Pastor's Corner

Second Sunday of Lent

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As we continue our journey through Lent, the Church presents us scriptures that invite us to meditate on how God has acted in history and how his grace impacts our lives today. Today we hear about the testing of Abraham.

Abraham (initially called Abram) lived approximately 2,000 years before Jesus. He, his wife Sarai (later to be called Sarah), his father, Terra, and their tribal family lived in Ur of the Chaldees (modern-day Iraq) and migrated to a place called Haran (modern-day Turkey). There God called Abraham to go to the land of Canaan (modern-day Israel) and God promised Abraham the He would make of him a great nation and that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Thus, Abraham became the great patriarch of the Jewish people and, for Christians, our “father in faith.”

Today’s first reading from the Book of Genesis gives an account of God’s command to Abraham to go the Mount Moriah (the place where the temple in Jerusalem would eventually be built) and to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and make of him a burnt offering to God. In other words, God tells Abraham to slaughter his only son as an act of faith in God. Abraham obeys and at the last moment, as the knife is raised, an angel of God stays Abraham’s hand and reveals to him that God merely wanted to test Abraham’s faith. The boy, Isaac, is spared.

To our modern sensibilities this might seem like a cruel way of testing someone’s faith. Why, we might ask, did God have to test Abraham? Well, it seems that in the scheme of salvation history God had big plans for Abraham. Today three world-religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, consider themselves heirs to the faith of Abraham. God tested Abraham, not to prove something to Himself, but to reveal to Abraham the degree of faith that he possessed within himself. Abraham had to be convinced that he had what it took to carryout God’s plan. Faith becomes stronger when it is tested.

Lent is an opportunity for us to be tested. Tested in a much milder manner than was Abraham but tested non-the-less. If we truly embrace this penitential season and fill it with sincere prayer, honesty about our sinfulness with recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, self-denial and generous sharing, we become spiritually stronger. We come to appreciate the level of faith that we actually possess; the willingness we have to be obedient to God’s will in our lives.

How has your faith been tested? How did you respond to God’s test? Obedience, in the midst of testing, strengthens faith and better equips us to carry out God’s will in our lives. May whatever testing God has in mind for you make your faith stronger and bolster your confidence in living the truth of the Gospel.

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,

First Sunday of Lent

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

The annual observance of the season of Lent is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to follow Jesus more closely. In the second reading for this Sunday’s Mass, we hear St. Peter say that “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead us to God.” That is the hope for our Christian life, that we might be led to God. Jesus tells us that he is the Way; He is the One who will lead us to the Father. As he said to his first disciples, he says to us: “follow me.”

The Church offers us this preparatory season to not only ready ourselves for the Church’s celebration of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection at Easter, but also to better equip us to follow Jesus. The Church, in her wisdom, offers certain spiritual disciplines to help us do that. These are, by no means, the only ways but they are effective ways. The Church invites us to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Prayer is the way we commune with God. The scriptures tell us that “this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn 17:3). Prayer is how we get to know God. Jesus speaks to us in the Sacred Scriptures when we prayerfully reflect over them. In the silence of prayer we become quiet enough to hear the “voice” of God speak to our hearts. Daily prayer is how we come to know Jesus. We cannot effectively follow someone that we do not know.

Fasting helps us to detach from the indulgence in food, comfort and sensual pleasure. It helps us deny ourselves and strengthen our self-discipline. It allows spiritual space for God to fill what has otherwise been filled with habit, boredom, obsession or excess. Fasting unites us with the many who are deprived of food or comfort, not by choice, but by the misfortunes in which they find themselves. It can help us share their struggle, even if only temporarily.

Almsgiving (donating money, gifts or time to those in need) is an ancient discipline and helps us to imitate Jesus by giving of ourselves. It helps to draw us out of ourselves and focus on the needs of others. It takes our focus away for our own needs and helps us to recognize the needs of others, especially the poor. St. John Paul II, said “we are most fully human when we give ourselves away, because it is then that we imitate Jesus on the cross most fully.” Almsgiving is a form of self-donation.

I encourage you to embrace prayer, fasting and almsgiving, the traditional disciplines of Lent. Make this Lenten season a time to become better equipped to follow Jesus.

