Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Thnaksgiving Prayer


Thank you letter to people of Holy Family Catholic Parish…

Dear People of the good earth in North Java and surrounding neighbors:

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I like to acknowledge the contribution of so many gifted people who have worked generosity to keep Holy Family open these past two years. Sadly in 2013, they have prayed over and returned to heaven seven family members. Over 3,000 family, friends and neighbors from surrounding towns returned to this closed church to pray and to lay to rest a baby, a sister, a wife, an aunt, a husband and daughter. All who came back to this “refreshed” church walked away from the service praising the warmth and beauty of this Catholic community. 

What I have seen in my brief ministry is a dynamic commitment to God and neighbor. So on this Sunday, I praised the choir and their organist who sing God’s praises. Then there’s the “church ladies” who put on the luncheons after the funeral. Their desserts are made in heaven.  Must not forget the “Sunshine” lady who writes letters to the sick in our hospitals and homebound. Then there are the “dessert chefs” who bake homemade treats for our church socials after Mass. Someone said their priest in the past would row over in his grave if he saw people eating in the pews. I simply would tell father that his people like to eat and visit after Mass.

Don’t forget our children learning about Jesus during Mass. We are grateful for their special teacher. We have a “basket lady” who made over 60 gift baskets for our Spaghetti Dinner raffle and more cooks to feed the hundreds of neighbors who came to support the  Annual Spaghetti Dinner. Also, the Summer Java Garage Sale had our volunteers cooking sausages and selling treats. Must not forget our altar servers who wait on this priest with special care. And all our young people who lector, sing and welcome people at our front door.

Then we are grateful to the committee who pays the bills, audits the books, records our words and make recommendations for the future of the parish. The building team found the best roofer, refreshing the rectory for a new tenant and getting heat back in the school to begin its new mission. Must not forget our “Liturgical Art Design Engineers” who  decorate the altar for the Fall with pumpkins and are planning poinsettias and trees for Christmas. I hear plans are afoot to bring St. Nicholas back to have breakfast with all the children for Advent.

Many good people prefer not to be known, but donate clothes to keep other families warm, make the extra sacrifice to pay for the church roof, or will donate toys and cloths to make Christmas special for a poor family.

I’m just grateful that people enjoy listening to the stories about Jesus. I appreciate their openness to change and welcoming all people without hesitation to join them in prayer and service.

My church calendar for 2014 focused on the activities of the parish such as our children blowing horns on Christmas eve like the angels, or a birthday cake for Jesus and baptizing a newborn on Father's Day. These are signs of growth that I hope will inspire others who are searching for God to come and join this loving community of faith.

With Gratitude,
Your Shepherd,
Fr. Matt

My gift for his Thanksgiving for each family is a holy card that I designed that features a picture of the parish steeple taken from behind the church with the fall braches enveloping the cross. The prayer is a Thanksgiving Blessing Prayer that you may say over your turkey with your family. It is brief and studies have shown that saying prayers of gratitude as a family over the turkey makes it taste better.

A Thanksgiving Prayer
O Gracious God, we give you thanks for your overflowing generosity to us. Thank you for the blessings of the food we eat and especially for this feast today. Thank you for our home, our parish, our family and friends, especially for the presence of those gathered here. Thank you for our health, our work our play and the loving hands who prepared this meal. Please send help to those who are hungry, alone, sick and suffering war and violence. Open our hearts to your love. We ask your blessing through Christ your Son. Amen.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Proof of Heaven


On my way to church this Sunday morning, I had already received four emails to pray for people going through hardships. A mom requested prayers for her daughter who had another miscarriage. A daughter’s father had died last week and she was bringing her family to church. Another man was told that he has pnenomia and a fourth was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The gospel story was about people in the bible who did not believe in the resurrection. Today, these might be the people who are too busy to think much about God, religion or resurrection. Their time is taken up with building or acclimating more stuff. They are the online shoppers who have half their Christmas list completed. No more Black Friday shopping for them, they do all their buying online. But what about eternity and the gift of the resurrection.

In this pre-Advent season, we might remember that the name Immanuel, means ‘God is with us.” And at the end of His life Jesus reminded us, “I am with you all days, even till the end of time.” He added,’ So do not be afraid. I go, prepare a place for you.”

Some folks get bogged down in lots of me questions. Will I still need my contacts?  Will I look like I am now or when I was twenty-one and lots of hair? What about those poor souls cremated, those eaten by sharks, those pulverized by explosives? Will my kitty be there? Will I know my friends?

As curious as we are about these and wonder how God can reassemble broken bodies, we must accept the fact that the resurrection is not about us. The resurrection is about God and God’s fidelity to a promise, God’s promise never to abandon us. God will work out the logistics.

In 2008, Dr. Alexander contracted bacterial meningitis. The deadly infection soaked his brain and sent him into a deep coma. During that week, as life slipped away, he was living intensely in his mind. He was reborn into a primitive mucky Jell-o-like substance and then guided by “a beautiful girl with high cheekbones and deep blue eyes” on the wings of a butterfly to an “immense void” that is both “pitch black” and “brimming with light” coming from an “orb” that interprets for an all-loving God.

While his book, “Proof of Heaven” makes little mention of God or angels, his message to those who deal with dying is one of relief. “Our spirit is not dependent on the brain or body,” he said. “It is eternal, and no one has one sentence worth of hard evidence that it isn't."

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends whose anxiety makes them worry too much and focus on themselves. Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believe in me shall live forever.” That’s a promise that will be kept.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

What Does It All Mean

A good friend ran into some difficulty with her van’s automatic windows and made an appointment with the dealer. When she arrived at the service department, the manger looked at his watch and said that she was “ten minutes late.” Well, things happen, traffic, weather, so what’s the problem “please fix the van windows.” The man said that there was no way that he could fit her in now. She was ten minutes late and he had no one available to look at her van. He was too busy!

Ten years age, maybe five years ago this Christian woman would have given him a piece of her mind. Was his lack of courtesy due to the fact that she was a woman, an elderly woman, and a woman in a wheelchair. This time she took a difficult tack. As he leaned over her van window, she noticed that his arm was tattooed with a rosary.

Now was this sign from the Blessed Mother? What young man would have his arm tattooed with such a holy image? Did his mother harass him that if he wanted a tattoo it must have a religious image like a cross and not a skull and cross bones. Or, maybe this busy man had an epiphany moment and felt that the rosary would make a good conversation piece.

“What does it all mean?” she said to herself. She made the decision to go quietly out the door despite this man’s lack of courtesy. She prayed to God for strength and courage as she drove away from the service department without anyone willing to help her with those windows. 

On the way home, she asked Jesus and the Blessed Mother to choose a different way to respond to her dilemma. Instead of feeling pity, she would choose kindness and patience. She lives with a miserable debilitating disease for over twenty-five years that has made her mobility extremely difficult. Don’t people pay attention? Don’t people understand how hard it is to live physically challenged? However, instead of feeling sorry for herself. her prayer was “No thanks.” I will not laquish in this moment of self-pity. She chooses to be a blessing and expressed her thanks for friends who understand and offer her help in her times of need.

Maybe this story is a wake up call for the rest of us who have been blessed with good health to say “thank You Jesus” for my life, my job, my family and health. We might not wear our religion tattoo on our biceps but we need to have a heart willing to make the sacrifice and care for those people who need our compassion and patience. We need never be “that busy.”

God prays for us as we reflect: “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:9)

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who ask themselves “what does it all mean.” When you feel overwhelmed or misunderstood take it to Jesus and Mother Mary and say “No Thanks” to pity and your put your trust in God.