The readings reminds us of our Divine adoption as God's children and of our call to preach the Good News of Jesus. I read a story of a prison chaplain that challenges us. He went to talk with a man sentenced to die in the electric chair. He urged him to believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized; that forgiveness and eternity with God awaited him if only he would turn towards God. The prisoner said, "Do you really believe that?" "Of course I do," replied the chaplain. "Go on," scoffed the prisoner. "If I believed that I would crawl and hands and knees over broken glass to tell others, but I don't see you Christians making any big thing of it!" He had a point.
We have group of vibrant, faithful college-aged evangelizers, who can effectively impact our children, junior high, and high school youth. Haley Arndt, CJ Kallevig, Charles Luke and Robbie Simon are here to run the Totus Tuus. Totus Tuus means totally yours. Totus Tuus is a summer Catholic youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith. It is a fun learning program and a great opportunity for our children and youth to learn and develop a personal relationship with Jesus. Please encourage our children and youth to participate.
Please join us, your pastor and parish council members to welcome our new Parish Council Members:
We are excited to celebrate July 4th. We are grateful for our country, and we want to be good citizens. Thomas Jefferson on July 4th, 1826 wrote in a letter: “May it be to the world, what I believe it will be ... the signal of arousing men to burst the chains ... and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. ...For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them."
The best things we can do to become better citizens is to be better Christians. Every year around July 4th, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops invites us to pray for religious freedom. We are excited to celebrate July 4th, but we need to hold onto that spirit every day, every aspect of our life.
This weekend’s readings speak of the gift of life, both physical and spiritual, that God has given us. They urge and challenge us to be grateful for our health in body and soul and to use God’s gifts of life and health responsibly.
In the first reading from the book of Wisdom we heard that God does not make death. What is death? Every living being dies. What is our experience about death? Fearful…..isn’t it? This death God does not invent.
Now let us go back to book of Wisdom for the answer to where death comes from. It reads, “For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.” Man had rejected God’s gift and misused his freedom. As a result of his sin, man no longer shared in God’s nature.
The Gospel tells the story about the raising of a twelve year old girl from the dead. When Jesus came to the house, they told him that she was dead. Jesus disregards the message about death. He says do not be afraid, but have faith. Jesus sees death as a falling asleep. Little girl, arise, Talitha Kaum.
Jesus brought numerous people to life. Ultimately, like Paul says in the second reading, “the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the sacrificial love of Jesus restores man’s ability to receive life of God.
God did not make death. He does not cause evil. He cries with us, bawls with us in the face of the horror of the world. But He is not defeated. He restores His life to those who accept Him.
This weekend we are celebrating nativity of John the Baptist. The Liturgy usually celebrates the day of their death, their birthday to heaven. There are only two exceptions: Mary the mother of Jesus, and John the Baptist. The annunciation of John the Baptist to Zechariah in the Temple, Vigil Mass Gospel, and the naming of the child with the name provided by God, Sunday’s Gospel, points out that God had a special mission for John to fulfill.
John the Baptist's life was fueled by one burning passion – to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of God's kingdom. Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15, 41) by Christ himself, whom Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, John leapt in the womb of Elizabeth as they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). The fire of the Spirit dwelt in John, and he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness prior to his ministry. When Jesus and John met first time, John leaped for joy in Elizabeth's womb. There comes the first preparation. John’s motto of true humility and commitment to the Lord’s service. John brought to the world that light and joy that he experienced the first time.
John’s message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who told the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who tried to awaken true repentance in them. John inaugurates a widespread ministry of baptism for the forgiveness of sin by challenging the self-righteous people to repentance. He is a central figure to prepare the way for Jesus and introduction of the Messiah to the world. John the Baptist proclaimed that he must decrease and the Lord must increase.
When John was born, his father, Zechariah, his voice restored, proclaimed a great truth, “You, my child, shall be called the Prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.” The Canticle of Zechariah, is prayed every day as part of the Morning Prayers in Divine Office. This prayer reminds us that we all are called to proclaim Jesus Christ. It’s challenging, isn’t it?