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

In the Gospel passage for today we hear about Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum and the scripture says that Jesus taught with authority. Teaching is very important. When Jesus commissioned his disciples he told them to go and make disciples and to baptize “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” ( cf Mt 28:19). Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is Truth itself and all good teaching is rooted in what is true.

Today we begin our annual observation of National Catholic Schools Week. We take time to reflect on the value of Catholic education and to recommit ourselves to supporting and strengthening Catholic education in all its forms, but especially in Catholic schools. Catholic schools have a beautiful history in this country. Although we have few details of the first Catholic schools operated in America, we know that early French and Spanish missionaries operated small schools in missionary settlements. The year 1606 is often cited as the beginning of Catholic education in the U.S. with the opening of a Franciscan school in St. Augustine, Florida. After the revolutionary war Catholic schools were established in Georgetown and the Franciscans educated Native Americans in their California missions. After the Civil War religious orders, such as the ones founded by St. Katherine Drexel and St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton, began to build and operate Catholic schools across the country. By 1900 over 3500 Catholic schools existed in the United States and by 1965 Catholic education peaked with almost 13,500 schools with 5.6 million students.

Catholic schools were started, in part, to counter the anti-Catholicism that immigrants faced when they arrived in this predominantly Protestant nation. But more than that, I suspect, the founders of these schools realized the importance of education and how quality education was essential for success and for the good of families and society. Catholics wanted not only to have well-educated children, but also children that learned the eternal value of the Catholic faith and who would be recipients of a Catholic way of life that had been enjoyed by their parents and grandparents. The story of Catholic education in the U.S. “is a story of sacrifice and heroic commitment by individuals within the Church, animated by the conviction that education is crucially important, one of the most important things we give to our children, and that it is the privilege and responsibility of the family and of the Church to be good stewards of this gift.”

Parents are the first and hopefully the best teachers of their children and Catholic schools are the best help that the Church can offer parents to form their children. Additionally, Catholic schools serve as a counter-message to all the half-truths and propaganda from the evermore secular culture in which our children live. Here at Wea we have a long tradition of Catholic education and we are grateful for the great contribution made by school leaders, teachers, parents and all who serve as benefactors of Catholic education.

We pray that God will continue to bless our school, students and all who participate in Catholic formation here at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish.

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

In the first reading today, we hear Job lamenting about the troubles that have befallen him and he complains about the apparent futility of life and the struggles that each day brings. We, the readers of the Book of Job, know from the first chapters that it is the Devil that is behind Job’s agony and God, in a way sometimes hard for us to fully understand, has permitted the Devil to test Job.

It seems that more and more people today are sounding like Job. The bitter rivalries and aggressive attempts to criticize and discredit others are o$ the storyline of many TV reality shows. Those same behaviors are often practiced in present-day politics and sadly even among various religious groups that demonize others holding contrary views. Suicide, often a symptom of despair, is at epidemic proportions in the West. Each day in the U.S. over 3,450 teens in grades 9-12 attempt suicide. In 2017 more teenagers and young adults died from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease COMBINED. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. In an age where technology has enabled people to be more connected than ever in history, there seems to be a growing sense of isolation and despair.

An article that I recently read, citing a survey of 8th, 10th and 12th graders, found that “teens who spent more time seeing their friends in person, exercising, playing sports, attending religious services, reading or even doing homework were happier. However, teens who spent more time on the internet, playing computer games, on social media, texting, using video chat or watching TV were less happy.” Whatever the cause, there seems to be a growing disillusionment with life and more and more people seem to be adopting the attitude of Job evidenced in today’s first reading.

In the Gospel Jesus said that the purpose for which he came was to preach the Gospel (i.e. the Good News that God loves us and desires us to share in His joy) and to drive out demons. Many today are skeptical about demons or any suggestion that personified evil has anything directly to do with the ills that befall us. I beg to differ. The biblical witness and the authoritative teaching of the Church acknowledges that the Devil is the “Father of lies;” he lied to our first parents and caused them to doubt God’s goodness. He convinced them to rely on themselves alone and not trust in God’s love and providence. Those same “lies” are being sown today. Lies that say we can find ultimate happiness apart from God by having more money, power, sex, fame or other worldly pursuits. So, what is the remedy to all this?

