Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Regrets, I Had a Few

“I should have listened to my professor and finished my thesis and get my degree. I should not have filed for that divorce. I should have bought the farm, instead of working on these boring machines from 9 to 5. I should have gotten our kids baptized like grandma asked. I should have had my camera ready for those birds flying over the bay."

Some were a bit more serious, for example, one individual said I would go back to when I was 20 and NOT smoke that first blunt. There were more than a couple of people who agreed with that post.

Some were truly heartbreaking, like this one: I wish I could go back and tell my daughter that she would be OK and stay in treatment instead of getting the news that she committed suicide from an overdose. Or, I wish I could go back to the person I married and tell them I regret being addicted to my alcohol and drugs and get back to my family and have my kids respect me.

Regrets, I’m sure, we’ve all had a few… Some in the grand scheme of things aren’t too big a deal (I should have gotten that tractor in green instead of blue); while another might be a life-altering moment that puts us on a different track - that, in hindsight, is a bad decision. A decision that because of our blindness, stubbornness, ignorance, whatever the reason – we made that choice and it has affected us for the rest of our lives.

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said “this saying is hard; who can accept it?. . . as a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

I’m sure for Jesus that it was hard watching someone make a decision that he knew, eventually, they would regret.

What is striking though is that the choice here is whether to stay and continue to follow Jesus or not. The choice to stay didn’t mean that the doubts disappeared (really, we are going to be eating your flesh?). The choice to stay didn’t mean perfect understanding that what Jesus was saying would eventually come to light (how does that piece of bread that cup of wine at Mass become Jesus’ body and blood?).

But then again, just look at those who did stay. Peter and the twelve would prove more times than not how little they understood what Jesus was saying to them, and how often their doubts would re-appear and make them screw up.

Yet, they stayed despite all of those doubts and confusions because Jesus hadn’t given them any reason not to trust Him. Yes, “this saying is hard” – but Jesus offers that if we trust him, stick with him, continue to follow him – it won’t make things easier – in fact things will probably become harder. But it’s a choice we will never regret. Because we too will come to make Peter’s words our own – We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are troubled with regrets from their past. May your spirit of understanding and truth bring people back to the church. May the faith community, your parish and neighbors welcome you back with open arms and the spirit of God’s love and mercy.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Face of Joy


Last Sunday, this parish community was beaming with joy and happiness. The sunshine, the children playing and visiting neighbors, relatives and friends were like a healing elixir. There was a moment when I was taking pictures of the kids trying to hit the piñata with a baseball bat to get at the candy. At best they could, they did not have the strength to knock the candy out of the bag. While taking pictures, I heard voices, let Father Matt take a swing. My first thought was, no way. I know what’s going to happen. So, like a good sport, Brandon took the bat, but first he had to be blindfolded. Then he went up to the batters box and felt the bag with his bat. He took a mighty swing and sure enough, someone, no names, grabbed the rope and raised the piñata ten feet above his head. He swings and misses. Yep, my instincts were right, make fun of the priest and that counts as a mortal sin. Make fun of poor Brandon, its only venial.

It seems some people were making fun of Jesus in the gospel. He’s teaching again about bread and this time he says, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will have no life.” The response from some of the people was that this teaching is outrageous. Eating someone’s flesh and blood is barbaric. Why is Jesus saying this?

Let me share a little history about bread. In Scotland the finest white bread, known as "manchet," was reserved for royalty and the great landlords. "Cheat," the second finest grade, was found in the homes of the upper-class tradesmen. "Raveled" bread was made from the whole grain flour just as it came from the mill to be consumed by the country folk and villagers just above the servant class. "Mashloch" was baked for the very poor and the servants. It contained only coarse bran mixed with rye. In the castle, the mistress or housekeeper carried the keys to the food safe where the fine bread and best grades of other food were kept to avoid tempting the servants to acquire a taste for the higher priced products. Later, the government passed a law requiring the brown bakers to add a certain percent of wheat germ to the mashloch to improve the health of the working class.

This history story speaks of “reversals.” What we think is good for us, may not be. And in the end, it may turn out that those receiving the 'worst' are actually receiving the very best: the best, which leads to life. I think of this when I think of the bread that is Jesus --- of how in Jesus things are always getting turned upside down. And that you and I eat the bread: the body of the Unlikely One who was shamed, crucified, on a cross. And this leads to life.
God prays for us as we reflect:  “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.” Proverbs 9:5

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are need of a little joy to meet the challenges of life. Next time, you need a boost to your spirits, come back to this Sonshine message and take a look at the sheer joy on the face of this child. Remember, that’s how God wants you to feel at this moment, simply put your faith in God’s love and mercy.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

North Java Church to dedicate playground Sunday



North Java church to dedicate playground Sunday

By Matt Surtel msurtel@batavianews.com | Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015 12:53 am

NORTH JAVA — All it took was 37 days.
When Holy Family Parish’s congregation first started considering a playground, the idea was very well-received, and everybody got behind it. The playground and park space are nearly complete, after instant and dedicated work by the parishioners and surrounding community.The area will be dedicated Sunday, Aug. 9 as “Clayton Park,” with a Mass and “old-school” community picnic.

“This playground isn’t just for parishioners or the church,” said parishioner Molly Haungs, who was part of the effort. ‘This is the church’s gift to the community, to show we’re here, we’re family oriented, we’re open and we’re here to stay.”

The playground and park are in memory of infant Clayton George, who died at 15 days old in March 2013. They include a small rock wall, several swings, some slides and monkey bars.

Parishioners and local residents raised $15,000 for the effort, with the playground located on the church property. The church is hoping to add a new sidewalk and some additional equipment — such as teeter-totters — in the future.

Mass will be conducted at 10 a.m. Aug. 9 at the church on  3416 Route 98. The park’s sign will be dedicated at noon, and the picnic following through 3 p.m.

As with the picnic’s old-fashioned community nature, the church will provide meat, while those attending are asked to bring a dish to pass. The afternoon will also include some traditional games and a face painter.

“What people like about Holy Family Parish is its sense of community,” said Rev. Matt Kawiak, the church’s pastor. “Clayton Park is a reminder that while the tragedy of a death of a child is devastating, the faith community can provide comfort and support to grieving parents.” Kawiak — who’s now with the Polish National Catholic Church — was chaplain for Pediatrics at Strong Memorial Hospital in the 1990s, and said he’s acutely aware of the anguish parents feel when a child has died.

“The dedication of this playground is intended to bring healing and restore the joy to the hearts of all people whose hearts have been broken by the death of their loved ones,” Kawiak said.

“In the midst of great sorrow, the local families of North Java and the neighboring communities who represent many faith traditions have joined together to make Clayton Park a visible sign of God’s love and compassion,” he continued. “I want to extend my personal invitation to all families in the area to come to Holy Family to play, learn and pray with their children. We need these kids to inspire us and bring joy back into our churches.”

Holy Family Parish was founded after the closure of the former St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church in 2007, and the congregation has worked actively to open new people.

“We don’t care who you are, what you do, we just want people to always feel welcomed, and that’s the other reason we’re doing the dedication at noon,” Haungs said. “People can arrive and stop by. See you at the dedication and enjoy the picnic.”