Father's Day was near when I brought my three-year-old son, Tyler, to the card store. Inside, I showed him the cards for dads and told him to pick one. When I looked back, Tyler was picking up one card after another, opening them up and quickly shoving them back into slots, every which way. "Tyler, what are you doing?" I asked. "Haven't you found a nice card for Daddy yet?" "No," he replied. "I'm looking for one with money in it."
Five weeks ago we honored our moms. Today, on this Father's Day, we are doing the same, offering our dads – living or dead – on the altar of God during this Holy Mass, invoking our heavenly Father’s blessings on them. Today we celebrate, congratulate and pray for the men who continue to reflect the divine qualities of fatherhood as they lovingly establish, nourish and maintain family. Pope Francis says, “I have great love for Saint Joseph because he is a man of silence and strength.” St. Joseph is the patron of fathers, families, and the Universal Church. Pope Francis says that faith does not distance us from the world. On the contrary, it brings us closer. For that reason, St. Joseph is a model father for the Christian family. He overcame the difficulties of life because he rested with God. Fathers are a blessing and we thank them for blessing us with lives of dedication, endurance, and love. Happy Father’s Day!!
This weekend we hear two farming stories. The first reading from the book of Ezekiel prophesied that the Lord would take a tender shoot from a cedar tree and turn it into a noble cedar, the people recognized in this prophecy that growth is always in God's hands. Cedar grows best in mountainous regions. Mountains were also symbolic of getting closer to God and further from the influences of the world. Israel, a nation in exile at the time of this prophecy, would become the nation that the whole world would look to with respect. The renewed nation, growing with the blessings of God, will be a blessing for many peoples. The Savior would come from Israel. Every kind of bird, all the nations, would live under the tree of Israel.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus provides another description of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed, which, once planted, grows into a large tree. The smallest of beginnings need not discourage us. God works wonders in us. Jesus invites us to allow the kingdom of God to blossom and live in our hearts.
God does wonders. The question is, do we believe and recognize it? How was our faith ten or twenty years ago, and what does it look like today? I am sure it has changed for everyone. The reading tells us our God is a God of growth. We need to recognize the God’s work in our faith lives. In our second reading, St. John reminds us that: “We walk by faith, and not by sight.” May all of us grow in our faith and God continue to do wonders through us.
My trip to India: Thank you everyone for holding me in prayer. I had a wonderful time with family and friends. May is supposed to be peak summer, but this year the rain started early and cooled it down quite a bit. So it was a very pleasant time for me. Thank you.
Today we celebrate the "birthday of the Church!" Pentecost is described in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. But before the great driving wind and tongues of fire empowering the Disciples, the Holy Spirit had already arrived. The Gospel for today's Mass during the day is from John 20. Jesus appears to the fearful disciples after his resurrection. He first speaks a message of calm. "Peace be with you." The apostles "rejoiced when they saw the Lord." When the enthusiastic response settles down, Jesus "breathed on them and said to them 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
This action is Trinitarian, and it has happened before. If you turn your Bible back to the beginning, you'll read: "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so many became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). In the Garden of Eden, we see God's first, original covenant with man. The breath of life signifies that original indwelling of grace, the special state of likeness and friendship with God before the Fall. Here now, in this locked room, the Apostles receive the long-awaited promise: the very breath of God, new life, a new covenant.
In the pairing of these two readings-the Pentecost experience in Acts and the breath of Jesus in John's Gospel -we see that the coming of the Holy Spirit is not only an empowering, it is an indwelling. We have each received the breath of grace in our baptism. It is confirmed, strengthened, and deepened in each reception of the sacraments. If we persevere in virtue, the Spirit of God is alive in us, inspiring our actions of love. This Pentecost Sunday, how is the breath of God alive in you?
Congratulations to the graduating seniors! We are fast approaching the end of the school year. This weekend our cluster is celebrating graduation weekend for seniors. I take this opportunity to congratulate you and wish you the best. We will hold you in our prayer. Senior year is culmination of more than a decade of hard work, dedication and perseverance. Now, it is a turning point in your life. I am sure seniors, you are with full of dreams and plans for the future. Teachers, parents, and family will look at you with a question: what is next? What are going study? What you want to become? Some of you are already decided, some are not sure yet. Whether you are going to college, entering the work force, joining the military, joining the priesthood or religious life, or unsure of the next step, we are here to offer a prayer, encouragement, and support for you. We want to thank you for what you have done for our cluster, school, and community. When you come home, please don’t forget to come to your spiritual home. There is community of faith waiting to see you.