Jesus is the remedy! We, his disciples are called to imitate his priorities by proclaiming the Good News of God’s love and through prayer, the sacraments (especially Confession), spiritual disciplines and by the power of love, drive out the influence of the Evil One. We, the Church, are called to be a sign of hope in our world. By our faith in God’s goodness we can witness to hope and, we pray, invite others to move from despair to that same hope

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and for Christians that means the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent, the 40-day period before Easter. It is a season of penance when we engage in practices that help us detach from certain excesses or pleasures so that we might create more space in our hearts for the things of God. The word “penance” is defined as the virtue or disposition of heart by which one repents of one’s own sins and is converted to God.

The season of Lent invites us to embrace penitential practices. These kinds of practices, such as observing the days of fasting and abstinence, help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart. Observing the Church’s penitential practices is one of the precepts (laws) of the Church. By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert, after his baptism when he was preparing for his public ministry (CCC n. 540). The Lenten Season is particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). The practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the traditional spiritual disciplines in which Christians engage during Lent.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and runs until the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday night. The Church then enters the Triduum (the three days) leading up to Easter Sunday. The Easter Vigil, celebrated after dark on Holy Saturday night, is the first celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord and is the “mother of all liturgies.” I invite you to use the season of Lent as a time to recommit your heart to Christ and to prepare for the celebration of the mysteries of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection that we commemorate at Easter.

Ash Wednesday Masses and distribution of ashes will be at 6:30am, 8:15am (school Mass) and 7pm. I pray that this season of preparation for Easter proves to be a prayerful time of renewal and conversion of heart.

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

As I gaze across the street or drive the roads around the parish campus, I am always reminded of the abundance of God’s blessings. The corn stalks tower over my head and the harvest appears abundant. The Gospel passage today reminds me of my trip to Israel a few years ago. I was there in June and I was able to go out onto the Sea of Galilee in a boat that was launched from the north shore, near Capernaum. Sitting on that boat and looking northward one could see, within one’s field of vision, many of the places where Jesus ministered and lived. High on the hills behind the coastal villages are fields and orchards. In June, one can see the abundant crops that are growing and ripening there.

Today’s Gospel passage is a good reminder of the mystery of God and His grace at work in our lives. The seed is planted in many places – the sower sows generously. But the soil is not equally ready to receive and nurture the seed. In some places the seed never takes root. In other places it takes root but dies out quickly under the heat. In still other places the weeds choke out the plant. But in some places, the places where the soil has been tilled and softened, and where sufficient water is available, the seed takes root and bears fruit thirty, sixty or a hundredfold. From the Sea of Galilee, one can see the fields that are flourishing and those that are barren. What a mystery of God’s handiwork!

Jesus uses this agricultural image to talk about something far more important… the growth of divine life in our souls. Our hearts are the places where the seed of God’s word is first sowed. The sower is Jesus and he sows the word through members of His Church: our parents, grandparents or godparents, through friends, neighbors or people at our parish. But, for the plant to grow several things are needed. First, the seed must be sown. Nothing will grow if the seed is not sown. Second, the soil must be properly prepared. Every farmer knows that crops will not thrive amidst rocks or an overgrowth of weeds. Lastly, water and sunlight are needed to nurture the plant’s growth. We depend on God to provide the water and sunlight, but it is up to the farmer to prepare the soil and sow the seed.

My friends, we are the farmers. Our parish is the farming community that must prepare the soil and sow the seed of God’s word. The family is the first field that the soil of people’s hearts is prepared to be receptive. The implements of faith, hope and love, as well as practices of self-discipline help prepare the soil of children’s hearts to be receptive to the word of God. The seed is sown by word, but even more by example, by the way we live. A life formed by the word of God is constantly tossing out seeds that land on the soil of people’s hearts. We cannot control the rains or the sunlight, but we can till the soil and sow the seed. In fact, we must do that if we expect the plant to grow.

"But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear."

I pray that God’s Spirit anoints every household in Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish so that the Word of God might be richly sown there and that the hearts of all, especially our children, will be made receptive to the seed of God’s word. My God’s grace may those hearts bear fruit in great abundance.

