborhood. We are many ages, ethnicities, and personalities gathering to pray each weekend for the good of our world. We look for new ways to be disciples of Jesus in our city. We invite others to join with us in both prayer and actions for the good of others.

The gospel today about Thomas feels bittersweet to me. How embarrassing and painful it must have been for Thomas to be 'called out' by Jesus about his lack of faith. I think I would have crumbled right then and there. Somehow Thomas remains whole, even when confronted with his weakness. It doesn't appear as if Jesus intends to shame him, but rather Jesus challenges him to move through his doubt into a stronger faith and life of witness.

That is my prayer for each of us this Easter season. That we will have the faith to rely on Jesus in our moments of doubt and confusion. That we will hold on tight with both hands to the God who continues to call us and love us into newness of being. That we will feel the glory of the Easter Alleluia down to our very souls. That we will forgive ourselves for our failings and be grateful for our moments of grace. Do I believe in the resurrection and new life in Jesus? I do!  Do you?