Happy Mother’s Day! There is a beautiful Spanish proverb: "An ounce of mother is better than a pound of clergy." The word “mom” is synonymous with sacrificial love in its purest form as given by Jesus in his farewell speech: "love one another as I have loved you.” Mothers leave their legacy with us. They live in and through us. The month of May is traditionally the month of Mary. Through Mary, the work of Motherhood is glorified and sanctified. On this Mother’s Day, presenting all mothers on the altar, let us sing the beautiful song we sing on the Feast of the Presentation, “Gentle woman, peaceful dove, teach us wisdom, teach us love.”
Happy Feast of the Ascension of the Lord! This weekend we are celebrating the Ascension of the Lord. There is a beautiful old story that tells how Jesus, after his ascension into Heaven, was surrounded by the Holy Angels who began to inquire about his work on earth. Jesus told them about His birth, life, preaching, death, and resurrection, and how he had accomplished the salvation of the world. The angel Gabriel asked, “Well, now that you are back in Heaven, who will continue your work on earth?" Jesus said, "While I was on earth, I gathered a group of people around me who believed in me and loved me. They will continue to spread the Gospel and carry on the work of the Church.” Gabriel was perplexed. "You mean Peter, who denied you thrice and all the rest who ran away when you were crucified? You mean to tell us that you left them to carry on your work? And what will you do if this plan doesn't work?" Jesus said, "I have no other plan – it must work." Truly, Jesus has no other plan than to depend on the efforts of his followers!
In the Gospel for this weekend we read, Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” St. Augustine says, “We believe in Him, whom we have not seen. Those who have seen him, have announced him ... He who has promised is faithful and never fails: boost your confidence and await his promise ... keep your faith strong!”
Jesus counts on you and me. Are we ready?
Trip to India! I will be leaving for India to visit my family on May 14 and will be back June 11th. Please keep me in your prayers. You are always in my prayers. Thank you.
The story of Leslie Lemke begins in Milwaukee in 1952. His mother gave him up for adoption at birth. As a complication of his premature birth, Leslie developed retinal problems, then glaucoma, and his eyes had to be surgically removed in the first months of life. There was also brain damage, and Leslie was extremely ill. The county asked May Lemke, a nurse-governess who they knew and trusted, if she would take Leslie into her receiving home, ill as he was and carrying such a dire prognosis. That didn’t deter May. At age 52, and having raised five children of her own, May Lemke said she would. And she did.
Every day May massaged the baby’s entire body. She prayed over him, cried over him, she placed his hands on her tears. As Leslie grew, so did May’s problems.
They years passed. When Leslie was six he learned to stand alone. All this time he didn’t respond to her. But all this time May continued to love him and pray over him. Then one day May noticed Leslie’s finger plucking a taut string on a package. She wondered whether Leslie was sensitive to music. May began to surround Leslie with music. She played every type of music imaginable.
Leslie played and sang often, but mostly the simple tunes May sang or popular songs from the radio. May wasn’t into classical music. In the early morning hours May heard music. She thought Joe had left the television on. She went to turn it off and there was Leslie, playing flawlessly from beginning to end, having heard it but once, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, which was the theme song for that movie. God’s miracle, May said, came into full bloom that night. May dropped to her knees and said, “Thank you, dear God. You didn’t forget Leslie.”
In June 1980 Leslie gave a concert in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. People were amazed by what they had seen — a young man who is blind, mentally challenged, with cerebral palsy, and never having had a music lesson in his life playing what seemed like a limitless repertoire and repeating flawlessly whatever was played to him after a single hearing.
This Sunday’s second reading and the Gospel reading speak about the command to Love. 1 John reminds us that God has first loved us. He has showered His Mercy on us. In the Gospel reading we hear that we are to love one another as Jesus loves us, with a selfless love, a love willing to give His Life for us. We are called to sacrificial love.