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Why must Catholics oppose abortion, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, fetal stem cell research and other practices that intentionally take innocent human life? First off, because human life is “sacred.” We talk about the “sanctity” of every human life, but what makes it sacred? What makes the life of a drug dealer or a street hustler sacred? He or she is sacred because they were made in the image of God. Sin may have obscured a person’s likeness to God, but every human being possesses the image of her or his Creator. That image remains. Furthermore, if the person has been baptized, they have also become a temple (dwelling place) of the Holy Spirit. Their lives are sacred in God’s eyes and should be in ours as well. If for that reason the lives of even criminals and sinners are sacred, who can doubt the sanctity of a developing human being still in a mother’s womb - the most innocent and defenseless of all human life.

Opposition to abortion and other life-threatening moral acts need not be motivated by mere religious or theological principles. Science affirms that human life begins at conception. Le1 undisturbed a fertilized human egg will develop and grow into what we call a baby; it will not become an ostrich or a fish or a cat. It becomes, at the moment of conception, a developing human being. If the preborn are human beings, which both science and theology affirm, no justification for abortion is morally adequate. To argue otherwise would demand a justification for ending the life of a toddler or any born human in similar circumstances. Could anyone justify taking the life of six month old whose father suddenly abandons his unemployed mother, in order to ease the mother’s budget or prevent the child from growing up in poverty? Would we dismember a young preschooler if there were indications she might grow up in an abusive home? If the preborn are indeed human beings,we have a social duty to find compassionate ways to support women, that do not require the death of one in order to solve the problems of the other.

As Catholics, we know that almost every parish has within it men and women who sometime in their past, recent or distant, were involved in the procurement of an abortion. For the woman, an unexpected pregnancy might have come at a most challenging time in her life. O1en the man who impregnated her refused to take responsibility for his actions and likely encouraged, even sometimes coerced, her into “fixing the problem.” The woman, o1en emotionally fragile and feeling alone, sometimes found li8le support from family and sadly, instead of compassion and mercy, may have found only judgment and condemnation from her local church. The sin of abortion is unfortunately not uncommon today. We, the members of Christ’s Church, are called to recognize abortion and other life-threatening moral choices as grave evils and to actively work to prevent them from occurring. At the same time, as instruments of Christ’s love and mercy, we are to reach out to assist those who find themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy and to be compassionate and forgiving to those who have been involved in the procurement of abortions or similar evils, but now seek reconciliation and healing.

This past week Catholics and others of good will from across Kansas gathered in Topeka for the annual Pro-life Mass and march to the capital. On January 21st thousands marched on the West Coast in support of life and this past Friday countless people from across the nation gathered in Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life to protest the abomination of abortion on demand in our nation. Please pray that the spiritual blindness that enables so many in our land to accept the evil of abortion might be li1ed and that all will come to recognize the intrinsic value of every human life. Ask the Lord to place on your heart a clear understanding of what your role should be in comba?ng the Culture of Death and helping to build a Culture of Life.

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,

Epiphany of the Lord

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

I pray that you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s celebration. We continue our celebration of Christmas today with the Feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany, marks the last of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and has traditionally been celebrated on January 6th . In recent decades, the Church has allowed local conferences of bishops to move Epiphany to the Sunday that falls between January 2nd and January 8th. The liturgical season of Christmas actually runs until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which this year falls on Monday, January 9th .

The word Epiphany is from a Greek word meaning, “to shine upon,” “to manifest” or “to make known.” While Christmas marked the birth of Jesus and his revelation to Israel, Epiphany marks the revelation of Jesus as the newborn “King of Kings” to the gentiles. The star that appeared to the Magi in Matthew’s Gospel is reflective of the “Light to the Nations” that Jesus is. The Magi, wise men from the East, are representative of the non-Israelite nations, the gentiles.

The Feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus’ true identity, is closely associated with the baptism of the Lord, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus and also with the wedding at Cana, where Jesus first revealed his divine power by changing water into wine. All these events reveal that Jesus is more than just a Jewish kid from Nazareth. In this Jesus, born of Mary, God has taken on human flesh. The prophecy of Emmanuel, God with us, has been fulfilled and, in Jesus, the human and divine meet.

As we reflect on the scriptures about the star and the visitation by the Magi, may we not forget how much our present-day world continues to need the light of Christ. We live in a world shrouded in darkness and confusion, a world that is longing to be delivered into the light of truth. As disciples of Jesus, united with Him through our baptism, we too are capable of bringing the light of Christ into the darkness of our world. We bring that light into the lives of others by first living as children of the light ourselves. Every time we come to Mass, we encounter Christ in a way that rekindles the light within us and strengthens us to bear that light to others. As we near the end of the Christmas Season and begin a new year, let us all be committed to bringing the light of Christ into our marriages, our homes, our friendships, our workplaces and our social lives. May the love of God, revealed in Christ Jesus, be made known through each of us.

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Today’s Gospel reveals Jesus’ invitation to Peter to follow him and to become a “fisher of men.” The invitation came only after Jesus had spent time in the town of Caparnaum. He, no doubt, rubbed elbows with many people in the town. He got to know them. At face value, it appears that Jesus just happened across Peter and Andrew along the shore. It is more likely that he already had some knowledge of them beforehand. He may have even become their friend.

When Jesus observed Peter and Andrew casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee, he called them to something higher. He called them to become fishers of men. In other words, he invited them to cast a different kind of net – a net that would capture not merely fish, but people’s hearts.

We too are called to be fishers of men. We too are called to cast nets that capture people’s hearts. Like Jesus, we begin the process of being fishers of men by rubbing elbows with others; with befriending them and by sharing with them the blessing that knowing Jesus and his Church has been for us. To be a fisher of men means to be an evangelizer - and evangelization begins with establishing friendships with others.

God has befriended us through Jesus. He has sacrificed it all for us, often-ungrateful friends. We too are invited to sacrifice for others out of love and become their friends so that we can share the good news of Jesus with them. As he invited Peter, so Jesus invites you and me to cast our nets of friendship wide so that we too might become a “fisher of men.”

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

We are now in the liturgical season of Ordinary Time; you can tell by the green vestments used to celebrate the Mass. The season of Ordinary Time is divided into two parts: the first runs from the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord up until Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and the second runs from the day after Pentecost until the First Sunday of Advent. Ordinary Time is called "ordinary" not because it is common or unimportant, but simply because the weeks of Ordinary Time are numbered. The Latin word ordinalis, which refers to numbers in a series, stems from the Latin word ordo, from which we get the English word order. It is that time of year that the graces of the high feast days of Christmas and Easter are to take root in our lives and bear fruit. It is a time of deeper conversion.

In the readings for this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time there are a couple of lines that jumped out at me as I read them. The first comes in the reading from the prophet Isaiah where he tells the People of Israel that God will use them to show His glory and that God will make them a “light to the nations, that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” It was Israel’s God-given mission to bring the truth about the one God, the Creator of all, to the rest of the world. It was Israel’s commission to live in a manner that witnessed their belief, trust and dependence upon the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Sometimes they witnessed well and at other times they failed miserably. Nonetheless, it was through the Jews that the Messiah came.

In the New Covenant proclaimed by Jesus, it is the Church, now in a sense the “new Israel,” that is entrusted with the mission of bringing the light of Christ to the entire world. Jesus has charged the Church with the task of making disciples of all nations, of baptizing and of teaching all that Jesus commanded. The Church, that means you and me, is called to be a “light to the nations;” to do that we need to grow in holiness.

The second line that struck me was in St. Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians where he said we that we are “called to be holy.” What does it mean to be holy? Why is being holy important? Matthew Kelly, a popular Catholic writer, might define holiness as “being the best version of ourselves.” The biblical notion of holiness had to do with being consecrated to God, being separated from one’s attachments to the world. The Catechism might define holiness as being perfected in charity (love). It means that we gradually, over time and with God’s help, conform our wills to God’s will - we begin to desire and strive for the things that God wants. Holiness is important because the scriptures say, “be holy as I am holy.” But we can’t do it on our own; we need divine help. Our struggle is often one between our own will and God’s will.

Ordinary time is that season of the Church year when we gradually, step by step, begin to conform our wills to God’s. The graces of Christmas, where we celebrated God’s entry into space and time in Jesus, and the graces of Easter, where we celebrate the saving work of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, now begin to soak in, so to speak. It is the time of spiritual growth, where sometimes through struggle and failure, we will grow in holiness and bear fruit in our lives.

Let the graces soak in! Happy Ordinary Time!

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,

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