Look at the story of May and Leslie, it tells us what love does in our life. LOVE does miracles. Love does bit have any reservation. It is for everyone. It makes us equal before God. Jesus tells us “this is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”
“I am the vine, you are the branches!”
In the late 1980s, a fire destroyed a building on the lower east side of Manhattan. An alarm was sounded and the trucks and personnel arrived in plenty of time to fight the fire. The exit doors worked properly. The steps were clear. The people got out of the building quickly and in order. However, the fire burned out of control and the building had to be demolished. When the firemen arrived, the hoses on the wall were installed properly. There were hoses hundreds of feet in length--clearly sufficient to put the fire out. It was discovered too late, however, that the city water line had never been connected to this part of the system. It was a deadly oversight. To live a human life disconnected from the living God is tragic as well. Jesus did more than come to live among us. He is the life-giving vine and we are the branches.
"I am the vine…you the branches." But a vine is all branches! For a vine there is not much of trunk. The vine is just branches. He has identified himself with us. It is about our relationship with Jesus. Suppose a branch come off from a tree during storm, it dies. It is because that branch no longer part of the vine. It lost its life. This weekend the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, testifies to the abundance of spiritual fruits yielded by the apostles because of their close bond with the risen Lord. John, in his first letter to the Church, explains that only if we remain united to Christ by putting our faith in him and drawing our spiritual strength from him, will we be able to obey God’s commandments, especially the commandment of love.
What really matters in our lives? What matters is the Love of Christ that we have been empowered to make real in the world. During Easter time we celebrate the gift of the Lord’s life we received at Baptism. We are continually fed and nourished at the Altar. We need to be determined to strengthen this life within us. We need to be more faithful, more prayerful. We need to try harder in our prayer life. That is how we stay closer to him and bring God’s love to others. We need to be connected to Christ like a vine and branches to receive life abundantly, so we can share with many.
God is with us, yes. But to have a relationship with God; we need to be with Him too. When we do this, when we are united to the vine, then we can do the work of the Christian. We can draw others to Him. We can bear fruit.
The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday and it is the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” The scripture lessons for this weekend is about the role of the shepherd.
In his book, The Holy Land, John Kellman describes a field pen. It consists of a circular stone wall about four feet high with an opening in it. Kellman says that one-day a Holy Land tourist saw a field pen near Hebron. He asked a shepherd sitting nearby, “where’s the gate for your pen?” The shepherd said, “I am the gate.”
The shepherd then told the tourist how he herded his flock into the pen each night. Then he lay down across the narrow entrance. No sheep could leave the pen, and no wild animal could enter it without stepping on his body.
Jesus is our shepherd, who laid down his life for us to give us new life, and He is with us. He broke the bread and said to his disciples, this is My Body, take and eat it. Jesus tells us the same, “This is My Body.” Like Apostles, we are also fed at this table and sent out to break and give to others.
Even though the Apostles lived with Jesus and learned scripture and broke the bread with him, we all know, after the crucifixion, resurrection and even after ascension, the Apostles felt emptiness in their life. But they were gathered in prayer to receive the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost their lives were transformed. Then proclaimed the Good News and performed miracles in the name of Jesus of Nazorean.
This Sunday we are celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation. Our young men and women were preparing for this day, for the reception of Sacrament of Confirmation. Apostles received Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It was life changing for them. They received gift of the Holy Spirit. What are they? There are seven of them: 1. Wisdom which helps to understand things from God’s point of view; 2. Understanding which helps us to understand deeper meaning of supernatural truth; 3. Knowledge helps us to appreciate the life God has given: begin to see God’s presence in people, things, and nature and treat them with proper dignity; 4. Right Judgement or Counsel which helps to make right decision God would want me to make; 5. Reverence or Piety which helps to trust God more, relationships become stronger; 6. Courage or Fortitude which helps to stand up for what I believe; 7. Fear of the Lord or Awe and Wonder which helps to stay on the right path to heaven. Fear of the Lord is because I love God and I want to please Him.
Let us join in prayer for our young people, those who are receiving Sacrament of Confirmation, may God pour the gift of the Holy Spirit, so they may come out of the Upper Room and reach out in mission to others. Let us pray that with our Confirmandi, their sponsors, families, and our entire cluster will be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.